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Bun Bang Fai - Ban Sa-At

Another rocket festival street party - published 19 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. In fact it has a lot of general fertility cymbals, which is pretty common in rural communities worldwide.

We headed out to a street party happening in a village called Ban Sa-At close to Si Bun Ruang for Bun Bang Fai, the Isan rocket festival. Four moo bans had combined resources to put on a great dance display with four separate music trucks and dance groups. Masses of photos as always.

Each moo ban (village) buys a different set of costumes every year and I have yet to see a dance group dressed in anything other than spectacular.  

And it is good to see that this village had both both males and females involved. Many of the dance groups are ladies only.

A closer view of the detail that goes into the presentation.

Each moo ban also contributes a ‘horse’ with a man and lady rider, always beautifully presented.

The party headed through the backstreets (sois) and then it all came together at a central community area where a combined dance presentation was made. It was a pleasure to be able to take some photos with a more natural background rather than the usual urban ugliness.

There’s always something more interesting on a phone than the reality in front of you.

Monks heading to the shade.

There’s a large lake hidden away at the back of this village. These are always utilitarian – they are there to supply water and that’s the end of story. You will not find cafes, bars and restaurants associated with the water, which is very much in keeping with the lakes in Canberra for any ex-neighbours reading.

Getting your Bun Bang Fai rockets blessed at the spirit shrine.

This was a new looking community area with vast expanses of concrete, which makes for very hot dancing in this case. Unfortunately if there were ever any larger shade trees they have been removed prior to development and it is unlikey any new ones will be added. Thais in mass rush to find shade in hot weather (most of the time) but when it comes to a choice between firewood and shade you can guess which one wins out. 

Very classy but in my defense it was hitting 40 degrees so we needed our liquids.

A typical Isan village scene before they destroy it all. A raised house (the wood has been replaced with iron probably due to termites) and water pots.

One way to stay cool.

Rocket activity. More tomorrow.

Two new monk ordination ceremonies built into the festival.

A lum band, see video below.

One moo ban contributed a lum (percussion) band. You can hire this group. I have seen them at other events outside their own village.

I love the dramantic colours set off with the lush greens of the vegetation.

Any guesses? A rubbish bin made from rubber tyres. You see them everywhere here.

The procession finshed at the local temple Wat Non Ngam Ban Sa-At, which I have covered previously. Google Maps HERE

See the wall in the photo above on the right? Last year we came across a guy who was in the process of creating one of those images out of stones on a building inside the wat. It was a painstaking process to select each individual stone and cement them in place.

He was choosing stone colours to create the images.

Weeks of work.

All for nothing because someone then decided that garlish was the way to go and painted right over all that hard work. Very sad.

Paid food and drink outside.

Free food inside the temple.

Free ice cream.

More free stuff. People give away the food and rinks to gain merit.

This is not a super special temple but it has tried to be a bit different. This treed area on the right as you enter is quite nicely done although largely neglected as you’d expect.

A picture frame for Buddha!

I am not having a special go at this bloke as he seemed like a decent bloke, but evidently he’s been coming here for 13 years and should know that you always dress appropriately when you visit a temple. If he’s ignorant then it’s his partner’s role to educate him!

The dance groups pass through the temple gates.

I took the photo because I wanted to capture the mix of colours.

One of the ‘themes’ of this temple is the use of stones to create stories and images in the walls like this one. 

A hot day and time for a siesta in one of the Buddha shrines!

Trucks unloading a stage for live music, which will kick off in the evening and carry on until late. Plenty of money spent on this event.

Daylight at nighttime!

Still room for a few more.

A fun if hot afternoon mixing with locals enjoying the efforts they had gone to as their contribution to Bun Bang Fai. Tomorrow we will return to view the rockets and I will report on how they are made and what they look like at launch in another post.

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  1. Jim Busby

    Break out the Lum Band, and get this party started. Very colorful and festive as always, despite the hot temps. That young girl with the umbrella looks absolutely charming, but very tired. Drinking beer to beat the heat, only to speed up the dehydration process from the alcohol (me too). That is one big hat that even a Texas cowboy would consider impressive. It’s sad the dancers, who are being the most activity, have to perform out in the open sun instead of just at one location that’s under cover. They use stones to tell stories like stained glass is used in cathedrals, but much sturdier. As for that shirtless bloke, I’m sure as long as the money flows his partner’s way she will let him dress (or, undress) any way he wants. Looking forward to the rocket festival post.
    The new layout looks very organized, and easy to read. Looks like you’re becoming quite the Word Press expert.


    • Tony in Thailand

      Thanks Jim. Sometimes the smaller events are more enjoyable because there’s more involvement and one is closer to the action. Yes, I know the rules about beer and heat 🙂 Somehow a street party and water just don’t add up!

      I totally agree with you on the situation with the dancers and the sun and will in fact go back to that post and make a comment. The community area looked fairly new and in typical Thai fashion everything would have been bulldozed prior to building, whether it needed it or not. How nice if that area was surrounded with large shade trees. It will never happen. When Thais gather in mass you will see them searching for shade but when it comes to choosing between cutting down a tree for a bit of firewood or shade you can guess which option wins.

      I watched a guy make one of those stone walls and he was using the colour of the natural stones to form the picture. A painstaking task. When I next came back they had just painted over his work. Not my role to judge others but in my eyes I think it was a shame. I might try to find those photos and add them to that post too. You are nothing but hard work Jim 🙂

      That farang did come over and introduce himself to me the next day at the rocket festival. He’s an English bloke and has been coming here for 13 years, although only part-time. One of the many delights I have with Gaun is that she passes on any information she can about Isan dos and don’ts and why things are the way they are. In my latest post about the rockets I add a few words about the basis for the betting that happens on each rocket. Gaun knew I wanted understand that aspect so she asked around until she found someone who could tell her and that was then passed onto me. 90% of the insights I publish about Isan life comes from Gaun, who knows how enthusiastic I am to absorb knowledge and pass it onto readers. Other farang are less interested, and that’s their choice, and their partners are less supportive for whatever reason.

      I was going to ask your opinion about the new layout. I am pleased that my number one supporter likes the format. I am almost caught up with indexing previous posts so can return to updating the blog with stories more often. A heap of catch up to share other than rockets.

      Cheers Jim.


  2. Gary Williams

    Blimey they did push the boat out in your town

    • Tony in Thailand

      It’s wall to wall parties this time of year Gary. Our moo ban is 25 & 26, the one next door 1 & 2 June and then a few more in-between until the big Si Bun Ruang (our local town) party on 8 & 9 June. Gaun is planning to hijack a saling (the motorbike and sidecar) of a neighbour and decorate it for our village party. If I said that should be interesting you will understand the understatement of my comment. Photos to follow without a doubt.




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