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Cathy and Garys Travel Pages Phuket


Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival - Mah Song with 10 knives through his cheek
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Face piercings at the Vegetarian Festival

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is my favorite Festival in Phuket.  It is not for everyone, but I have been going with my Thai friends Mit and Wat from Patong Tattoo a couple of times each festival for the last 9 years. It is always an early start; we are picked up anytime from 4 - 5am, and first thing is breakfast at the Temple then a look around.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival started way back in 1825 when the governor decided to move the main town of Phuket to the Kathu district which was still mainly jungle with some tin mines and a lot of Chinese workers.  An opera group had come from China to perform for the miners and they all came down sick with fever. So, they went on a vegetarian diet to honour 2 Emperor Gods called Kiew Ong Tai Te and Yik Ong Sone Te.

Mit and Wat - Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Mit from Atink Tattoo at the Vegetarian Festival
Delicious vegetarian food is everywhere during the festival
Piercing tool used during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Amazingly they all recovered so the local people of Kathu wanted to know how they did this as fever and sickness was rampant among the local Thai's. The Chinese said that it was vegetarianism and all the ceremonies that were performed. 


So, from this the local population embraced the event and it has been held every year since starting on the first evening of the ninth lunar month and continuing to the ninth evening.  People believed it would also bring good luck to the community and themselves.

A local man went back to China where he invited the sacred Hiao Ho-le (incense smoke) and Lian Tui (name plaques), which have the status of gods, along with some holy writings to come back with him to Kathu.


The people of Phuket gathered together to meet him at the pier along with his precious cargo and this was the start of the famous processions which are held in the Festival.

Wat has been doing piercings at the Festival for many years
Vegetarian Festival Piercings
Wat is very popular for piercings at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Wat at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

The afternoon before the Festival a huge pole is raised at each Temple, it is called the Go Teng Pole and the gods are invited to descend.  At midnight the pole is then hung with nine lanterns which symbolizes the opening of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Then at midnight the two Emperor Gods Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Ta are invited down to preside over the ceremonies.

Other ceremonies are the calling in of the gods Lam Tao, who looks after the living and Pak Tao who looks after the dead. Then there are the Ma Song.  These are devotees whom the Gods enter during the Festival.  These people show supernatural powers and let themselves be mutilated in the way of body piercings, pouring hot oil over their bodies, fire walking and climbing razor sharp bladed ladders.


They do this to bring good luck to their communities and to shift evil from others to themselves.  Ma Song people are chosen by the Gods for their high moral qualities or can be people who want to extend their lives or have had a vision of impending doom.

Fireworks are everywhere at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Jui Tui Shrine Phuket Town
Various Piercings
Phuket Vegetarian Festival

The more noise during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival the better as it wards away evil spirits, so there is a lot of drum banging and loads of fireworks. The Festival ends with making merit ceremonies at every Temple and then the Gods are sent back.

The participants in the Festival also have rules to follow during the time of the Festival such as:
Cleanliness of bodies during the Festival, wearing white during the Festival, no meat eating, no sex, no alcohol, must use clean kitchen utensils and to use them separately from people who do not join the festival, behave physically and mentally, pregnant ladies should not watch any rituals, people in mourning should not attend the festival, women with periods should also not attend.

So, there is a brief history of the Phuket Vegetarian festival, now where do we fit in all of this!

Jui Tui Shrine Phuket Town
Fruit Anyone
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Some of the fruit we bought to give away once it is blessed

Our very good friends from Patong Tattoo, brothers Mit and Wat have been doing piercings at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival for many years.  One day back in 2009 they asked me if we wanted to go with them and take photos.  I didn’t really know anything about this Festival, so I googled it.  Yikes what did I get myself into, I was terrified and honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it.  I don’t like blood and gory things!!


Well I am happy to say that I love this Festival and have been every year since, most years a couple of times each Festival and always see things differently being with the boys.  It is an amazing time in Phuket, it is not for everyone but I always look forward to it each year.


I am totally amazed at what goes in some of the MaSongs faces. Umbrellas, knives, machine guns, candelabra, flags etc. But I do have to say there are still a few things I just cannot watch like tongue cutting etc.

All ages enjoy the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Faces of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Female Mah Song
Faces of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Faces of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

We had also buy many boxes of fruit for the Offerings to the Gods and after the parade Mit and I give it all away, with the help of a MaSong. It is fantastic, as it starts off so quiet then suddenly once the MaSong was there hundreds of people came out of nowhere.


Within 10 minutes everything is gone and that was handing one piece of fruit out at a time - 100 pineapples, 5 boxes of pears, 5 boxes of apples and 5 boxes of dragon fruit - it was so much fun.

The photos in the slideshow are taken from all our visits to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival over the years. So just be careful, there are some extremely graphic photos, do not look if you have a weak stomach!

The Festival starts on the first night of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese Calendar which is always during September or October. 


Phuket Vegetarian Festival dates for 2019 are 28th September - 7th October.

I will add the list of events here for various Shrines when it is released later in the year usually early September.

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