Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival schedule 2021

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Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, has arrived. Spanning 10 days from October 5 to the 15, the festival is iconic for those who like exotic and very, very unique cultural events.

It’s a commemoration that invites ancient Chinese spirts to come down from the heavens to witness almost 8 days of fire walking, noisy street processions, and an abundance of fireworks. But, the shocking piercings, using large objects jutting through the cheeks of parading mar songs, is perhaps, the festival’s most famous sight to see.

Aside from the annual rituals, the festival’s name introduces a week of abstinence from eating meat, milk products, alcohol and indulging in a other ‘pleasures of the flesh’ for the island’s large Thai-Chinese population. So, if you are looking for vegetarian or vegan food, this is definitely the place to go. The streets of Phuket Town are full of stalls serving vegetarian food, making it a mecca for herbivores. It’s also the week, every year, when festival organisers complain that the markets inflate the cost of vegetables. Of course.

Phuket's Vegetarian Festival schedule 2021 | News by Thaiger
Vegetarian Festival 2021

October 5 (Tuesday):

The festival’s kickoff starts in the afternoon with lantern poles being raised at all of the participating shrines. This is when the Emperor Gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines at midnight.

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October 6 (Wednesday):

No big events happen on this day as it is the first full day of the festival. But, you can see the various food stalls and other processions getting ready for the main events.

October 7 (Thursday):

The first street begins today and starts at Naka shrine, which is located next to the weekend market. With all processions starting at around 7am or earlier and passing through the old Phuket Town area, you will want to wake up early to see the festivities. Most of the processions end at either Sapan Hin or at their home shrines.

October 8 (Friday):

Starting bright and early at 7am, the street procession begins at Sapam Shrine, which is a few kms north of Phuket Town. But, if you want to see the exotic piercings, you can arrive at any of the participating shrines before 7am.

And, to be safe, arriving at 6am to see the piercings is advised. During the evening, another procession will begin at around 7pm around Kathu village for the Birth and Death Gods (Lam Tao and Pak Tao). This procession is quite noisy! Other shrines also feature processions at the same time. Jui Tui Shrine in Phuket Town is also said to host a large procession as well.

Vegetarian Festival Phuket Büsser - Free photo on Pixabay
Exotic piercings at Vegetarian Festival

October 9 (Saturday):

The early morning procession starts at Sam Kong Shrine. From here, it goes to the north of town which is not too far from the large, Lotus grocery store. Then, it goes past the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital and through the old section of Phuket town. Procession goes from the shrine in the north of town (not far from the big Tesco Lotus store), past the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital and through the old section of Phuket town. This area is also good for finding some amazing food with stalls lining the streets for about half a kilometre.

October 10 (Sunday):

A procession starts early in the morning from Tha Ruea shrine, which is in the centre of Phuket island in the Thalang area. As Thalang used to be the main town in Phuket several hundred years ago, it features several historic temples. The annual Heroines Festival started here, predating the Vegetarian Festival by a few decades.

October 11 (Monday):

This day has a lot to see with the morning kicking off with another procession in Phuket Town at the Bang Neow Shrine. The shrine is located on the south end of the town on Phuket Road and is one of the most important to participate in the festival. Visitors can expect large crowds in this area normally, but due to Covid-19, it may be scaled back.

Another procession, though quite smaller, starts from Cherng Talay Shrine which is in the Thalang district of the Cherng Talay area. This one is good to see if you are residing around Kamala, Bang Tao, or Surin beaches. At night, fire walking starts at 8pm at many locations. Sapam Shrine, Sapan Hin, Sui Boon Tong Shrine, and Tha Reua Shrine all have participants in the fire walks.

Phuket's Vegetarian Festival schedule 2021 | News by Thaiger
Vegetarian Festival 2021

October 12 (Tuesday):

Jui Tui Shrine (considered the biggest shrine in Phuket Town) starts off the morning processions, drawing large crowds. And, if you don’t want to join such crowds, you can find the procession’s route quite easily by following the people or the small shrines that are set up outside residents’ homes.

Later during the day, various shrines host events including bladed ladder climbing at Sam Kong and Bang Neow Shrines, and nail bridge crossings at Sapam Shrine.

October 13 (Wednesday):

Kathu Shrine starts the morning street procession, heading to Phuket Town. This one is a particularly long walk at 10 kilometres in length and ending at Sapan Hin. It is best, again, to arrive at around 6am or earlier to see the piercings and other mysterious acts.

October 14 (Thursday):

This is the last full day of the festival in which Sui Boon Tong shrine kicks off the morning procession. Later, fire walking at Kathu Shrine can be seen along with large crowds. The evening marks the last full day with a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin.

The shrines also feature a “Bridge Crossing for Purification” ceremony in which everyone is wearing white clothing. The nighttime festivities are more like being in a war zone as millions of firecrackers and fireworks are set off, making it abundantly clear that you will need to bring ear plugs at the very least.

A mask would also help with the sheer volume of smoke that is produced by the fireworks. And, it is a very good idea to wear long clothing and trainers as flip-flops won’t protect your feet from getting burned.

October 15 (Friday):

This day is quieter with 5pm marking the end of the Vegetarian Festival. Lantern poles or Go Teng poles are lowered at the shrines, marking the annual festival’s end. And, after the amazing food, early mornings and crazy amounts of firecrackers and crowds, Phuket goes back to its normal self.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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