Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

It’s been a bucket list goal of mine to attend this event for years now, and I can finally check it off! Nope, it’s not really as frou-frou as “celebrating vegetarianism,” although, that’s one of the 10 rules of the Festival.  What I went to Phuket for was the bizarro nutso-ness of the Festival’s early morning Street Processions and nighttime traditions to make even the most jaded traveler raise an eyebrow.

How can I describe my 4 days there?  Intense cultural experience, stunted breathing, ears ringing, breathebreathe!, confusion, adrenaline, batabatabataBOOM, stomach churning…That should give you an idea.  Honestly, half the time, it felt as if I were in a warzone, but one where the soldiers happily put themselves on the front line to be skewered with fire and swords.  It’s a far cry from the innocent sounding “Vegetarian Festival,” but it’s not all about the brouhaha.  The participants of this time-honored 10-day tradition are deeply devout and add a touch of softness through the practice of more silent, reserved daily rituals.  The 10 core Rules of the Festival are as follows:


1. Cleanliness of bodies during the festival
2. Clean kitchen utensils and to use them seperately from other who do not join the festival
3. Wear white during the festival
4. Behave physically and mentally
5. No meat eating
6. No sex
7. No alcoholic drinks
8. People at mourning period should not attend the festival
9. Pregnant ladies should not watch any ritual
10. Ladies with period should not attend the ritual

While I’ll refrain from criticizing the ignorance of the women’s plight ingrained in the perennial beliefs of the event, I’ll start by saying it’s a festival of purification at heart. The time-honoured traditions of prayer, candlelit vigils, incense burning, forgiveness,  and sin purging are all very apparent throughout the week, though often sidelined by the photographers and tourists who’d rather only attend the so-called “barbaric” processions of sacrifice and celebration.  (Not that that is not the most exciting part!) To have a better perspective on what this event is all about, I highly recommend you stray from the tourist crowd and hit up some of the lesser known temples or those hosting low-key ceremonies.  I’ll huu phak (shut up) now, so we can get to the good stuff – the pictures!  –>

That’s a lot of metal.

any extra coconuts? it’s hot out here.

Oh! Yup, that’s blood. wipeywipe.

As long as they’re not loaded.

Don’t touch me.

It counts. And perfect for the daily showers. What a thinker!

oop, back to the metal. and more blood.

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