What is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2023?
- What is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2023?
- The events
- Program and Processions Itineraries 2023
- Principles to follow during the festival:
- Main shrines where ceremonies occur
- Phuket Shrines Photos
- Scary photos of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
- Where to stay to see the event
- 1. The Memory at On On Hotel
- Hotel Verdigris
- Ten vegetarian foods to try during the festival
- More vegetarian food photos
- Map of Phuket Chinese Shrines
- See also
- More Events in Phuket
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival (or Nine Emperor Gods Festival) happens once a year, during the ninth lunar month, and is one of the most auspicious events on Phuket island. For this unique occasion, a crowd of devotees assemble in every Chinese shrine around the island, followed by an even bigger horde of photographers avid to get the shot of their life. The Vegetarian Festival is an internationally known event, and while it also happens modestly in Bangkok around the same dates, it is mostly a Phuket event.
Weeks before the Vegetarian Festival events, yellow Chinese flags bloom on every roadside and intersection, especially near Chinese temples. Stages, decorations and parade accessories gather near shrines, and hundreds of food stands are erected nearby. The whole event is usually heavily sponsored.
For several days, on both sides of Phuket Town streets leading to shrines, food stands display tons of vegetarian dishes in all imaginable shapes and sizes (but often have a very similar taste). Once, we even saw a full collection of fake sushi, all made of rice and tofu! See the end of the page to read about a few popular dishes. The irony is that real vegetables are hard to find: you mostly will find noodles, deep-fried stuff, and tofu shaped like meat, but no vegetables.
Note that most non-vegetarian restaurants in Phuket Town will close for a week, but the restaurants in all beach resorts will operate normally, so don’t worry too much.
It is to be seen once in your life, but it attracts a crowd of photographers who want their share of weird photos to take back home with such eerie views. So from early morning, worshipers will enter a trance at their favourite shrine and pierce their cheek with the most extreme object possible: from a gas nozzle to a scale warship model or a car shock absorber.
Anything goes; the weirder, the better. The procession will then start, leading the devotees from one shrine to another. Along the way, local Thai of Chinese descent prepare food offerings on small tables and receive blessings.
When the main festival starts, a crowd of worshipers, all dressed in white or yellow, gather at Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town for the first event marking the ceremony’s opening: a giant bamboo pole rising to invite divinities to come down to earth. The devotees wear bright and very ornamented outfits, and then you are set for a full week of firecrackers, parades, piercings, and vegetarian food.
Each day of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, processions start from one of the leading shrines around Phuket island. Thousands of people will pay respect to their ancestors. During this week, everyone follows ten principles, mostly wear white, do not eat meat, drink alcohol, do not have sexual activities, etc.
Program and Processions Itineraries 2023
Principles to follow during the festival:
- Wear white clothes during the whole festival
- Do not eat meat or animal products (milk, eggs, etc.)
- Keep your body clean
- Do not drink alcohol
- Do not lie, cheat or steal
- No sexual activity during the festival
- Do not eat food with a strong smell (garlic)
- Keep and wash cooking utensils separately from those used in the event
- Mourners should not attend the festival
- Women in menstruation and pregnancy should not participate in the festival.
The purpose of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, which seems to originate in 1800, seems to differ from the Chinese event in several South-East Asia countries. The worshipers will follow the ten principles mentioned above to cleanse their spirits. At the same time, the devotees will go in procession, self-inflicting all kinds of tortures to shift other worshipers’ evil onto themselves to bring luck back to the community.
Main shrines where ceremonies occur
Scary photos of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
We post the unavoidable piercing photos everyone has already seen or shot themselves here. Those photos are easy to take, follow and enjoy the parade. We won’t even spare you the gross ‘tongue sliding on a giant blade’. Pictures of the firecracker parade are more challenging, with a tremendous amount of suffocating smoke and loud noise.
The ‘walk on the fire’ is another challenging photo to capture, as you must come early to secure the best spot. Get ready to wait and feel the heat for an hour or so: you have to save a place near the burning charcoal early not to have anyone in front of you, which means sweating for at least an hour. Second: the ‘walking’ is more of a jump as fast as you can above the charcoal, so with the lack of light, taking sharp images is difficult, so get ready to freeze the moment with a well-calibrated flash (too much flash would kill the atmosphere).
Where to stay to see the event
The best place to book a hotel for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and be near one of the parades would be one of the heritage hotels in Phuket town. Not all those hotels are historical, but they have a style that fits the event atmosphere. The Memory at On On Hotel is a real heritage, and a few small guesthouses built on those old Sino-Portuguese shophouses are too. These are in the old streets, not expensive, renovated recently but small and bare. Anyway, Phuket is a small island, so wherever your hotel is, you are not far from the old streets where the procession looks the best.
Location: Phuket Town
Address: 19 Phangnga Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Phone: 076 363 700
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Hotel Verdigris is an amazing gem with a great location on Yaowarat Road in Old Phuket Town. The hotel is small and intimate, designed with passion by the young owner around the story of Martina Rozells, an important but mysterious personality of Phuket in the 18th century. The hotel only has a few rooms distributed on three floors of a triangular-shaped hotel with Phuket heritage architecture.
Ten vegetarian foods to try during the festival
▷ Mee Pad Jay (หมี่ผัดเจ) fried flat rice noodles or round egg yellow noodles with kale, one of the most popular vegetarian dishes during the festival.
▷ Por Pia Tod Jay (ปอเปี๊ยะทอดเจ) Deep-fried spring rolls
▷ Yen Ta Fo (เย็นตาโฟเ) is a pink-coloured soup with noodles served in a broth seasoned with fermented and pungent red bean curd. This dish comes with chicken or pork for the rest of the year. Read more
▷ Tao Hu Phad Phed: Stir fried Tofu with chili past
▷ Tao Hu Pad Phed: Tofu with mushrooms
▷ Jee Jo (จีโจ้), a famous snack in Phuket
▷ Look Chin Sarai Tod (ลูกชิ้นสาหร่ายทอด) Deep-fried crispy seaweed balls with sweet sauce
▷ Tao Hu Song Kruang (เต้าหู้ทรงเครื่อ) steamed tofu sauteed in thick Chinese sauce with baby corn and carrots
▷ Yum Jay (ยำเจ) Vegetarian spicy salad
More vegetarian food photos
Map of Phuket Chinese Shrines