Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

23 November 2015 

Exploring Phang Nga Province

Phuket is an island, more or less ... it is surrounded by water, but is connected to the mainland by the Sarasin bridge - well, Sarasin bridges actually ... there are now 3 spans across the 500m gap between Phuket and Phang Nga Province which lies on the other side. The first bridge was only built in 1967 and 2 more have been built in the last 15 years to allow a bridge for traffic each way, while the oldest bridge is now for pedestrians and is a popular evening walk for locals.

Sarasin Bridge Sunset

Phuket is not just an island, it's a province of Thailand in it's own right, albeit the smallest! The total area of Phuket is less than 600 square kilometers including smaller offshore islands. Over the bridge is Phang Nga province, with an area of over 4000 square kilometers. Sometimes it feels like we have explored every inch of Phuket, and driving over the bridge seems like a big day out! We have spent many days exploring Phang Nga and I noticed that the Phuket Blog now has over 20 pages relating to places in the neighbouring province, so this blog post is a way to tie everything together. Tempted to start a "Jamie's Phang Nga" blog actually, but not yet. Everything on this page is within a few hours drive of Phuket. With favorable traffic we can be over the bridge into Phang Nga in 45 minutes. There's plenty yet to be found, but here's what we know of Phang Nga province so far.

Phang Nga Bay

First on the list ... Phang Nga Bay including James Bond Island and Koh Panyee village, with limestone karst islands and beautiful scenery .. this has to be on most tourists "to do" list, which means avoiding the crowds can be tricky! We have that figured out now - just get there late when all the standard tours are on the way home. Read more : Phang Nga Bay - Doing It Our Way!

James Bond Island View

(above) James Bond Island

Koh Panyee Village

(above) Koh Panyee Village in Phang Nga Bay

Restaurants in Phang Nga

I am sure there are plenty more, but here's a few restaurants and cafes that we like in Phang Nga .... I am not suggesting a drive all the way just for lunch, but in combination with visiting other attractions, one of these places should hit the spot. Our favourite I would say is Tha Sai Seafood, which is quite a drive, past Phang Nga Town and on the way towards Krabi. Great food and a great view!

View from Tha Sai Restaurant

Another one by the water is Samchong Seafood (below), from where we have hired longtail boats a few times to head out into Phang Nga Bay.

Samchong Seafood, Phang Nga

Another we have been to a few times is Dairy Hut Seafood, a 2nd branch of the Dairy Hut restaurant in Phuket Town. Next door they have now opened Dairy Hut Farm with animals to pet and feed including some llamas.

Dairy Hut Phang Nga Restaurant

(above) Dairy Hut Seafood restaurant in Phang Nga

And there are a couple of little cafes which we know with nice views, just (for us) a place to stop for a drink - the Phang Nga Viewpoint Cafe, near Phang Nga Town and the 360 Degree Viewpoint Cafe which is just a few km north of the bridge.

View from 360 Degree Coffee

(above) That's me at the 360 Degree Viewpoint Cafe

Khao Lak

Phang Nga Province has plenty of beach property and it's mostly way quieter than Phuket. Khao Lak was really just becoming a destination in it's own right when the tsunami hit hard in 2004. Khao Lak suffered a lot more damage than Phuket, though of course now nearly 10 years later there's no obvious evidence of the disaster. I had never stayed more than a couple of hours in Khao Lak before last year, but we booked a couple of nights to explore the area, and liked it so much we went back 2 more times in 2013! See : Holidays in Khao Lak.

Khao Lak Sunset

(above) A Khao Lak Sunset, we really liked the uncrowded beaches

Khao Lak Tsunami Memorial

(above) One of the tsunami memorials in Khao Lak - this police boat was carried more than 1km inland and was left there as a reminder.

Khao Lak is also the start point for most trips to the Similan Islands and other offshore islands. The Similans are a big destination for divers - it's why I came here in 1999, looking for work as a dive instructor. I wanted to dive the Similan islands and diving is still in my veins as manager at Sunrise Divers! A bit north of the Similans is Koh Tachai Island - I had dived there before but never been shore until last year when we did a day trip from Khao Lak. Wow.

Koh Tachai Island

(above) The kids enjoying the day at Koh Tachai

Khao Lak Hotels at Agoda.com

Khao Lak is about a 1 - 2 hour drive from Phuket, depending where you start in Phuket. From our house near Phuket Town, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Carrying on further north from Khao Lak you reach Takua Pa, which (100+ years ago) was an important trading port, just like Phuket. Now it's still a big fishing port and just outside the main town is the old town of Takua Pa which is similar to old Phuket Town only quieter. We've been a couple of times. On Sundays in the high season they have a street market which we visited also, kind of like the Sunday walking street market in Old Phuket Town, but .. older!

Old Takua Pa Town

Old Takua Pa Town on Market Day

(above) In Old Takua Pa, and on market day.

And further north still, and still in Phang Nga province, in between Takua Pa and Kuraburi is Sri Phang Nga National Park which features several waterfalls and we really must check out more of them, because once we found Tamnang Waterfall we decided that would do us just fine! It was more impressive in low (rainy) season although that meant you could not swim in the pool below the falls and a park ranger came with us to make sure we stayed safe.

Tamnang Waterfall at Sri Phang Nga National Park

(above) Waterfall at Sri Phang Nga National Park

There are quite a lot of waterfalls in Phang Nga, we have stopped at quiet a lot. Lampi waterfall and Ton Prai waterfall south of Khao Lak are well worth a look - again, they are more spectacular in the rainy season, but still great places to cool off on a hot day in April!

Natures Shower - Ton Prai waterfall

(above) Yeh, that's me enjoying the cool water at Ton Prai waterfall!

Another place with waterfalls that we like is Sa Nang Manora Forest Park, just north of Phang Nga Town. No big cascades, but a lovely forest setting, popular with locals at the weekend. There's another place called Raman Waterfall Park south of Phang Nga Town that we do mean to check out one day!

Waterfall at Sa Nang Manora

Temples in Phang Nga

I do like my temples! And Phang Nga has several interesting ones to visit and I am sure there are more to be found. The most famous is Wat Suwan Kuha, also called Wat Tham, which is built into a cave featuring a large reclining Buddha and lot of monkeys!

Reclining Buddha at Wat Suwan Kuha

(above) Wat Suwan Kuha is found a bit before Phang Nga Town if you are coming from Phuket. Before that, on the left side is Wat Manee Sri Mahathat, which is home to a large statue of a famous Monk called Por Than Klai.

Wat Manee Sri Mahathat

(above) Wat Manee Sri Mahathat

In Phang Nga Town is one of the oddest temples I have seen - Wat Thamtapan features visions of heaven and hell. The Buddhist version of hell is all about different punishments for your worldly sins. We ascended the steep stairs in the heaven section where you can find a view back across Phang Nga to the sea.

Stairway in the jungle

(above) The somewhat dizzying stairway to heaven at Wat Thamtapan, Phang Nga

And one more temple, well worth the long drive past Phang Nga Town near the small town of Thap Put, is Wat Bang Riang. I had seen pictures, but we did not really know where it was, finally "discovering" this place in 2012.

Wat Bang Riang, Phang Nga

(above) Wat Bang Riang

Koh Yao Noi Island

Also part of Phang Nga Province, sitting in Phang Nga Bay, just a short boat ride from the northeast coast of Phuket, are the islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi. The former we have not visited yet. Koh Yao Noi we have been several times for day trips. It's a very quiet island with a mostly Muslim population, the main business is fishing and farming, though for sure the tourism is evident. We have enjoyed a couple of family day trips taking the boat and then renting scooters on arrival to explore.

Kids playing football at Koh Yao Noi Island

(above) - My favourite football pitch, at Koh Yao Noi island

Bang Pat Fishing Village

A place I had meant to visit for a few years, Bang Pat sounded very interesting, a little village hidden away in the mangroves with fresh seafood and homestays available. We stopped there in 2015, and I felt like it was like a poor man's Koh Panyee, we did not eat there, just looked around. Might go back for some food someday!

All smiles at Bang Pat

(above) At Bang Pat village

Great Scenery

And pretty much no matter where you are in Phang Nga, there's some amazing scenery. Especially along the roads near Phang Nga Town or on the way to Krabi. Those limestone karts that are found in the bay can also be seen on land. Hills jutting up everywhere. A drive can be worth it just for the views. I took the photo below one morning quite early (about 7:30am) with the mist hanging around the hills.

Phang Nga Scenery

And in June 2015, we did go looking for some back roads, a very nice area called Klong Kian, which is just over the bridge from Phuket to the east and covers an area half the size of Phuket. Quiet roads and some unexpected views from little fishing villages. We like this kind of exploring!

Mangrove canal and view of Koh Daeng

There's still more to explore in Phang Nga. I have seen signs to interesting looking restaurants, I want to check out some back roads, I want to find a couple of viewpoints that I have seen online with amazing early morning views across the clouds. Need more time! Oh, to be a full time blogger!

Phang Nga Province - Location Map

View Phang Nga Province in a larger map

17 November 2015 

Phuket Markets

Before coming to Thailand, I traveled quite a lot in Africa plus North, Central and South America. Aside from such things as diving, local tourist attractions, food, drink, beaches, mountains, festivals and enjoying the company of other travelers and locals, I always enjoyed finding local markets. I would go out of my way if I heard of an interesting market. A market is a great place to sample real local life, no matter where you are. The market is the center of the town or village, and despite the arrival of many big shopping centers in Phuket over the last 12 years, the local markets here are still busy. There may be big stores like Tesco Lotus, Makro, Big C, Central and many minimart style shops like 7-11, but the market (Talad) is still the place to get fresh local produce, or a place to hang out and meet people. Phuket is a bigger place than most people realise and there are countless small local markets. I have blogged a number of interesting markets and plan to do more, since (for me) a market is an essential part of life in the local community. Here's some of Phuket's markets...

The Weekend Market

Weekend Market Phuket

Probably the market that most tourists will visit is the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. Locals call it Talad Naka (since it's close to Naka Temple) or Talad Jatujak Phuket (after the huge Jatujak market in Bangkok - the market in Phuket is much smaller!). It's held on Saturday and Sunday starting in the mid afternoon, carrying on until about 11pm. Best time to go, a bit before sunset. It is quite big and once you are in the maze of stalls, easy to be not quite sure which way to go! Lots of food stalls selling all kind of snacks and drinks, lots of clothes, arts and crafts, DVD's/CD's, plants, pets, mobile phone accessories, and it's great for people watching.

Phuket Weekend Market - More Information

Phuket Town Main Market

Phuket Town Market

The main market in town is a very busy place! It reopened in 2010 in a new building on Ranong Road in the old town area. The old market was .... old. And smelly. I never went inside! But the new market is well worth a visit. The streets all around the market are also a market, it's a very busy area and is also where you can get local buses to destinations all around the island.

Phuket Town Market - More Information

"Lard Yai" Sunday Walking Street on Thalang Road

Walking Street Market in Phuket Town

The Walking Street on Thalang Road in the old town started in late 2013 and has become very popular as a place to hang out on Sunday evenings, helping to promote the old town. There are lots of food and drink stalls, clothes and art for sale and entertainment too with performers and music every Sunday.

Sunday Walking Street Market - More Information

Kathu Fresh Market

Roti (Pancake) stall

Kathu is my area. The main market is big and seems to have got busier over the years even though the main Tesco store is only a few km away and Tesco even opened a mini store in the area. Kathu is the area between Patong and Phuket Town and is a mainly residential area but with quite a lot of history as the tin mining industry was centered here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The market is on daily, all day. It's a fresh produce market with stalls selling fish, shrimp, meat, vegetables, chili paste, eggs, flowers, ready made meals and a lot more! Nice to visit early evening, get some food from one of the many food stalls and watch the world go by.

Kathu Market - More Information

Karon Temple Market

Jewelry at Karon temple market

A very easy to visit market if you stay near Karon beach ... the Karon temple market takes place in the temple grounds on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the late afternoon/evening. It's a mix of fresh produce, snacks and food, clothes and a few tourist-aimed stalls selling sunglasses or swimwear. It's the main local market in Karon. There's another market a couple of miles away in Kata on the back road away from the beach.

Karon Temple Market - More Information

Phuket Town Indy Market

Phuket Indy Market (หลาดปล่อยของ)

The Indy Market near the old section of Phuket town only started in 2010, meant as a place for kids/teenagers to hang out in a safe, smoke free environment. It's not huge, most of the stalls sell arty items and clothes and there's some food and drink stalls too. It is indeed very popular with the youngsters. There is often live music too. The Indy Market takes place on Thursday and Friday evenings (so does not clash with the Saturday/Sunday weekend market). Certainly worth a visit combined with dinner or drinks in Phuket Town. (update) I've heard that this market will be on Wednesdays too.

Indy Market - More Information

Expo Market

Expo Market in Phuket Town

We have used the Expo market quite a lot, bought shirts, pants, Thai souvenirs, computer games. It's an aircon indoor market, open every day near the center of Phuket Town. It's not been mentioned specifically on the blog, but a good place for clothes and souvenirs.

Local Markets

Phuket covers an area of over 500 square km, and there are many local areas and small villages within Phuket, and all have some kind of market. Try looking for fresh seafood at Rawai beach, or check out the big Banzaan fresh market in Patong near the Jungceylon shopping mall - and there's another market in Patong on Nanai road (the back road). Oh and the touristy "OTOP" market. I drive past a small market in the Chalong area every day and there are regular local markets in the Bang Rong and Cherng Talay areas of Phuket. All over the island! Worth a look at any market for a taste of the real Phuket, to pick up some snacks or fruit and see something away from the organised tourist route.

Phuket Markets - Location Map

View Phuket Markets in a larger map

27 October 2015 

Vegetarian Festival - The Crazy Final Night

Until last year, I had only heard that the final night procession in Phuket Town, marking the end of the vegetarian festival, was "a bit mad". And I had seen live coverage on local TV with firecrackers being thrown everywhere as statues of the 9 emperor gods were paraded through the streets and Ma Song (the possesses spirit mediums) danced with firecrackers exploding around their bare feet. Over the last 10 years I have been to plenty of festival events, seen plenty of blood and pierced faces and walked through the morning processions also featuring lots of firecrackers. Somehow that last night always seemed a bit too crazy for me. I heard of people getting injured by fireworks, hardly surprising as they are being thrown all over the place! Well, last year I had a little taster, went into town with my wife and kids although they stayed well away from the crazy bits and I left by about 10:45pm - it goes on until after midnight. But I did learn you have to be dressed properly - long sleeves, long trousers, shoes (not sandals), earplugs, face mask, and it's not for the faint-hearted!

So this year I tried again, got dressed up in white, added a white towel for head and neck protection and headed into town about 9:30pm. The main action area is around the clock tower circle next to the Metropole hotel, and I hear that the "Cue Bar" on the circle is a good place to watch from .. maybe next year, although I do prefer to be in the street and feel the action! I found fellow blogger Tim down by the circle and we waited with many others for the procession to begin.

Crowds gathering

Along the streets were many tables filled with offerings of fruit and incense and candles. The Ma Song stop at the tables and take offerings and distribute them to people in the crowd as they pass by.

Ready for the Parade

Anyone driving through the streets on a scooter or car was having firecrackers thrown at them - even with no procession the noise was fairly intense and face-masks essential to avoid breathing too much smoke - actually, already planning for next year, I'm going for a more industrial face-mask next time, not just a simple one from the pharmacy. When things really kick off, actually a scuba set would not be a bad idea!

The exact route of the procession I am not sure about. There are people coming from various directions from different shrines and they do wander all around the old town, but the circle is the well known center of activities. Things started before 10pm as groups of guys carried statues of the gods and got pelted with fireworks from all sides. Only the brave! I was using only my phone for photos. Still lacking a nice camera and not sure if I'd bring one anyway as cameras get coated in dust. I saw "pro" photographers and they had cameras all wrapped up in plastic. Another "maybe" for next year!

Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

I tried dashing out into the street to take quick snaps. I am not sure the iPhone was quite up to this challenge, the noise of the firecrackers played havoc with the display, creating bands of light across the pictures. And I was getting a bit too close to being hit by fireworks. One did get me in the back of the neck and the smoke would very quickly get to be choking, so it was a matter of dashing in for a photo and then retreating! Very hard to get a photo with all the exploding lights and general darkness, it's a bit of pot luck really even with a good camera. I decided that some video might work better.

(above) Some video taken with iPhone on the last night of the vegetarian festival.

Maybe next year with a new camera that can also shoot video ... The procession passed by the circle, Tim and I cut through to the next street where the procession was now passing having done a little loop round the old town. In a narrower street I found the firecracker smoke really can be a bit nasty. You really do need to be prepared. I saw one guy watching with no facemask, trying to cover his face with his hand. I had a spare mask in my pocket and gave it to him.

Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

(above) So, the guys on the left are holding strings of firecrackers on bamboo poles above the group of guys carrying a god statue, while their helpers on the right try to use towels to fan away the smoke a bit! It is just a little bit nuts! Well, I'd pretty much had enough by 11pm, although really had wanted to follow the procession down to the sea at Sapan Hin to see what goes on there. But .. too much smoke. I found a quite side street and a stall selling cold orange juice. Much needed! And then, walking back to the car which was parked on quiet Thalang Road, I found another section of the procession heading through the old town. Still crazy, but not quite as crazy as down by the circle. And with old buildings to make a nice photo!

Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

(above) Passing by the former Standard Chartered bank, built in 1907 as Phuket Town grew rich from tin mining. I wonder what the vegetarian festival was like then?

Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

(above) Last night procession in old Phuket Town.

Headed home by about 11:30pm. Could still smell smoke 2 days later. Clothes still smelled of smoke after being washed! Yes, it's a little crazy, but not too bad with some preparation. Need a better mask, might need a hat, and I think next year I'll risk a nice camera! Well, the vegetarian festival is done for another year. What's next?

Related pages on Jamie's Phuket

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - More Information
Vegetarian Festival 2015 - Part 1

24 October 2015 

Vegetarian Festival 2015 - Part 1

My favourite Phuket festival is over for another year! The vegetarian festival is just a little bit crazy. A lot of people look at photos and can't quite understand what or why. The photos that get shown most often show the pierced faces and maybe a bit of blood for good measure. Sorry for that in advance! The festival lasts 11 days. This year it started on 12th October and the final ceremonies were on 22nd October. There were morning street parades in Phuket Town every day from 14th - 21st October, and plenty of local street parades and evening events such as fire walking and bladed ladder climbing. There's a lot going on. A lot to see. And the food too! The general idea is that people will eat only vegan food during the festival, or at least the last 3 days, to cleanse the body. Those who take part with pierced faces in the processions are known as Ma Song, and they are said to be possessed by the spirits of the emperor gods. Not all have pierced faces. Some take on the spirits of birth and death gods. You see men walking bent over like they are 100 years old and women skipping down the road like children. They too are Ma Song. All with their groups of helpers. And then come groups of young men carrying statues of the gods, and the local people throw firecrackers into the street to greet them. The smoke and noise (and blood) can be too much for a timid soul! The processions are to bring good luck to the community.

I've been going to watch parts of the festival since about 2005. The first few years I was in Phuket, to be honest I had no idea about the festival! I guess it was not promoted that much. It's certainly better known now, but even now, you really don't see too many tourists watching the processions or visiting the shrines. I know most people come here for beaches, sun, nice food, fair enough. If this became just a tourist spectacle, it would mean a lot less. Well, this year I have to say, until the last few days I was not really in the mood for the festival. I was on holiday until October 17th, so was not in Phuket for half the festival, and when I got back here, I was tired and felt no great desire to wake up early. Finally by the 20th I was "in the zone" after a couple of days eating vegan food (I normally do that for the whole duration of the festival). Very early on October 20th, I rode my scooter to Kathu shrine, not far from our house. I was there by just after 5:30am. The good stuff happens early.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015

(above) It's early morning, the Ma Song are getting ready. Some odd stuff happens. Some of them really do look possessed. I do struggle with reality here. This can't be a show. Who is the show for?

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

(above) The same guy a few minutes later at the shrine with his helpers.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

(above) And a few moments after the previous photo. Is this real life? This all happened before dawn, timestamp on the 3 photos is from 5:42 - 5:49am. And the shrine is already very crowded by this time. There are people coming and going, lighting incense and candles and saying prayers and there are Ma Song suddenly rushing into the shrine in an agitated state, their helpers aid them to put on ceremonial clothes. Some of them head outside to get pierced.

(above) A video inside Kathu shrine, a little before 6am on October 20th 2015. You can see several Ma Song approach the altar in the shrine. I try my best to blend into a wall and keep out of the way.

Outside the shrine, it's just as crowded. And there are faces getting pierced everywhere. In some past years I have tended to take a lot of rather gory piercing photos. Other times, more "spiritual" photos. Well, to be honest, there's no plan, I just hang around and snap photos of what I see. There did not seem to be too many pro photographers around on this day, sometimes I see plenty of big lenses! I find that at Kathu it can be a little quieter, as I guess the pros get their photos earlier in the festival, plus the biggest street processions from Bang Neow and Jui Tui shrines in Phuket Town are on the preceding 2 mornings. However, I did bump into blogger Tim (see his photos of the same morning at Kathu Shrine) and pro Adriano (see his website @ Phuket Paparazzi). We all wandered around squeezing through the crowds to get a few decent photos. Can be hard sometimes with so many people, you just can't get into the right position for the right photo, or you have to try and stick your lens between people's legs! Well, here's a couple of pierced Ma Song ...

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015

Heavy Face Piercing

And a non-pierced female Ma Song. Actually at Kathu there is some female piercing. Some shrines have only males. The ladies who do get pierced tend to not go overboard like the men!

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

By 6:30am, the procession was ready to leave the shrine and walk to Phuket Town - and back! About 20km of walking. On a hot day, with spikes in your cheeks, or carrying statues? It's got to be hard work. The procession starts through the old village of Kathu and the locals greet the Ma Song and the gods with a barrage of firecrackers. Strings of firecrackers are hung on long bamboo poles and dangled over the road as the parade passes. Or people just throw firecrackers in the street at the feet of the Ma Song. For 15 minutes it's absolutely nuts. Taking photos is a bit of a gamble. If you want to get close to your subject, you're going to get hit by shrapnel and the smoke is choking at times and also means you can barely see the procession! Having felt rather apathetic towards the festival this year, this was what was needed. Get out there and smell the smoke!

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

(above) Carrying the emperor gods through the streets in Kathu village. It's all a bit crazy for a few minutes!

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 at Kathu Shrine

2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival

(above) Ma Song, pierced and non-pierced walking through Kathu village.

By 7am the procession has just about cleared Kathu. It's quite a hike to town. Now, if I had more time, one of these days, I'd like to walk all the way with the procession. Just to get an idea of what they go through. And also, one of these days, I'd like to see what happens when they return to the shrine and the pierced faces get un-pierced and presumably the Ma Song get released of the spirits? There is a lot to see and understand at the festival. Next blog post coming soon (part 2) will cover the final night in Phuket Town. Now that really IS crazy!

27 September 2015 

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 Schedule

It's over! The 2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival took place from 12 - 22 October 2015. The dates vary every year, as it's based on the Chinese lunar calendar. I think the date for next year will be 30 September to 10 October 2016. It's my favourite Phuket event / festival and I always take too many photos! I expect the same again this year although I will be away for the first half of the festival. I sold my "nice" camera a while back, and in 2014 was using a combination of an old (but OK) Lumix and I took a few iPhone photos too! I was thinking of buying a new fancy camera during 2015, but it's not happened. There is a lot to this festival, it took me a few years to understand, and there are still parts of the festival I have not seen much - I have only attended one firewalking event and it was so crowded. And until last year I had not experienced the crazy last night procession in Phuket Town - and this was great - will certainly be there again this year! Most of the events happen far away from the main beach areas, mostly in and around Phuket Town, or at the various Chinese shrines around the island. If you are in Phuket during the festival, do try to see something!

I have written loads about the vegetarian festival on the blog in the past and there are hundreds of photos on the blog and on Flickr. For general information about Phuket's most bizarre / interesting festival start here:

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - My Favourite Event in Phuket.

Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts

2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 1
The Crazy Last Night of the Vegetarian Festival

2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 1
2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 2
2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 3

Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 1
Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 2
Food at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 - Schedule 12th - 22nd October

The start of the 2015 festival will be Monday 12th October in the late afternoon when the "lantern poles" are raised at all the participating shrines. The Emperor Gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines at midnight. I often attend Kathu shrine (my local) as I did in 2011 : Photos of Pole Raising and Midnight Ceremony. Not too much happens for the next couple of days, but the Chinese shrines are always interesting to visit any evening or any time during the festival really. The first big street procession will be on the 15th October ... or actually the 14th - a few years ago the "Naka" shrine joined as a newcomer in the festival and will likely be the first to have a procession. All the main processions pass through the old Phuket town area, all of them start early (around 7am or earlier), all finish either at Sapan Hin (south end of town) or back at their home shrines if the shrine is in Phuket Town.

Monday October 12th

At all the Chinese shrines, sometime between 4 - 6pm - raising of the Go Teng pole. Events at the shrines will go on all evening. The lanterns are hung from the pole at midnight, signifying the start of the festival. There will be plenty of firecrackers and fireworks too. In 2011, I went back to the shrine just before midnight expecting some bizarre ceremonies, but it was far more hushed and reverential and kind of spooky. Did not leave the shrine until 1am and people were still gathered there saying prayers.

13th - 14th October - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for a small procession from Naka shrine on the 14th, but people can visit any shrine at any time, and the Jae (เจ) food is to be found all over the island but mostly around the shrines and especially in Phuket Town. The festival has many aspects and the food is one part of it. I normally try to stick to the strict diet during the festival. No meat, no alcohol. Not just "no meat" - the food is specially prepared with clean utensils and certain other ingredients like garlic and onions are not allowed due to the strong flavour. Don't worry if you are not vegetarian, almost all restaurants are open as normal in tourist areas. In fact, it can be hard to find the festival food near the beaches.

Wednesday October 14th

Street procession into Phuket Town from Naka Shrine, located next to the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. This shrine is a newcomer to the festival and has only been doing processions for a few years. I visited last year (2014) and it was quite crowded with photographers looking to get the first photos of the festival.

Thursday October 15th

Street procession starting 7am for Sapam Shrine - this shrine is a few km north of Phuket Town (about a 10km walk from the shrine to Sapan Hin). To see piercing taking place at any shrine you have to be there before 7am. Try 6am. In the evening, around 7pm (better get there earlier), there will be another procession around Kathu village for the Birth and Death Gods (Lam Tao and Pak Tao). I was there last few years for this very noisy procession! A similar procession also takes place at several other shrines on the same evening. I believe there is a very big one at Jui Tui Shrine.

Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2014

Evening parade of Ma Song and god statues in Kathu

Friday October 16th

Today's big street procession is from Sam Kong Shrine. Procession goes from the shrine in the north of town (not far from Tesco Lotus), past the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital and through the old section of Phuket town. The shrine is not far from my house and I find that they have some pretty gory face piercing! The Sam Kong area is also a good area for food hunting, there are stalls all along the street here for half a kilometer. It's a good one to attend early in the morning. I might even walk with them into town this year.

Saturday October 17th

The street procession today is from Tha Ruea shrine which is in the Thalang area of Phuket in the center of the island - this used to be the main town in Phuket a couple of hundred years ago and there are several historic temples in the area and the annual Heroines Festival celebrating an important date in the history of Phuket - the Heroines story predates the Vegetarian Festival by several decades.

Sunday October 18th

Lots of things going on today... In the morning (7am), a huge street procession in Phuket Town for the Bang Neow Shrine, which is in the south of the town on Phuket Road, one of the biggest and most important shrines participating in the festival. Expect very big crowds on this day. I have been in town the last few years for the Bang Neow procession, but have not tried to get into the temple due to the number of people. There is also a smaller procession starting 7am from Cherng Talay Shrine which takes place in Thalang district in the Cherng Talay area. A good one to see if your hotel is in Kamala, Surin or Bang Tao beaches and you don't want to head to town.

And then ... Fire Walking at several locations including Sapam Shrine, Sapan Hin (participants from Jui Tui shrine), Baan Tha Reua Shrine and Sui Boon Tong shrine (just west of the market and not far from Jui Tui shrine in Phuket Town). Fire walking kicks off around 8pm. Maybe I'll try to get some firewalking photos again this year....

Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014

Ma Song Girls in Phuket Town 2014

Vegetarian Procession in Phuket Town 2014

Monday October 19th

Street procession starting at Jui Tui shrine, which is probably the biggest shrine in Phuket town - just west of the main market. I went to see the procession in 2013 and 2014 - it was very crowded but I got lots of photos! It is hard to get into the shrine early morning, better to find a spot just outside or along the procession route - the route is always easy to find - just follow the people and the little shrines that people set up outside their houses - that means the procession is coming this way! The area around Jui Tui and along the street from the market is always busy and lined with food stalls during the entire festival.

Later in the day, there are lots of events on the schedule at various shrines including bladed ladder climbing at Sam Kong and Bang Neow shrines and "nail bridge crossing" at Sapam Shrine. Not sure what that is! We did go to watch bladed ladder climbing one time at Sam Kong, I did not take a camera as it was a bit rainy outside, the weather can be a concern at this time of year, but usually not too bad and sometimes darn hot! The bladed ladder climbing did not seem too dramatic. Can't say I saw any bleeding feet!

Tuesday October 20th

Street procession from Kathu shrine to Phuket Town. It's a long walk this one, about 10km from Kathu Shrine all the way to town, around the old town and ending at Sapan Hin. Kathu is my "local" shrine. The shrine is only about a mile from my house. I have been there early (6 - 6:30am) the last 4 years to watch piercing rituals. Should try to get there even earlier. 6:30am is a bit too late really! Must make an extra effort! I think 5:30am would be better. But hard work! Things happen early in the morning that are mysterious. The piercing may freak people out the first time they see it. I am now just looking for better camera angles and want to get some video too.

Below - Kathu Shrine Piercing and Firecrackers - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Firecrackers in Kathu village

Happiness is a Vegetarian Festival Procession

Later in the evening on October 20th - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!

Wednesday October 21st

The last full day of the vegetarian festival. There is a street procession for Sui Boon Tong shrine in town early in the morning, then events such as firewalking at Kathu shrine in the afternoon - I went in 2010 and I did take some photos, but the firewalking seems to draw very big crowds. Maybe I'll try again this year at one of the shrines. Maybe come with a stepladder to shoot photos over everyone's heads! Or a GoPro camera on a selfie stick might work!

And then in the evening/night of the last day (21st October) there will be a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It is absolutely mad. I went for the first time in 2014. And will go again now with better preparation. There is so much smoke and so many firecrackers, it's advisable to wear long trousers, a shirt with long sleeves and something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth or face mask over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs would be a good idea. It's like a warzone. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket a few years ago and melt his iPod!

Earlier in the evening on the last night there is the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" ceremony at the shrines. We did this in 2011 and it was an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no bloody faces, seemed like the whole village was there!

Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Crossing the Bridge for Purification

Below - Final Night in Phuket Town - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Running the Gauntlet - Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Thursday October 22nd

At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) are lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2015 Phuket vegetarian festival.

See you there?

Where are the shrines? Location Map - Chinese Shrines in Phuket

View Phuket Vegetarian Festival Chinese Shrines in a larger map