April 2, 2017
Where the local people pray to their gods and spirits for the much needed rain, with a mixture of song, dance and colour
When: 7-12 May 2017
Where: Ban Nong Si Charoen, Ban That, Phen, Udon Thani
Bong Fai Festivals are held every year in most parts of Northeast Thailand, from May – June. It is said that the rocket festivals have a long history that can be mapped all the way back when the local tribes were ruled by Lao kings.
This annual festival in Udon Thani, is known by a number of names including Boon Bungfai Lan, Legend of Ma Kham Lai and Ma Kham Lai, (งานประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟล้านตำนานม้าคำไหล). The event is in the main, an Isaan call to the god of rain Tan, (Phaya Thaen) and Phosop the goddess of rice, to ask for both the much needed rain and a bountiful harvest.
Intermingled with this regional wide event, is a local legend surrounding the horse belonging to the once ruler of the region, Phra Srithat, who was said to have visited his people in their villages on horseback.
For more on the many Rocket Festivals in Thailand and some, of what goes on in them see our post Rocket Festivals in Thailand.
For details on the largest and strangest see our post Yasothon Rocket Festival.
Udon Thani – Ma Kham Lai ritual
Each year the local people will perform the Ma Kham Lai ritual, when they ask for the long deceased ruler and his horse to appear once more. Those that carry out these proceedings are dressed in black clothing, adorned with colourful cloth, they will later will dance in a procession, accompanied by local musicians around the village, with two people playing the two central roles.
There is also a fireworks display and a firework competition, along with a beauty pageant, kick boxing bouts and a number of folk presentations including the Ramwong dance, a type of Southeast Asian dance where both females and males dance in a circle.
It is a popular folk-dance in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. It is a slow round dance continuously moving in a circular manner, and incorporates graceful hand movements and simple footwork. Both men and women participate in the same circle.
As with any time you visit this region of Thailand, you can expect to receive a warm welcome from both its people and its fiery food.
While this festival is not on the scale of the biggest Isaan event that of Yasothon Rocket Festival, nor does it have the sexual innuendos of its vastly bigger near neighbour, it is still a time for local people to offer thanks and to ask, for the gods and spirits to bring forth the much needed rain.
For more on what Isaan people will do when the rain fails to appear. See our post Using cats, porn & snakes to make rain in Thailand
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