Harking back to its fertility rite origins the festival parade ornaments and floats often are adorned with phallic symbols and imagery. The raucous activity also includes cross-dressing by both sexes and different ages all oiled by ample quantities of alcohol which results in lots of bawdy humor.
The large wonderfully decorated floats known as Bangfai Ko will be judged and awarded prizes. Accompanying dancers and musicians may also compete for prizes. Often wealthy sponsors will provide support both as a way of enhancing community prestige and as a method of attracting and redistributing wealth. Each float will usually be carrying a young couple known as Nang Ai Kham, queen of the pageant and her male champion Phadaeng the story behind which involves a legend well known to most Thais.
|Typical Bangfai Ko|
|Nang Ai Kham entrant in parade|
|Each village has a dance group|
|What a well dressed Khene player wears!|
|From young to old everyone enjoys watching or participating|
in size from relatively small ones (Bang Fai Noi) to the largest which pack 120 kg. of home brewed black powder Bang Fai Lan). These latter rockets are 9 meters long and both expensive and dangerous.The rockets themselves are made of bamboo bongs with more modern versions being enclosed in pvc pipes. Needless to say black powder and nozzle designs etc. can be a closely guarded secret in the competitive world of rural rocketry.The larger rockets can reach altitudes measured in kilometers and travel downrange up to several dozen kilometers. Rockets compete in each size class and are judged according to apparent height, distance and the beauty of their smoke trail.
|Rockets vary from small to those requiring winches to prepare for launching|
|Passing on the knowledge|
|Raising a large rocket for firing|
|Up up and away|
|There are spectacular failures|
|Villagers firing duds are often consigned to a mud wallow|
The largest and perhaps best known rocket festival is the annual three day event held in Yasothon in Northeastern Thailand (Esarn). However, rocket festivals of varying size are held all over Esarn and also in Northern Thailand. Lanna Thai Villa is located in Thoeng District, Chiang Rai Province and in the 1950's
several villages of Esarn migrants were established in the District and hence each Spring various of the villages combine to stage rocket festivals impressive for their size and overall good fun. We at the Villa look forward to guiding guests who come in May to observe and participate in this most fun and interesting cultural event.
Pictures appended to this post were all taken at festivals located no more than 10 km. from Lanna Thai Villa.