Author Topic: Yasothon: Blast off at rocket festival  (Read 1989 times)

Offline Johnnie F.

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Yasothon: Blast off at rocket festival
« on: May 03, 2013, 10:40:54 PM »
Blast off at rocket festival

YASOTHON, 2 May 2013: Yasothon province hosts its famous rocket festival, 6 to 12 May, with teams from four Asian nations joining the festivities.

The objective is to blast a rocket skywards in a perfect trajectory from launch sites at the provincial town’s Chang Sanit Road, opposite City Hall and Phraya Than Park.

TAT Ubon Ratchathani office director, Wichukorn Kularbsri, said the most important days to watch the rockets are 10 to 12 May.

Known locally as Bun Bang Fai Yasothon the event also features other activities leading up to the rocket displays on the third day.

Teams are competing from Laos, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea. Winners are mainly decided on the power and ascent time of the rockets. Ceremonial rockets are judged on their appearance after they are paraded through town, but they are not used in the competition.

Essentially, Bun Bang Fai or the rocket festival is a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people and Thais born in I-san (Northeast Thailand). The festival is usually held just before the rainy season to possibly remind guardian spirits to call in the rainy season. Once the rains start farmers can plant their rice in fields cleared during the dry season.

The festival is celebrated across the northeast. The main festival towns are Udon Thani and Khon Kaen, while Yasothon province is the big star where the rocket festival is celebrated on the grandest of scales.

Local bands entertain at concerts and spectators enjoy the Mor Lam Sing dances. The entertainment continues throughout the night with an enthusiasm only found in I-san.

During 7 to 9 May, the rockets are assembled and tested.

On 10 May, the street parades begin to show off the rockets or Bang Fai Ko. These richly decorated rockets are mounted on traditional decorated oxcarts. Most of the Bang Fai Ko cannot be fired as they are too heavy with all the decorations. The serious rockets are left at the launch pads and are quite drab in apperance when compared to their ceremonial brethren.

The theme of the rocket parade comes from the Nang Ai Phadaeng legend so they are adorned as Nang Ai, a female character or Phadaeng, a male character in the legend.

On 11 May, the rocket parade takes place with  teams from Thailand and four competitive nations.

Finally on 12 May, the Bang Fai competition takes off in earnest. Rockets are judged by the height and the distance travelled. Extra points will also be given to those who can decorate vapor trails with colours.

If a rocket fails to ignite, or goes adrift, it is quickly thrown into a mud pond, a tradition derived from the legend, but it also helps to cool down the rocket and prevent further explosions.

Other activities include Bang Fai cultural performances, a Bang Fai Ko beauty queen contest, food fair and OTOP products.

The most convenient way is to fly to Ubon Ratchathani airport from Bangkok and then take a mini-van transfer or rent a car to cover the 200 km to Yasothon. Three airlines currently fly to Ubon Ratchathani from Bangkok: Thai Airways (two flights daily); Air Asia (two flights daily) and Nok Air (four flights daily).

Ubon is on the southern northeast rail line so it is possible to travel by train and then transfer to a provincial bus service for the trip to Yasothon.

There are daily bus services from Bangkok’s Mor Chit terminal in Chatuchak district. The air-conditioned buses take around 10 hours to complete the trip. Definitely, this is the cheapest way to get there, but inter-city bus transport in Thailand is not a safe option and TTR Weekly does not recommend it.