Vegetarians take note: this is your week in Bangkok. Every year beginning at the first new moon after the fall equinox, the ten-day vegetarian festival begins. This vegetarian moment takes its roots from Chinese Buddhist practices. It’s a spiritual cleansing with a physical component.
Yesterday, free food was being served on the Skytrain pedestrian bridge in front of MBK. Fish maw soup? Well, not exactly. The maw was replaced with a tofu-based imitation. In fact, many dishes feature what appears to be meat but is merely a vegetable-based substitute. But along with the meats or any animal-based products (including eggs, even in breads or noodles), garlic, cilantro and spring onions are also taken off the menu. (Garlic, for example, allegedly awakens some other, er, carnal urges.) Oddly enough, oysters are allowed.
Watch for yellow flags at food vendor carts and restaurants which mark them as participating in the vegetarian mission. As this is Chinese in origins, the best place to go participate in it is Bangkok’s Chinatown. Those with religious ties to the event will stop in and burn some incense and pay respects at one of the many Chinese shrines. Look for the statue of a woman inside: that’s Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion.