What do you do when it’s hot, dry and you want it to rain? Shoot rockets into the clouds … at least that’s what the men of Muang Nan do every year in the month of May.
The Boun Bang Fai (otherwise known as the Rocket Festival) is an annual Buddhist celebration that happens in various locations across Laos. One of the best places to witness this thrilling event is Muang Nan, located 75 kilometres south-west of Luang Prabang town.
The festival takes place in a different village in the district each year, with locals spending the weeks leading up to the event making their rockets. The festival runs for three days and includes music and dance performances, floats being paraded through the town, and an evening fireworks display. On the third day over 100 home-made rockets are launched into the sky …a true spectacle.
Bang Fai (rockets) are made from long pieces of bamboo (some up to nine metres in length) and PVC piping that has been stuffed full of gunpowder. They are then hoisted up onto bamboo scaffolding where they are ignited. The aim is to create a rocket that makes the loudest bang, the biggest plume of smoke and goes the highest.
The festival is held in the hottest, driest part of the year. There are many folk tales surrounding this event. Some say the rockets pierce holes in the clouds to bring on the wet season. Others say the festival is about waking up the Rain God. The event is also a celebration of fertility and a way for locals to make merit in order to ensure their crops are successful for the coming season.
Will you join the rocket festival fun with the people of Muang Nan next year in May? For more information contact the Luang Prabang Tourism Office.