Chinese New Year in Phuket
February 10th, 2013 ( Year of the Snake )
Get ready for noisy firecrackers, colourful sprocessions and local entertainment as the Phuket enters the Year of the Dog this January. Vibrant celebrations and super shopping bargains are on offer as Phuket’s local Chinese community prepares for its most important festival.
Adding to the celebrations is the Old Phuket Festival, held in the old Sino – Portuguese quarter of Phuket Town each year. Entertainment and highlights like the Dragon Procession promise a kaleidoscope of colour in the streets during the two day festival.
New Year Food
As well as Phuket’s usual array of delectable food, Chinese New Year provides the perfect opportunity to sample special delicacies. Probably more food is eaten during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year with huge amounts of traditional fare prepared for family, friends and ancestors.
Certain kinds of food eaten at this time are considered lucky, with specific ingredients added for a little extra luck during the coming year. Others like Fresh bean curd or tofu – considered unlucky are given a wide berth in favour of more auspicious fare.
Food plays an integral part in the traditional celebrations. On New Year’s Eve, Chinese families celebrate with a special dinner dedicated to the spirits of the ancestors – revered for their past contributions to the family fortunes. The communal feast of weilu, literally “surrounding the stove” is arranged around the family banquet table and is a way of joining the spirits of the past with the family of the present, symbolizing family unity.
Loy Krathong Festival
28th November 2012
Thailand, is a spectacular place where magic and mystery can be found in many places. If you are here in November, this magic flourishes and there is one evening during the month that a truly mystical experience, can be had. On this particular night, on nearly every expanse of water, be it a river, lake or the ocean, you’ll notice thousands of lights. Drifting across the water like fairy dreams. Gently flickering, dipping and dancing in the breeze as they go, making a spectacular sight.
This is Loi Krathong, Thailand’s ‘festival of lights’. Held yearly, on the evening of the twelfth lunar month, it is the time of year when the waters around the country become alive with candlelight and look not unlike massive fairy ballrooms. When staying in a coastal area, you can see these ‘ballrooms’ extending for miles out to sea. In fact, sailors, making their way towards the likes of Phuket, have reported seeing them close to the Similan Islands and beyond.
A Festival Not to Be Missed
This festival, falls in the ‘not to be missed’ category and if you believe in luck, joining in, is a ‘must do’. It’s also one of those celebrations that children absolutely adore and will certainly be one of their fondest memories of their visit to this part of the world.
If you happen to be holidaying in Phuket, one of the more popular festival venues, when this enchanting festival occurs, you might just have a better chance of a luck filled future. Phuket’s west coast beaches generally have an off-shore breeze blowing at this time of year, which will help give your wishes a boost. How good your fortune will be, is up to you and the tides or currents during the festivities. There is one simple way to ensure that at least a little of the festival’s blessing comes your way, however.
How to Partake in the Festival
In the hours preceding sunset, you’ll notice many makeshift stalls selling ‘krathongs’ along the streets of Phuket. Buy one…or better still, buy (or make) one, for each person in your holiday party. These flower covered min-floats, complete with candles and incense sticks, often resembling lotus flowers, are an essential part in promoting good fortune during the festival.
As the sun dips below the horizon and the full moon begins to hover in the night sky, take your krathong to the nearest beach, lake or similar watery area and release it with the outgoing tide or current. The belief being, that if the krathong floats away from you, the coming year will bring good fortune, if it floats back towards the shore, then perhaps your luck may not be quite as you had wished.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
15th – 23rd October 2012 ( Likely dates 2013, 5th -13th October )
A colourful event held over a nine day period in late September / October, this celebrates the Chinese community’s belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.
Though the origins of the festival are unclear, it is thought that perhaps the festival was bought to Phuket by a wandering Chinese opera group who fell ill with malaria while performing on the island.
They decided to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods who would ensure purification of the mind and body. On recovery, the people celebrated by holding a festival that was meant to honour the gods as well as express the people’s happiness at surviving what was, in the nineteenth century, a fatal illness.
Schedule 2012 for Street Processions of Chinese Shrines
( Schedule for 2013 to be determined )
|Wednesday, October 17||Sapam Shrine|
|Thursday, October 18||Samkong Shrine|
|Friday, October 19||Baan Tha Rue Shrine|
|Saturday, October 20|| Bang Neow Shrine
Cherng Thalay Shrine
|Sunday, October 21||Jui Tui Shrine|
|Monday, October 22|| Kathu Shrine
Yok Ke Keng Shrine
|Tuesday, October 23||Sui Boon Tong Shrine|
Chinese Shrines in Phuket Town
There are more than 40 Chinese shrines scattered around the island. Many of them are just small buildings but all participate in the festival. Visitors who want to experience the most of this event should visit the major shrines including the five oldest shrines in Phuket; Put Jaw, Jui Tui, Bang Niew, Cherng Talay, and Kathu Shrine. Alternatively, see the list below.
- Baan Tha Rue Shrine, Thepkrasattri Road, not far from the Heroines’ Monument
- Cherng Thalay Shrine, Sri Soonthorn Road, Thalang District
- Sapam Shrine, Thepkrasattri Road, Koh Kaeo, Phuket Town
- Yok Ke Keng Shrine, Soi Panieng, Samkong, Phuket Town
- Samkong Shrine, Yaowarat Road, on the north side of Phuket Town
- Kathu Shrine, Wichitsongkram Road, Kathu District
- Put Jaw Shrine, On the corner of Soi Phuthorn, Ranong Road, Phuket Town
- Jui Tui Shrine, Soi Phutorn, Ranong Road Soi 4, Phuket Town
- Sui Boon Tong Shrine (aka Lorong Shrine), Pattana Road, Phuket Town
- Bang Neow Shrine, Phuket Road, on the south side of Phuket Town
- Thep Rasi Shrine, Phuket Road, near Robinson Department Store, Phuket town
- Kiew Tien Keng Shrine, Sapanhin Park, Phuket Town
The festival always falls on the first days of the ninth Chinese lunar month, and for nine days participants observe the following commitments:
- Cleanliness of the body during the festival
- Clean kitchen utensils not to be used by others who do not participate in the festival
- Wear white during the festival
- Behave physically and mentally
- Avoid eating meat
- Avoid sex
- Avoid alcohol
- People in mourning should not participate
- Pregnant women and menstruating women should not attend ceremonies
One of the most exciting aspects of the festival is the various, (and sometimes gruesome) ceremonies which are held to invoke the gods. Firewalking, body piercing and other acts of self mortification undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods, have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. Men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm, and little blood or scarring results from such mutilation acts. This is definitely not recommended for the feint hearted to witness.
The ceremonies of the festival take place in the vicinity of the six Chinese temples scattered throughout Phuket. The main temple is Jui Tui Shrine not far from the Fresh Market in Phuket Town. The first event is the raising of the Lantern Pole, an act that notifies the nine Chinese gods that the festival is about to begin. The pole is at least ten metres tall and once erected, celebrants believe that the Hindu god, Shiva, descends bringing spiritual power to the event.
For the next few days, the local Chinese/Thai community brings their household gods to the temple, along with offerings of food and drink. It is assumed that the household gods will benefit from an annual injection of spiritual energy that fills the temple. Visitors can observe and even participate in the lighting of joss sticks and candles that are placed around the various gods.
Usually street processions take place, where visitors can see participants walking in a trance. Other events include hundreds of local residents running across a bed of burning coals, or climbing an eight metre ladder of sharp blades while in trance. Apart from the visual spectacle of this festival, visitors can partake in specially prepared vegetarian cuisine made available at street stalls and markets around the island during this time.
The vegetarian dishes are not easily distinguished from regular dishes – soybean and protein substitute products are used to replace meat in standard Thai fare and look and taste uncannily like meat. Look for the yellow flags with red Chinese or Thai characters to find vegetarian food stalls – and keep your camera handy!! For more information on dates and events, please visit phuketvegetarian.com
April 13th – 16th, 2013
Songkran Festival is the traditional Thai New Year celebrated on April 13th. Families and friends gather to celebrate by visiting temples, sprinkling water on Buddha images in reverence, and sprinkling water on each other’s hands as an act of wishing good luck.
In recent years, the tradition of sprinkling water has been interpreted by youngsters as a great excuse for a water fight, and it is not uncommon to have buckets and containers of water thrown at you by teams of merry makers in the backs of trucks as you make your way down the street – particularly in major tourist areas like Patong.
Small children delight in equipping themselves with water guns and spraying anyone who comes in their path – no one is exempt! Remember this date when you are in Patong and leave your cameras and anything likely to suffer water damage behind in your hotel room, because you will get wet.
Where to Enjoy Songkran
While all of the island celebrates Songkran, the most active area is Patong. Driving there might take you hours as roads are gridlocked by pickup trucks carrying youngsters playing with water. At the end of the day, things quiet down, but i f you are a party person, water battle will continue past midnight in the famous Bangla Road.