Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2019
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Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2020 – October 17 to 25

When is Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2020?

October 17 to 25, 2020

Note: This is a typical coverage from past years. In 2020, processions will still happen, but a lot of 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.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2018

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 surprisingly having a very similar taste). Once we even saw a full collection of fake sushi’s all made of rice and tofu!

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.

phuket-vegetarian-festival-piercings

Weeks before the Vegetarian Festival events start, yellow Chinese flags bloom on every possible roadside and intersections, 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.

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Main Event

The main festival event then starts and a multitude of worshipers, all dressed in white or yellow, gather in every shrine for the first event marking the opening of the ceremony: 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.

vegetarian-festival-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 entire week everyone follows ten principles: mostly wear white, do not eat meat, do not drink alcohol, do not have sexual activities, etc… two of them specify that women having periods should not attend nor even watch 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 which occurs in several countries of South-East Asia. Here, the worshipers will follow these ten 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 with such eerie views, it attracts a crowd of photographers all wanting their share of weird photos to take back home. 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.

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Where to stay to see the event

Best heritage hotels in Phuket

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 at least 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 shophouse are too. These are centrally located in the old streets, not expensive, renovated recently but of course 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.


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 the loud noise.

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The ‘walk on 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 in order 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 difficult, so get ready with to freeze the moment with a well-calibrated flash (too much flash would kill the atmosphere).


Schedule

This is a typical schedule from past years.

Street processions

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
  • 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
  • Ban 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

Vegetarian Festival at Jui Tui Shrine


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 2020 in Phuket – April 12 to 15