Another beautifully lost dreamer with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Don’t Miss The Lao Rocket Festival

Last years annual rocket festival was held on the 25th May in Vang Vieng, Laos. To be honest with you, I’d never heard of this festival before, so when we were told about it by a local in a restaurant a couple of days before, I turned to my trusted friend Google to find out more. Bun Bang Fai (the Rocket Festival) is a Buddhist ritual held to encourage and celebrate the coming of the rain. It sounded interesting, so we decided to stay a couple of extra days and see what it was all about.

On the morning of the festival, the streets were full of excited locals making their way to the festival site on custom made floats. Their home made bamboo rockets tied on to the vehicles with dodgy looking rope and bright coloured banners, supporting their loved ones. The floats were in competition with each other, so as the morning went on, the floats got louder, with locals playing, what seemed to be Lao Pop music, dancing and singing with bottles of beer in their hands! It’s tradition for the Lao men to dress up as woman on Bun Bang Fai to celebrate fertility. Some of the outfits were brilliant; they certainly went all out with the fancy dress! I seem to also remember, as the night went on, graphic sexual images appearing on the floats, banners and the stage! Not what I was expecting, but hey… it’s a celebration of reproduction after all!

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We followed the party and made our way to the field where the festival was being held. There were people everywhere; cross dressing men, local woman, children and monks. There were not that many tourists, which I was surprised about. Such a mix of people made for a fabulous atmosphere. There were rides and game stalls for children, street food and a live band on stage with a huge dance floor surrounding it. Not to mention the biggest beer tent I’ve ever seen. Oh yes, the beer Lao sure was flowing!

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The rockets started taking off in to the blue sky. The loud bangs, silencing the crowd. Some were awesome, making it higher than the mountains. Others… not so good! A couple of rockets got stuck on the launch pad and started smoking. Health and safety wasn’t even thought about at this festival, a couple of times the launch pad even caught alight! But we were having too much of a good time to care about what could have happened! Each rocket that shot up trailed a memorising cloud of smoke, the whole festival cheering every time one made it up in the air! In between each rocket launch the band would sing. I really wish I could understand what they were saying, as one song in particular seemed pretty popular, the singer kept pausing to make orgasm noises over the microphone and making sexual movements with a guitar! Then of course Gangham Style was played and the entire field would break into that dance. Yes, I was definitely involved. Talk about surreal!

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We met some friendly locals, who we spent the majority of the day with. We drunk with them and danced into the night, they were great fun! It was lovely to hear about their backgrounds and traditions, exchanging stories and helping them improve their English.

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The rocket festival was by far my favourite day in Laos. Getting out there, meeting locals and embracing their culture. That’s what travelling is all about. If you’re heading to Laos in May, make sure you stick around for Bun Bang Fai, it’s an experience you won’t forget

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