Bun Bang Fai RocketsFrom the factory to the skies - published 21 May 2019
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. After the street party day one we move into a day of launching homemade rockets so let’s see what that looks like.
It’s not an Elon Musk Tesla type factory!
This is a 100,000 sized rocket. You get an idea of physical size from the guy walking past. The tail, which is made from bamboo, is longer than the rocket head.
5 inch water pipe PVC is used as the casing for the 100,000.
Sand, explained later, and the ingredients that are mixed to form the explosive element of the rocket.
The white stuff comes from these boxes, whch as they are marked in Chinese are likely to be things that go bang.
The Chinese ingredient (?) is sieved to refine it.
And then mixed with a black powder plus some liquid that didnt look like water before being re-sieved again.
The empty casing is then moved to the vertical as is happening here.
A metal plate is attached formly to the end of the PVC tube to ensure the explosive material is kept inside the tube when it is rammed solid by a machine (left photo). The tube is then placed inside a thick metal tube, which both has a sand base on which the metal plate sits plus sand is poured around it to make sure it doesn’t move. Good to deaden any unexpected explosion too!
Sand is here being poured around the PVC tube within the metal jacket to keep it firmly in place.
Ten heavy stainless steel weight are them attached to the pulley system. These will compress the material being placed in the rocket 1 kilo at a time.
Once all the cylinders are in place a bag of mixture is placed in the PVC tube and the compression starts. This process takes three hours to complete.
The bamboo rocket ‘tails’ ready to be attached once the process is completed.
A few 100,000 rockets ready to go. You get an idea of how big these things are in comparison to Gaun.
And do they actually work?
A 100,000 rocket being hauled into place on the launch ‘pad’. These are super heavy at this stage and are a multi-person lift.
Chained into place.
Helpers in the background manning the rope to heave the rocket up that trellis.
Once again you get an idea of the size compared to the people setting it up. A big team on this one.
They are fired using a battery and here the leads are being attached.
Plenty of observers sitting in the shade.
Waiting for launch.
The large numbers of people aren’t an indication of the enthusiasm for rockets in Isan, although there is that aspect too. Unofficial bets are placed on the performance of each rocket and money is won or lost after each launch. Evidently the owner of the rocket will give a flight time, say 200 seconds. People then bet whether it will last longer than that or fall short. You will see people wandering through with money in hand trying to find someone who has an opposing view of the flight time to lay the bet off with. It is all very infomal with no paper changing hands and everyone seems to remember who bet what. If the crowd loses touch with the flight of the rocket then all bets are off.
Three YouTube videos below showing the launch of a 100,000, a small catherine wheel version and a smaller 10,000. All good fun.
This is the launch of the rocket I have shown you in the above photos.
Gaun captured your intrepid reporter sitting in a small concrete drainage ditch (that’s me in the blue floral Songkran shirt and hat) to video a 100,000 Bun Bang Fai rocket being launched. In the worst scenario at least I would only lose the top half of my body
This is a 10,000 launch. They get going immediately they are ‘lit’, while the 100,000’s take a while to build momentum.
A 10,000 being prepared on the left and a 10,000 and a 100,000 on the right.
Our based for a couple of hours under the trees and close to drink and food!
And behind us one of those wonderfully decorated and underpowered Isan tuk tuks.
A super glue being applied to all the fastenings.
Kid holds one end while dad (?) rams the explosive mixture into the other! Great photo. You can feel the effort 🙂
In the photos above I follow a launch from ground level to it’s furthest point in the sky for a video.
Two catherine wheels waiting for their moment of fiery glory.
Preparing one for take-off.
We don’t get the big wheels you may have seen on YouTube here n the north of Isan. Maybe Yasothon. further south, which is THE place to view Bun Bang Fai rockets.
Ready for the action video you might have watched above.
Following the outcome. Money is on the line.
This monk was buying a few small rockets for a young companion and he provides a colourful end to this post.
We have two more parties to attend before the big on in the town of Si Bun Ruang on the 8 & 9 June, where 12 moo bans combine to put on a show and let off rockets. Hopefully I can show you a one million being launched, but last year the military stopped them for air safety reasons.
Thanks for reading the inside and outside story of rockets in Isan. Please leave a comment.