Vegetarian Festival of Thailand - Green Door Enterprises

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[Published on 2011-10-09 in Holidays and Eventsby Jesse Schule]

Vegetarian Festival of Thailand

Every year in late September and early October, Thailand celebrates it's annual vegetarian festival. The exact date varies from year to year depending on the Chinese lunar calendar. For a period of 9 days, believers will refrain from eating meat or animal products, instead eating a strict vegan diet consisting of vegetables and soya products. The festival is believed to have originated in Southern China, and today is celebrated by Thais with Chinese Buddhist ancestry. The event also attracts foreign visitors from various other Asian countries that share these Chinese Buddhist beliefs. 

Tourists from all over the world are shocked year after year

Across the country participating food vendors will offer affordable vegetarian dishes for those who wish to partake in the festival, or even for tourists that simply enjoy vegetarian food. Popular dishes will include vegetable curries, spring rolls, noodles and several simulated meat dishes made from tofu. While many tourists will find all the wonderful vegetarian dishes to be a pleasant change of pace from traditional Thai food, travelers to the island of Phuket will find themselves entertained by the various sacred rituals preformed in parades around the city. 

In Phuket Town, believers parade through the city displaying various forms of self mutilation, such as swords pierced through their cheeks, or skewers through their back. These devoted men and women are thought to be spirit mediums, in a deep trance and immune to any pain. During the parade procession through the city streets, strings of firecrackers are constantly set off just inches above the heads of these spirit mediums. The fact that they pay no regard to the chaos and noise that surrounds them serves as proof that they are indeed in a trance. They show no reaction to the firecrackers, and simply walk ahead shaking their heads from side to side with a blank stare on their face. 

In the past the faces would be impaled most commonly by swords and skewers, however in recent years some devotees have been known to use objects such as tennis rackets, tree branches, beach umbrellas and even bicycles. In an effort to shock the crowd, those who dare to be different will use whatever prop that they feel will attract the most attention. Aside from the self mutilation rituals of impaling their cheeks, slicing their tongues and piercing their various body parts with skewers, these spirit mediums also practice walking over hot coals and climbing ladders with rungs made of the blades of swords. 

Local authorities discourage the use of non traditional piercing objects, and in 2011, for the first time ever, spirit mediums were registered and given documentation to show that they have the legal right to self mutilate. According to the Phuket Gazette online newspaper, any individual practicing self mutilation, or impaling themselves without the proper documentation can potentially face time in jail. 

There is no better time to visit the island of Phuket than during the vegetarian festival, it is not for the faint of heart, but it is something you will never forget. Tourists from all over the world are shocked year after year, catching a glimpse of the bizarre celebrations and rituals that most have never seen before. Most tourists will want to take as many photos as possible, knowing that their friends back home are unlikely to believe their stories unless they have evidence to prove it. 

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