After the mayhem of Songkran I started to look around for another crazy festival to attend and the rocket festival celebrated by Lao peoples in Laos and northeastern Thailand fitted the bill perfectly.
Bun Bang Fai, as it is called in Lao, sounds utterly bonkers. Ostensibly a rain making festival to ensure a successful planting season, Bun Bang Fai focuses on bamboo rockets fired into the sky to persuade the rain to fall but can be so much more than that. So, so much more than that if the things I’d read on the internet were to be believed.
A chance to catch fire with lots of pissed up temporary transvestites prancing about with wooden dicks?
Cross dressing, phallic symbology, pornographic imagery, a reckless disregard for health and safety, and comprehensive drunkenness are other features of Bun Bang Fai. There is a religious aspect too but, frankly, who cares about that when presented with a chance to catch fire with lots of pissed up temporary transvestites prancing about with wooden dicks.
Had our quota of visa free entries into Thailand not run out we would have headed to Yasothon, the biggest such festival in the region and somewhere we had managed to obtain concrete dates. Instead we had to get out of the country and apply for a Thai tourist visa in Laos and thought we might be able to find a rocket festival there.
Initially we were optimistic but soon learned the festivals are announced only a few days before they are held. After failing to get any concrete information out of the tourist office in Savannakhet we got on with our lives in the sleepy town before heading to even more comatose Don Det.
One of the four thousand islands and sandbanks set in the Mekong River across from Cambodia, we wasn’t expecting a rocket festival in Don Det. I assumed the people there wouldn’t appreciate being woken from their afternoon naps by rockets whizzing and banging in the sky.
Don Det’s festival is a smaller and more sedate affair; aside from a few cross dressing backpackers there were no wooden dicks or pornography to be seen but the rockets flew straight and true and after a week doing nothing but laying around in a hammock we were happy with that.
These people put down their spliffs, got up from their hammocks and out from under their shop counters to enjoy the show
Don Det’s rocket festival is a little more sedate than elsewhere. We didn’t see any wooden dicks or porno but a couple of foreigners put on a frock for the occasion
Failed rocketeers are thrown in the mud but all the launches we saw were successful
It’s still not raining. Let’s try again
Whoop, yeah. In your face clouds
That was a good one. And, one, two, three, four… yep, we’re all still in one piece too
Much like everyone on Don Det, the rockets can get impressively high
It’s getting dark…
Job done. Well done everyone. Wish I’d brought an umbrella