November 16, 2007
I don’t even know where to begin with the Phuket Vegetarian Festival that took place back in October. It was easily one of the most exciting events I’ve attended since I have been here. It lasted for nine consecutive days and while I could not make it to all of the parades, I watched the two that I really wanted to see including the Samkong Shrine parade which went down my street and the Jui Tui Shrine parade which was the biggest of them all. It was one hell of a spectacle and the pictures included do it no justice whatsoever.
The main street near my house was flooded with food stalls, all serving vegetarian food of course, and provided a welcomed relief to the monotonous cuisine I consumed regularly here. I ate up there every day during the festival since my favorite local vegetarian shop went from having one customer, yours truly, to being completely overcrowded with people on a nightly basis. So, what is normally just a passage way to my house, that rarely gets a second glance while riding by, became a hustling and bustling area filled with tons of people, aromas of all sorts, delicious foods, worshipers at the shrine, and firework explosions in the air. One of my favorite stalls was the guy serving chai tea. Not because of the great taste of his drinks, but the acrobatic way in which he both prepared them and served them. Wish I had video of that one. It’d make you smile for sure. Overall, it was a refreshing and exciting atmosphere.
The finale was a procession from all of the shrines on that Friday evening to the waterfront area in Phuket Town known as Saphan Hin and this was when the festival went from an insane visual spectacle to all out mayhem. Again, words do very little to paint this picture because, to the untrained eye, Phuket Town was an absolute riot zone. On the motorbike ride down there, Khun Ree and I crossed over a hill only to see fireworks exploding in the sky and being thrown by the crowd in every direction on the streets. As we followed the hoards of bikes down to Saphan Hin we meandered through the back alleys and when we got to the parade we both had jaws down to the ground and, were it not for a generous girl giving us cotton for out ears, we would have had both hands over our ears as well. The streets were literally ablaze and we took no time in deciding whether or not we wished to partake in the chaos. After hours and hours of explosions, we called it a nite and headed off to the local pub to celebrate what was surely one of the most memorable moments of 2007.
Anyone wishing to visit Phuket in the next year should either schedule it around the Vegetarian Festival which takes place from September 29th – October 7th this year or Songkran Festival which is always held from April 13th – 15th. Both will surely not disappoint in the excitement department.