Phuket vegetarians thirst for blood
The cops are clamping down on street crime, clothes stores are stocking up on white, and vegetarians are sharpening their skewers in the run-up to a truly exotic festival.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival kicks off on 18 October, initiating 10 days of exemplary conduct and meat-free nutrition for devotees – as well as, for some, spectacular self-torture with pins or burning oil.
The event began in 1825 when a Chinese theatre company was performing for their compatriots working in the island’s tin mines. The opera stars got struck down by jungle fever and turned vegetarian to honour the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh.
Phuket remains the epicentre for an event that is now celebrated across Thailand.
While most participants observe the festival simply by dressing in white and attending processions, the ma song (entranced horses) can be inspired by the gods to pierce themselves with skewers or undergo ordeals with hot oil.