A Motorbike with Accessories
The start of our Bun Bang Fai Festival
I am going to cover three days of activities for Bun Bang Fai (the Isan rocket festival) in our own moo ban (village). This will be different from other posts I have written on the subject because it shows our personal involvement with preparing for the street party, the procession itself and then the rockets on the final day. We weren’t just observers this time but hands on.
Friday Day One – decorating the saling
A saling in Isan terms is a motorbike with sidecar. You see them everywhere and they provide a cheap alternative to a car for transporting people or produce. Half of Isan’s businesses are based on a saling selling drinks, food, knives, pancakes, ice cream and pretty well anything else you can think of at a mini-shop level.
This year our moo ban was planning a more extensive Bun Bang Fai celebration with a full street party incorporating both traditional and less traditional (you’ll see what I mean later) dancers, two music trucks and on the following day lots of rockets. Gaun decided that our street would enter a decorated saling to act as a base for a group of her friends who don’t mind a party or two.
For those of you who want to better understand Isan things rather than just floating on the top of local life here is one to add to your knowledge base. The lowest level of urban hiarachy in Isan is called a ‘koom’ (my phonetic spelling of Gaun’s pronounciation). A koom is basically a sub-group of the village formed by the houses within the grid pattern that forms most Isan villages. The next level up is the ‘moo ban’ itself.
I only pass this on because money for certain aspects included in events like Bun Bang Fai are funded directly by us villagers and it is collected at the koom level. This year we contributed 200 baht (Gaun insists that I pay no more for anything than a local would) and that went to fund our very own rocket that was entered into a competition (Gaun calls it an ‘exam’) between the various kooms that make up the moo ban.
You can see the grid pattern of our moo ban (actually there are two moo bans next to each other but you get the point) in the photo above. Each koom is basically determined by the houses within the squares. More information than you ever wanted to know but there are some Isan enthusiasts out there and you won’t find this stuff on your typical tourist blog.
Gaun arranged to borrow a saling from a friend (Bun, the lady we bought out latest piece of land from) and on the Friday before the weekend party it arrived at the farm to be decorated. Previous to this work had been happening to carve two large ‘dicks’, the technical expression I believe, from some wood that had been left over from some local land clearing.
The fertility cymbols that are pretty evident in the Bun Bang Fai event is all connected to wishing for a productive wet season with the planting of new rice, the result of which is so central to the Isan culture as well as its food. The photo below show Gaun’s hands-on approach to dick carving helped by nephews Game and Tom 🙂
Gaun in charge. That’s Game on the right, Yuan’s son, recently discharged from two years conscription in the army and happy to be home.
I can’t believe I am showing you before and after photos of Bun Bang Fai dicks! I must have been here too long and the heat and SangSom (a terrific and cheap Thai rum) is getting to me.
And this is going in the Isan farmers Pirelli calendar. Yuan here.
On the Friday we set ourselves up at the farm with music on the back of Chang our pick-up (Chang is Thai for elephant and nickname for the truck), food and beer for me and the ladies and lao khao (Isan rice whisky) for the guys.
BBQ’ed pork was on the lunch menu with farang BBQ sauce for me! The lady next to Peng is Puk, a niece of Gaun.
Deadly lao khao rice whisky. 110 baht for a large bottle. Rough as…….
Yuan carving up the pork in the farm’s ‘kitchen’.
The saling in its original state.
Family and friends all helping out. It is this inclusiveness that makes the observation of life here so enjoyable.
Platting coconut leaves to form an apron around the base of the saling. This is Tom, the son of Gaun’s older sister Bear and her husband Tham.
Mama looks on. Although she rarely talks she observes everything and takes it all in.
Duk Dik WSD (world’s scruffiest dog) is part of the support team.
Adding long beans threaded onto string to the display.
And here’s Peng looking far too good for the farm 🙂
Yuan had made fresh flower garlands for the dick highlight of the saling. My life has changed a little from my observations as a senior government employee in Australia 🙂
It wasn’t all about phallic symbols. The saling was to be a reflection of the produce growing locally this time of year. Gaun here with early banana flowers.
Lud with some very sour fruit, the name of which is a mystery. Peng pinched some of these and was soon tucking into them with dried chilli powder and sugar. Each to their own.
Long beans, mangos, jackfruit and bananas.
Yuan testing out the rideability.
And Gaun being Gaun dancing to Isan music. A huge love of life.
Lud doing some painting. I just liked the photo. Notice the mini-dick, recently painted and drying!
An exotic Isan fruit.
A bit of Christmas thrown in for colour.
Mama wondering where she went wrong 🙂
The result at the end of the day. All ready for our street party the next day.