The Rocket Festival in Laos and Thailand
Can you hear? The clouds are calling, the rain starts falling and gunpowder ignites rocket’s hauling…
Thailand and Laos are home to a very special kind of festival at this time of the year. The Rocket Festival marks the end of the dry season and calls in for the rains to bless the land. The traditional festival is known as Boun Bang Fai and prays for fertility of the soil for a successful harvest.
It is one of the most popular festivals of the year and takes place every mid of May till the beginning of June. People start building their own rockets already weeks, sometimes months in advance. The rockets are made out of bamboo, wood and are powered by gunpowder. Also glass and metal pipes are being used and of course plastic and paper. The rockets come in all kinds of size. Some are cute little kitchen rockets, others are looking more threatening. But no matter what they look like, they all have the same intentions. These intentions are to ask the Gods for a good harvest, free of pests, floods, excessive drought and other causes that may affect the harvest negatively.
Parades and launches
Ban Kouy in Borikhamxay province is home to the largest festival in the region and is located only two hours south of Vientiane. It all starts with a parade in which the rickets are being presented to the people. With rhythmic drums and traditional dances the parade becomes a fun spectacle before the launching appears. Just last month a group of people launched a rocket that weighed in over a ton. These racketeers have exceptional skills and techniques as it takes a lot of detailed attention and knowledge to power a rocket of that size into the air.
The festivals around the two countries is open to visitors from any religious background. The more the merrier! The launch sites are often empty plots of land around the village or town, so the rockets cannot harm any living creatures or nature. It is quite a spectacle to see how creative and how skilled the people are. Make your own judgement on who the most impressive or nicest decorated rocket has. To complete the festival, the people themselves also dress up with masks and extraordinary clothing. To ensure everyone takes the challenge of a flying rocket seriously; a failing rocket results in the entire team having to drink muddy water or rice wine. And even when it does fly, the rice wine is still part of the celebration…