Vegetarian festivals sizzle in Eastern Seaboard

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The dragons danced and the rice sizzled when the Pattaya Vegetarian Festival served up food enough for a village to go along with spiritual blessings Oct. 12-22.

Former Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and executives from the Sawang Boriboon Thammasathan Foundation celebrated the opening of the festival with the cooking of fried rice for 5,000 people.

The festival began with the usual morning parade. The annual dual-headed procession consisting of “Kiew Huang Huk Jow” (the nine deities who are the spiritual mascots of the festival) and “Bhodisttava” (also known as Chow Mae Kuan Im, the goddess of mercy, compassion & healing) kicked off at Bali Hai Pier and ran up Walking Street.

The fierce dragon scares away bad spirits in Sattahip.

The parade group then split, with half following Beach Road to Central Road and turning right. The second branch traveled along Second Road, stopping for a dragon show, then met the first group at Central Road. Reunited, the groups moved to Third Road and then jumped on buses to go to the Sawang Boriboon headquarters.

By then, the marchers were hungry and chefs were preparing Celestial Fried Rice with a giant frying pan into which went rice, shiitake mushrooms, ginko nuts, cashews, snow pea seeds, corn, soy sauce, raisins, olive oil, sugar, pepper and salt.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and former culture minister, Sonthaya Kunplome, joined to cook up the Five Auspicious Celestial Rice dish in the 3 meter frying pan. It is believes that people who eat the rice will be purified and will encounter good fortune.

There also were dozens of food stalls offering vegetarian specials of dishes that looked like their meaty equivalents but made with tofu.

The weather wasn’t as good for this year’s as in previous years, but the festival ran for ten days, which offered a number of glorious bits of fall weather.

Sattahip’s equivalent vegetarian festival also got under way Oct. 12 with Mayor Narong Bunbancherdsri, who also heads the Sawang Rojthummasathan Foundation, presiding over the festivities.

Wisit Chaowalitnittithum, director of the Sawang Boriboon Foundation, gives the opening speech, encouraging residents to stop eating meat during the 10 day period to cleanse and purify their body.

The streets were filled with local residents as well as foreign tourists as the large parade made its way through the Sattahip Market community.

This year featured spectacular shows and parades, including the famous dragon dancing show by members of Tongnopakhun Temple.

Narong said the foundation would provide three vegetarian meals to everyone attending in their open cafeteria for 11 continuous days, all free of cost.

Also, an announcement was made to encourage all local residents, vendors, students and visitors to stop the consumption of meat during this period.

Known in Thai as “teskan gin jay’, the vegan festival takes place over ten days and began over 150 years ago in Phuket.

Some residents are happy to be seen with, and donate to, Lord Hokloksew, the Lord of Happiness.

Thailand is home to the largest overseas Chinese community in the world and the festival is a time when Chinese-Thais, often third or fourth generation Chinese who grew up in Thailand, observe ten days of abstinence.

Eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex are thought to be vices and pollutants of the body and mind to be cut out entirely by the truly devoted.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome leads city councilors in the religious ceremony during the opening of this year’s Vegetarian Festival.

The lion/dragon parade reaches the grounds of Sawang Boriboon Foundation where the opening ceremony took place.

Dressed in white to signify purity, these women take part in the annual lion parade.

A study in concentration, young martial artists thrill witnesses to their Wushu show.

The festival wasn’t as lively as the previous years, due to the threat of rain.

Creating delicious treats to worship the Gods of the Planets.

The lion parade stirred up the crowd as usual.

This year, Sattahip featured spectacular shows and parades, including the famous dragon dancing show by members of Tongnopakhun Temple.

Back stage at the lion & dragon parade.

All food stalls sold only vegetarian food, although some of the dishes did look like meat.

Lighting candles and incense to bring good fortune to themselves and their families.