Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Mark your calendars (15th to 24th October 2023) for a unique cultural immersion as Phuket unveils its annual Vegetarian Festival in 2023. Steeped in tradition and spirituality, this vibrant event transcends mere vegetarian cuisine. Attendees are treated to a visual spectacle of processions, ceremonial rituals, and astonishing acts of faith like fire-walking and body piercing. While the streets are adorned with stalls offering a plethora of vegetarian delicacies, the deeper essence of the festival lies in its dedication to purifying the mind and body. This iconic Phuket celebration promises a sensory experience blending culinary delights with rich cultural traditions.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, is somewhat of a shocking event that sees self-mutilation, as well as symbolic and sacrificial piercings form part of its programme. A Taoist celebration that commences on the eve of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, it is called Tesagan Gin Je in Thai. It is a particularly popular event in Phuket due to the high concentration of Thai Chinese. Vibrant, colourful and most definitely insightful, certain elements of this event are not for the faint-hearted.

It is believed that the festival came to fruition when a travelling opera company came from China to perform for the miners living in Phuket. When the whole company suddenly fell ill, it was believed that it was due to their lack of honour towards the sacred Nine Emperor Gods. They therefore decided to abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol, engaging in sex and other acts considered unclean. They miraculously found that they began to feel better and a tradition was born.

Celebrated by processions that parade across various areas of Phuket Town and Kathu, they portray a rather gruesome display of ritualistic mutilation, as well as fire walking where a trance-like state is evident upon the faces of those involved. Firecrackers are frequently set off during these ceremonies. You might want to invest in purchasing a pair of earplugs to drown out the deafening sound. The vegetarian aspect of the festival sees devotees wearing white for the duration of this unique event. Eateries across Phuket participate in the festival by only serving vegetarian food. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an event you should see at least once in your lifetime.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival varies each year depending on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

Visit the Phuket Vegetarian Festival Blog with more detailed information and video impressions of each day