Not recommended for the faint-hearted, one of the most exciting aspects of the festival are the various, sometimes gruesome ceremonies which are held to invoke the gods. The ceremonies of the festival take place in six Chinese temples scattered throughout Phuket, Thailand. The first event is the raising of the Lantern Pole, an act that signifies to the nine Chinese gods that the festival is about to begin and brings spiritual power to the event.
For the next few days, the local Chinese and Thai community brings their household gods to the temple, along with offerings of food and drink. Visitors can indulge in specially prepared vegetarian cuisine made available at street stalls and markets around the island during this time.
Events include hundreds of local residents running across a bed of burning coals, or climbing an eight metre ladder of sharp blades, and crossing a nailed bridge while in a trance-like state. Men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. Firecrackers are let off at random throughout the festivities.
The last major ceremony of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is certainly the most impressive. On the last night all shrines join a street procession in Phuket Town called the Nine Emperor Gods Farewell.
‘Visit the shrines of Phuket Town during it’s vegetarian festival, enjoy spectacular Chinese-Thai cuisine and witness the extreme and daring rituals and processions led by hundreds of local villagers.’
Phuket is nestled in the Andaman Sea waters off Thailand’s Indian Ocean coastline 862 kilometres south of Bangkok. In recent times, though, Phuket’s top earner has been tourism, which has transformed the island into Thailand’s wealthiest province
Getting around in Phuket is easy. Most of the beach resorts are small enough to walk around and most hotels are located close to the beach, restaurants and shopping areas.
The Phuket International Airport (HKT) is located 32km from the main town of Phuket City, travellers can make their way to the airport via taxi or bus.
There are plenty of places to hire cars or you can take the local bus. There are two types of buses – the Songtaew – blue open-air buses that run between Phuket Town and the main resorts, and air conditioned “micro” buses that service the Phuket Town area.
For short distances tuk tuks are fine, but their small size makes them uncomfortable for anything longer than about 30 minutes.
Air conditoned car taxis can be hired at all the main resort areas and in Phuket Town, with rates similar to the tuk tuks. Expect to bargain your fare in advance.
Being a tourism hot spot, Phuket is full of hotels, resorts, and hostels for visitors to choose from.
The Cassia Phuket is a hip apartment hotel. These trendy 1 to 2 bedroom apartments feature private balconies, separate living rooms and kitchenettes, plus free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs; some offer lagoon views. Continental breakfast is complimentary. Amenities include a spa, an infinity pool and a kids’ pool, along with a private beach area.
Lub d – Phuket Patong is an eclectic hostel with streamlined dorms & private rooms, plus an outdoor pool & a boxing ring. Mixed and female-only dorms offer free Wi-Fi, bunk beds and shared bathrooms. Private rooms have smart TVs, plus minifridges, en suite facilities, and balconies or terraces.
There are many attractions in the area to reward those seeking some interesting sights, including local beaches and markets in Phuket Town.
Phuket Fanta-Sea is a cultural theme park offering elaborate shows with elephants, a buffet, an animal exhibit & shopping.
Flying Hanuman is a Popular zipline attraction featuring multiple courses & sky bridges through jungle terrain. The bungee jump is challenging and the food available in the park is excellent.
The Festival takes place on the September 28 – October 7 2019.
Feature image credit: CGTN
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