NOTE: This article, sourced almost entirely from Wikipedia, originally appeared in a slightly different form on my postcards blog — The POSTCARD TRAVELER. Today marks the start of the annual Vegetarian Festival (thetsakan gin jeh — เทศกาลกินเจ), Phuket’s version of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival (九皇爺 — Jiǔhuángyé in Chinese pinyin or Kow Wong Yeh in Cantonese). This is a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of … Continue reading Phuket Vegetarian Festival
October was one of my more active months in recent memory despite the fact that I didn’t work at all during the majority of the month. I’ve been an hourly employee for my teaching agency the past three-and-a-half years so I don’t earn any income if I don’t work. Luckily, my savings cover those rare lean months of the between-term school breaks but that tenuous existence is about to change in a big way. More on that in a bit. As my “forced” holiday coincided with the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival, I took full advantage of the time off and participated as much as I could. Both during and following the festival, I finally started exploring the many interesting cafes and restaurants that have been sprouting up all around the Old Town area.
Each year, the people of Thailand celebrate a vegetarian festival which begins on the 15th day of the waning of the 10th month of the Thai lunar calendar. Many Thai people observe the rites of the festival even if they do not eat Thai vegetarian food the rest of the year. The largest celebration, by far, occurs in Phuket
The beginning of a New Year brings the traditional “year in review” post on blogs all over the world. Thus far, I’ve managed to avoid such an annual wrap-up as I’m not certain it serves much of a purpose. Now that I’m blogging much more, and am on the verge of several major changes in my life, I feel that I should finally make an attempt to look back on the year past before moving forward.
The year just begun – 2015 – promises to be a significant one for many reasons. Not only does it mark the tenth year anniversary of my arrival in Thailand but also the fiftieth anniversary of my birth. In Southeast Asia, there has been a battle cry of sorts – “Are you ready for 2015?” — for several years now as the Asian Economic Community comes into full affect with English as its official language. Am I ready, indeed…
The 2013 Phuket Vegetarian Festival ended with a bang (many, many, many bangs) this past Sunday night. Well, I should say, it lasted until the wee hours of Monday morning. I’d met up with friends Jade and Lily, plus their Thai boyfriends, around 7pm at Surin Circle. It was their first time to experience the madness of the finale when all of the Chinese shrines have processions in order to send the Emperor Gods back to heaven. Basically, it’s hours and hours of spectators throwing fireworks at each other and any passing traffic before the actual mahsong ever appear. And when they do, all hell breaks loose and you feel like you’re pinned down during a Syrian battle and spend most of your time dodging “in-coming” while attempting to take non-blurry photos. My friends left after the first real onslaught (around 11:30) but the best was yet to come…
Day 7 of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival was another early morning for me as I really wanted to experience as much of the procession for Bang Neow Shrine as I could. This is one of the two biggest every year, starting at 6am and heading first to Suphan Hin (a sort of peninsula in the southern reaches of Phuket Town. It then heads back north and snakes all over the Old Town area. Alas, I hit my alarm a few times before hauling myself out of bed so I met up with the parade as it approached the market area of Ranong Road about 7:30.
It is now Day 5 of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and again the rain has been pouring down much of the day. I have eaten nothing but “Jae” food since the festival began Friday evening (well, I suppose cookies qualify…) and finally attended my first street procession of the year this morning. It was Sam Kong Shrine’s turn today and I figured the best vantage point would be at the “District Office Intersection” of Yaoworat and Mae Luan roads. Timing is everything and as I walked past the Phuket Merlin Hotel a police officer on a motorbike roared by on his way to block off the traffic.
Last weekend, I stumbled across Phuket Municipality’s celebration marking the Mid-Autumn Festival (in Thai, Wan Wai Phra Jan — เทศกาลไหว้พระจันทร์). Also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival), it falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This is the closest full moon to the autumnal equinox when the moon is said to be at its fullest and roundest – the so-called harvest moon. In traditional Chinese agrarian societies it marks the end of the harvest period when family and friends gather to celebrate a time of plenty.
Today is the first day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar. It is the beginning of the annual fifteen-day period that Thai-Chinese people believe the spirits of their ancestors are released from heaven to visit their relatives. In Thailand, it is popularly known as Ngan Por Tor or the “Hungry Ghost Festival” in English.
The theme for this year’s Phuket Vegetarian Festival seemed to be “angry rain gods” — we had torrential downpours each of the past ten days. Since I now live in Phuket Town where many of the activities were centered, I had planned to attend at least one event each day of this year’s festival. In the end, mainly because of the damp weather, I only made it to three rituals. But I had a great time at each (and — if the rain ends — I plan to attend the “closing” tonight which supposedly has the most spectacular fireworks). I also shot some really interesting photos and video, which I’ll be sharing over the next few days, along with quite a bit of commentary.