Phuket Vegetarian Festival and Self-mutilation: what is it about?

In Phuket we witnessed a vegetarian festival not suitable for people with heart problems.

¿How to go from Khao Yai Natural Park to Phuket?

Arriving in Phuket by chance we come across the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. After our spectacular visit to the Khao Yai Natural Park we decided to leave the same day to Phuket.

Very kindly, the guide who had accompanied us on the route through the natural park did all the paperwork to buy the ticket to Hua Hin, which is halfway to Phuket. The ticket cost us 300 Baths (8 euros) in a 2 big buses with massages incorporated into the seats.

We left at 11 p.m. and arrived at Hua Hin at 5 a.m. Almost without knowing it since we spent the trip sleeping. From there we bought another bus ticket to Phuket. It left at 8am and arrived at 6pm. After 10 hours of reading, sleeping, chatting and listening to music we arrived at our destination.

We went directly to Oh Oh Hotel, known for being the hotel where one of the scenes from Leonardo Di Caprio’s film The Beach was shot. Specifically the scene where he encounters with a pretty crazy guy who tells him about an idyllic beach and gives him the map. Apart from that, the hotel had nothing special.

Phuket - Vegetarian Festival
Phuket – Vegetarian Festival – Street Food

Phuket Vegetarian Festival: Tesagan GinJe

In the evening we find a vegetarian festival with the name of Tesagan Gin Je. The street was full of food stalls and overflowing with people. Just next door was a Chinese temple with a small courtyard where there was a staircase about 10 meters high. The place was very crowded.

Suddenly we saw how one person started to climb up the stairs while everyone watched in amazement. When he reached the top everyone began to applaud. At the end of the show we approached to try to understand the reason for so much expectation and so much revelry to climb a ladder. 

As we approached, we realized that each step was a large, sharp blade. A man next to us came with a melon and broke it in two without any effort. The vegetarian festival with self-mutilation included had just begun.

Later we met some Couchsurfings from the area and went for a drink with them. We had a few laughs exchanging cultural opinions and they gave us good advice; like to go out to party you had to go to Patong, to the other end of the city.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Why is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival held?

History or legend?

It is said that approximately 150 years ago, a group of Chinese opera traveled to the island of Phuket to entertain the local Chinese community. Virtually everyone in the company fell ill with something. It is thought that of malaria, but it is not known for sure.

What is certain is that to combat the epidemic they followed a strict vegetarian diet and performed religious rites for nine days to purify the body, mind and get rid of the evil that invaded their spirit.

Miraculously, all the members were healed within a few days and fully recovered. From then on, in honor and gratitude to the gods, annual ceremonies began to be held every ninth month of the lunar calendar, becoming more popular and more spectacular every year until they became what they are today.

What is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?

Infringing pain to purify the body

The next day it was almost all day raining. We couldn’t go to see the beaches and we stayed in the center hanging around. Perhaps it can be said that it was not a lost day because we came across the vegetarian festival again. This time it was a rather curious parade:

Several participants, accompanied by a group of people dressed in white, were walking in trance down the street. Different parts of his body were pierced with knives, katanas and other sharp objects. They told us that these people in trance were possessed by spirits and did not feel any pain. We didn’t even see a drop of blood. It was a kind of self-mutilation to purify the body.

Phuket - Vegetarian Festival
Phuket – Vegetarian Festival

Party in Patong, the best party of Phuket

Phuket had surprised us during the day, it was time to see that we were going to meet at night. At night, once everything we had just seen had been assumed, we decided to go out and party.

We followed the advice of our Thai friends and went with them to Patong. And it was crazy. Indispensable for the most party-goers. If they say it’s becoming the new Pattaya, I don’t want to know what that’s going to be like…

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If you are planning to travel to Thailand, you may also be interested in our list of Travel Tips for Thailand and the following post about the Gulf of Thailand: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

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