The vegetarian festival is celebrated by Chinese Thais at the start of the ninth lunar month (usually in October or November) and marks the beginning of Taoist Lent. This is a period of purification where devout followers will wear white and abstain from meat, alcohol and sex. The vegetarian festival is known as ‘ngan kin jeh’ or ‘thehtsakaan kin jeh’, with ‘kin jeh’ being the phrase for vegetarian. The festival is celebrated amongst the Thai-Chinese community throughout Thailand, but is particularly famous in Bangkok’s Chinatown district, Phuket and Trang. Vegetarian food stalls line the roads with many carrying yellow flags to confirm their meat-free status. This year in Pattaya, local chefs have combined to cook the largest pan of fried noodles in the world. The pan had a diameter of 3 metres and the noodles served well over 5,000 people.
Taoist Lent is a month long period of abstinence, but the vegetarian festival itself normally lasts for around six or nine days. In some areas such as Phuket, the festival culminates in displays of self-mutilation by devotees who walk on burning coals and skewer their faces and bodies with various sharp instruments. This year’s festival runs from September 28th to October 7th.