Bun Bang Fai is another festival to add to your calendar of Thai events. In this case you will need to travel to the north east of the country to the Isaan region to take part in this period of dancing, music, parties and the firing of rockets. It is also part of the cultural history of Laos but as most Isaan people originated in Laos it naturally followed them here.
Slightly off subject but I try to share more than the topic in my posts as regular readers are well aware. Isaan people are very strongly attached to their “Isaan-ness” and maintain a language, culture, music and food that is unique to the region. Isaan is the language you will mostly hear being spoken here, not Thai. Isaan people are bilingual. Gaun, my wife, despite not being highly educated is totally fluent in Isaan and Thai and can switch between the two without a break. She is also pretty good in English. She is two languages ahead of me and is also more proficient in so many other ways 🙂
The idea behind this particular festival is to encourage the rains to fall for the newly planted rice paddies (although these days many paddies have been converted to sugar as a result of a long running drought). This year the festivals are having the required effect and we’ve had more rain in the last two months than we’ve experienced in the last two years.
Bun Bang Fai parties happen May and June and you should check the dates for the one in Yasothon, which I am told is the main one in the region. We might try and get there next year. Yasothon is located between Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen.
Locally in our part of Nong Bua Lamphu province the moo bans or villages have been running their own mini-festivals since May. Some of these are very limited but as Thais throw themselves 100% into the party spirit they are heaps of fun if not photogenically spectacular. We have covered a few of them but one of the most intimate was held at the village of one of my sister-in-laws (Gaun’s eldest sister) as shown below:
In June the moo bans combine their efforts to put on a major procession for the town or city they fall within followed by a second day of launching rockets. Today it was the turn of Si Bun Ruang, our local town, to hold their main street procession and we spent the afternoon in the sun and rain to record the occasion. This is my third Bun Bang Fai since I moved to Thailand but I still enjoy the opportunity to join in a noisy, colourful and very Isaan event. You can read about a previous festival I covered in Si Bun Ruang HERE.
The rest of this post is mainly all about the photos rather than words. What you will notice is that many of the moments I have captured are of faces and costumes and if I have gone overboard with the number please excuse me. It was really hard to pick the best to include as there were so many beautiful images.
There are festival floats too but I haven’t included them much as they tend to be recycled from previous parades and are pretty basic. However there are also a few huge floats that are driven in from Yasothon I believe and assembled for our festival that are really impressive.
Many of the local floats have a theme to them often promoting Isaan village and farming life. Recycling is a popular one as are floats promoting things like anti mosquito measures. Small business will submit floats too. Then you have the biggies:
The dancers however are a whole different scenario. The costumes seem to change each year as I am sure I haven’t seen this range before. Spectacular makeup and that wonderful graceful and flowing Thai dancing make this aspect of the festival so worthwhile. I hope I can share some of the quality of the day with you in the selection of photos I have chosen.
I have no words for the next batch. What can I say that these striking images don’t. The imagination and work that has gone into the presentations contributed by these small communities for the day is humbling.
Of course to have dancing you need music and as always those huge mobile speaker systems were there to keep everything swinging. Massive volumes and playing traditional Isaan dance music, which I really enjoy. If you want to party you can get one of these for the day for 6,000 – 8,000 baht (A$240 – $320).
If you wanted to try an Isaan traditional song then you will hear Isaan Ban Hau (Isaan My Home) being played at events like this although there are many versions available. It has a special significance for me as Gaun danced it for me shortly after we met incorporating traditional graceful Thai dance moves with some more updated ones. I was hooked on both the music and Gaun! If I ever had to leave Thailand playing this song would bring it all back to me…….
I will leave it there because you get the idea. If you ever have the chance to get to Thailand or live here outside Isaan do keep Bun Bang Fai in mind if the dates work. To join in a festival like this one that isn’t on the Trip Advisor top ten will give you a far more genuine taste of the everyday culture here than walking around a Chiang Mai wat along with a bus load of other farang.
To finish off I thought I would leave you with a few miscellaneous photos that captured moments you might enjoy:
I went to a wat (temple) recently and it had a “No drone” sign outside. An unpleasant sign of the times.
Tomorrow is the rocket part of the festival. This is a far more limited part of the occasion so I doubt I will write a separate post for it. I will mostly likely cover it in my next “Isaan – the Small Stories” post.
What will be of interest is that the rockets launched are graded by size. My first Bun Bang Fai had 100,000 sized rockets and they were very impressive – see HERE. Last year post-coup the military stopped these and 10,000 was the maximum allowed. These are the ones you see launched at the village Bun Bang Fai festivals on day two. This year I believe that Si Bun Ruang is launching a couple of 1 million sized rockets and these will create craters on the moon if they get off the ground. I hope to get video to share with you.
Thanks for reading.