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Bun Bang Fai 2019

published 11 May

Bun Bang Fai is an Isan (a region in the northeast of Thailand) rocket festival timed to encourage the rains to arrive for the start of the rice harvest. In fact it has a lot of general fertility cymbals, which is pretty common in rural communities worldwide. Today we headed to the moo ban (village) of Si Bun Ruang who always put on a good street procession and these photos reflect their efforts. A terrific afternoon.

This is the fifth Bun Bang Fai celebration I have been involved with since we moved permanently to Isan in 2014. Each one follows the same basic routine, a street procession on the first day with the rockets and sometimes live music on day two. Although the theme is the same every year I get to capture heaps of photos because it is the detail where the variety happens. The costumes, the faces and the poses are different every time and that’s what makes this so enjoyable for a photographer. This is mostly a photo feast rather than requiring any insightful words of wisdom from me. What more can I say?

I thought the yellow and purple combination was a stunning contrast and the pick of the day.

A decent telephoto lens allows me to capture images that helps give a feel for the afternoon. Some of the observers are just as interesting to photograph as the main event.

This ladyboy puts in a big effort every year on costume and makeup and she is always in demand for a photo moment.

The same ladyboy from a previous year.

The portable generator to power the music truck. A must for every Isan street party.

The boy is giving the judges the ‘look’.

Promoting recycling.

I lost Gaun for a while but found her dancing in front of a music truck. A lover of life is my Gaun.

A video to prove that you can both dance to Isan music and enjoy a beer at the same time. Gaun being her natural self here.

The beautiful Peng, my stepdaughter.

I just caught the moment. Love the rich colours.

You can see why I am sometimes lost for words can’t you!

A water blessing froma local monk.

The freedom to express ones natural inclination towards becoming a ladyboy is perfectly accepted here and it can happen from a very young age. This boy is part of an all female dance troup and if that’s his thing why not? In western socities we’d have him in therapy and probably ruin his life. Here it’s not a concern.

I have written about the wai, the mark of respect you will see Thais give others on more formal occasions. Here this lady is acknowledging the judges who are assessing each dance group as part of a competition. There will be a winner announced at the end.

This is a rocket festival after all so there were some floats that reflected the explosive nature of the event! only for show. The real ones are bigger.

Perfect balance Gaun. Years of training.

The wai again.

What is always nice about these type of celebrations is the range of ages involved. You get everyone from the very young to yai – grandmothers. Having fun is the only requirement for joining in.

See what I mean about the age range. Here a few yai got dressed up as schoolkids and joined in.

Thais are always happy to be photographed. Never be shy asking them.

The satellite dish sticking out of the buffalo is a bit of a mystery. Kids underneath eating (of course).

There was one music van for the youngsters and they were there in force.

Do I have a hearing problem? Sorry, what did you just  ask me 🙂

Farm truck or music truck? It depends on the day!

I told you it was about fertility too.

Lots of security guys with big sticks. I have seen a few fights at these events usually between young guys, but on the whole they are geared towards families and community and are pretty relaxed. 

There’s never any rubbish because everything is collected immediately for recycling.

Here’s that mix of ages again. This lady is throwing sweets at the judges. Bribery in full view!

I hope you enjoyed day one of Bun Bang Fai. We are off to Udon Thani for lunch with friends for Gaun’s birthday so Sunday, the rocket part of this moo ban’s festival won’t be covered. I will post a rocket story during this season of BBF so keep an eye out for that. Please leave a comment or hit the ‘like’ button to make my day 🙂

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  1. Jim Busby

    Happy B’day to Gaun, and Happy “Mum’s Day” to all the mothers from across the pond (Mother’s Day is today over here). Did Gaun wear Red for her birthday? Maybe Gaun can join one of the dance troupes for next year, although, they will probably require her to dance with both hands free. Peng wasn’t as impressed with mom’s dexterity as you seem in the video. Speaking of Peng, I know you said Thursday was the last day to hear about her acceptance to her choice of colleges. Whether she made it in, or not, should not matter as much as she is the first in her family to attend college. A very proud accomplishment in and of itself. Colorful and festive as always, it’s a pleasure to see the village involvement. Hope this works on bringing rain, and uh, of course, increased fertility. Looking forward to the follow up post.

    Best wishes,

    • Tony in Thailand

      Thanks Jim. Like birthdays there’s not much acknowledgement of Mother’s Day here. I must say I had forgotten all about it myself. We went to Udon Thani yesterday for a Sunday roast lunch with friends but that was more a coincidence of timing and not specifically for Gaun’s birthday. Gaun eats farang food but does get wildly excited about it. To her it’s not a treat to go to a restaurant (although this was just an upmarket bar) and have a nice (for me) meal. In a previous lifetime a wife’s birthday was a weekend away or a dinner at an expensive restaurant. There’s not as much enjoyment in doing something like that here because Gaun wouldn’t see it as an ‘event’ in the same way a western woman might. I have adjusted my approach therefore, and am taking the family for an Isan buffet tonight. Guan was in raptures this morning thinking about unlimited food especially the chicken feet!!!! Whatever works!

      Peng didn’t make the third cut of university places and we are getting down to just a few spots. She has her name down for the fourth round and if she misses out on that we are done. There is a fifth and final round but I suspect there might only a handful of places. As I have discovered the reality is that Peng’s marks were only just enough to qualify and others have better results or parents with the money to buy them a place. Never say never so we hang on for the next outcome, which will be later this month.

      We have had a few downpours and it looks like one as I type now. In previous years we have had some early rain but then it has turned mostly dry. I am hopeful that maybe this year will be a proper wet season, although by the end of it I might be wishing differently. I am all for fertility but not inside these gates 🙂 I have seen older farang with young wives and babies and it is a sad sight. The kid deserves a young dad and having raised a family or two I would have thought the last thing one would want to lumber yourself with in the final self-centred stage of life is babies! I have never been keen on them myself and that attitude is showing. Had I meet Gaun 20 years ago…….

      Cheers Jim.

  2. Ian

    Great pics and content as always Tony. I still remember my first BBF in SBR. It was awesome and any Falang who has not been to one is missing out as the firing of the rockets has to be seen to be believed.

    • Tony in Thailand

      Your ears are probably still recovering Ian. Schedule a visit next year? Maybe we’ll have our guest accommodation ready by then.

  3. Michael de Marillac

    Great day had by all. Well done, sounds like a really fun event.

    • Tony in Thailand

      It was. These small local events are by far the most involving and a great way to spend a couple of hours.

      Thank you for your comment.

  4. Greg Carroll

    We look forward to seeing you in next year’s parade in costume Tony 🙂

    • Tony in Thailand

      Hmmmmmmmm. Our moo ban’s street party is 25 & 26th this month so we will see what the ladies get up to. I am not sure if I have set up an annual performance based on last year’s makeup extravaganza.

  5. Jon

    Hi Tony,

    My Favourite yearly topic post. I will be over on Saturday, can’t wait.

    Best wishes to all the Family.

    • Tony in Thailand

      Thank you Jon. It must be a buzz to think that you’ll be coming over to your ‘own’ place. I am sure you will catch a Bun Bang Fai somewhere while you’re here.



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