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Boung Bang Fai or the Rocket Festival in Laos! 

The Rocket Festival in Laos - centered around launching “rockets” - typically lasts two to three days and is packed with fun activities. The rockets are believed to carry prayers to Phaya Thaen, the god of rain. People hope that the higher the rocket goes, the more rain they will receive for a bountiful harvest.

The Rocket Festival in Laos, also known as Boun Bang Fai, is a vibrant celebration held annually around May or June. It marks the sixth month of the lunar calendar and is a traditional ceremony believed to bring the rains so that rice planting can begin.

The festival typically lasts two to three days and is packed with fun activities. This festival is held only in some villages and not all of them go all the way out with a myriad of activities.The scale of the celebration varies from village to village. Larger villages and towns tend to have grander festivities with parades, competitions, and bigger, more elaborate rockets.

opt laos blog rocket festival games - Rocket Festival

Some of the most popular Boun Bang Fai celebrations are held in Luang Prabang, Xieng Kouang, Savannakhet, and the villages around Vientiane. Even in smaller villages, you’ll likely find some form of celebration, even if it’s just a gathering with a few rockets being launched.

If you follow us, you know we love partaking in all festivals. This year, we decided to go have a closer look at the festivities. A couple of weeks ago, we took the road for Ban Sibounheuang, Nan District, an hour and a half south of Luang Prabang. It was a day packed with food, merriment and rockets.

opt laos blog rocket festival food - Rocket Festival

Let’s be clear, we’re not talking fireworks here but rockets. Traditionally, the rockets were made from bamboo. The body of the rocket would be constructed from bamboo sections lashed together, and the fins would also be made of bamboo.

However, in recent times, some villages and participants are using more modern materials alongside bamboo, or even entirely replacing it.

Did some explode metres away from us, yes, yes, they did.

This is done in an effort to build bigger and higher-flying rockets. Some of the alternative materials you might see are: glass or metal piping for the rocket body, gunpowder (of course!) as the propellant, and combustible fillers like sawdust, charcoal, and rice husks. Did we see some high-flying rockets? Yes, we did. Did some explode metres away from us, yes, yes, they did.

Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

  • Merriment and Music: The festivities are filled with lively music and dance performances. People come together to celebrate, drink, and enjoy themselves.
  • Colorful Processions: There are elaborate processions with floats, dancers, and musicians making their way through the streets.
  • Rocket Making: Weeks before the festival, villagers and monks come together to build and decorate large rockets from bamboo. These rockets are a big part of the festival’s purpose and competition.
  • Rocket Launching:The culmination of the festival is the competitive firing of homemade rockets into the sky. The rockets are launched in fields on the outskirts of villages and towns. Villagers compete to see who can build the best decorated and highest-flying rocket.
  • Asking for Rain: The rockets are believed to carry prayers to Phaya Thaen, the god of rain. People hope that the higher the rocket goes, the more rain they will receive for a bountiful harvest. People also believe that Phaya Thaen can  protect the people throughout the year, keeping them healthy and strong and be able to work long and hars days in the fields thus resulting in a good harvest. 
  • A Touch of Mischief: There’s also a playful side to the festival. Men sometimes dress up as women and perform humorous acts to appease the gods. Traditionally, if a rocket fails to launch, its builder might get playfully thrown in mud or a pond!
opt laos blog rocket festival rocket - Rocket Festival

The Rocket Festival is a colorful and exciting way to experience Lao culture. If you’re lucky enough to be in Laos during this time, be sure to check it out!

There’s no evidence of other ASEAN countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, or the Philippines having a widespread celebration exactly like the Lao Rocket Festival. However, some countries might have their own variations of harvest festivals that involve offerings or rituals to appease deities for a bountiful harvest.

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