Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Phuket Vegetarian Festival Schedule 2017

The 2017 Phuket Vegetarian Festival runs from 19 - 29 October 2017. In 2016 the festival was held from 30 September to 10 October 2016. The dates change every year, as it's based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It's my favourite Phuket event / festival and I always take too many photos! I sold my "nice" camera a while back, and for the last few years have been using a combination of an old (but OK) Lumix mixed with iPhone photos! I am thinking of buying a new fancy camera during 2018.

There is a lot to this festival, it took me a few years to understand, and there are still parts of the festival I have not seen much - I have only attended one firewalking event and it was so crowded. And until 2014 I had not experienced the crazy last night procession in Phuket Town - and this was great - absolutely crazy!

Most of the events happen far away from the main beach areas, mostly in and around Phuket Town, or at the various Chinese shrines around the island. If you are in Phuket during the festival, do try to see something! This year will be different, though - see UPDATE below ...

I have written loads about the vegetarian festival on the Phuket blog in the past and there are hundreds of photos on the blog and my Flickr account. For more information about Phuket's most unique and bizarre festival start at:

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - My Favourite Festival in Phuket.

Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts

2016 Vegetarian Festival Photos
Food at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Crazy Last Night of the Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Schedule 2017

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VERY VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: There was some question about the schedule because the dates chosen for the funeral and cremation of King Bhumibol coincide with the festival dates. Thailand's beloved King passed away in October 2016 and the cremation is to be held on October 26th 2017. As I understand it - all morning street processions from the 19th to 28th, with all the piercing and firecrackers will be cancelled. BUT the final night procession on October 28th WILL (probably) be going ahead, since it's after the cremation.

In addition, people wearing black mourning clothes will be allowed to visit shrines - normally people do not wear black during this festival - white is the color of choice, although you see plenty of people wearing normal clothes. I believe some of the activities in shrines like bladed ladder climbing and firewalking may go ahead too. Not 100% sure!

Due to these changes, I might just skip the festival this year. Normally I am very enthusiastic about it and love to attend processions and visit shrines in the early hours when piercing takes place. But since none of this is happening, I'm not really "feeling" the festival right now.

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Schedule - 19th to 29th October 2017

You can download a pdf file of the actual 2017 schedule for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival here.

The start of the 2017 festival is Thursday 19th October in the late afternoon when the "lantern poles" are raised at all the participating shrines. The Emperor Gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines at midnight. I often attend Kathu shrine (my local) as I did in 2011 : Photos of Pole Raising and Midnight Ceremony.


Thursday October 19th

At all the Chinese shrines, sometime between 4 - 6pm - raising of the Go Teng pole. Events at the shrines will go on all evening. The lanterns are hung from the pole at midnight, signifying the start of the festival. There will be plenty of firecrackers and fireworks too. In 2011, I went back to the shrine just before midnight expecting some bizarre ceremonies, but it was far more hushed and reverential and kind of spooky. Did not leave the shrine until 1am and people were still gathered there saying prayers.

20th - 21st October - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for a small procession from Naka shrine on the 21st, but people can visit any shrine at any time, and the Jae (เจ) food is to be found all over the island but mostly around the shrines and especially in Phuket Town. The festival has many aspects and the food is one part of it. I normally try to stick to the strict diet during the festival. No meat, no alcohol. Not just "no meat" - the food is specially prepared with clean utensils and certain other ingredients like garlic and onions are not allowed due to the strong flavour. Don't worry if you are not vegetarian, almost all restaurants are open as normal in tourist areas. In fact, it can be hard to find the festival food near the beaches.


Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2014

Evening parade of Ma Song and god statues in Kathu


25th October : Fire Walking at several locations including Sapam Shrine, Sapan Hin (participants from Jui Tui shrine), Baan Tha Reua Shrine and Sui Boon Tong shrine (just west of the market and not far from Jui Tui shrine in Phuket Town). Fire walking kicks off around 8pm. Maybe I'll try to get some firewalking photos again this year.

Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014

Ma Song Girls in Phuket Town 2014

Vegetarian Procession in Phuket Town 2014

Thursday October 26th

Later in the day, there are lots of events on the schedule at various shrines including bladed ladder climbing at Sam Kong and Bang Neow shrines and "nail bridge crossing" at Sapam Shrine. Not sure what that is! We did go to watch bladed ladder climbing one time at Sam Kong, I did not take a camera as it was a bit rainy outside, the weather can be a concern at this time of year, but usually not too bad and sometimes darn hot! The bladed ladder climbing did not seem too dramatic. Can't say I saw any bleeding feet!


Below - Kathu Shrine Piercing and Firecrackers - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Firecrackers in Kathu village

Happiness is a Vegetarian Festival Procession

Later in the evening on October 27th - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!

Saturday October 28th

In the evening/night of the last day (28th October) there is be a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It is absolutely mad. I went for the first time in 2014. Again in 2015. And will go again another year with better preparation. There is so much smoke and so many firecrackers, it's advisable to wear long trousers, a shirt with long sleeves and something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth or face mask over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs would be a good idea. It's like a warzone. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket a few years ago and melt his iPod!

Earlier in the evening on the last night there is the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" ceremony at the shrines. We did this in 2011 and it was an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no bloody faces, seemed like the whole village was there!

VERY VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: There was some question about the schedule because the dates chosen for the funeral and cremation of King Bhumibol coincide with the festival dates. Thailand's beloved King passed away in October 2016 and the cremation is to be held on October 26th 2017. As I understand it - all morning street processions from the 19th to 28th, with all the piercing and firecrackers will be cancelled. BUT the final night procession on October 28th WILL (probably) be going ahead, since it's after the cremation.

In addition, people wearing black mourning clothes will be allowed to visit shrines - normally people do not wear black during this festival - white is the color of choice, although you see plenty of people wearing normal clothes. I believe some of the activities in shrines like bladed ladder climbing and firewalking may go ahead too. Not 100% sure!

Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Crossing the Bridge for Purification

Below - Final Night in Phuket Town - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Running the Gauntlet - Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Sunday October 29th

At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) will be lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2017 Phuket vegetarian festival.

See you there?

You can download a pdf file of the actual 2017 schedule for the Phuket Vegetarian Festival here.

Where are the shrines? Location Map - Chinese Shrines in Phuket


View Phuket Vegetarian Festival Chinese Shrines in a larger map





Phang Nga Bay Tour on a Rainy Day

Low season weather in the Phuket area is rather unpredictable. If you're lucky you can get a week of sun and blue skies in the so-called rainy season, but if you are unlucky you can get a week with hardly any sun. The months from June to August were actually quite nice this year, but the second half of September was particularly wet. And unfortunately for my cousin and her family, that was when they visited Phuket :) You certainly do hope for lots of sunny beach days when visiting Phuket on holiday, but in low season you have to gamble, and at the same time take advantage of cheap hotel prices. So we had a whole weekend to take my cousin's family out and the weather was not promising, but often I believe you should just go anyway - the weather here is often not as bad as it looks, and rain can be very localised. We planned one of our Phang Nga Bay tours including James Bond Island and Panyee village. We have done trips like this many times and it's been on the blog before - see Phang Nga Bay 2010 and Phang Nga Bay 2015. My friends with the Easy Day Thailand tour company run tours around this area.

So, Saturday was looking rather wet, but we drove out of Phuket anyway and had a nice lunch at Nern Khao View Talay, a nice restaurant with a view. But as we ate we could see rain coming in from the west and a couple of times the rain lashed down. Undeterred, we continued to visit Wat Suwan Kuha, a lovely temple built into a cave not far from Phang Nga Town.

Wat Suwan Kuha Entrance

(above) A wet entrance to Wat Suwan Kuha

Wat Suwan Kuha in Phang Nga

(above) My cousin's family at Wat Suwan Kuha

Well, the weather really was wet. Rained most of that afternoon, rained all the drive back to Phuket but did finally stop in the evening for us to have a little walk around old Phuket Town! But on Sunday morning - we woke up to sunshine! Yes! Let's try again .. we drove off Phuket again, and the weather looked OK so we headed for lunch at Samchong Seafood where we have been numerous times before and we found back in 2010 that we could get a boat from there to James Bond Island. Lunch was very good, but unfortunately while we ate, the dark skies appeared and we had some heavy rain :(

Samchong Seafood in Phang Nga

(above) At Samchong Seafood

Samchong Seafood Restaurant

(above) Samchong Seafood and dark skies!

Seemed like the skies were clearing after that lunchtime rain, so off we went! We actually got the same longtail boat driver who'd taken us in 2010 and the price was the same. Cost us 1800 Baht after some bargaining by my wife. I am not sure if a non-Thai / non-local group would get the same price, but in any case, even if you pay a bit more, that's not much to have your own boat for a few hours.

Longtail Boat Driver

(above) Our longtail guy for the afternoon. We got the boat from the jetty next to the restaurant about 2:15pm and weren't back at Samchong until about 6pm.

Family on Longtail

(above) Heading out into Phang Nga Bay. No rain ... As we came out of the wide mangrove channel where Samchong is located, we could see dark skies in at least 2 directions, but our longtail guy seemed sure he could dodge the rain! We took a detour heading towards Koh Panyee village, but eventually the rain caught up with us.

Phang Nga Bay

(above) In Phang Nga Bay about 20 minutes into our ride .. can we dodge the showers? It was all going well until we were in sight of Panyee, then we got wet. Plus it was a bit windy and the longtail guy had to wait a while before heading into Panyee because it may have been a bit dangerous with the boat banging against the jetty. We had about 10 minutes waiting .. the boat had a roof, but no sides and we were very clever and had no raincoats :)

Longtail Boat in the Rain

(above) In the rain near Koh Panyee. I had to put the phone/camera away just after this, it was wet!

So we landed on Koh Panyee with the rain still falling, but things dried up. I have a particular liking for Panyee. A little community out in the sea, no roads, no cars, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. What would it be like to grow up there? I mean, it's not really so remote. A boat up to Phang Nga pier is only a short ride and you're within easy reach of the megalopolis of Phuket! After lunchtime (when many boats full of tourists land and eat at a row of same-looking buffet restaurants) the place is quieter and as always I enjoyed walking the back streets poking my nose into people's lives :)

Koh Panyee Village

(above) Koh Panyee houses and mosque

Koh Panyee Kids

(above) Koh Panyee kids (and my daughter larking about in the background)

Window at Koh Panyee

Koh Panyee Back Street

Daughter at Panyee Village

(above) Views of Panyee village.

Koh Panyee Floating Football Pitch

(above) The floating football pitch at Koh Panyee. It's between the mosque and the school on the west side of the island, so you need to follow some little alleyways to find it - all the restaurants where tours land are on the east side. As you can see from the photo above .. the weather again looked better. We spent about an hour at Panyee before heading south to James Bond Island (actually called Koh Khao Ping Kan). Only about 20 minutes by longtail boat. We approached Scaramanga's island just after 4:30pm. There is some kind of rule with national parks. If you arrive after 4:30pm you don't need to pay the entry fee. Our boatman shouted over to the beach where a couple of park staff had already closed their office. We did not need to pay. Normal entry fee is 300 Baht for non-Thai people. The other advantage of arriving at James Bond Island this late is that all the tours have left already. A few of the souvenir stallholders were still there (stalls closed, waiting for the last boat home), otherwise it is very nice to have a major tourist attraction almost to yourself!

James Bond Island

(above) approaching James Bond Island from the north

My Boy at James Bond Island

We landed at the beach on the west side. We saw that a nice new stairway has been built over to the north side, much easier to walk over now! Despite the grey skies and threatening rain, the view was a good as ever, or better! Me and my boy enjoyed a few minutes on the beach, the family all got a few photos. We all had a few minutes of peace in this beautiful setting, but the rain was coming and the sky quickly darkened.

James Bond Island

And about 1 minute after taking this photo a storm whipped in from the west very suddenly. Rain lashed horizontally across the beach. We sheltered under a small roof, but then retreated around the corner under the leaning rock (Khao Ping Kan) although it's not 100% under cover and we retreated further into the cave as the wind howled and a few small pieces of tree fell down! We hid for nearly half an hour until about 5:15pm, then were able to walk back over to the boat. The wind was blowing a bit so we waited a while longer. The rain did not stop either, but eventually we had to leave or it would be getting dark! The 20 minute longtail boat ride back to Samchong got us there not long before dark. What a wet day. I think everyone enjoyed the scenery and adventure! For sure a sunny day would be nicer, but the Phang Nga Bay scenery is actually great with rainy skies. Only trouble was it was sometimes too wet to get my phone out to take photos! This won't be the last time we do this trip...

More about Phang Nga Bay

Tours with Easy Day Thailand
Phang Nga Bay Tour in 2010
Phang Nga Bay Tour in 2015
Exploring a different part of Phang Nga Bay
Samed Nangshe Viewpoint

Phang Nga Bay Map





Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach

Tours to Krabi, or tours for people already staying in Krabi, can be booked with my friends at Easy Day Thailand.

Yes, this is the Phuket Blog, but Krabi is very close to us ... We had a 2 night trip to Krabi back in April and I really wanted to visit Railay Beach. I've been in Phuket since 1999 and somehow never really checked out Krabi until this year! Well, we never got to Railay in April, but we saw enough of the Krabi area to plan another trip, so we had another 2 night trip in Krabi in July. Railay was very much on my must-see list despite my wife thinking it would be just another beach. And although we only spent a couple of hours checking out Railay beach and Phra Nang beach (right next to Railay) we really like it and we are already thinking of our next Krabi trip and will spend a bit more time at Railay. We were staying in Krabi Town at the River View Hotel, which is right next to the river. The pier for longtail boats to Railay Bay (or Ao Nang) was just a few minutes walk from the hotel. And the boats are not expensive - just 150 Baht per person each way.

Longtail boats from Krabi Town to Railay

(above) We got a longtail boat from the river in Krabi Town. The trip to Railay is about 12km and took about 30 minutes on a lovely sunny morning with calm seas. Our boat arrived at a large floating pier at Railay Bay East - not much of a beach here, it's mangroves and a bit muddy. West Railay Beach is the place you want to be! We first bought some bottles of water in a minimart - everything double the normal price because everything here has to be brought in by longtail boat. Small bottles of water - 20 Baht. Note for next time - bring some water with us from town (small bottles of water can be as cheap as 7 Baht). Jeez, I sound like a cheap backpacker!

Longtail boat approaching Railay Bay

(above) Approaching Railay from Krabi Town

Railay Bay East

(above) Floating Pier at Railay Bay East

Railay Beach Alleyway

The walk from Railay East to Railay West is down a narrow path passing the backside of a couple of hotels and restaurants, not that pretty, but arriving at Railay Beach, we were confronted with a truly spectacular view. Although I had really wanted to visit I was prepared to be disappointed, as often happens with very touristy places. But this really is a beautiful place and I think it helps that this was low season and we arrived by about 10am - you can certainly expect more people later in the morning and during the afternoon. I wonder if we might stay here next time rather than in Krabi town ...

Railay Beach

Railay Beach (west) Krabi

(above) Railay Beach (West). It gets lots of hype, so I was expecting something less, but it really is gorgeous. I am not really a beach person, I don't "go to the beach", but I think I could stay in a hotel here for a few nights and just enjoy the scenery, the sand and the sea (and a few beers). It was quiet when we arrived and that certainly helps. There are only a handful of hotels (check hotels at Agoda), many people visit from Ao Nang and other nearby areas (Krabi Town or even from Phi Phi) during the day. Also at Railay West we saw plenty of supplies being unloaded by hand from longtail boats. Plenty of work goes into that 20 Baht bottle of water!

Unloading supplies at Railay Beach West

(above) Unloading supplies at Railay Beach

Railay Beach West

(above) My boy could run around at Railay Beach all day I think! We have to come here again. On this trip we had limited time, as we needed to be back in Krabi Town by about midday or 1pm to check out of the hotel. From West Railay, to get to Phra Nang Beach you have to walk back to East Railay and then turn right until you find the path to Phra Nang. Not a long walk, just a few minutes. Heading to Phra Nang Bay you walk past caves and stalactites for a couple of hundred meters. There is a sign to a viewpoint that we'll have to explore next time.

Phranang Bay is maybe even more beautiful than Railay, but smaller. It's hemmed in by high cliffs and as you can guess the only access is by foot, plus we saw that some tour boats drop people directly here rather than Railay. It was about 11am when we got to Phra Nang and it was noticeably busier than Railay West. But anyway. Wow.

Phra Nang Beach, Krabi

(above) Phranang Beach - click photo to see a bigger version (opens in a new browser window)

Phra Nang is certainly a place we could stay for a while, bring a picnic, swim a bit ... it's on the list for next time! There are several points of interest here aside from the beach, the sea and the views. Right by the beach you can find a cave which features an extremely unusual shrine. Offerings are made hereto the princess of Phranang cave in the form of lingams. What are lingams? They are phallic symbols resembling the male organ (ha ha, won't get me to say penis here!) The offerings are said to bring good luck, wealth and fertility to the local people. It seems these beliefs are still held today, as there are plenty of new phallic offerings.

Phra Nang Cave, Krabi

(above) Our daughter checking out the shrine at Phra Nang Cave

Cave and Beach, Phra Nang, Krabi

(above) Looking out from a cave at Phra Nang Beach (not the willy cave, it's the next one). There are a few caves here and I saw someone crawling up a narrow passage, but where to? Gosh we really do need to come back and explore more!

Phranang Cave

(above) Lots and lots of lingams. Yeh, you don't get this on any other tourist beach!

Phra Nang (and Krabi in general) is also well known as a place to go rock climbing. Krabi is a good place to learn/try climbing, and there are plenty of cliffs if you are an experienced climber. We found a load of climbers next to the beach. Some looked like novices, others were climbing higher.

Rock Climbing at Phra Nang Beach

(above) Rock climbing at Phranang, Krabi

Our longtail boat driver was waiting for us at East Railay and it was already midday by the time we walked back from Phra Nang. I am glad to say this area has surprised me. I am sure it can get crowded at times, but there's a lot of natural beauty here and now we're planning our 3rd Krabi trip and will spend more than a couple of hours at Railay and Phra Nang!

More about Krabi

Krabi Hotels (Booking at Agoda.com)
Krabi Tours with my friends at Easy Day Thailand
Tiger Cave Temple
Emerald Pool
Our Trip to Krabi in April 2017
Our trip to Krabi in July 2017

Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach - Location Map