Naga Fireball's

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  Paya Naga Fireball's Nong Khai

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Each October The Legend The Legend Explained
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  In October each year

It was estimated that over 500,000 people visited Nongkhai to see for themselves the legendary phenomenon of the Paya Naga Fireball's - the Bang fai. It was destined to be a monumental display owing to the conjunction of the date of the end of Buddhist lent in both Laos and Thailand.

We can predict with reasonable certainty that the crowds will once again flock to see the event and that there may be even more than 500,000 this year.

So, book early. Book now because all hotels, guest houses and suchlike will sure to be full once again and there is nothing more uncomfortable than having to 'rough it' in the back of your car or cramped up in an overcrowded bus.

For those who are unfamiliar with this spectacular event the following information will be of interest.

  The Legend of the Paya Naga Fireball's

Monster or Myth?

Nongkhai is one of Thailand's northeastern provinces bordering Laos, the border running 320 kilometers along the Mekong River.

Embedded in the folklore and Buddhist way of life is the King of the Naga, a serpent-like creature, who is reputed to reside deep beneath the Mekong River in an underwater city, the Muang Badan.

Everything in their daily lives, from house building to the running of their schools, factories and hotels is influenced by their belief in the Paya Naga and its supernatural powers.

The people of Isan and their Laos neighbours on the opposite banks of the Mekong are closely related - so too are their beliefs in the Paya Naga and the mysterious Bang fai (Naga Fireball) that appear every year from beneath the waters of the Mekong on the last day of the Buddhist lent in October.

  The Legend Explained

Pra Kru Udom Phisaikanarak, the head monk of Wat Chomthong and Phon Phisai District Head monk (Cha Kana Amphoe) explained the history and legend of the Bang fai Paya Naga (Naga Fireball) - the natural and unexplained phenomenon of the fireballs coming from beneath the waters of the Mekong River.

paya naga fire balls

On the last day of the Buddhist Lent the people of each village located near the river at Amphoe Phon Phi-sai floated their fire-boats as a mark of respect and tribute to the Lord Buddha.

They then placed torches made of a substance of insect waste collected from trees on their 20 - 30 meters long bamboo boats to illuminate them.

The people all gathered together at the harbour (Tha Nam) in front of Wat Phadung Suk Nue, Once everything was ready they lit up their torches and launched their boats.

In order to make their boats look more spectacular some team members fired small Bang fai (rockets) and the circular Bang fai known as Talai into the sky. It was then that a curious and so far unexplained phenomenon occurred - some Bang fai were fired as if from under the water, as if the Paya Nagas wanted to participate in the event. This was hundreds of years ago and the phenomenon has occurred every year since.

This story has been passed down from generation after generation from father to son as witness of these natural phenomena. It is as mysterious as it is spectacular and the only place in the World where such a thing happens is Nongkhai.

It is also said that it is not only beneath the river that the underwater town or city exists. The Muang Badan as it is known is said to run throughout the whole geographical area of Nongkhai Province - the home of the Paya Nagas (Naga Fireball's).

It is also believed that during the three month Buddhist Lent period was when the Buddha went up to the heavens to preach to his mother. On the last day of lent he visited our world. On this occasion the people show him their highest respect and hold such celebrations all along the Mekong and particularly in the area of Nongkhai Province where the Paya Nagas reside. This is the area where the Bang fai (Naga Fireball) of the Paya Nagas appear.

The Full Moon of the eleventh Lunar Month in 2009 will be on 4 October 2009, (1-7 October 2009 is by TAT made, Naga Fireball Festival in Nongkhai).

  The Bang fai Paya Nagas (Naga Fireball)

The King of the Naga Fireball's are a natural, unexplained phenomena. There have been no extensive studies or research done which have either proved or disproved such phenomena. The Naga Fireball's shoot up from beneath the flowing waters of the Mekong River, red and pink in colour, climb into the air some ten to fifty meters high before disappearing without noise or smoke. It is a truly strange and inexplicable sight but beautiful and wonderful to see.

The red and pink fireballs are believed to come from the underwater city of Muang Badan, sent by the King of the Nagas to celebrate the last day of the three-month long Buddhist lent. They appear from both sides of the river, Thai and Laos at random, sometimes near to the shore or sometimes in the middle of the river. Their supernatural appearance is unlike anything that could be man-made.

The times for them to appear are from 6 p.m. to 2.a.m. on the night of the full moon of the 11th lunar month. The total number of fireballs appearing is unpredictable - sometime only fifty but more often than not one hundred to a thousand or more.

  Where to watch the Bang fai Paya Naga (Naga Fireball)?

01: The Office of Amphoe Sang Khom District Hall.

02: Ang Pla Bug, Ban Pha Thang, Amphoe Sang Khom.

03: Wat Hin Mak Peng, Luang Phoo Test built this temple, located at Amp Mai. It is believed that this river area is the gate to the underwater city of Muang Badan.

04: Ban Hin Ngom. Tambon Hin Ngom, Amphoe Myaung Nongkhai.

05: Pak Huay Wang Hoo, Ban Jom Manee, Amphoe Muang Nongkhai.

06: Nam Wan Tha Luang Harbor, Pal Huay Luang, Amphoe Phon Phi-sai.

07: Wat Choom Phon Harbor, Wat Chom Thong, Amphoe Phon Phi-sai.

08: Nong Suang, Amphoe Phon Phi-sai.

09: Wern Phra Suk, Sai Ruam Chok Harbor, Amphoe Phon Phi-sai.

10: Pak Huay Phay, Ban Nam Phay, King Amphoe Rattana Wari.

11: Wat Pheng Chan Nue, King Amphoe Rattana Wapi.

12: Ban Pak Kart, Ral Kart Muan Chone, Huay Kart, Amphoe Rak Kart.

13: Khang Ar-Honge Silia Wart, Ban Ar-Honge, Tambon Huang, Bung Kan.

  True or not ?

The Controversy

Every year thousands of people gather around the shores of Scotland's Loch Ness in the hope of catching sight of the creature that has been affectionately named NESSIE. So far however there have been no truly authenticated sightings, nor has anyone captured the serpent-like creature on camera, at least not with an image that can be believed - its existence remains a total mystery.

Not so the PAYA NAGA, a similar serpent-like creature that lives in the depths of the Mekong River. If fact, not one but many Nagas have been seen by many people and a reliable image captured on camera and on video. American servicemen caught a King of the Naga.

Of the men who hoisted the fish, only eight or nine survive to this day. They had a reunion in Udorn Thaini Province - Thailand - where there worked - three years ago. Five died in the Laos war, many of the others have died in the 33 years since the picture was taken, at least three of them horribly. The picture was taken 1968.

Source ::
»Charley Hallman«   ®2002

paya naga fire balls

The beast, with a head of dragon-like features and a body of 7.80 meters long was taken from the Mekong by electric fishing. It was sent to America for investigation but unfortunately did not survive. Nevertheless, it was authenticated simply by its capture by the American servicemen.

The experts at an American Piscatorial society examined it meticulously and found: -

1: That this was a unique creature not seen or captured before.

2: That it was a creature of the river and not from the sea.

3: That it had green blood.

Disagreement with this story comes from one of our friends from Japan on an American Navy Military base who informs us that the picture was in fact taken not by the Mekong but on an American SEAL training base in the USA.

He also informs us that the 'fish' was taken from the sea, in California USA. This information is from ET 3 STroup CRF. Yokosuka 243-7698 C191DS.

His is just a comment and so we will try to follow up on its authenticity.

Disagreement again!
Another of our friends Charley Hallman says that…"it was caught by American servicemen and that the picture was taken in 1968.

Only eight or nine of these men survive today. They had a reunion three years ago in Udonthani where they were previously stationed.

Five died in the Laos war and many of the others have died in the 33 years since the picture was taken, at least three of them horribly!" A curse?

We are trying to get at the truth of this event and anyone who has any information that might help we urge you to please contact us.

  So, what is this curious phenomenon?

Is it real or is it myth?

There are as many skeptics as there are believers. However, unlike the Loch Ness Monster the Naga has been seen, many times and photographed and recorded on video. This we do have proof of!

Some of the local Thais truly believed in the 'monster'. Others are more skeptical and believe it to be some kind of joke, a con. A Swedish gentleman who lives upstream from Nongkhai swore that he had seen the spectacle and had put his powerful binoculars on it and observed that it was some kind of wooden structure undulating down the river in an eel-like manner. But then he is prone to a Carlsberg or ten!

Other skeptics believed that the event is organized and that it is some kind of trick performed with plastic tubes and gas bubbles. Who knows?

The stories continue to conflict. Some say that the photograph of the American servicemen has been 'doctored', that it is a fake that it was taken elsewhere as a hoax. But why should the American servicemen want to do this? Even if the head is a fake the eel-like body certainly isn't. This is a big ... what? Fish? Dragon? Snake? What...?

  That the Scientists say

In 2003 we are about to get this Myth proved or discounted - so we are told. A new hi-tech gadget, a robotic fish has been developed at King Mongkut University of Technology that can delve into the depths of the Mekong and report its findings back to its land-based control centre.

They are also trying to uncover the mystery of the Naga Fireball's. But just how do these fire balls come out of the river? This is something that the high tech wizards hope to discover - that is if the Naga allows them to!

The most recent Scientific theory, (and it is only a theory as yet), is that the Bang fai (Naga Fireball) are caused by Methane Gas coming form the depths of the Mekong. The gas rises up into the atmosphere that ignites when it comes into contact with elements produced by the sun's rays when it is in a certain lunar position.

Well, yes, but why are these fireballs seen rising, glowing from beneath the waters of the Mekong? Why do the Naga Fireball's come out as 'balls' why not simply random "plumes" of gas?

Why do they appear only in this part of the world, why Nongkhai? Phon Phisai is supposed to be the entrance of the underground city where the Nagas are reputed to reside - is the Methane gas produced by them as a natural expulsion of bodily gasses? The fart of the Nagas?

There are many unresolved questions to these theories all of which have not been proved under laboratory conditions. They are as believable as the Legend itself! Scientific theory is just that until it is proven as fact!

It may not be an important argument but if scientists join in they should be able to substantiate their theories! So come on you scientific whiz kids, back it up!

I suspect that Nessie and the King of the Naga will keep their secrets - some things are best left for the soul to ponder on for there is more in heaven and earth … Nessie and the Paya Naga, your secret is safe with us and long may it remain so.


Mekong Mystery …In many respects it is similar to sightings of the ignus fatuus or will-o-the-wisp which terrified English travellers in the middle ages and is found in the folklore of many different cultures. Th ignis fatuus is a comparatively rare phenomenon, which seems to result from the spontaneous combustion of marsh gases. For many years the active ingredient was thought to be a highly reduced compound of phosphorus – the hydride diphosphane which exerts high vapour pressure at between 20 degrees and 30 degrees C and spontaneously combusts in air at quite low concentrations.

Even so further explanation is required in the Mekong case because the light there was seen rising from below the water. Gases forming in the presumably anoxic muds of the river would not come into contact with sufficient oxygen for underwater combustion, and the diphosphane hypothesis may have to be discounted.

Some of the people who have experimented with these lights report seeing a “cold flame”. There are several alternative theories to explain the phenomenon. For example, under low concentrations of oxygen, phosphorus vapour is luminescent and may easily form through diphosphane decomposition.

Some microbiologists believe phosphorescent bacteria, a few species of which are thought to be soil-inhabiting, cause the phenomenon. The dramatic exit of the gases is not without precedent and many remarkable descriptions are to be found in literature …

Well, yet another Scientific theory! However, no-one has yet come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why the Bang Fai (fireballs) are seen only on the last day of the Buddhist lent in October. This year it was October 10th, last year October 27th!! Whatever, the fireballs appear only on the full moon on the last day of Buddhist lent.

The New Scientist article doesn’t give us any new information – only more spurious theories. The Thai scientists from a prestigious University who were exploring this year and took samples from the water, from the mud and the air around have so far not enlightened us.

Anyone any other crazy theories?

Send us your ideas, no matter how wild!

  Wat Luang

This temple is the site of the Holiday Puyfay Tour's exclusive seats on the banks of the Mekong for viewing the Bang fai (Naga Fireball). The temple was chosen because of its great significance with regard to Buddhist history and in particular to the three Buddha images, Phra Suk, Phra Serm and Phra Sai, cast many years ago in Laos.

The King of Laos' Chief of Staff of the army, a soldier, an historian and a much traveled man wrote that " These three Buddha images, were the most beautiful that he had ever seen in his travels and that they were of the period Lane Xang in Laos…". The King's three daughters ordered the casting of these images seated cross-legged in a pose of meditation, hands palms upwards in the lap in the style of Samatirab Pang Mara Wichai.

Wat Luang holy procession

They were to be cast in bronze, a virtually impervious metal and a difficult one to mix. It required very high temperature to get the metal smelted enough to pour and although the Monks and Novices worked full time at the bellows for seven days and nights they still couldn't raise enough heat. On the eighth day the Monks were exhausted at noon when a white robed figure appeared and offered to take over the work.

The Monks and Novices thankfully retired to take a break and eat. More white robed figures appeared to assist the first and when the Monks and Novices returned from their meal break and rest, prepared to take up the task of smelting again, the white robed figures were nowhere to be seen. They had disappeared as mysteriously as they had arrived - the metal was melted and ready to pour into the moulds!

The three Buddha images were in Vientiane until 1778 when the man who was to become King Rama the First of Thailand went to Laos. He removed the images to Vientiane en route to Thailand taking the son of the Laos King with him as a future son-in-law (hostage) for safety and returned to Bangkok.

The son-in-law, Chao Anu Wong, survived Rama One, Rama Two and in the reign of King Rama the Third the King of Laos died. King Rama Three then sent Chao Anu Wong back to Laos to take over the throne but the Laos people and his relatives persuaded him to declare independence for Laos.Subsequently King Rama the Third sent an army, led by his Commander in Chief to rage war against the rebellious Laos.

He won and Chao Anu Wong was killed. The three Buddha images were then taken by raft on the Mekong river to Thailand. During the journey a storm capsized one of the rafts but the Buddha image was retrieved until a second storm hit them and the image of Phra Suk sank through the bottom of the raft to the Mekong riverbed at Vern Pra Sook, Nong Kong Village.

There it lies to this day off the shore of Phon Phisai District, Nongkhai Province.The two remaining Buddha images were taken one to Wat Horgong and the other to Wat Pochai until King Rama the Fifth ordered them brought to Bangkok.

They were to be taken by Buffalo cart but Phra Sai refused to leave and no matter what they tried the buffalo cart could not sustain the weight and continuously broke down.

Phra Sai remained at Wat Pochai and the remaining one transported to Bangkok where it now resides at Wat Pra Tum Wa Na Ram at Siam Square behind the World Trade Centre.The Abbot, Phra Kru Pisai Kit Ja Torn, decided to try to raise the Phra Suk Buddha from the riverbed but try as he might he could not do so.

Frustrated he decided to do the next best thing and make a replica. He petitioned the Nongkhai populous and all agreed that this was a splendid idea to revive the Holy relic and bring respect.

The ceremony of casting began on April 3rd 1993 at eight in the morning and was attended by over 2,000 people. The Abbot led the parade to the place opposite where the sunken Buddha lay submerged to ask permission of the Buddha to create the replica image. A weird thing happened as he made his plea - the riverbed erupted and pebbles and stones flew up into the surface of the Mekong River.

The Abbot took this as a sign that permission had been granted and he and the two thousand individuals who had witnessed this miraculous and unexplained phenomenon returned.The casting started on the 18th of April and continued until the 21st, again a long process.

Gold and precious stones were donated and since it only required one kilo of Gold to make the Buddha the rest of the valuables were placed inside the cast. The rough cast of the Buddha was taken to Bangkok for finishing and then returned to Wat Luang where it sits in splendid repose in the big stupa at Wat Luang where it can be seen to this day.

  Three small, solid, red, Bang Fai Paya Naga Fireball

Bang Fai Paya Naga Fireball

- A Personal Experience -

Kochaporn Na Nongqai has been associated with the Wat Luang for many years since she chose it as the ideal viewing place for Bang Fai for her guests.

Some years ago, when the Communist Government took power from the Royal Family in Laos, one of the cousins, Inta Chao Hang Hanfah, the royal family from Luang Pra Bang, secreted some of the Royal belongings away so that they would remain safe.

Inta Chao Hang Hanfah is now the owner of the biggest Duty-Free shop on the Thai Laos Friendship Bridge. He decided that it was about time that some of these Royal Relics should be returned to the Buddhist flock and fearing that the Communist government would not truly respect them for what they were decided that he would donate them to three temples in Thailand.

Wat Pochai where King Rama III had put the Buddha image Phra Sai was the first temple to receive the Royal gifts but much to the embarrassment of the Abbot there some were stolen. The second was at Wat Sri Chom Pu Ong Tue-Baan Sri Chom Pu Ong Tue-Mou 8-Nam Mong village in the Tabor district, Nongkhai where the King of Laos had built a temple where the gifts were locked in a safe.

The third fortunate temple was Wat Luang in Phon Phisai since this was where the replica of Phra Suk was held .

  The Royal gifts

Are solid gold and silver chalices, vases and assorted vessels inside of which are valuable historic relics of the Paya Naga. Teeth, bones from the Naga crest and other skeletal parts - things that have never been seen before. A pair of ivory tusks of white male elephant of about 300 years old and similarly a pair from a white female elephant which are about 500 years old.

In the backgound a carved Sandelwood Buddah flanked By two white bull elephant Tusks, various silver urns and Chalices.

In the backgound a carved Sandelwood Buddah flanked By two white bull elephant Tusks, various silver urns and Chalices.

A procession at Wat Luang to celebrate the building of a new museum to keep the Royal gifts

In the backgound a carved Sandelwood Buddah flanked By two white bull elephant Tusks, various silver urns and Chalices.

In the backgound a carved Sandelwood Buddah flanked By two white bull elephant Tusks, various silver urns and Chalices.

Paya Naga teeth set in a silver Ornamented mount.

Various silver boxes used by the King of Laos for the use traditional Betel nut

Wat Luang.

An ornate silver jug for Laos Whiskey.

An ornate silver jug for Laos Whiskey.

A beautifully ornamented Silver container used by the King of Laos.

A beautifully ornamented Silver container used by the King of Laos.

A black Rhino horn mounted in a specially made silver mount.

A black Rhino horn mounted in a specially made silver mount.

A fosilized part of a Paya Naga skeletal section.

A fosilized part of a Paya Naga skeletal section.

A fosilized crest of a Paya Naga.

A fosilized crest of a Paya Naga.

A fosilized Paya Naga egg.

A fosilized Paya Naga egg.

Another rhino horn mounted in Silver.

Another rhino horn mounted in Silver.

A silver Buddha image.

A silver Buddha image.

Kochaporn Na Nongqai bearing a gift of saffron robes inside a decorated offering to the monk at the new museum.

Kochaporn Na Nongqai bearing a gift of saffron robes inside a decorated offering to the monk at the new museum.

Kochaporn Na Nongqai, owner of the Pantawee Hotel, was invited to a private viewing, as were two other citizens of Nongkhai because the Abbot of Wat Luang said that in a former life they were Paya Nagas.

Previously there was a ceremony held at the Wat Luang attended by White robed Brahmin. At the ceremony a large almost white Bang Fai appeared, rose up into the sky and then descended to land in the hands of one of the Brahmin who immediately reacted as though struck by an electric current.

The Brahmin was convulsed for several moments. Three smaller Bang Fai, red in colour appeared and remained, as had the white one. These however were not like the Bang Fai (Naga Fireball) from the Mekong, they were solid and not gaseous.

The abbot was sick for seven days after this experience because he found the influence of the Bang Fai Paya Naga Fireball too powerful.

Kochaporn attended the Wat Luang at the Abbots invitation to see the wonderful Royal Gifts and Phra Kru Kit Jar Torn and he allowed her to take the following photographs.

The Abbot also allowed her to hold the white Bang Fai Paya Naga Fireball in her hands. She described the sensation as being "electric" a sensation beyond description that blocked all from her mind save the words of the Abbot who told her to make a wish for what she wanted before her concentration lapsed. She wanted prosperity and also to be able to carry out her promise to build a stupa to house these wonderful relics.

She was then allowed to touch the three smaller, red Bang Fai Paya Naga Fireball. This was an altogether different sensation, one that brought to her a feeling of peace, equanimity and a huge sense of relief.

The solid white Bang fai Paya naga Fireball.

The solid white Bang fai Paya Naga Fireball.

The white Bang fai held Protectively by the Abbot.

The white Bang fai held Protectively by the Abbot.

There are no other Bang fai (Naga Fireball) in existance that we know of and the Abbot keeps the powerful white Bang fai close to him at all times.

The Abbot, an orphan since birth, has lived first as a novice and then as a Monk in this Temple. He has devoted his life to it and has built it from nothing to the splendid and famous temple that it is today. He has never had any great wealth and that which he has had came from unsolicited donations. When he needed money it seemed to just arrive!

He is hoping for the same kind of miracle again in order to build the new Pagoda. For those of you who wish to make his unselfish dreams come true and become sponsors of Wat Luang please send your donation to:-
Account Wat Luang
Number 252-2-518678
Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives
Phon Pi Sai Branch
Nongkhai Province

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