Bun Bang Fai is an exclusively Isaan (a region in the north east of Thailand) rocket festival held in June every year to encourage the rains to come for the rice season. I say exclusive in a Thai sense. The festival originated in Laos, which explains why it now forms part of Isaan culture as the people here came from Laos in one of those historical movements of population.
No problems this year as the wet season has arrived early and we have been having regular rain for many weeks now. Yuan and Lud, my sister and brother in law who run half the family farm, were having problems actually getting the paddies ready to plant the first rice crop because the soil was too wet and the small tractor was getting bogged!
Bun Bang Fai takes place over a number of weeks. For us it starts off with local festivals run by each village (moo ban) surrounding the town of Si Bun Ruang. Some of these are quite impressive events such as the one I wrote about HERE and others pretty casual. The celebration takes place over two days with a procession through the village with formal dancing and loud music followed by a day of launching the rockets, usually with more music, the next day. At the end of this process a large combined procession is held on the main street of the town lasting several hours. Larger rockets are then fired off the second day (today as I write). A small rocket launch can be found here:
This rocket is rated at 10,000 while the big ones you may see at the larger festivals in Isaan go to 1 million in size.
Yesterday was the street procession in Si Bun Ruang and we went there as we do every year. This year we were joined by friends from Udon Thani who hadn’t yet been to a Bun Bang Fai. I have covered this festival on several occasions on the blog so I won’t do it in detail again.The reason I enjoy them so much is that it provides the opportunity to capture some beautiful scenes and more specifically some characterful faces, which provide a uniqueness to each year’s event. As you will see from the photos I find just as much material from scanning the crowd as I do the magnificent dancing displays.
The following are my best photos of the day and I won’t be adding much in the way of words because this post isn’t intended to be an instructional tourist type guide to the festival. Search on Bun Bang Fai in my blog if you want so see previous posts or there’s some very good information on this site HERE.
The formal part of the day started with a mass display of dancing at the local Amphur office, which has large public land area. I will only add one photo of this event because there were so many people it was hard to get a quality photo of the event. Also all the participants then formed the procession down the main street, which allowed better access for viewing. This year was a smaller event than 2016. We have a new head of the Amphur (a sort of city council) and he didn’t want the festival at all this year! However there was such an outcry that he had to back off. I don’t know if this was as a result of the cost involved or connected to the mourning period for the king (all government officials are still dressed in black).
The large dragon floats in the background arrive every year. They are hired I think from Yasothon, which hosts the largest Bun Bang Fai in Thailand but that may not be correct.
On the way lottery tickets were purchased in celebration of the arrival of our new number plates after two months plus of running on temporary red plates. 5189 is the number you need to be looking for, which will get you a big payout on the 16th, the next draw date. You can read about our car purchase HERE.
There is a judging of the groups with money and awards handed out at the end. If you go to one of these festivals it is best to base yourself close to the judging area because each dance group will stop there and go through their entire routine of several songs so you get to see it all.
I believe the extensive displays of horses relate to an ancient legend called the Ma Kham Lai ritual, where villagers ask for the long deceased ruler and his horse to appear once again. As always there is almost no information available so I may be wrong.
He has a music system and it was loaded on one of the trucks in this festival rented out for 12,000 baht (A$480) for the day. We topped him up with beer before sending him on his way.
We are about to head off to see the rockets this afternoon so I may publish an updated YouTube video here of a launch if they are doing the bigger ones. It is a cloudy day so may not be the best conditions to capture the event. Time will tell.
I am back! I didn’t get a decent video so I have published one from 2016 below, which will give you an idea of what the rocket launch looks like.
I took a few photos too:
Gaun tells me that this is a mixture of crushed charcoal and something explosive you buy at the local market!!! It will probably be right as that explanation sounds so Thai. I will check it out next time we are buying food 🙂
The end result is something like this if it all comes together. A lot of money exchanges hands over the course of the day as people bet on various aspects of the rocket’s performance.
Thanks for reading.