HK Magazine Archive

Escape Routes: Getting the Point at Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Yogic Intimacy in Koh Phangan, Upmarket Spirituality in Bali

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:50pm

Love colorful Asian festivals? Love Thai-style vegetarian food? Love large, sharp objects thrust through your cheeks and tongue?

If you answered “yes”, “yes” and “not sure” there’s good news. You can party at The Phuket Vegetarian Festival, which takes place on the Thai island from Oct 15-23, and you only need to impale yourself along with the religious devotees if you really feel like it.

What’s with the impaling, you ask? Well, while the festival is a joyous affair—with participants showing their devotion to the gods by eating only vegetarian food, taking part in street processions, visiting Buddhist temples and Chinese shrines where they pray, sing, and light joss sticks and candles—acts of sacrificial ritual are an increasingly prominent part of it. Becoming more spectacular and gory with each passing year, they include fire walking, climbing ladders made of sharp iron blades and piercing of bodies, often while devotees are in a trance state.

The festival is believed to have started a couple of hundred years ago after a wandering Chinese opera group, who had fallen ill with malaria while performing on the island, decided to eat only a vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods. After making a miraculous recovery, local people celebrated by holding a festival to honor the gods, which has grown into the spectacular event it is now.

A highlight is the raising of the Lantern Pole, which alerts the nine Chinese gods that the festival is taking place, in the hope they will descend, bringing spiritual power to the event. Our advice? Absorb the spiritual power and veggie food, avoid the sharp stuff. To allow visitors to take in this amazing event in comfort (getting impaled notwithstanding), Amari Phuket is offering a ‘Seascape Suite Stay’ package for a three-night stay in a recently opened sea-facing suite. Included in the package is a welcome bottle of sparkling wine, round-trip airport transfers, free access to the clubhouse, a 60-minute Thai massage, late checkout and complimentary wi-fi. You’ll have to supply your own large sharp objects.

From $5,045 (plus tax and service charges of 17%). 2 Meun Ngern Rd., Patong Beach, Phuket, 83150, Thailand, (+66) 76-340-106

Tantric Twosome

If only a up-close and personal spiritual experience will do it for you, two international yoga teachers, Yogi Bangora and Yogi Charu, have announced their first joint retreat in Southeast Asia. Retreat Thailand aims to provide guests with a holistic yoga experience at The Sanctuary in idyllic Koh Phangan. The retreat includes two daily yoga asana classes and a variety of other classes such as yoga nidra, known as the “art of conscious relaxation,” and yoga history.

Bangora and Charu will also host special workshops, including yogic breathing and posture, yogic cleansing, and meditation for daily mental hygiene. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy one of The Sanctuary’s many detox programs and its comprehensive cleansing menu as part of the greater wellness experience.

With yoga retreats gaining in popularity across Asia, Yogis Bangora and Charu chose to meet the increasing demand from their students by hosting Retreat Thailand with the aim of offering the perfect combination of spirituality and physicality, against the stunning backdrop of Surat Thani’s most beautiful scenery. Where do we sign up?

November 4-9. The Sanctuary Thailand, Koh Phangan,

A Safer Sanctuary

For those seeking a spiritual experience where the only sharp objects are the cutlery with which you dine on “tailored health-conscious menus for wellness and detox programs incorporating the freshest local ingredients” then Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Ubud, Bali, may be more up your street.

The third bespoke resort in the Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio, Mandapa is set along the majestic Ayung River as it meets the jungle in Ubud, the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali. The property offers tailored spiritual, wellness, health and detox programs, complemented by a dedicated patih, or butler. Who will probably frown disapprovingly if you order a beer.

Detox and nutrition, alternative therapy, body therapy and healing are offered at the spa’s eight treatment rooms, fitness center, sauna, river-front yoga studio, vitality pool and relaxation areas. With only 35 suites and 25 private pool villas, you’ll be feeling better before you know it.

From US$570 ($4,400) per night. Jalan Kedewatan, Banjar Kedewatan, Ubud, 80571, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, (+62) 361-479-2777,

Have a query you need answered or a travel tip you’re keen to share? Email me at [email protected]