We’re approaching one of the most controversial festivals out there – and one which will undoubtedly make you squeamish. We’re talking about the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
While it may sound like a healthy and tasty venture, the festival is much more about spiritual cleansing than it is about fine dining. Residents of Chinese ancestry abstain from eating meat, having sex and drinking alcohol for ten days. The purpose? To be bestowed with good fortune. The abstinence not the reason that this festival is notorious worldwide; it’s the stomach churning acts of self-mutilation that have the audience and internet abuzz.
Attendees ritualistically pierce their cheeks and insert object, ranging from guns to candlestick holders, through them, sometimes competing to see who can carry the heaviest and strangest items. Other people will slice their tongues with axes, bath in hot oil or climb up ladders made of knives. The more painful the experience the more success they will have in the coming year.
The festival origins are traced back to 1825 when a travelling Chinese opera company fell ill. After maintaining a strict vegetarian diet and abiding by certain rituals the troupe’s health returned, thus laying the foundation for what would become one of the most cringe-worthy world festivals.
When: 15-23 October, 2012
Where: Phuket, Thailand
A full schedule of events and more information can be found on the Official Website