“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”
~ Buddha
2011 Phuket Vegetarian Festival

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The festival has been a part of Phuket’s culture since 1825, when a traveling Chinese opera company became ill while visiting the Kathu district of Phuket. In order to beat the illness, the company followed a strict vegetarian diet in honor of emperor gods Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh. Since then, it is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite.

During this time, local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making. Sacred rituals, such as walking barefooted over hot coals, ascending ladders with bladed steps, and of course, the facial piercings are performed by devotees known as “Ma Song” at various Chinese shrines and temples.

This year, I decided to go to the Bang Neow Shrine and although the festival is at the start of the rainy season, I got lucky and had a great morning. Arrived at 5:30am, just in time to see the Ma Song get into their trance and begin the piercings, after which, they begin the street procession which goes through their district. It is an absolute incredible sight … certainly not for the faint hearted.

I caught some great images this year … but BE WARNED … the CONTENT IS VERY GRAPHIC !!

REFERENCE: Google Maps – Chinese Shrines in Phuket