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Study Trip

Rocket Festival - Bun Bang Fai

Friday 12 – Sunday 14 May, 2017
Leader: Khun Ruth Gerson, Member of the Siam Society

 

 

The Rocket Festival, known in Thai as Bun Bang Fai, is a folk festival that lasts three days. It is traditionally practiced in Isaan and Laos in numerous villages and municipalities before the start of the rainy season, with the purpose of bringing down rain. This festival is an annual plea to the god of rain for plenty of rainfall. According to legend Phaya Thaen, who was the most powerful in heaven and in charge of regulating of rainfall in the world, was angry with the animals on earth. To punish them he stopped the rain completely causing distress to all creatures. It was known that the god liked the gift of fire, so the people began sending fiery rockets up into the sky to appease him, hence the rocket festival. The festival includes displays of ramwong dancing and parades of floats carrying rockets from different villages and temples down the town’s main street. These compete as most artistic and impressive, culminating in the competitive firings of home-made rockets.

On Friday 12 May, after arrival in Ubon Ratchathani by plane, Khun Ruth Gerson will bring members to see heritage sites of Yasothon. The group will travel by bus which takes around one and a half hour. The sites to visit are; Wat Maha That - the Buddhist temple of the holy relic. The ancient temple houses “Phra Buddha Butsayarat” also known as “Phra Kaeo Yot Nam Khang”, in attitude of meditation in the Chiang Saen Art style. King Rama III gave this Buddha image to Yasothon’s first mayor Phra Sunthon Rachawongsa. Other structures at the temple are; Phra That Yasothon or Phra That Anon (dedicated to Buddha’s disciple Ananda) is located in front of Ubosot, housing the ashes of Ananda inside. The stupa mirrors Lao art style which was popular from late Ayuthaya period to early Rattanakosin. The stupa was built around 1778.  Ho Trai or Buddhist Scripture Hall is a pavilion used for keeping Buddhist scriptures located in a pond, built on stilts to prevent termites and pests from attacking the prayer books.

Wat Thung Sawang Chaiyapum, translating as a place of victory, is a nine-spire chedi that marks the campsite of the victorious Siamese army after defeating King Anouvong of Vientiane. There is a Buddha footprint inside the chedi and some figures. Wat Si Thammaram has impressive seima stones around the ubosot.

The group will visit Ban Khum Singha Tha, the old area whose name is found in the city's history. The area has beautiful colonial-style buildings which are well preserved and Museum Serpent Kark, which is a new museum highlighting local life. The building is in the shape of a five-floor toad and a large serpent structure nearby. Early evening, the group will proceed to observe the rockets that will be paraded the following day.

Saturday, 13 May is the day of competitions of rockets and street parades featuring traditional dance and accompanying musicians. The rockets are richly decorated mounted on traditional but highly decorated oxcarts, or modern floats. The principal themes of these floats are the legendary deities and other folk legends. Participating groups compete for prizes within their categories. The procession traditionally ends in a wat, where dancers and accompanying musicians may further compete in traditional folk dance. All groups prominently display the names of their major sponsors. Festivities also include cross-dressing and phallic items to emphasize fertility.

Sunday, 14 May is the day of competition launching rockets that are judged for height and distance they travel, with extra points given to rockets that create an exceptionally beautiful vapor trail. Those whose rockets misfire are either covered with mud, or thrown into a mud puddle.

Please note that the group will proceed from Ubon Ratchathani to Yasothon and come back to stay overnight at a hotel in Ubon Ratchathani every day. The distance between two provinces is 104 km and takes around one and a half hour.

The group will depart on Friday 12 May from Don Muang Airport for Ubon Ratchathani by Nok Air, flight DD9312 at 07:25 a.m. and on Sunday 14 May will depart from Ubon Ratchathani for Bangkok Don Muang Airport by Nok Air, flight DD9319 at 07:05 p.m., arriving at Don Muang Airport at 8:05 p.m.

Booking

Bt. 19,900 (Bt. 21,800 for non-members). This covers transportation by Nok Air, Bangkok – Ubon
Ratchathani – Bangkok, a bus, accommodation for 2 nights, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners,
entrance fee to a museum, and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. Single room surcharge Bt. 1,200.

Booking details:

Your booking will be confirmed as soon as full payment has been received.

Please pay by cash or cheque payable to ‘The Siam Society’. Alternatively, you can transfer the
money to the Siam travel account at the Thai Military Bank, Asoke Branch saving account
no.053-2-18000-7. Please fax or email the deposit or transfer docket to us. In case, the tour has to be cancelled due to insufficient participants, a full refund of the deposit will be made.

There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. A photocopy of passport or ID card must accompany the booking.

 

 

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.
To initiate this programme a minimum of 10 participants will be required.

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Pinthip.