Give up meat and sex for Thai festival 'ticket to heaven'

Thu Oct 15, 2015 5:03am EDT
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By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

(Reuters) - Thailand's annual vegetarian festival kicked off this week, a time of year when the Southeast Asian country's meat-heavy dishes get a vegetarian makeover.

Known locally as 'Teskan Gin Jay', or vegan festival, it takes place over ten days and began over 150 years ago on the tourist island of Phuket, some 840 km (520 miles) south of Bangkok.

Thailand is home to the largest overseas Chinese community in the world and the festival is a time when Thai-Chinese, 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.

"Eating vegetarian food during the festival purifies your mind and washes away your sins," said Lamyu Manolai, 59, a food vendor. "It's like going to a temple."

In Bangkok's Chinatown, yellow flags baring the words "purified" and "merit" flutter along Yaowarat Road, the area's main thoroughfare, a smorgasbord of vegan and vegetarian food stalls.

The food sold here is often made from meat substitutes including soy proteins made to look like the real thing, to varying degrees of success.

Fish maw soup, the neighborhood's signature dish, made with bamboo mushrooms, looks convincingly like its meat-based original.   Continued...

A member of a Chinese opera troupe looks on as she applies make-up before performing at a shrine during the annual vegetarian festival in Bangkok late October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha