The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is one of Thailand’s more enigmatic festivals, held annually during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese Calendar on the island of Phuket. During the ten days of the festival participants observe a strict vegetarian diet to aid in spiritual cleansing and for the purpose of making merit.
The festival’s origins can be traced back to 1825 when a traveling Chinese Opera company fell seriously sick but recovered mysteriously after keeping to a strict vegetarian diet and performing rituals in honour of their gods.
Selected devotees, called Ma Song, or entranced horses, have their face, tongue and body pierced with a wide variety of objects, a testimony to the power of their gods. Portable shrines housing statues of the gods are carried around town in long processions and under a continuous assault of exploding firecrackers, the sound of which is said to ward off evil spirits.