Meat-loving Thais turn into self-mutilating vegetarians for festival

Thailand is not an easy country in which to be vegetarian. But once a year the country’s avid meat eaters lay down their spicy meat stir-fries in favour of vegetables and meat substitutes.

During the annual ten-day “Tesagin Kin Pak” vegetarian festival, yellow flags representing Buddhism and good moral conduct flutter in the wind above entire neighborhoods, while tiny mobile street carts with a lone yellow flag advertise vegetarian-friendly food.

Glistening tofu, noodles with bean sprouts, desserts made with sesame and ginger and steaming hot vegetable broths abound…

Every year during the ninth Chinese lunar month, the country’s Thai-Chinese community…observe ten days of abstinence.

Eating meat, having sex, drinking alcohol and other habits thought to be vices and pollutants of the body and mind are cut out entirely by the truly devoted, who also wear only white. The belief is that nine gods come down from heaven to inspect the earth and record the good and bad deeds people commit…

The festival in Phuket starts out sounding just as tame.. Although meat is not on the menu, the rituals involved in the event are unusually bloody. During the celebrations, many of the devotees go into trances and have the flesh of their mouths pierced…all in the name of ritual purification.

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