A noisy firework sets ablaze and finds its way under a gorgeous Thai girl’s feet. She looks more annoyed than scared and nonchalantly kicks it away with her high heels, whilst successfully applying her lippy in her hand mirror at the same time.
I turn to my mate and say; “Now I see why they (Thailand) have never been colonised.”
Meanwhile, there are literally thousands of men with sharp implements wedged through their faces. Many are licking the blade of a sword too. All of them volunteering for what seems like the most pain you can humanly possibly put your body through.
There’s blood on the pavements, fireworks flying from all directions and the whole city is deafeningly LOUD. Sensory overload doesn’t even begin to cover it.
This is Phuket, this is Thailand and this is – The Vegetarian Festival.
Origins Of The Thailand Veg Festival…
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held over a nine-day period in October (we went for the final three days), celebrating the Chinese Thai community’s belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants (and also sex) during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.
The gruesome ceremonies which are held to invoke the gods such as fire-walking, body piercing and other acts of self-mortification undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods, have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. Men and women puncture their cheeks with knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm. This is definitely not recommended for the squeamish to witness.
Unless you didn’t guess it from the title – the food at the festival is only vegetarian, it’s actually more accurate to call it vegan, as I don’t recall seeing any eggs or dairy in sight.
I was vegetarian at this part of my life and my mates who I went with, who are meat eaters – thoroughly enjoyed the food and thought it was delicious. Don’t worry about missing meat if you go to this festival – meat substitutes over there are amazing and Thailand could put spices on a turd and make it tasty.
This is the only thing remotely vegetarian about the vegetarian festival. This is more about torture than tofu. However, I did find it really interesting that Thailand as a whole (even those not of Chinese decent) got involved during the festival and severely upped it’s veggie game around its cities for those who wanted to – which most people seemed to take advantage of and get stuck in.
We went full on Backstreet Boys ‘I want it that way,’ in respect for the festival as everyone else wears white – a sign of purity and all things good.
Every day cranks up its madness. At first you’ll see a guy with one blade through his face and by the second/third day you’ll be able to look at him without grimacing. Then you’ll see them walking bare-footed up a ladder of spikes and by the final day, when they give thanks to the nine Gods – that is when sh*t gets real my friends!
Check out my Thaipusam festival in Malaysia article – it’s quite similar in principle, believers putting themselves through unparalleled pain for a show of sacrifice and gratitude to their Gods. In all honesty, The Thailand festival makes the Malaysian festival look like an Enya concert in comparison!
Go and see for yourself next year, I dare you! 😉 I’ll be uploading the full, ruthless album to my Facebook fan page this week. (Edit: Many of them were removed by Facebook).