It’s been a few years since I’ve photographed the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
Thank you to my friend Khun Dam who picked me up bright and early one morning on her motorbike and into town to see the amazing street parade and celebrations. The feeling of being amongst the parade is unbelievable. So many people participate and many are in trances with piercings that range from small to extreme. When the fireworks go off its deafening. The locals on the street watching are deeply moved to see the participants and receive blessings from them. It’s like being in a movie.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a colourful event celebrating the Chinese community’s belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.
Though the origins of the festival are unclear, it is commonly thought that the festival was bought to Phuket by a wandering Chinese opera group who fell ill with malaria while performing on the island. They decided to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods to ensure purification of the mind and body.
To everyone’s amazement the opera group made a complete recovery. The people celebrated by holding a festival that was meant to honour the gods as well as express the people’s happiness at surviving what was, in the 19th century, a fatal illness. The amazing festival has grown and developed into a spectacular yearly event that is attended by thousands of locals and tourists from all over the world.