Vegetarian Festival in Trang
Every year in Thailand there’s a 9 day Vegetarian Festival, sometimes also known as the ‘9 God’s Festival’ or ‘Tesagan Gin Je’ so we headed to Trang and checked it out.
It’s famously celebrated in Phuket, so most people head there, meaning not many tourists visit the Vegetarian Festival in Trang, but as we have a huge soft spot for the place, it was our first choice of places to go and experience the festival.
The Vegetarian Festival a religious festival where everyone eats ‘jay’ food (which is totally vegan and also contains no onions or garlic). There are ceremonies and daily visits to the temple and all devotees must wear white.
In Thailand, eating ‘jay’ food is seen to be ‘merit making’ and whenever people hear that we eat a plant based diet 365 days of the year, they always tell us what good people we must be, which is of course lovely.
It’s funny how in our culture back in the UK, when someone knows you are a vegan they will normally either ask you to solve an ethical dilemma about being on a desert island with only chickens for food.
Or they ask you if you miss bacon, or what you eat and then tell you that they couldn’t possibly give up bacon, or cheese, or both. But in Thailand (as well as other South East Asian countries), people consider you to be a very spiritually good person, which as we said earlier, is lovely.
Like a vegan dream come true, at the Vegetarian Festival in Trang, vegan food is everywhere and even shops that usually serve meat change their whole operation and serve only ‘jay’ food.
Deep fried snacks appear everywhere to tempt us, served with spicy, sweet chilli sauce.
But there is proper, balanced, healthy food too and our local vegan restaurant extends it’s opening hours until late into the evening to cope with the demand from people coming back from the temple and wanting to eat.
And there’s ‘special’ vegan food too. We ate our very first vegan ‘fried egg’, made from tofu that has been deep fried, covered in sweet chilli sauce and served with a sausage on a stick (because we’re in Thailand and it’s important to serve things on sticks here for some reason).
Also, because it’s Thailand, there’s no shortage of the sweet stuff, from vegan ice cream to sweet pancakes filled with more sweet stuff; dessert is never far away.
But the Vegetarian Festival in Trang is about much more than just eating vegan food and we got to observe and experience some of the most intense and unusual things we’ve seen on our travels for a long time.
Imagine incense smoke so thick that you can barely see in front of you, firecracker explosions that take you by surprise, spirit mediums in a deep trance.
There’s lot of information online about the spirit mediums who are central to the different ceremonies during the festival.
These ‘mah song’ become taken over by ancient Chinese gods and acts of self mutilation are carried out like putting skewers or even larger objects through their cheeks (with no anaesthetic although all claim to feel no pain).
We missed this part of the festival as we were still in Vietnam (eating this amazing vegan meal as it turns out) but at least it gives us an excuse to go back next year.