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Phuket Vegetarian Festival (3 – 11 October 2024)

What is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?

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

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.

phuket vegetarian festival 9

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.

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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.

phuket vegetarian festival 1

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.

The events

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.

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.

Program and Processions Itineraries 2023

Ritual schedule for each shrine during Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2023


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Principles to follow during the festival:

  1. Wear white clothes during the whole festival
  2. Do not eat meat or animal products (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.

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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.

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Main shrines where ceremonies occur

Jui Tui Shrine
Jui Tui Shrine (Kew Ong) is one of the oldest and most important on Phuket Island. It plays a significant role during the famous Phuket Vegetarian Festival, usually held in October and November ... Read More
Tha Rua Shrine
Tha Rua Shrine is one of the oldest Chinese shrines in Phuket, found in Thalang District on Thepkasattri Road about 800m south of the Heroines’ Monument. It’s an important site during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival, when thousands of devotees come to hold ceremonies and eat vegetarian food during the event’s nine days. Tha Rua ... Read More
Shrine of Serene Light in Phuket Town
The Shrine of the Serene Light, locally known as Sang Tham Shrine, is a beautifully decorated Chinese Temple on Phang Nga Road, one of the most famous streets of Phuket Town. It used to be 'the little hidden Chinese temple' tucked away at the end of a small path, right under your nose. While most ... Read More
Bang Neow Shrine in Phuket Town
Bang Neow Shrine in Phuket Town is one of Phuket's oldest and most revered Chinese shrines. It’s one of the main shrines taking part in the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival and is a place of worship and merit-making activity for the local Chinese-Thai community throughout the year. Bang Neow Shrine is on Phuket Road, a ... Read More
Kio Thian Keng Saphan Hin Shrine ⛩️
Kio Thian Keng Shrine is a colourful Chinese shrine that is set on the seashore inside Saphan Hin public park in Phuket Town. It’s a place of worship for the local Chinese-Thai community and it plays an important role as the site of the final farewell to the gods during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival ... Read More
Hok Nguan Kong Shrine
Hok Nguan Kong Shrine is a Chinese temple near the Surin Clock Circle in Phuket Town. It was founded more than 80 years ago by the Chinese-Thai community in Phuket. From the 1800s, well into the 20th century, thousands of migrants from China arrived in Phuket to work in the tin mines and establish merchant ... Read More
Kathu Shrine
Lai Thu Tao Bo Keng is one of the oldest Chinese shrines in Phuket, and many believe it was the birthplace of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival nearly two centuries ago. The shrine is located in the subdistrict of Kathu in the island’s interior, between Phuket Town and Patong Beach. Though it’s not well known as ... Read More
Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine in Phuket Town
Lim Hu Tai Su is a Chinese Taoist shrine on the north side of Phuket Town, also known as Sam Kong Shrine, for the neighbourhood it’s found in. Though not as well known by visitors as larger Chinese shrines like Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket’s Old Town area, Sam Kong Shrine is a revered place ... Read More
Sam Sae Chu Hut Chinese Shrine in Phuket Town
Sam Sae Chu Hut Chinese Shrine is a modest and discreet Chinese shrine located near the intersection of Khaw Sim Bee Road and Mae Luan Road, on the way up to Khao Rang Hill in Phuket Town; opened in May 2002. Phuket Town – A Walking Guide to Old Phuket Town Rang Hill in Phuket ... Read More

Phuket Shrines Photos


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.

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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

1. The Memory at On On Hotel

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 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
Range: 3-star
Address: 19 Phangnga Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Phone: 076 363 700

Booking.comExpediaHotels.com

Hotel Verdigris

Hotel Verdigris in Phuket Town

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.

Location: Yaowarat Road in Phuket Town
Address: 154 Yaowarat Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000
Phone: 076 530 629

Booking.comExpediaHotels.com

Ten vegetarian foods to try during the festival

noodles

▷ 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.

 


S 132800521 ▷ Por Pia Tod Jay (ปอเปี๊ยะทอดเจ) Deep-fried spring rolls


yen ta fo 1 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


S 132800543 ▷ Khao Mok Kai (ข้าวหมกไก่เจ) A dish that looks like chicken rice, but the chicken is replaced with tofu


S 132800544 ▷ Khanom Jeen Jay (ขนมจีนเจ) thin cold rice noodles served with a curry sauce and with tofu and mushrooms.


S 132800538 ▷ Tao Hu Phad Phed: Stir fried Tofu with chili past


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S 132800547 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

See all Phuket Maps!

See also

10 Chinese Shrines in Phuket ⛩️

Phuket Town – A Walking Guide to Old Phuket Town

More Events in Phuket

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Born in France a long long time ago, I started to travel the world early until I settled in Phuket in 1994. For the past 30 years, my passion for photography and my curiosity have taken me to every corner of Phuket, Bangkok and everywhere I could go in Thailand. My goal is to share my discoveries, photos and tips to help travellers plan their holidays by making Phuket 101 as easy as possible to use for everyone!