Thursday, July 31, 2014

Festival season: Buun Bung Fai and Phi Ta Khon

It's festival season in northeast Thailand and I've been traveling locally to take advantage of the cultural celebrations.  A few weeks ago was Buun Bung Fai, or Rocket Festival, just a few kilometers down the road at my friend and fellow PCV Keith's site.  This festival is celebrated every year in many locations throughout northeast Thailand prior to the beginning of the rainy season.  Northeast Thailand receives the least amount of rain compared to other regions of Thailand, even throughout the rainy season (July - October).  Rockets of all sizes are shot up in the air as a symbolic way of inviting the rains to come.  This celebration included a parade and plenty of local morlam dancing.

Parade floats

Dance performances

Rockets for sale
The following weekend I traveled to Dan Sai, Loei to see the Phi Ta Khon Festival, a celebration of spirits that includes a vast array of elaborately decorated, homemade masks worn throughout the weekend.  Ghosts and spirits are big in Thailand and many Thais have strong beliefs related to them.  A long time ago in Dan Sai people believed that ghosts came out of the forests to follow the Lord Buddha.  The weekend was full of a whole lot of masks, a parade, and of course food and dancing.

Mini ghosts - the kids were the cutest!

The masks are really incredible - fantastic designs and colors
So many ghosts, so many colors
Roaming the streets all weekend
Ghosts on bicycles
One giant mask in the parade
These men represent villagers that used to live in the nearby forests
Yaai (grandmother) overlooking the ghosts below
Dan Sai is a relatively small town and the festival doesn't usually see a lot of tourists, so sometimes it felt like we were as much of an attraction as all of the masks.  We spent a lot of time getting pictures taken of us and having people sneak into our pictures - such as the one below, that even the police wanted in on.  If only you could see the view from our angle, where a whole lot of cameras and phones were snapping pictures of all the farangs.