8–17 October 2018
While the origins of this festival are a little fuzzy, the most agreed-upon version of events, is that a wandering Chinese opera company fell ill en mass with Malaria while performing in Phuket. In an attempt to beat the disease, the group adopted a strict vegetarian diet and prayed intensely to the nine emperor gods for purification of their bodies and minds to be cured. Surprisingly, the group made a miraculous and complete recovery, and they celebrated by originating a festival to honour the gods. Thus, Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival was born. Attended by thousands, the festival features a number of rituals, including participants performing ritualised mutilation upon themselves and one another, without anaesthetic but while under a trance-like state, including piercing their mouths, cheeks, ears and arms with fish-hooks, knives, razor blades and bamboo poles in dramatic fashion. Countless offerings of food and drink are also made to the gods in temples throughout the city.