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On the second weekend in May Yasothon in the northeast of Thailand celebrates its rocket festival (Bun Bang Fai), with which the locals ask one of their gods - Phraya Thaen - to send them rain. The provincial capital is a 100 km northwest from Ubon and usually does not see any tourists. The festival however, is an absolute attraction and attracts Thai people from all over the country a s well as an increasing number of tourists. Festivals like this can be found in many villages throughout the northeast of Thailand. In Yasothon however, it is bigger and more impressive than anywhere else. It is advisable to arrive a couple of days prior or at least to book a hotel room. Logically, hotel beds are scarce during festival times.  If both is not possible it might still be possible to find some accomodation. I was once “absorbed” by a policeman’s family for the first night, the next day the festival translator and contact for foreign guests invited me to his house, I stayed three weeks with the family, and in the following years I visited them again and again during festival times.

Long before the event happens village communities, clubs and companies arrange dance groups with musical accompaniment, and weeks in advance you can see them preparing their dances. Others get busy with preparing the rockets, and they all have their secret formulas for ensuring a successful flight. Some of them contain more than 100 kg of gun powder and are 50 ft long.

Picnic with members of "my family"


Presentation of the procession carts

1. Day:  The Parade

Saturday morning the festival is officially opened and following is a huge colourful parade through the main streets of town which lasts for several hours. The rhythm of the drums will make your legs vibrating, and despite the dancers’ and musicians’ discipline it has a carnevalistic and joyful character. The rockets are presented on elaborately arranged procession carts, most of them accompanied by contestants for the beauty queen’s crown. Later in the afternoon, when the procession is over, the town gets quiet again. People go back to their homes and go on celebrating among friends. 

Presentation of the rockets

accompanied with music

and dance

and beauties

another category



Cultivated chaos

 2. Day: The Rocket Launching

Sunday is the day when the festival gets to its culminating point. Outside of town, on fallow ricefields, launching platforms have been installed. One rocket after the other will then be installed and let off into the sky. There are different rocket classifications, depending on the  size. Contests go along with the launching. Which rocket stays the longest time in the air? Binoculars follow their ways. Some rockets explode on or near the ramp instead of flying high, beautiful to see that but sometimes it's dangerous (people have been killed who had stayed too close). In some areas the smell of Mekong and local Whiskey dominates the smell of gun powder, locals take a bath in the nearby pool and successful rocket launchers celebrate by taking a mud bath. Foreign guests are invited to join picnic, and the atmosphere is hilarious. Late in the afternoon, when the festival gets towards the end, the prizes are handed out: to the best group of dance performers, to the most beautifully draped procession carts, to the longest rocket flights and, not to forget, to Miss Bun Bang Fai!

Final preparations, applying the igniter

The rockets are adjusted and fixed on the ramp

Successful launch

Celebrating a successful launch

also with lots of spirit

not quite successful but beautiful

but this cannot spoil the people's cheerfulness

in any event they are having a lot of fun in the mud

and towards the end a beauty queen, Miss Bun Bang Fai


Back to:          Preface          The parade

Stand: 19.07.09