Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rocket Season Is Almost Here ... Well; Actually There

Ban That Rocket Festival
May is a busy month in Isaan.  It is the typical end of the dry season and the start of the rainy season.

With the onset of the rainy season, the Lao Loum people can commence to focus on planting this year's crop of rice.  For many people this is not merely job opportunities but a matter of survival.  If they do not grow rice this season, the family does not eat for the next year.

Launch Crew Preparing A Smaller Sized Rocket

Traditionally the return of the rains is facilitated by launching homemade rockets into the sky in merit making activities called "Bun Bang Fei".  Bun Bang Fei range from launching a hand full of relatively small rockets from the local Wat on any given afternoon to internationally known  three to five day festivals where some of the rockets contain up to 350 pounds of gunpowder.

With this being Isaan, the festivals are always a great party complete with parades, morlam shows, pageants, religious rituals, carnival rides, drinking, dancing, drinking, foods of all sorts and drinking.  They are definitely culturally unique events and a photographer's delight.

The Launch Is Underway!

The biggest and most internationally known festival is held in Yasothon at Phaya Thaen Park.  This year the festival will be from Friday 11 May to Sunday 13 May.  The rocket competition will be on Saturday starting in the morning until the late afternoon.

Rocket On It's Way To Some Rice Paddy

I will be back in Thailand during that period but my wife does not want me to drive so far from our home so I am hoping and trying to determine if the Ban That Rocket Festival will be held while I am back in Isaan.  We have attended the Ban That Festival before and enjoyed it very much .  It is much closer to our home so I have clearance to go to it.

Not All Launches Are Successful But They All Make A Big Bang!
I suspect that besides worrying about me driving a long distance alone along Thailand's country roads, Duang is concerned about my personal safety.  Often people are injured at these festivals due to exploding rockets.  Sometimes people are killed at these festivals.  Yasothon Rocket Festival since it traditionally launches the largest rockets presents a greater danger.

At the Ban That Rocket Festival, a rocket exploded on the launch pad in front of me.  For me it was exciting and a chance to get a close-up photo of the fragments around me. The rocket that exploded probably had around 20 to 25 pounds of gunpowder in it unlike some of the 300 pound monsters launched in Yasothon.  Duang came running over and was quite concerned.  I was there after relegated to vantage spots further from the launch pads.

What Went Up, Came Down In Some Far Away Rice Paddy
Yeah, it can be dangerous but it is always exciting and definitely interesting.  I can not imagine such festivals being held in the USA.  How on Earth could you get permission from the Dept of Homeland Security to have such fun?  How many governmental agencies would have to review and approve such a festival? 

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