Vegetarian Festival reined in by pandemic, rising costs

Vegetarian Festival reined in by pandemic, rising costs

The Vegetarian Festival starts today and will run until Oct 14 but celebrations throughout the nation are being toned down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The famed Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be scaled down with a limited number of participants and activities at each Chinese shrine. The extravagant parades of devotees who act as ma song or spiritual mediums will likewise be more subdued.

By tradition, the ma song use sharp weapons of the Chinese deities, such as swords and spears, to pierce their cheeks, earlobes or arms, and walk around the streets to bless people. But this year, the performance will be on vehicles to avoid big gatherings.

In Songkhla's Hat Yai district, regular ceremonies are banned due to Covid-19, but vegetarian food stalls were allowed to set up on the road from yesterday to Oct 14.

Bangkok will not host a celebration on Yaowarat Road, while popular Chinese shrines in the area have been asked to be strict about social distancing.

In the lead-up to the festival, vendors and the general public have been dealing with the rising cost of vegetables. In Nakhon Ratchasima, prices are high because vegetable plots have been flooded and some wholesale markets have been closed due to Covid-19, causing supply shortages and pressuring merchants to find other more expensive sources. Some merchants said there is greater competition, further driving up prices.

In Phuket's Mueang district, vegetable sellers said prices are high because farms in Central areas have been flooded. Kale prices have risen from 40 baht per kg to 70 baht while morning glory has risen from 20 baht to 50 baht.

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