Each year throughout the country, between Lao New Year in mid-April to the beginning of the rainy season in June, Lao people celebrate in this hottest and driest period by launching homemade rockets (bang fai) into the sky to call for rain. The rockets are made in long lengths of PVC pipe or bamboo and paraded through villages with much fanfare, music, and dancing. In fields they are set up to launch upward to the heavens, so that they might send plentiful rain to help the coming rice crop. The festival is held locally on dates deemed to be auspicious by local monks and village elders, but there is usually at least one nearby celebration every weekend no matter where you are!
Above: Villagers set up the launching rack at a festival north of Vientiane.
Below: Spectators gather to watch and cheer for their favorite rockets.
Above: The annual festival in Vang Vieng is famous throughout the country.
Below: Rockets are usually launched in areas of mud or water – in case of any misfires or exploding rockets, the builders are dragged through the mud as a form of punishment.
Above: As rockets are used to bring rain, this festival is also a fertility rite, with phalluses paraded as well.
Below: A secret homemade gunpowder mixture is tamped into the rocket before parading to the launching rack.
Text by: JASON ROLAN
Photographs by: PHOONSAB THEVONGSA