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The Phuket Vegetarian Festival: A Meatless Month

It’s fantastic to see our food industry becoming more inclusive and catering for those with specific dietary needs. From pescatarians to vegetarianism, there’s now a lot more variety available. Healthy eating has also become ever the more popular as we learn about the effects that certain foods can have on our body and mind, which is why at Banana Tree we offer a variety of menus at each of our locations, including a delicious vegetarian and vegan menu of pan-Asian cuisine.

Now, imagine yourself in a restaurant in Oxford city centre, eating the best pho you’ve ever tasted. Drifting off into your thoughts, you think about your next trip away. If you find yourself travelling to Phuket soon, a trip to the Vegetarian Festival is a must and here at Banana Tree, we’re happy to tell you all about it!

Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Phuket

A vibrant event held from the 8th-17th October, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival celebrates the Chinese belief that abstaining from meat during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, will provide you with good health and ease of mind.

The origins of the festival date back to around 150 years ago, when a deadly disease took the lives of many tin miners local to the area. Not only that but a group of opera singers who were travelling through the district, also fell ill. The community were in despair and unable to figure out how and where this disease had come from until they realised. They’d forgotten to pay homage to the Nine Emperor Gods (Kiu Ong lah).

And so, to rid their illnesses - now believed to be malaria - they abstained from sex, eating meat and drinking alcohol. The disease ceased and every year since then, this festival has been celebrated. It’s a pretty intense festival too.

The Ceremonies

Over the festival period, various ceremonies are conducted to invoke the gods. These exciting and sometimes gruesome acts become more spectacular and daring each year that passes by. A few of the tame ones include fire walking or body piercing. The more dangerous ones however, involve men and women puncturing their skin with knives, skewers and an assortment of sharp objects. Certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Shrines & Street Processions

Along with these dizzying and death-defying acts, come the street processions and offerings to the shrines. Over 40 shrines take part in the festival, with many of them just small buildings. Visitors to the festival can watch those taking part, walking in a trance. Many visit the shrines and temples with their household gods, offering food and drink in the hope that their gods will get a spiritual injection.

The Food

The food is a vegetarian’s paradise, as per the festival’s requirements, all food is veggie. Restaurants and food stalls will put up yellow signs and flags to acknowledge that they’re a meat-free zone. The vegetarian dishes themselves are often hard to distinguish from regular dishes because of the soybean and protein substitute that looks and tastes just like meat.

You’ll be sure to experience the many flavours of pan-Asian cuisine that our Banana Tree restaurants here in London and Oxford also have to offer, such as the Thai Green Curry or our delicious Blackened Monk's Noodles. If you’re looking at where to eat next, why not book a table at one of our venues to experience a meat-free dish. Who said veggies were boring?