Around North Eastern Thailand at this time of the year many towns and villages hold their annual Bun Bang Fai festival, often called the “Rocket Festival” in English although it is more than just big boys playing with (explosive and dangerous) big toys !
My new home in rural Ubon Ratchathani held it’s festival last weekend, with music and dancing along the main street on day 1, followed the next day by the rockets and a morlam show just outside of town. The festival is one of the highlights of the year, and is traditionally the last chance for many people to party before the hard work of the rice season really gets under way.
Each of the muu baan (sub-districts) enter their own team, as well as teams from the schools :
(click for larger version)
Although not quite as ribald as some of the things I saw at the Phi Ta Korn (Ghost Festival) I saw at Dan Sai at few years ago some of the non dancing participants were a bit “naughty” :
They are fertility symbols, hoping to bring a good crop this rice growing season.
On day 2 there was a morlam show, with the usual food and alcohol stalls, in one area while “safely” on the other side of a large pond was the launch area for the rockets. The music was OK, but even by early afternoon there were too many drunks around for it to be really enjoyable. Too many of them wanted to come and glad-hand the very visible farang outsider !
The missus was not really feeling comfortable so we went for a quick look at the rockets on the other side of the pond. The rockets come in various sizes, called from muen (“10,000”) to lan (“1,000,000”), and also Catherine wheel ones that spin around. At our festival it was only the small meun sized rockets, but at the bigger and more famous festivals such as Yasothon’s they would have many of the Lan sized rockets, 9 metres long fuelled by 120kg of highly explosive powder.
If anybody wants to read up more on the big rockets then hop over to TonyinThailand where he has details on how they are made.
The smaller rockets here were all hand made I think, certainly they were being fuelled up on site :
Basically they are a PVC tube filled with black powder fuel, inside another metal tube with sand in between the two tubes, with a bamboo tail tied on for a bit of stability.
There was a proper, but now disused metal launch tower for the big rockets, nowadays for the smaller rockets they just lash some bamboo together and prop it up against a tree:
Finally everything is ready and the launch pad is cleared to a safe distance of ….oh, about 20 meters will do ….
Points are awarded for height, flight duration, and the smoke trail, naturally there will be people gambling on the results ! Of course, what goes up has to come down…… Sometimes they are fitted with a parachute, but most just fall wherever they will. Probably not a good idea to live down range ? They can reach a height of several kilometers, so one falling through the roof of your house would be a nuisance… 😦
And a few more pics :
A postscript : at one of the rocket festivals held further north this year, one of the rockets ignited prematurely and went flying through the crowd, killing at least one person and injuring others.