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Bun Bangfai

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The Rocket Festival (Thai: บุญบั้งไฟ Bun Bangfai) is an ancient Lao festival dating to prehistoric times. According to Lloyd H. Cornett, Jr. it is significant in the history of rocketry. It continues to take place in a number of locations both in Isaan (Northeast Thailand) and in Laos, but it is most vigorously and most famously celebrated in Isan's Yasothon province. It is held in May, in the sixth lunar month. Originating in pre-Buddhist times, it is a fertility rite held to celebrate and to encourage the coming of the rainy season. As such, it is the most sexual and bawdy festival in Lao culture. Coming immediately prior to the planting season, the festival also offers a last chance to relax before this work gets underway.


Festival Weekend

As of 2005, the Yasothon version of the festival spread over three days in the middle of May. After preliminary events on Friday (Wan Sook Dip), on Saturday the home-made, richly-decorated rockets are paraded through the town.


Owing to the fertility rite origins of the festival, parade ornaments and floats often sport phallic symbols and imagery. Amid the festive atmosphere, dirty humour is widespread. A fair is held on Saturday evening, involving cross-dressing and large quantities of alcohol. Among the unique beverages to be found are "Lao Whiskey" (sometimes known as "Lao Lao" (Thai: เหล้าลาว), literally "Lao alcohol", but known more commonly as "Lao Khao" (Thai: เหล้าขาว, literally "white alcohol") and sato (Thai: สาโท), a brewed rice-alcohol similar to Japanese sake.


The rockets are launched on the Sunday. The winners of the competition are those whose rocket flies the longest, while those whose rockets misfire are either covered with mud, or thrown into a mud puddle. While popular and entertaining, the festival is also dangerous, with spectators occasionally being injured or even killed by the rockets. On May 10, 1999, a Lan 120 kg rocket exploded 50 meters above ground, just two seconds after launch, killing five persons and wounding 11.[2]


The Rockets

While the Thai language word for rocket is 'jaruat' (Thai: จรวด), 'Bang Fai' (Thai: บั้งไฟ) is the name used uniquely for the rockets of the Rocket Festival.


While the traditional style of Bang Fai were, and still are, constructed of bamboo, many of the contemporary rockets are constructed of pvc piping, with long bamboo tails.


The rockets come in various sizes, broken down into three groups: The small Bang Fai, or 'Noi' (Thai: น้อย), the medium-sized Bang Fai, or 'Meun' (Thai: หมื่น), and the largest Bang Fai, the 'Lan' (Thai: ล้าน). The 'Lan' rockets can be nine metres long and carry up to 120 kg of gunpowder. The larger rockets routinely reach altitudes of kilometers, and travel dozens of kilometers down range.


Extracted from Wikipedia: Rocket Festival

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