Rocket Festival of Yasothon

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. Somewhat unusual for May. Generally, 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 closes when loads of homemade rockets shoot into the sky, a spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. 

How it all started

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 stopped most celebrations this year, but there might be one or two villages allowed to hold the festival.

Quail birds for sale in the market Yasothon countryside
Enjoy local delicacies!

There is the main event in the city of Yasothon but many local festivals in the villages.

Dance in local folk costumes in Yasothon at the rocket festival
Dancing and partying.

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—bringing the whole landscape full of life and water.

I have travelled through North-Eastern Thailand during the hot and dry months. Indeed, I can witness that the atmosphere is very different from when farmers were cultivating rice.

Rockets for sale at the market. Yasothon.
Smaller rockets for sale at the market.

So indeed, the rocket festival is a meaningful ceremony to get the rain to kick off.

See the It’s better in Thailand video for a nice summary.

It appears 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!!

Look out for this festival in 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