Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Thailand’s most unique festival

by | Jun 14, 2017 | Thailand | 5 comments

WARNING THE FOLLOWING CONTENT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. THIS POST CONTAINS PICTURES THAT ARE GRAPHIC IN NATURE.

Oh Thailand, we had a feeling things would be different from what we are used to, but never did we ever imagine a festival quite like this. Songkran was by far one the of the best festivals that we’ve ever been apart of and will cherish it forever. ( Watch our Songkran video by clicking here )

 

I’m not even sure where to start with this post, but let’s get to it.

 

Phuket, Thailand is home to one of Thailand’s most unique festivals on earth. The Vegetarian Festival. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Wait…is this a festival of hippies eating lettuce and listening to Fish while dedicating themselves to the vegetarian life.” I’m here to tell you that it’s far from anything like that. For the most part, everyone does stay away from eating meat for nine days, but in Thailand, they take it a bit further than just that, to say the least.

 

As many of my readers know, I’m not one for long worded posts, so I’ll try my best to give you the facts, history of, our crazy experience and of course some amazing pictures.

Phuket’s Vegetarian festival otherwise known as the nine emperor gods festival is a festival that is held in Thailand with the height of the festival celebrated in Phuket on the ninth moon on the ninth month of the lunar calendar. In 2016 ( when we were there) it was held October 1st thru the 9th. The ceremony from my understanding is a ceremony where it’s participants devote themselves to their gods and their religious beliefs. These participants show their devotion by inviting the gods and spirits into their bodies during these nine days.

The tradition first started around 1825 and according to the records, this was a time that the Chinese started immigrating to the area and during this time a Chinese opera troupe was hired to perform in Kathu, Phuket. While the troupe was in Kathu, they became very ill and many of them died. The locals started to pay homage to their nine emperor gods and the remaining members of the troupe were cured. Now every year the locals all come together to take part in this tradition of religious beliefs.

 

The devotees are placed into a trance-like state and the acts they do are to ward off disease and to bring good fortune to the community. There is a very strong culture here and traditions are still alive in Thailand.

This is the kind of festival that I travel the world for. America might have Burning Man or Coachella for music festivals, but nothing can compare to this.

Devotees take a vow to only eat foods that consist of vegetables except for pungent kinds such as garlic, onions, and chives. Praying and remaining in a state of peace and calm. No drinking alcohol either and then for a select few they go on to do firewalking, bladed knife ladder climbing, tongue slicing and sticking knives and other objects through their face and bodies while in a trance-like state.

DAY 1: The Go teng pole is raised at all of the shrines to allow the emperor gods to enter the shrines. The days to follow will be filled with candles, prayers, traditions, and self-mutilation “parades”. At these street processions, devotees carry a shrine while onlookers throw firecrackers to “wake up” and welcome the gods.

TIP: People are all dressed in white during these nine days as a sign of purity. Local shops will all be selling white clothes, so unless you want to stand out it might be best to pick up some white pants and a white shirt. 

Okay so now is the part you should probably go look at a different post if you don’t like the sight of blood or gruesome photos. If you are curious keep scrolling.

 

White clothes for all 9 days.

It starts off with a street procession

Devotees carry a shrine of the gods while people on the street throw firecrackers at the shrine and devotees to wake the gods.

It was louder than any 4th of July.

Other onlookers trying to find safety from the loud firecrackers being thrown from all directions.

Devotees are in a trance like state.

Bicycle yeah why not

Two swords

All of the swords!

One umbrella.

Little guy getting ready to throw some firecrackers at the devotees.

Two umbrellas ellas ellas.

Slicing tongues with axes

Fire extinguisher? Yea we’ve got those too.

Fire walking!

Kid scared of a dragon=Priceless.

I hope I didn’t traumatize you too much. I promise my next post will be of kitties, unicorns, and rainbows. If you ever want to truly witness a different culture and experience a centuries-old tradition. I suggest you go to Phuket for the Vegetarian Festival and witness it for yourself, you won’t be disapointed!

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Global Giraffe is a travel blog that is focused on keeping it real. This isn't a fluffy rainbow magical travel blog, here you'll find real life situations, tips and advice for the every day person that wants to know more about places they've never been to. Global Giraffe is led by Dan and Teryn. After leaving Denver, Colorado, they decided to try to take on the world, one odd job at a time. They are currently residing in Phuket, Thailand. For more updates follow Global Giraffe on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

5 Comments

  1. Kat

    I remember seeing a documentary on this years ago – we have something similar like this in Malaysia. The Taoist-Chinese community practise these rituals for the Nine Emperor God Festival but they don’t go to the extreme of piercing themselves with 5 swords. But I find the images of fire extinguishers, umbrellas really funny 🙂 There’s another festival in the Tamil Indian community – Thaipusam – that one has piercings too.

    Reply
  2. Katy

    I just cant get my head around the fire extinguisher! This post delivers on the promise that truth is stranger than fiction. People are gloriously weird! Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    Reply
  3. Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)

    Oh my goodness, I was not expecting that! How DO they do that? Gruesome and fascinating all at the same time. Fabulous share for #FarawayFiles, Dan.

    Reply
  4. corner

    Writе m᧐re, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems ɑs though you relied
    on the video to make your point. Үou obviously know what youre
    talking about, wһy throw away your intеlligence on just
    posting vіdeos to your site when yⲟu could be givіng
    us s᧐mething infߋrmative to read?

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hi Corner, I like to consider myself a writer, photographer, and a videographer. I like to keep my posts short and to the point and to add visuals at the same time. Thanks for stopping by my corner of the internet. I hope you’ll keep reading our future posts. Thank you.

      Reply

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