Phuket Vegetarian Festival

November 12, 2012 in Amazing Thailand

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Starting on the evening of the 9th lunar month and lasting ten days and nights is the incredible Phuket Vegetarian Festival or Jai Chai in the local Hokkien Chinese dialect. This is one of Thailand’s most colorful festivals and has been held annually since 1825.

I recently flew down to the beautiful island of Phuket to witness this festival having missed it last year. I stayed in Phuket Town to be in the thick of the action as the things I wanted to witness started very early in the mornings.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival – Jai Chai

A short walk from my accommodation at 5.30am led me straight to the Jui Tui Shrine were already a sizeable crowd had gathered. Here hundreds of males and even some females were piercing their faces and other body parts with an array of  large metal spikes and inserting chains, guns, a boat, daggers and just about anything else you can imagine… yep even the garden gate!

Some others had hundreds of small needles with feathers attached inserted under there skin along both arms, across their shoulders and around their eyes. In all cases these extreme piercings resulted in little or no blood and each individual seemed to be in some kind of trance state.

After photographing dozens of these people with extreme pieceings, they all gathered together and a procession left the shrine to wind it’s way through the streets of Phuket.

I caught up with the procession in the centre of town where thousands of people all dressed in white lined each side of the street. The carnival atmostphere was no matched for the noise of thousands of fire crackers that were set off making it almost impossible to breathe in the clouds of acrid smoke.

By midday it was all over for another day so we made a retreat from the hot and dusty streets for a hearty brunch at The Gallery Bar.

There are many other rituals to to see and experience throughout the festival week including fire-walking, food offerings, incantations and bladed ladder climbing. There are also ten rules for the Vegetarian Festival that the locals follow.

10 Rules for The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - Thailand1. Cleanliness of bodies

2. Clean kitchen utensils

3. Wearing of white clothing

4. Behaving both physically and mentally

5. No meat eating

6. Abstaining from sex

7. Abstaining from alcohol

8. People who are in the mourning period should not attend the festiva

9. Pregnant women are forbidden from watching any rituals

10. Women menstruating should not attend the rituals

I was surprised by the small number of tourist at this festival and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea it is definitely worth attending at least once to witness this unique Thai/Chinese Buddhist/Taoist festival in amazing Thailand.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival