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  1. #1
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    19-08-2015 @ 11:54 AM

    Yasothon and its' incredible Rocket Festival!!

    Yasothon and its' incredible Rocket Festival!!

    Yasothon city is a small rice growing community with a listed population of just under 20,000 residents. It first began having their Rocket Festival in 1972, and it's grown ever year since. But, don't let Yasothon's diminutive size fool you, as it's now home to largest and most attended Rocket Festival in Thailand! The town becomes a megapolis during the festival; some estimate the attendance as high as 150,000! It's the little city that roars just one weekend a year, then returns to the mundane chores of everyday life.

    I rode to Yasothon on May 11th, well in advance of the Festival and the arrival of any tourists. Upon entering the town I encountered police checks at four corners of the main road on the outskirts of town. They were stopping local motos riders for not wearing a helmet...and they cited many. Ironically, during my 5-days in Yasothon, rarely did see anyone wearing a helmet while driving in the town. TIT

    I went to many hotels and all were book solid, but with assistance from a local I met, who spoke some English, and I was able to obtain a room for the event, at the RP Mansion Park Hotel. It's located just a short block East from the parade route and not far from the rocket launch area. Due to a problem I later encountered, it proved to have been a very fortunate choice. Rooms were 400-Bt/night, with increased rates on the14th & 15th. A/C, HW, refrig, TV.
    They also have a karoke and restaurant. I was surprised that none of the staff spoke English.

    The days (May 11-13) preceding the festival were quiet, except for those preparing the sound stages and systems along the parade route, the viewing stands, and some groups in other parts of town rehearsing for the parade. Each of the sound stages displayed banners of their main sponsors.
    Practicing for the parade:

    Sound stage:

    The rocket launch area had been idle since last year; soon it will have a crush of people:

    A few of the large floats lined up near the start of the parade route:

    And some of the individually created floats parked nearby:

    While most Thai concerts will have one stage and a very well equipped and loud sound system, I was utterly surprised to count that the parade route had just over _40_ stages, each equipped with enormous sound systems and any one of them would be sufficient for any concert. Each stage had banners of their sponsors as well as dancers and singers entertaining the masses. Ear plugs were absolutely mandatory for me, yet few Thai's seemed too concerned. The combined loudness from the speakers could be heard many blocks away. On the parade route you could feel the bass sounds vibrating every bone and organ in your body! Once, during the parade I ate lunch at an adjacent food stall....and the rice in my meal was dancing to the music!!
    The word 'loud' doesn't adequately convey the parade's sound levels!

    At 8am on the May 14th a number of dignitaries, in white uniforms being taken to the main viewing area and parading groups began lining up at the start. The actual parade began almost two hours later..and the party began! Parade ornaments and floats often sport phallic symbols and imagery, recalling the fertility rite origins of the festival. Ribald humor is widespread and the festival includes cross-dressing, both cross-sex and cross-generational, and great quantities of alcohol.

    And as just as the parade started it began to rain heavily. Fortunately it didn't last long.

    Parade begins:

    Some of those in parade spectacle...the horse had a cell phone number written on it's cock:

    The singer with a dildo for a mic...and the pink large katoey behind her

    Another pair of ladyboys...who sought anyone with a camera to photo them

    And a few of the individually dressed paraders:

    The parade was still going at 7:30pm, as the last half-dozen fatigued marching groups had yet to reach the final assembly area.
    I went back to my room, exhausted.

    The next morning I awoke to the sounds of a few of the smaller rockets being launched. I'd visited the large rocket launch area a few days earlier, seeing the seven rocket platforms and 250-yards back from the platforms were danger signs to alert spectators not to go closer. There were only a few workers there and no indication of what was to come. Turned out that the danger signs were totally could get as close as you wished to the launch sites. The once large field and adjacent areas had become a large city of spectators and the surrounding area was now filled with hundreds of stands offering everthing from food, trinkets, souvenirs, hats & umbrellas [the weather was HOT!], fireworks and bottle rockets. Unfortunately, I've no pix of the large areas where the sellers and many of the spectators were nor where the 1000's of motorcycles and other vehicles were parked.

    Of the 7 rocket launch sites, the first 4 are for rockets with smaller amounts of propellant, sites 5 & 6 rockets can have up to 60kg of propellant and up to 120kg at the tallest structure. Airports know to detour flights around the area, as some rockets can reach many kilometers in elevation and go long distances downrange. Rockets are judged by height attained, distance downrange and beauty of the vapor trail...but there is no predicting in which direction a rocket may travel, including potentially into the crowds.

    A rocket is loaded on the launchpad then fired skyward. Numerous rockets were launched until the late afternoon. While I've many pix of the event, other attendees will surely post more pix of rocket launches and things
    they saw. Yep, you can get as close to the launch site as you dare:

    The rocket launch bunker was 100-yards back from the launch site:

    Staging and launching a rocket. Note each rocket launched has a banner of its sponsor:

    After a successful launch, the rocket's club members celebrate and congratulate each other:

    However, sometimes things go wrong. This rocket landed about 70-feet from me and had a brief and mild explosion from its remaining fuel. I only was quick enough to my camera out and photo the residual smoke. No injuries to anyone nearby. Sadly, last year, a wayward rocket killed a 26y/o Thai by completely decapitating him. There is potential danger!

    The night before the rocket launching, my bike's clutch was failing to release. Early the next morning, I found that the clutch cable was frayed and upon using the clutch lever the few remaining cable strands broke. Ack! Where can I get a clutch cable for a BMW motorcycle in tiny Yasothon?? I spoke with the hotel's owner and he called a friend. Twenty minutes later his friend arrives on a R1200 BMW. He digs into his pannier for tools and a new cable & housing, and has it installed in just 10miinutes! He then refused to take any money nor a drink for his efforts. I was one very fortunate person! Turns out that there's a number of local riders...the town even have a BMW and Harley Davidson club, and the hotels owner belongs to both.

    Yasothon evidently has a number of classic car collectors. At the hotel, a Thai drove up in a pristine 1963 (?) Cadillac. It even had the original motor! The Thai said he also owns 5 other 60's era Cadillacs! Later, another Thai drove up in
    a pristine 1960 Chevrolet Impala Nomad Six-Passenger Wagon, also with the original engine. I was amazed!

    If you've never attended Yasothon's Rocket Festival, you've missed the biggest and most attended community event in Thailand! If you plan on attending sometime, do make your room reservations months in advance of the event.
    It's a great show...and one I'll likely attend next year!
    Last edited by LukDod; 31-05-2011 at 10:23 AM.
    pattaya local

  2. #2
    Mid is offline
    Thailand Expat
    Mid's Avatar
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    Top pictorial LukDod ,

    thanxs for the time and effort .

  3. #3
    Member Mad Hatter's Avatar
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    14-05-2012 @ 01:32 AM
    Bolton, UK
    Wizard Stuff LukDod!

    Your photos very much appreciated.

  4. #4
    oldgit's Avatar
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    06-11-2015 @ 07:31 PM
    Worthing/Doi Saket
    Very interesting report LukDod, thank you very much for posting.

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat
    sabang's Avatar
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    07-04-2019 @ 01:23 PM
    Brilliant stuff- I live about 100km from Yaso, but have yet to make it to the bun fai.
    I like your idea of showing up a couple of days early too.
    Last edited by sabang; 02-06-2011 at 12:54 AM.

  6. #6
    Newbie nycjoe's Avatar
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    26-09-2017 @ 10:11 AM
    NYC, but if you have a spare room.....
    Great!!! Thai's know how to throw a party. Lots of really nice photos.

  7. #7
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    08-03-2014 @ 10:13 AM
    Great report, I am inspired. Below is a rough roundup of a weekend that I had in Phanom Phrai a few years back.

    We, that is me, the misses and Al, went to Bung Bang Fai Festival at Phanom Phrai a while back, coming out of Yasothon south towards Burriam on highway 202 its about 8-9 kms to the turning, which is on your left.

    Spent early Saturday at the house of friends of ours, they were making their rockets, 4" PVC pipe and bamboo tail, pick-ups driving around all day collecting rockets from everyone in the village.

    Later on Saturday a big parade and festival at the Wat, dragging a small ice box of beers and stood in the street just watching the parade, a lady came up to us and invited us to sit at the tables/chairs in the shade in her front yard to watch the parade. Ive been here for quite a while and have seen how festivals where everyone is drinking can get uncomfortable, this was not the case here, we were made really welcome by everyone.

    We then spent the early evening at our friends house, normal Issan BBQ, lots to drink and then handheld rockets made of PVC pipe with bamboo tails, which didnt phase the Brahma type bulls in the cow shed even when they went straight in at ground level.

    Then back to the only hotel in the village. Strange sort of place, TV in a cage, 2 x soap, 2 x towels, 2 x pillows, 1 x sheet, lousy chewing gum and mirrors everywhere, etc etc. Sat on the tailgate of the truck supping cold beer and listening to the concert in the village, which I think was David who we had heard years ago in Korat.

    Next day, decked out by our friends in the denim shirts, hats and waist bands for the occasion we loaded the ice chest into the trailer behind the iron buffalo and headed towards a private paddy to watch the rockets from afar, (safer that way), ran out of gas 50yds from the house!!!!!!!!!!! Bunch of local lads who had been giving it yahoo big time all night on the Lao Kao rushed over and pushed us into the shade whilst somebody else went for gas! We then all had a toast to each other for a while, a fine start to the day at just after 8 AM.

    Eventually got to where we were supposed to be, (one of the best dry paddies Ive seen in a while, even had a huge shade tree next to it). Unloaded the ice chest, clay BBQ and all required ingredients and carried on from the night before.

    After a while our man on the ground insisted that we went over to the festival site proper, about 1km across the rice paddies. Lots of folk still making rockets of all sizes, ramming black powder into PVC pipe whilst smoking and drinking, but sanuk sanuk!

    As the only 2 farangs in attendance Al and myself also became part of the festival and got invited to witness the 12 dia rockets being set off. From about 50 ft away the ground shakes and they are like a Saturn V rocket at Cape Canaveral, clouds of smoke and then woooooosh away they go. We were stood next to a huge mango tree covered in fire ants, believe me if any of those rockets looked like falling over I was gonna take my chances with Moot Dang!

    Once we managed to slip away from the main launching area we sat at the edge of the paddy drinking beer and watching first a big rocket get sent off and then 10 or so smaller rockets chasing after the big one. Pretty bizarre really; rice paddies, clouds of smoke, red flags and Al looking like hes having flashbacks!

    After a while cold beer beckoned and we headed back towards where the ice box and BBQ were set up, took about 30 minutes and were finally sitting down with a proper cold beer and BBQ ribs. After another big rocket another set of smaller ones, one of the smaller rockets doesnt do so well, up up up and then a lot of slow loops heading earthward, followed by the inevitable thud! It appeared to have come down fairly close by so we decided to investigate. Back across the paddies for about 200mt and there was the hole.about 1mt off the path we had walked 5 minutes beforehand!!!!!!!!!!!! Theres a lot to be said from watching from a distance.

    Unbelievable weekend, for a real good time in Issan Id recommend Phanom Phrai, even if the hotel accommodation is bit suspect!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (Ps Ill try and post the pictures from the weekend when Im allowed)

  8. #8
    Member Roger Ramjet's Avatar
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    07-02-2019 @ 07:35 PM
    high in the sky!
    Lukdod ......excellent report......I have been trying to get there for years and will now really try to make it for next year for sure...Great pictures, and sounds like my kind of party....and certainly my kind of activity as I have considerable experience with very large and dangerous "spud guns" rockets and explosives.

    Plus can also lay claim to starting a bush fire in the village when some very very impressive monster fireworks I was setting off, went a bit off course during my "mother in laws" post funeral ceremony. Really qualified me as part of the local extreme team! I think our large family team with some extra "Aussie" know-how aught to be able to turn this into an almost International event!...Will have to start planning rocket construction now....My brother's in law will certainly be enthusiastic, and we will also have some technical help from the monks!

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