Your Guide To ‘The Vegetarian Festival’ in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most eclectic, awe-inspiring and interesting festivals in Thailand is the vegetarian festival that takes place in Phuket each year. If you are interested in crazy festival and haven’t yet heard about or been to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, then read on and find out about this zany festival that is about far more than eating vegetarian food.

When The Festival Takes Place

Usually the festival takes place around October time, the dates change as the festival falls in line with the Chinese lunar calendar and hits on the 9th month within that calendar.

What is the Festival All About

The idea of the festival is that the Chinese believe that a 10-day diet of vegetarian food and scared rituals will cleanse the should and earn merits for the afterlife. The festival forms one of the parts of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival that takes place across Thailand.

Rituals and Traditions

During the festival, those practicing must where white during the 10 day period and undergo a strict vegetarian diet. The idea is to a complete cleanse of the body which also means no sex or alcohol. Some are exempt from the festival which includes those who are in mourning and women who are going through the process of menstruation or pregnancy.

Mediums will go into a trance-like state as the channel the deities and serve to rid those practicing of bad luck and bad fortune.

During the festival, people will aim to cleans their bodies by going to extraordinary lengths such as putting spikes through their faces, swelling swords and walking on fire.

Where the Festival is Held

Many of the traditions like fire-walking take place on the streets of Phukets but the majority of the rituals will take place a handful of the 40 Temples throughout the city. The Kathu Shrine is the holiest temple in Phuket and and this is where the origins of the vegetarian festival are. Thousands of practitioners will gather at the Kathu Shrine as they seek to rid themselves of bad luck and evil throughout the festivities.

The Closing of the Festival

At the end of the festival there is a huge fireworks display, this is also when the most ‘grotesque’ acts take place by those observing the festival and the final day of the festival is dedicated to prayer and worship as well as the ‘merit-making’ events. The end of the festival culminates in a party-like atmosphere with singing and dancing.

If you were to look online at this festival you will probably just see images of the gory merit-making that takes place but the festival is about far more than that. If you decide to head down to Phuket for the festival you will need to ensure that you remain respectful to the locals, this is an important festival for them and one which could dictate their future. By all means enjoy the festival, but look to keep your distance.

Your Guide To The ‘Songkran Festival,’ in Thailand

You may have heard of a giant water fight that takes place in Thailand every year,  what you have probably heard about is the incredible water fight that takes place in Chiang Mai each year to celebrate Songkran. Whilst this water festival is a key part of Songkran, the festival itself is much more than that and today we are going to take a look at what the festival is, how it is celebrated and what makes the festival so special to the people of Thailand.

What is Songkrann

Songkrann is a celebration of the Thai New Year, the festival takes place on the 13th, 14th and 15th of April each year and it signifies the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. The etymology of the word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word ‘saṃkrānti’, which means astrological passage and the festival coincides with Aries rising on the charts of astrology. There are a great deal of traditions which take place to herald in the New Year and many rituals which the Thai people make in order to ensure they have the most successful year that they can.

Traditions and Rituals

Some of the symbolic traditions which take place during Songkran are the visiting of temples and taking food to Buddha, pouring water on the statues of Buddha as a cleansing process is also performed and many people who have moved away from their families will return to be with them to signify unity. Pouring water on the hands of elders by the younger members of the family is also something that is heavily practiced by way of showing respect.

The Water Festival

The most famous aspect of the Songkran tradition is the water festival, the one which you may have heard about in Chiang Mai has gained such notoriety as a result of its popularity amongst tourists but these festival take place throughout Thailand.  The water festival is an extension of the cleansing of Buddha statues and signifies the Spring-cleaning aspect of this time of year. In many cities and towns throughout Thailand you will find locals showering each other in water from water tanks and guns or even just throwing buckets of water over each other by way of celebration and purification.

Aside from the water festivals, you may also see chalk being thrown over people. This custom has its origins in the monastery as monks used to place chalk on one another as part of the blessing process.

Influences

The festival of Songkrann is heavily influenced by the Hindu festival Holi, the mixture of chalk and water for example are very familiar to the customs used in Holi and even the names are similar in their traditional languages.

Songkrann is a great festival to be part of and you can join the Thais in heralding in their New Year in style the next time that you are in Thailand.

Your Guide To ‘The Snow And Ice Festival’ in Harbin, China

China’s northeastern city of Harbin is the home to one of the most impressive snow and ice sculpture festivals in the World. This frigid and frosty city drew more than one million visitors last year who all came to witness the exhibitions of some incredible ice sculptors who create some of the most stunning exhibitions of snow and ice that you are ever likely to see. The size, intricate nature and creativity that goes into each of the sculpture simply needs to be seen to be believed and here we give you a run down of what you can expect on a trip to Harbin’s Snow and Ice Festival.

When?

Officially speaking, the festival begins on the 5th of January and lasts for a month, with that being said, it is worth noting that weather permitting, the festival begins early and finishes later than the advised dates.

Where?

Within the city of Harbin, you will find displays and sculptures throughout the city but there are two main exhibition areas where you will be able to find the main events. The first exhibition location is Sun Island, this exhibition is on the other side of the Songhua River from the city and is where you will find some enormous and gargantuan sculptures.

The other exhibition location is  Ice and Snow World which is a nighttime space where you can be struck in awe by illuminated and full sized buildings which have been built entirely from snow and ice.

What Can You Expect?

Other than stunning sculptures of buildings, famous landmarks and cartoon characters, you will see a whole city which is dominated by the festival, regular lantern processions, ice skating activities, ice shows, skiing and even winter swimming are all features of this festival.

As you might imagine, you can also expect very cold temperatures as this area of China receives its temperatures from Siberia, lows of -30 degrees are the norm around this time of year.

What’s it About?

The festival does not have any deep religious or culture connotations, it is more of a why not festival and it has been around since 1963. The sculptors used to be only Chinese but in recent years the festival has international status and as such it attracts master sculptors from all over the World.

How Do They Make The Sculptures?

The ice is dragged from the frozen Songhua River by huge teams with very big saws, the sculptors then use a huge range of tools to sculpt the blocks of ice into incredibly fine pieces of art in the days running up to the festival. The sculptors also utilize deionized water which is frozen and produces crystal clear glass-like ice which adds an incredible element to their creations. To add color to proceedings, artists will add a serious of multicolored lights behind their creations to give the incredible detail to their work.

This festival will leave you completely awe-struck and possible with a  little frostbite but you will never see anything else like it on the planet.