Phuket is currently busy preparing for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2023, which will take place between 15th – 24th October. It is a celebration of the Chinese community’s beliefs and traditions, and it involves nine days of vegetarian food, firecrackers, processions, and rituals. Another name for this festival is “Nine Emperor Gods Festival” and it happens once a year, during the ninth lunar month.
In addition to vegetarian food, the festival features many events, such as firewalking, bladed ladder climbing, and bathing in hot oil. These are all meant to test the faith and endurance of the participants (no tourists or visitors!), who claim to feel no pain or fear. One of the most fascinating aspects of the festival is the practice of the “mah song”, or spirit mediums, who pierce their cheeks, tongues, and other body parts with various objects, such as swords, needles, hooks, and even bicycles – this is spectacular but not for the faint-hearted!
Overall, the atmosphere is very festive and lively, with loud music, colourful decorations, and delicious vegetarian dishes. The locals are very friendly and welcoming, and they invite visitors to join in the vegetarian feast and to watch the processions and celebrations.
According to one popular story, the festival dates back to the 19th century, when a Chinese opera group visited Phuket and contracted malaria. They decided to adopt a vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods (known as the Kiu Ong Iah) for healing. To their surprise, they recovered from the disease and attributed their miracle to their faith. Since then, the people of Phuket have continued this tradition every year to honour the gods and express their gratitude.
We highly recommend visiting Phuket during the Vegetarian Festival, as it is a unique opportunity to witness a different culture and atmosphere, especially in Phuket Town and the surrounding areas. You will never forget the sights, the flavours, and the sounds of this amazing festival.
If you’re looking for a place to stay during the festival, Hilltop Wellness Resort is located near Phuket Town and other important shrines where you can witness the festival. Have a look at our accommodation offerings here. If you’d like to add a Yoga & Wellness Retreat to your stay, check out our offerings here.
We organise several excursions to Phuket Town and the surrounding areas which allow you to explore the Vegetarian Festival, such as the Street Food Tour, Cultural Heritage Tour and the Sunday Walking Market Tour. You can access these as a part of your Yoga & Wellness Retreat or add these to any other kind of stay!