Northern hemisphere readers may have had enough of seasonal precipitation, but in Laos and north-eastern Thailand they are celebrating the rain in Bun Bang Fai or The Rocket Festival.
Home-made rockets called Bang Fai
Celebrations commence with music and dance, the second day sees a procession of floats, dancers and musicians and the whole thing finishes with a flourish as participants release home-made rockets called Bang Fai. Bang Fai are traditionally made from bamboo pipes, although modern ones tend to use the safer option of PVC pipes with bamboo tails attached to ensure stability. The rockets are lit with a fuse and each contestant makes their own charge. The success of a rocket is judged by the height and distance it reaches as well as the beauty of the vapour trail. The rockets come in various sizes; the smallest are Bang Fai Noi the largest being Bang Fai Lan, which are nine meters long with a 120kg charge.
Not all the rockets will meet a fiery end; Bangfai Ko are decorated rockets mounted on floats or oxcarts. These are often adorned with Naga heads which are sometimes designed to squirt water into the crowd. Talking of rockets and rocket fuel, we should be remiss if we didn’t mention the local tipple ‘Sura’ which has 40-percent alcohol content - that’s sure to get the party off with a bang!