If you plan your trip to Phuket, Thailand just right you will be able to enjoy magnificent beaches, feast on delicious food and immerse yourself in the excitement of an amazing local celebration too! Thailand is renowned for its traditional festivals, and it seems that almost every month there is an incredible event scheduled to take place.
Phuket Island, a 280 square mile tropical paradise off the coast of Thailand, is highly popular with festival goers. It is a good idea to arrange your Phuket villa rentals early as these local celebrations can attract travelers from around the world. People love attending these celebrations and enjoying the magic, mystery and majesty of the carnival-like atmosphere.
Events that are held only in Phuket include the annual Vegetarian Festival, Phuket Bike Week, the Phuket Old Town Festival and the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta. Celebrations such as Songkren for the Thai New Year and the spectacular Loy Kratong are part of national events.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Also known as the Nine Gods Festival, the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival occurs during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It reflects the Chinese community’s belief that during this specific lunar month, abstaining from meat and stimulants will bring you good health and also peace of mind. The event is internationally known and each year thousands of attendees fly in from both China and other Asian countries.
The origins of the festival are not truly known. The most common legend is that the festival originated when an itinerant Chinese opera group became sick with malaria while doing performances on the island. In order to heal, they committed to a strict vegetarian diet and they were able to recover fully. People celebrated by creating a festival to honor the gods and to show happiness that they survived what was, at that time, an incurable illness.
Most of the events occur at or near the six Chinese temples located across Phuket. The celebration begins with the ceremonial raising of the lantern pole, which signals to the nine Chinese gods that the festival is about to commence. The pole is over thirty feet tall and once in place the locals believe that the Hindu god Shiva blesses the event and bring his spiritual power to the celebration. Members of the Chinese and Thai communities then bring their household gods to the local temples and make appropriate offerings.
One of the most unique aspects of the festival is the increasingly more daring acts of self mortification that are part of the event. Offerings such as firewalking and extreme body piercing are undertaken by those acting as mediums for the gods. Both men and women will puncture their cheeks with items such as skewers, knives and other similar items. Interestingly, they believe that the gods protect them from permanent harm and indeed little scarring or blood loss takes place.
Around the shrines, most people are dressed in white. Vegetarian food booths line the streets and brave participants sign up to carry the gods in the parade as they are besieged with barrages of firecrackers.
One of the most beautiful festivals is Loy Krathong, Thailand’s Festival of Lights. It is held every year on the evening of the twelfth lunar month, which typically occurs in the initial half of November. Although rituals occur at Buddhist temples throughout Phuket, the most amazing part of the event is the launch of the krathong. The krathong is a floating lantern, and it contains candles and joss sticks and your wishes.
While no one seems sure of the origins of Loy Krathong it is believed the festival originated over 800 years ago in Sukhothai, which is north of Bangkok. The name aptly describes the festival as Loy means ‘to float’ and krathong is similar to ‘bowl’. Symbolically, the ‘leaf cup’ or ‘bowl’ is there so you can put your troubles in the vessel and let them float away.
Lanterns are for sale along the street prior to sunset, and they often resemble lotus flowers. When the sun has set and the full moon begins its journey into the sky you take your krathong filled with your wishes to the nearest watery area and release it to the current or outgoing tide. It is believed that if it floats away, the year to come will bring good fortune. If it floats back to the shore, that represents an inauspicious sign.
As thousands of lanterns are launched, bodies of water soon resemble shimmering starlit skies illuminated in the night. It’s truly the most magical sight and is enjoyed by everyone, especially children.
With unique festivals occurring almost every month on Phuket Island, it’s worth checking out the calendar and scheduling your trip to coincide with one of these great events. There’s something for everyone, and these festivals will make your tropical vacation even more of a special occasion.