This year’s Vegetarian Festival will still be taking place between October 20 – 28. But organisers have been asked to ‘tone it down’ (how do you tone down the Vegetarian Festival?!) and restrict parades until the last day only in respect of the funeral for the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok.

Whilst the festival is meant to be about ridding the island of evil spirits, cleansing yourself, new-beginnings and vegetarian food, the street parades and ritual mutilation, spirit-possessed Ma Songs and the sound and smell of fire-crackers is what most of us remember about the festival. The food, honestly, is uniformly forgettable.

White is the symbolic colour for the entire festival. By wearing white it shows respect for the local customs and will be appreciated by those involved. The white pants and T-shirts are cheap and easy to find around Phuket Town during the Festival if you want to get geared-up like a local. Also, if you are going to get close to the parades on the final day, wear eye-goggles. If you haven’t yet experienced Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival then you have something amazing awaiting. It’s an assault on all your senses and, sometimes, not for the faint-hearted.

The annual festival, always falling in the month of October, is also known as the The Nine Emperor Gods Festival, a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The festival is also observed in the town of Yishun, Singapore and in other Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia by the local Chinese communities.

In Thailand, this festival is called thetsakan kin che (Thai: เทศกาลกินเจ), the Vegetarian Festival. It is celebrated throughout the entire country, but the festivities are at their height in Phuket, where about 35% of the population is Thai Chinese. It attracts crowds of spectators because of many of the unusual religious rituals that are performed.

SOURCE: Wikipedia, Phuket Gazette Legacy

- Tim Newton

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Tim Newton
Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 2,800 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 330 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger and Phuket Gazette.