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Fah Thai Magazine May-June 2017

HAPPENINGS VIETNAM /

HAPPENINGS VIETNAM / LAOS / CAMBODIA HO CHI MINH / LUANG PRABANG / PHNOM PENH SPOTLIGHT Night Sky Revels A BANG FOR RAIN The folks in Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos, as well as those in northeastern Thailand, look skyward in May. The riverside town will be celebrating the rocket festival, or Boun Bang Fai, marking the growing season. Held around the May full moon, the annual festival sees locals fire home-made rockets made of bamboo and plastic tubes into the clear blue skies in an homage to the heavens. The furiously flying rocket, says a Laotian legend, is a reminder to the Rain God that the time has come to deliver downpours to aid the growing season. A few days before the launch day, the locals leave their routine work behind, and head to the temples for rocket making. Apparently, the folks of Luang Prabang don’t need quantum physics to make their rockets fly into the blue sky. Led by local monks, who seem to have the formula, these rural engineers put gunpowder inside a long pipe. The secret lies in how to make the rocket fly high – instead of going backwards. Out there, on the empty rice fields of Luang Prabang, the crowds will gather for the best show in a rocket launch. The smaller rockets shoot upwards in a fancier manner while the large ones look too threateningly big to fly. But looks and a paint job are not the main deal with the “bang fai”. The secret lies in how to make the rockets fly high and in the right direction. The higher the rockets go, say the locals, the more rain will come. Ho Chi Minh rooftops will forever be remembered for the iconic images at the end of the Vietnam War. American helicopters frantically evacuated people in the chaotic final days. Before the war’s end, journalists, secret agents and their facilitators hung out at the Rex Hotel rooftop. Four decades later, at a different rooftop, one of the city’s busiest rooftops buzz not with helicopters but with revellers. The Chill Skybar on the top of AB Tower provides hipsters, artists, young entrepreneurs and beautiful people a panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh’s skyline. Check out the outdoor bar for the view and Ho Chi Minh skyline. The city glows in the dark, as you nurse a drink in hand. As the view is breath-taking with the city lights twinkling below, party-goers are advised to book ahead and dress to impress. 26th Floor AB Tower, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, chillsaigon.com, +84 93 882 28 38 OXEN PREDICTION Bowls of rice, corn, sesame seeds, beans, grass, water and wine will be offered to sacred oxen at Veal Preahmein Square in Phnom Penh on May 14, as Cambodians break ground on the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. Preah Reach Pithi Chrort Preah Neang Korl, as The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is known in the Khmer language, is traditionally held every year in May to mark the beginning of the agricultural production and rainy season. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been observed for many centuries at the initiative of an earlier Khmer king who had paid great attention to farming conditions of the people. A practice at the end of a symbolic ploughing procession before His Majesty the late King Norodom Sihanouk, the royal oxen were relieved of their harnesses and led to seven golden trays containing rice, corn, sesame seeds, beans, grass, water and wine to feed. Depending on what the oxen eat, soothsayers will make a prediction on whether the coming growing season will be bountiful or not. Visitors can enjoy the ceremony by going to Veal Preahmein Square. The ceremony is also celebrated in Thailand and Laos. 110