Thailands Intriguing Vegetarian Festival

Just when I thought Thailand couldn’t surprise me anymore with its weird and wonderful culture. BANG!! it did it again when I attended the vegetarian festival this month in Phuket.

We woke up super early and hired motorbikes to drive into Phuket town for the annual vegetarian festival. Now when you think ‘vegetarian festival’ you think a festival serving vegetarian food. Well wrong, even though there was vegetarian food the festival celebrates the Chinese communities believe that avoiding meat during the 9th lunar moon of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.



The ceremonies started early and let me pre-warn you, they are not for the faint-hearted, an experience like anything but gruesome at times. They are the most exciting aspect of the festival though, colourful, loud and extreme. The ceremonies you get to witness some things you never thought you would see. Gruesome acts of self-mortifications such as fire walking, body piercing, men and women puncturing their own cheeks with several swords, knives or various household items, people walking whilst slicing their own lips along sharp axes, blood dripping down their bare chests. Other acts include climbing up 8-metre ladders of sharp blades and walking down the street wrapped in lit fire-crackers. CRAZY?? But there is a purpose to why these ceremonies are held of course. They are held to invoke the Gods and the participants are acting as a medium towards them. The belief is that the Chinese Gods will protect them from harm in the future, as well as little blood and scarring from the result of the self-mutilation acts. The acts are to done to show their devotion to the Gods and their beliefs.






Before attending the ceremonies, I had heard very little about the festival, I had however heard rumours of some of the things that I would see but being there really opened up my eyes to even more deep culture that I apparently still have to learn about Thailand. I thought I had learnt about it but it all links back to the Chinese somehow. The ceremonies were as gruesome as you could imagine, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. At some points I was hidden behind cars, I was lost in thought at how people could voluntarily harm themselves the way they did, I had never seen so much blood come out of a human before in real life apart from on TV. The loud sounds from the firecrackers, the smells, the choking on the smoke, the whole atmosphere is something I won’t forget anytime soon especially getting hit by that firecracker. It was certainly an eye-opening experience and also frightening.



Culture is very important when seeing a new country, let it shock you and put you in awe. It’s all about the experience, even if you don’t really understand it, embrace it and remember that a foreign country is supposed to make the locals feel comfortable not the visitors. So embrace everything and accept their beliefs.

Photo credit to Julien Etienne. Check out more of his images here


25 Comment

  1. Wow, what a fascinating experience! My first thought was that there would be some yummy vegetarian food but clearly that’s not the case. I can’t say I’d want to see this in person, but how cool that you got to experience it!

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      When you hear ‘vegetarian festival’ you would assume that. Although people do refrain from eating meat during this time its more of a spiritual event. It was definitely an experience to say the least

  2. Muslims have a similar march as well where they defile their bodies in prasise of Hassan and Hussein. This was such a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing this! Did you get to taste any food at all or was no food served there?

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      That’s very interesting. I love learning things about new cultures and beliefs. Most of the restaurants in the area (local restaurants not the tourist ones) were only serving vegetarian food, so there certainly a wide range to try but these parades were the main attraction.

  3. Muslims have a similar march as well where they defile their bodies in praise of Hassan and Hussein. This was such a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing this! Did you get to taste any food at all or was no food served there?

  4. Wow. I was expecting that when I started the post! I love experiencing festivals and events in other cultures but I think that would’ve been a bit too much for me! Definitely sounds like a once in a lifetime even though.

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      It was a lot to handle. I’m a very squeamish person but it was still interesting to experience. Just when I thought I knew everything about Thailand.

  5. I had never heard of this before. Very interesting. I enjoy learning about other cultures, although I’m not sure I would attend this festival.

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      The festival certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. But interesting none the less.

  6. I’ve heard about this before – your pics are awesome! What a cool experience.

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      Thank you, it certainly was.

  7. Wow! That’s so interesting… definitely want to learn more about this. And you’re so right about sometimes needing to let culture shock you – if you shy away from the unfamiliar and “Scary” you may never learn anything new!

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      There’s nothing truer. I strongly believe that. It’s very interesting and not something you see everyday

  8. WWow, I really would not have expected a vegetarian festival to be so gory! That’s something new I learned about Thailand today. Thanks for that cool report! That must have been a really fascinating experience!

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      Neither did I, I was very shocked. But something new. That country is always full of surprises.

  9. Oh, my gosh! Around what time of the year does this festival takes place in Phuket? I visited Phuket around February but never heard of it before.

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      It’s around September/ October time. I had been to Phuket before but had never heard of it until this visit.

  10. This is the first time I have read about such a tradition, it really sounds scary but as you say when you are in other countries you have to respect their culture and beliefs.

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      It was a little scary to be right in the middle of it. Firecrackers being thrown into crowds, loud bangs, smoke and all the gory stuff but an experience to say the least. Their culture fascinates me and always will.

  11. I love to read about different cultures! I have heard from other travellers as well that some festivals in Thailand can be quite daunting to watch! Thank You for this post! 😀

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it.. Thank you also. Some festivals can be yes but an experience all the same.

  12. Oh wow!!! Very Interesting but I don’t think I have the courage to attend this kind of festival. Phew…

    1. Louise Allonby says: Reply

      It certainly takes thick skin. It wasn’t the nicest but interesting to see.

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