Events and Festivals in Phuket
Phuket hosts many special events and festivals. There are religious festivals, sports events, cultural events, fairs, carnivals and more. Of all these events, undoubtedly the most extraordinary is the vegetarian festival
This is one of the most extraordinary religious festivals in the world. There are not many countries that could stage this event. It requires a people that embrace the festival with enthusiasm. A people that have the wreckless abandon to throw firecrackers at each other and that have the good humour to accept such madness with grace.
It is held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar which means it falls in September or October. That puts it at the height of the rainy season so sadly you cannot expect to combine a trip to the festival with a beach holiday.
The 9-day festival is centered around the Chinese temples in Phuket. Each temple hosts daily events such as walking on hot coals or climbing blade ladders. There are food stalls around each temple selling an incredible range of vegetarian food.
There are daily street processions from the various Chinese temples around the island to the main Chinese temples in Phuket Town. The focal points of the processions are shamans who go into self-induced trances. After the first few days of the festival, these shamans start piercing themselves, usually through the cheeks, with swords, spears and other objects. The marches are a cacophony of noise with drums and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits.
During the 9 days of the festival, the participants must follow 10 rules. These include wearing white clothes, not eating meat, self-discipline, no alcohol and no sex.
We cannot give the vegetarian festival full justice with just a few paragraphs so we have given it a full page to tell you all you need to know.
Thalang Walking Street
In Phuket Town, they celebrate the start of the high season in the first weekend of November by turning Thalang Road into a walking street. This is one of the old roads where the buildings are in the Sino-Portuguese architecture style of old Phuket Town. Stroll along the street enjoying the character of these old buildings. There are lots of stalls, food vendors and entertainments.
A national celebration on full moon night in November. After dark, Thais flock to any stretch of water; river, lake or sea, to float their bad luck away on small floats carrying candles. 'Loy' means 'to float' and 'kratong' is the name of the small floats made from banana leaves, tree bark and decorations. It is a beautiful little festival as you watch the flickering lights float away into the distance.
The start of the high season is marked in Patong with a carnival. This festival has traditionally taken place at the start of November. However, in 2007 it was washed out so in 2008 it has been moved to the middle of December to avoid the possibility of rain. There are processions, walking streets, food stalls and entertainments.
Phuket Seafood Festival
December begins with a seafood festival. Phuket is renowned for its great seafood and this is a chance for the local culinary experts to show off their skills. There are food stalls all along Patong beach.
King's Cup Regatta
There are a few yachting events in Phuket's waters but this is by far the biggest. It attracts top-class competitors from all over the world.
Another top-class sporting event, the Laguna Triathlon attracts top class triathletes from all over the world. The 1.8km swim starts at Bang Tao Beach around the sea and into the lagoons behind the beach. The 55km cycle runs up the coast road and through the rubber plantations in the north of the island. And as if that is not enough they finish with a 12km run around the roads of Laguna.
Chinese New Year
The date of the Chinese New Year varies from late January to mid February. Phuket's large Chinese population makes it a celebration to remember. Two days of processions, firecrackers and dancing dragons make a colourful spectacle. There are shopping discounts and lots of great food. Go to the old town area of Phuket Town to fully appreciate the celebrations.
2010 Feb 14th (year of the Tiger)
2011 Feb 3rd (year of the Rabbit)
2012 Jan 23rd (year of the Dragon)
2013 Feb 10th (year of the Snake)
2014 Jan 31st (year of the Horse)
Wat Chalong Fair
Wat Chalong Fair coincides with the Chinese New Year. This is a huge fair including shopping stalls, food vendors, games and entertainments. It takes place in the grounds of Wat Chalong which is the most important temple on the island. It is on Chao Fa West Road approx three kilometers from Chalong Circle.
Phuket Old Town Festival
Thalang Road is turned into a walking street for the weekend. There are lots of street stalls and entertainments. Some of the old houses open to visitors.
Phuket Gay Festival
They claim it is the biggest gay festival in Asia. There is a three-day street party around Patong's gay district at Soi Paradise. There are also parades and a volleyball tournament. It is a colourful and flamboyant event.
Celebrate the Thai New Year with a good water fight. In northern Thailand, this celebration goes on for a week but in the south, it is a single day - April 13th. Everybody gets loaded up with water guns or buckets of water, and goes out for a good soak. It is a happy, mass water fight. Do not carry electronic goods or passport. Be very careful on your motorbike.
Turtle Releasing Festival
Coinciding with Songkran is the turtle releasing festival. This is an attempt to replenish the diminishing turtle population that lays its eggs at Nai Yang and Mai Khao beaches.
Phuket Fireworks Display
A huge fireworks display in Saphin Hin, Phuket Town. You can see this from a distance but the closer the better.