Beginning on the 11th of May and running until the 15th, following the traditions of a good Thai celebration, the Koh Samui Rocket Festival will launch into the skies over the Gulf of Thailand, and with it aiding in the main celebrations that are being simultaneously held in the northern province of Isan.
The Thai people of Koh Samui will celebrate the Bun Bang Fai Festival, otherwise known as the Rocket Festival, popularly observed in the province of Yasothon by the Isan people. Homemade bamboo rockets are fired into the skies to induce Phra Isuan, the Hindu god, Shiva, to drench the parched earth. The rite is associated with Phya Naak, whose image often decorates the rockets.
Born from the traditional beliefs of the Isan people, the sprightly Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, the most celebrated of Isan’s merit-making rituals is essentially an annual ritual to ensure that the seasonal rains fall at the appropriate time during the planting cycle. In the process, Buddhist merit-making traditions are observed and reinforced. Like many of the Thai festivals, Buddhist monks are in attendance for the ceremony. The rockets, launch platforms and other decorations for this event, are prepared for several weeks prior to the actual event. The average rocket is approximately nine metres in length, and carries 20 -25 kilograms of gunpowder. Originally the rockets were contrived out of natural materials, but today during modern rituals, they tend to be a little more sophisticated, except for the aspiring amateurs who manufacture their own versions out of whatever they can find. These rockets sometimes prove to be the highlight of the show, as the results after lighting their quick fuses vary from spiralling missiles to simple ground explosions. In order to make the Rocket Festival more interesting and fun, various competitions are held, sporting categories such as the biggest, and the highest-flying rocket.
The festival also captivates an important fertility significance that involves the rockets and the clouds, the rain and the waterless fields. One really does not need an over active imagination to guess at the sexual connotations involved. The festival celebrated on Koh Samui often involves wandering minstrels who weave among the crowds singing hilariously bawdy songs about the dirty deeds that we all get up to, when the mood is right. For the islanders it provides the opportunity for one final party before the hard work of planting and tending the fields gets underway.
On Samui the main villages will hold parades that will culminate to a finale in the local temples. Follow them as they lead you to the areas where giant rockets are prepared to wake the gods.