The Phuket Vegetarian Festival was founded by some Chinese miners who worked here back in the 19th century. They believed that disease struck them because of neglecting some religious traditions. Therefore, they decided to purify their bodies, as Chinese tradition would have it, by eating only small amounts of special food as well as abstain from eating meat. The ritual helped and with years it has become a major festival of purification that is believed to bring good health and luck. Having said this, the most bizarre aspect of the festival is not the fact that everyone becomes a vegetarian for a week or so. Interestingly, during the festival, some people believe they can allow certain spirits and gods enter their bodies and make them feel no pain. These people are called mah song, and they perform most macabre self-mutilations during the festivities. Most of them pierce their cheeks with all kinds of things, so diverse as beach umbrellas and knives or bike chains. This bizarre scene is not for the faint-hearted, but a unique experience in any case!
The Festival usually runs for the first nine days of the 9th lunar month according to the Chinese lunar calendar.