Thailand’s most gruesome vegetarian festival has begun

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival (or Nine Emperor Gods Festival) happens once a year, during the ninth lunar month, and is one of the most auspicious events on the island.

For this unique occasion a crowd of devotees assemble in every Chinese shrine around the island, followed by an even bigger horde of photographers avid to get the shot of their life.

The Vegetarian Festival is an internationally known event, and while it also happens in a modest way in Bangkok around the same dates, it is really a Phuket event.

The dates change every year, as it’s based on the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2018 the date will be October 8 to 17.

Swords, axe handles, kebab skewers and even a model boat were among the bizarre array of objects pushed through devotees’ cheeks as southern Thailand’s gruesome vegetarian festival got under way.

Many Chinese communities across Southeast Asia go vegetarian this week for the annual Taoist “Nine Emperor Gods” festival but few do it with quite the gusto and shock factor of Phuket’s inhabitants.

A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with piercings of stems at her face take part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with piercings of stems at her face take part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with tongue and face pierced takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with tongue and face pierced takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with piercings at her face takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine with piercings at her face takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Devotees of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine react while firecrackers explode behind them as they take part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Devotees of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue shrine react while firecrackers explode behind them as they take part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with two umbrellas pierced on his face during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with two umbrellas pierced on his face during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with piercings on his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with piercings on his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with a bike pierced on his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with a bike pierced on his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with two revolvers pierced in his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand Octuber 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine walks with two revolvers pierced in his mouth during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand Octuber 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine with spikes pierced through his cheeks takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 4, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine with spikes pierced through his cheeks takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand, October 4, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine pierces his tongue during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A devotee of the Chinese Samkong Shrine pierces his tongue during a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Devotees of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue take part in celebrations of the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Devotees of the Chinese Ban Tha Rue take part in celebrations of the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand October 5, 2016 . REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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