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 whole family turning up for the festival.

Someone turning up for the festival in a tuk tuk with the contents of their market stall.

Small fish for sale. You can buy Koi here for ridiculously cheap prices.

Two kids supervising a stall selling small fish. You can buy Koi in Thailand for ridiculously cheap prices.

A hot sunny day, sorry Canberra people, so umbrellas are the go.

A hot sunny day, sorry Canberra people, so umbrellas are the go.

Me with Peng and her new Darling Harbour cat handbag!

Me with Peng and her new Darling Harbour cat handbag! Lud on the left.

A small participant being dropped off by mum.

A small participant being dropped off by mum and brother.

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 massive floats each came with their own dancers beautifully presented.

The massive floats each came with their own dancers beautifully presented. Here they are sitting in the shade as it was extremely hot especially if dressed up in heavy traditional costumes.

A huge effort has gone into the festival by individual groups. A photo opportunity.

Great colours and make-up. A photo opportunity.

Another group.

Another group. Mix of guys and girls here.

The formal and informal.

The formal and informal. Braces are “in”. At about $1,000 for the whole two year procedure I can see why.

Not all of the participants were serious.

Not all of the participants were serious.

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.

Police organising traffic.

Police organising traffic.

Waiting to start.

Waiting to start.

Hat, umbrella and cold drink - just what's needed.

Hat, umbrella and cold drink – just what’s needed.

I am all set.

I am so spoiled by Gaun’s family. My brother-in-law Lud behind me kept me proved with cold drinks and iced towels bought from the local 7/11.

Gaun being her usual colourful self in all ways.

Gaun being her usual colourful self in all ways.

Food is always part of a Thai celebration. Mobile food vendors kept the crowd supplied.

Food is always part of a Thai celebration. Mobile food vendors kept the crowd supplied.

The locals on holiday.

The locals on holiday.

Boyfriend and girlfriend?

Boyfriend and girlfriend?

Fairy floss is everywhere.

Fairy floss is a worldwide standard.

Now THAT'S what I call a gun.

Now THAT’S what I call a gun.

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.

A horse float on its way.

A horse float on its way. Dancers behind and you can just see the sound system in the distance.

The horse cantering up.

The horse cantering up.

The couple on their happy horse.

The couple on their happy horse.

One of the support group with cool towel.

One of the support group with cool towel.

Beautiful costumes.

Beautiful costumes and make-up.

And girls.

I was impressed with the variety of costumes on display.

Lovely.

Lovely.

A dance group in full swing.

A dance group in full swing.

Another group. You can see the house sized sound system following them.

Another group. You can see the house sized sound system following them.

He is there to keep an eye on getting the truck through low hanging powerlines etc.

He is there to keep an eye on getting the truck through low hanging powerlines etc.

And this is what powers it all!!!!

And this is what powers that sound system!!!!

Another sound system.

Another sound system. This is a mini version.

An older group of dancers.

An older group of dancers. They were having a good time.

Now that would be hot.

Now that would be hot. Must have seen like a good idea in the cool season. The Thai smile on show.

This person was really keen.

This person was really keen. She/he had her/his own support person with paper towels and fan in hand.

Being one of the few farang there I got special attention and several offers of whisky!

Being one of the few farang there I got special attention and several offers of whisky!

Hello farang. Enjoying the day?

Hello farang. Enjoying the day?

A Thai face moment.

A Thai face moment.

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:

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Some of the dancers were feeling the heat, or perhaps just didn’t want to be there, and weren’t in full Thai smile mode. This young lady wasn’t one of them.

Some of the photos were of “characters” who I felt showed great personality in their faces:

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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.

Hard to miss.

Hard to miss.

Beautifully maintained.

Beautifully maintained.

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Some live ornaments.

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The dragon head and you will also see the bamboo poles on the sides being used to raise the cables across the road to get the float through.

The dragon head and you can also see the bamboo poles on the sides being used to raise the cables across the road to get the float through. The King’s photo on the front.

A closer view of the head.

A closer view of one of the dragon heads.

A water relief. Thanks dragon.

A water relief. Thanks dragon.

A mixed bunch of photos to finish:

The guy is the son of Jan, the lady we bought our land from. He and the lady won first place.

The guy is the son of Jan, the lady we bought our land from. He and the lady won first place in their category.

A fish made out of plastic bottles.

A fish made out of plastic bottles.

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More dancers.

Young and older.

Young and older. A hard working face.

A band of the dead. A mechanical group. They were excellent with great coordination with the music.

A band of the dead on top of a sound truck. A mechanical group. They were excellent with great coordination with the music.

A Leo beer solution to keeping the engine cool.

A Leo beer solution to keeping the engine cool.

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.

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The effect of bad motorcycle riding?

The effect of bad motorcycle riding?

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And what festival procession would be complete without the ladyboys?

This lady was in huge photo demand.

This lady was in huge photo demand. Another massive sound system at the back.

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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.