One of the reasons we chose to travel and stay in Isaan at this time in June was that Si Bun Ruang, “our” town, was having their annual festival called Bun Bang Fai over three days but mainly on the weekend of the 14th and 15th. I have never seen a Thai festival and this seemed like a great opportunity to enjoy what the locals had to offer. Knowing Thais love of a party and a good time I was pretty sure it would be well worth the investment of time and I wasn’t disappointed.
I really had no idea of what to expect, which made it all the more interesting. My blog coverage of the festival is in two parts. This entry and a following one called “Bun Bang Fai – Fireworks”.
The town shut down over the weekend and moved into holiday mode. Schools were off on the Friday as some of the children were practiced dancing if they were to perform at the festival and the others did whatever Thai kids do on their time off.
Gaun’s family knew where to go so we headed into a park just off the main road through the town, which was closed for the day, for the official opening of the festival.
The park was a sort of staging point for the procession that would wind down the main street later. A huge effort had gone into making the floats ranging from small “home” constructions to large formal displays as you can see in the photo below. From my understanding each of the 12 Moo Baans that make up Si Bun Ruang provided a dance group each with their own traditional costumes. This was also the point where each dance group gathered in front of their float to perform a combined dance to kick-off the official start of the festival.
The formal opening concluded with this impressive display of massed dancing. The video isn’t as good as it could have been because I hadn’t positioned myself well and had people walking in front of the camera. I will do better next year. However the video does give you a good idea of the scene and size of the display. Note the large dragon heads on the floats in the background dancing to the music.
Once the formal part had been completed we headed off to get a spot on the main street to watch the procession. The whole town must have turned out because it was packed and very colourful with the umbrellas.
The procession format was a Moo Baan dancing group followed a truck mounted sound system, the size of a small house complete with mobile power generator, mixed with the floats both formal and informal. Each group was proceeded by a sign letting people know who they were representing. Each dancing troupe had their own support group providing fans, umbrella, cold water and encouragement. I don’t know how they kept going in the heat.
The quality of the presentation and makeup makes it hard to chose which photos to use. They are all so good. The following are a selection of some of my favourites:
Some of the photos were of “characters” who I felt showed great personality in their faces:
The main attraction in the float department were these huge ornate ones. Truck based I presume they are assembled for the event, which would be a massive task. They were certainly a scene stealer. The front part of the float bounced up and down and some of them had a dragon head at the front which rotated, as you saw if you watched the video above, spurting water onto the crown from its mouth.
A mixed bunch of photos to finish:
The Thais are very conservative in dress and social manners so it is always a surprise to see these sort of explicit displays in public. Between them and all the erect horses there won’t be much to surprise the kiddies come wedding night.
And what festival procession would be complete without the ladyboys?
The procession took over three hours to finish and I enjoyed every moment even in the heat. A great effort by a small Isaan town to entertain and provide a visual feast. Much appreciated by this farang. Make sure you read part two of the festival in my next story.
Thanks for reading.