Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2021
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Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2021 – October 5 to 14

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When is Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2021?

October 5 to 14, 2021

Note: This is a typical coverage from past years. In 2021, processions may still happen, but many gatherings will be limited because of COVID-19.

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.

Vegetarian Festival at Jui Tui Shrine

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’s all made of rice and tofu! See at 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. Also, most restaurants around Phuket TOWN will close for a week, so if, like us, you are not so attracted by deep-fried food and tofu, get ready to drive or to starve.

Weeks before the Vegetarian Festival events, yellow Chinese flags bloom on every possible 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.

The events

The main festival event then starts. Many worshipers, all dressed in white or yellow, gather at Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town for the first event marking the ceremony’s opening: the giant bamboo pole rising, meant 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 of course, vegetarian food.

Phuket Vegetarian Festivals at Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town

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.

Principles to follow during the festival:

  1. Wear white clothes during the whole festival
  2. Do not eat meat or products from animals (milk, eggs, etc.)
  3. Keep your body clean
  4. Do not drink alcohol
  5. Do not lie, cheat or steal
  6. No sexual activity during the festival
  7. Do not eat food with a strong smell (garlic)
  8. Keep and wash cooking utensils separately from those used in the event
  9. Mourners should not attend the festival
  10. 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. Here, the worshipers will follow the ten above mentioned principles to cleanse their spirit. 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 on the community.

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.

more photos at the bottom of the page, but some may be disturbing to sensitive people!

Street processions and Chinese Shrines where events start

Tha Rua Shrine

Day 1

  • Hun Jong Aam Joh Su Kong Naka Shrine, Wichit

Day 2

  • Sam Pai Kong Shine, Bang Khu
  • Guan Tae Kun Shrine, Sapam
  • Sang Lang Tong Shrine, Baan Muang Mai

Day 3

  • Tae Kun Shrine, Baan Nabon
  • Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine, Samkong Shrine
  • Tai Houd Tong Shrine, Surin Beach
  • Bu Sent Tong Shrine, Cherng Talay

Day 4

  • Tai Seng Pud Joh Shrine, Chalong
  • Jeng Ong Shrine, opposite Vachira Phuket Hospital
  • Tha Rua Shrine, Tha Ruea
  • Tae Koon Tai Tae, Cherng Talay
  • Hun Jong Aam Joh Su Kong Naka Shrine, Wichit
  • Sang Lang Tong Shrine, Muang Mai, Thalang
  • Guan Tae Kun Shrine, Sapam

Day 5

  • Bang Neow Shrine, Srisoonthorn
  • Gim Tsu Ong Shrine, Baan Don
  • Sam Ong Hu Shrine, Cherng Talay
  • Jong Ngie Tong Shrine, Ton Sai Waterfall
  • Tai Houd Tong Shrine, Surin Beach

Day 6

Day 7

  • Lai Too Shrine, Kathu
  • Tae Gun Shrine, Ban Nabon
  • Hai Yian Keng Shrine, Mai Khao
  • Yok Ke Keng Shrine, Soi Pa-Niang

Day 8

  • Ngoh Hian Tai Tae, Cherng Talay
  • Sui Bun Tong Shrine, Phuket Town
  • Sam Pai Kong Shrine, Bang Khu

Day 9

Closing of the Vegetarian Festival

Fire-walking ceremonies

Day 4

  • 8:09 pm Jui Tui Shrine
  • 8:09 pm Jeng Ong Shrine
  • 8:30 pm Ban Tha Rua Shrine
  • 8:45 pm Guan Tae Kun Shrine
  • 8:45 pm Yok Ke Keng Shrine
  • 9:00 pm Sui Bun Tong Shrine
  • 9:00 pm Tae Gun Shrine
  • 9:00 pm Hai Yian Keng Shrine

Day 5

  • 9:00 pm Tai Houd Tong Shrine
  • 9:00 pm Bu Sent Tong Shrine

Day 6

  • 2:00 pm Kim Su Ong Shrine
  • 8:00 pm Bang Neow Shrine
  • 8:00 pm Tae Koon Tai Tae
  • 8:09 pm Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine
  • 9:09 pm Jong Ngie Tong Shrine
  • 8:15 pm Sang Lang Tong Shrine
  • 8:30 pm Sam Ong Hu Shrine
  • 8:30 pm Tai Seng Pud Joh Shrine

Day 7

  • 3:00 pm Lai Too Shrine
  • 7:30 pm Sam Pai Kong Shrine

10 Vegetarian food 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
  • Yum Jay (ยำเจ) Vegetarian spicy salad
  • Yen Ta Fo (เย็นตาโฟเ) a pink-coloured soup with noodles served in a broth seasoned with fermented and pungent red bean curd. During the rest of the year, this dish comes with chicken or pork.
  • Khao Mok Kai (ข้าวหมกไก่เจ) A dish that looks like chicken rice, but the chicken is replaced with tofu
  • Khanom Jeen Jay (ขนมจีนเจ) thin cold rice noodles served with a curry sauce and with tofu and mushrooms.
  • Jee Jo (จีโจ้) a famous snack in Phuket
  • Tao Hu Song Kruang (เต้าหู้ทรงเครื่อ) steamed tofu sauteed in thick Chinese sauce with baby corns and carrots
  • Look Chin Sarai Tod (ลูกชิ้นสาหร่ายทอด) Deep fried crispy seaweed balls with sweet sauce

Where to stay to see the event

The Memory at On On Hotel in Phuket Town

The best place to book a hotel for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and be near one of the parades would, of course, be is one of the heritage hotels in Phuket town. Not all those hotels are historical, but they do have the 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 a little 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.

Scary Photos of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

We post here the unavoidable piercing photos that everyone has already seen or even shot themselves. 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’. More challenging to take are photos of the firecracker parade, with a tremendous amount of suffocating smoke and loud noise.

The ‘walk on the fire’ is another challenging photo to capture as you have to 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).

Photos of Phuket Shrines

Map of Phuket Chinese Shrines

See also

8 Chinese Shrines in Phuket

Phuket Town – A Walking Guide to Old Phuket Town

Songkran 2021 in Phuket – Songkran Water Festival April 12 to 15

Willy Thuan
Born in France a long long time ago, I started to travel the world early and never stopped until I settled in Thailand in 1994. Then for the past 27 years, my passion for photography and my natural curiosity has taken me to every corner of Thailand, jumping frequently between Bangkok and Phuket and basically everywhere I could go. I run and manage large international online travel guides.
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