What to expect in Phuket’s vegetarian festival

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Are you looking for things to do on your trip to Thailand? Certainly, then, Phuket needs to be a priority on your bucket list. You’ll get a taste of everything the country has to offer, from rainforest exploration and swimming in the Andaman Sea, to lounging on sandy beaches. The main city always has something going on in its bustling markets or raging nightclubs.

If you want to truly immerse yourself in Thai culture, you have to head to one of the many local festivals. Additionally, to truly taste the exotic flavours and customs of Thailand, you have to head to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Let’s explore.

Vegetarian Festival details

The 2017 Phuket Vegetarian Festival will take place from October 19-29. This event attracts thousands people from all over the world, but especially China and around Asia. Festival dates change year to year as they go by the Chinese lunar calendar, so if you like what you taste and find yourself in Thailand again, you’ll have to check the calendar to ensure you get the timing right.

The festival celebrates the Asian custom of abstaining from meat during the ninth lunar month in order to bring on good health, and finding peace of mind. History of the start of this festival is somewhat unclear, but it is believed that a Chinese opera group came to Phuket when a member became ill with malaria. To get healthy, the group stuck to a strict vegetarian diet and prayed to the Nine Emperor Gods to bring them back to health (both mentally and physically).

Photo credit Getty/Adisorn Fineday Chutikunakorn

Festival food

Even if you consider yourself to be more a carnivore, you will find something delicious at this festival. The Thai people have found a way to make their veggies taste like meat, so it makes participating in this festival easy for all. To prime your tastebuds and get your stomach rumbling, here’s a look at some of the popular food items.

There are tonnes of traditional Thai foods to be had during this festival, including snacks like fried or fresh veggie spring rolls. Meals include hearty bowls of mixed vegetables, savoury tofu and thick noodles or rice.

However, because your body likely isn’t used to this food (even if your favourite takeaways is Thai food) you have to be cautious about what you’re eating. Here are our best tips to avoid food poisoning:

  • Only drink bottled water – tap is almost always unsanitary
  • Beware fresh salads – if they’re washed with tap water, they could be unclean as well
  • Avoid ice – it is likely made from tap water and also unsanitary
  • Only eat made to order food – street food that has been laying out for a while could become unsanitary.

Festival events

It’s not all about the food, of course. There are tonnes of ceremonies and parades to observe as well. Some of the ceremonies can be pretty intense, so it’s best to prepare yourself in advance. To please the gods, there are several self-mortification rituals including firewalking and body piercing. These ceremonies take place around the six Chinese temples throughout Phuket, but you should begin your experience in the main temple, Jui Tui Shrine.

Visitors are welcomed to take part in some of these ceremonies, but if you do, then we highly recommend you get some travel insurance for Thailand before you go. However, there are plenty of more docile rituals as well. The city has more than 40 shrines that you can visit which each have their own procession at the open and close of the festival.

Rules to follow during the festival

Because this is a sacred time for this culture, it’s important that you are aware of the rules that are associated with attending this event. These are the regulations that the Thai people are following, which you may also choose to abide by if you are truly looking to embrace the customs.

  1. Cleanliness of the body (keep yourself clean)
  2. Clean kitchen utensils (must be kept separate from anyone not participating in the festival)
  3. Wear white throughout the duration of the festival (in keeping with the clean theme)
  4. Behave physically and mentally (in effort to improve peace of mind)
  5. Refrain from sex (or similar behaviour)
  6. No consumption of meat or meat products (vegetables only)
  7. No consumption of alcohol (it’s really a full body cleanse)
  8. People in mourning should not participate (it’s hard to practice peace of mind while grieving)
  9. Do not watch any of the rituals if pregnant (health of the baby first)
  10. Do not attend if you are menstruating (per sacred rituals)


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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