This year is quite different in many aspects here in Chiang Mai. The very early rains in April didn’t only stop the smog, but what seemed to be an early start of the rainy season, these April rains seems like a distant memory already. Now, there is thunder and lightning every night but no rain. Rather unusual for the month of May. Normally, the rainy season coincides perfectly with the bamboo rocket festival in the North-Eastern city of Yasothon. Sending these gunpowder loaded rockets, once upon a time, all made in bamboo(nowadays mainly in typical blue PVC) into the clouds would do the job to please the pre – Buddhism God of Phaya Taen.
The airspace above the region is closed when loads of homemade rockets are shot into the sky, a spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Legend says there was a fight between a toad king named Phaya Khan Khak, and Phaya Taen. This meant that no rains were sent for many years resulting in a lot of death down on earth. After their fighting stopped, Phaya Taen promised to send the rains every year.
Since we have some relatives in Yasothon, we have a tradition to go there and experience the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, one of the noisiest festivals in Thailand every year. It is a Thai festival so there will be food, a pageant beauty competition and a parade. Covid -19 seems to have stopped most celebrations this year, but there might be one or two villages that were allowed to hold the festival.
There is the main event in the city of Yasothon but many local festivals in the villages. We are always celebrating in the village.
This festival goes way back in history, it is mentioned by the French Explorers of Mekong as a tradition of Lao origin in the late 19th century.
It is a kind of merit-making to please the weather spirits. In Isarn(Isaan) the hot, and dusty season has always been as depressing as autumn can be to some people in Sweden. This is a time when you are waiting to let the dry rice fields go green again and make the whole landscape full of life and water. I have travelled a lot through North-Eastern Thailand during the hot and dry months and can witness that the atmosphere is very different compared to the time when the rice can be cultivated.
So certainly the rocket festival is an important ceremony to get the rain to kick off.
See the It’s better in Thailand video for a nice summary.
It appear that we really would need a few rockets to start the rains now. Steaming hot it is! Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!!
If you are interested in this festival for 2022, we hope that we are in a very different travel atmosphere at that time. You can use the address below for more details of when and where:
TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office
Tel. +66 (0) 4524 3770; +66 (0) 4525 0714