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SATURDAY, June 10, 2023
Isaan booming as fuse lit for annual Rocket Festival

Isaan booming as fuse lit for annual Rocket Festival

FRIDAY, May 19, 2023

Isaan skies are streaked with grey smoke trails from May to July every year, as locals launch Bang Fai or bamboo missiles to prod the rain god awake.

Celebrated in Thailand’s Northeast and Laos, the Bun Bang Fai rocket festival blasts off to summon clouds at the start of the rainy season around the end of May.

Bun” means merit while “bang” refers to the giant bamboo bodies of the missiles. “Fai” (fire) is what happens when fuses are lit and the sparks ignite the gunpowder packed inside.

The festival also features explosions of music, dancing and local parades, but the stars of the show are undoubtedly the homemade missiles, whose size and style varies from place to place.

According to local folklore, bang fai are launched into the heavens to petition Phaya Thaen, or the God of the Sky, to send down rain for the rice-planting season.

Locals believe that Phaya Thaen – also known as King Toad – holds power over the rain, wind and sky, and must be offered human tributes before he stirs up a storm. Any village that forgets to entertain him with the annual rocket bombardment risks drought and crop failure in the season to come.

Places to celebrate Bun Bang Fai

Provinces across the Northeast each have their own unique way of celebrating the festival, but all have one thing in common – giant rockets launched to surprisingly high altitudes.


Yasothon is famed for hosting some of the most raucous Bun Bang Fai festivals in villages on the banks of the River Chi.

The epicentre of this year’s celebrations is Phaya Thaen Park in Muang district, where a beauty pageant and music performances are the warm-up acts for the giant-rocket competition from today through Sunday (May 19-21).

Overseeing the events is King Toad himself, immortalised as a five-storey tourist attraction in the park’s Phaya Kan Khak Museum. The park is open every day except Tuesday and also features a giant Naga cave plus other attractions celebrating the province’s cultural landmarks.

Phaya Kan Khak Museum


The rocket festival is thought to have been celebrated for more than 150 years in one Kalasin village.

Inhabited by the Phu Thai ethnic group, the village in Kudwa subdistrict is launching this year’s festivities today and tomorrow (May 19-20). Activities include a parade of Phu Thai in all their traditional finery culminating in the countdown to blast-off.

Khon Kaen

The third-largest city in Isaan made headlines in 2018 when locals launched what may be the most powerful bang fai on record, packed with 120 kilograms of gunpower. However, the festival was cancelled over the past couple of years due to Covid.

Expect celebrations to return with a bang this year at the main launchpad outside the Kranuan district office next weekend (May 27-28).

Si Sa Ket

Si Sa Ket manages to weave its renowned silk-making tradition into the annual Bung Bang Fai festival.
The "Bun Bang Fai and Silk” event in Bueng Bun district features a beauty pageant, fashion shows, and parade before the missiles are unleashed.

Roi Et

The traditional Bung Bang Fai parade in Suvarnabhumi district is reputed to be among the most beautiful in the country. But neighbouring Phanom Phrai district is where the rockets are actually launched.

This year, the celebrations centre on the Muang Suvarnabhumi monument between May 27 and June 4.

The Rocket Festival is also observed in other parts of the country where Isaan people have settled. Look out for fireworks and parades in Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Phetchabun, and Narathiwat.

Isaan booming as fuse lit for annual Rocket Festival