The Sawang Boriboon Foundation knows the secret to good cooking is once that you have a popular recipe, don’t change it. It takes the same approach to its annual Pattaya Vegetarian Festival.
So this year’s festival, which runs Sept. 23 to Oct. 3, will play out much the same way as in recent years, with parades, Chinese ceremonies, games and activities, and plenty of wholesome, meat-free foods.
Officials announcing the schedule for this year’s Vegetarian Festival are visited by a friendly lion.
Pattaya Deputy Mayor Wattana Chantanawaranon and foundation Vice President Prasith Thongthicharoen met Sept. 9 to put the final touches on preparations before announcing the schedule of events to the public Sept. 15 at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.
The festival opens at foundation headquarters in Naklua at 4 p.m. Sept. 23, with former Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome and local politicians on hand. The event will feature “eng-ko” traditional Chinese performances and a huge “Five Auspicious Celestial Rice” dish, cooked in a giant frying pan.
The rice recipe will be a pungent one, chock full of garlic, onion, garlic chives, tobacco and Chinese onion. The dish will be free for everyone attending. But before food is served, everyone will parade through Pattaya.
The annual dual-pronged “Kiew Aung Huk Jow” and “Bhodistava” parade kicks off at Bali Hai Pier at 9:19 a.m. and runs up Walking Street. The parade group then splits, with one parade turning right at the entrance of Walking Street up towards Wat Chai Mongkol intersection, then turning left onto 2nd Road up to Central Road, and turning right on to the corner of Central & Third Road where the people will get on a bus to go to Wat Sawang Fah in Naklua.
The second group continues on Beach Road up to Central Road, turn right, meets up with the other group at the Tops intersection and continues on to the corner of third Road where the people will get onto the bus at go to Wat Sawang Fah in Naklua.
Beach Road will be closed from 12.30 hrs until 15.00 hrs. One lane of Second Road will close for as long as the parade needs to pass through.
There also will be food booths offering a wide range of products, some familiar, some not. A few look like meat, but are, in fact, tofu. There are plenty of sweets as well, such as donettes coated in honey.
Vegetarian festivals have a long tradition in Thailand. Chinese-Thais will leave their daily businesses aside, visit temples to make merit, eat only vegetarian foods, and refrain from conducting any acts that would lead to the taking of lives, blood and meat. They also wear white while visiting temples with candles and flowers to make merit for animals.
The festival is seen as a chance to cleanse the body, with large vegetarian meals eaten only every other day, usually at temples. The other days people eat only one or two light meals at home.