Friday, June 10, 2011

Rocket Festival Day 3 – The Farthest

Each day the focal point was the rockets. But there was also the concert and vendors selling everything from inflated Power Rangers to whiskey. Lots of betting, lots of loud music and I’m pretty sure no one could actually hear the play by play of the announcers. This last day was to see which rockets went the farthest. Judges were out in the fields watching where they landed and they went farther than the eye could see. Again, I don’t really get how they so quickly accomplish the judging task. I’m glad I just had to judge the King and Queen!

Typical Thai concert

The launch pad

The closest I got to getting a photo of a launch.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rocket Festival Day 2 – The Highest

Several friends told me not to go to the festival, too dangerous. They were right! There are the official launch pads where the big boys are lit and then in the surrounding rice fields there are all sorts of launchers and all sizes of rockets going off by all ages of boys. I was amazed no one got hurt. Over 50 rockets are officially entered in the contest, some by individuals and consortiums and some by the villages. The villagers are assessed a fee to help pay for the rocket – there is a lot of that for these different parades and festivals and people don’t seem to mind. I haven’t been asked and was told as a guest I would not be. Last year, in a different province, 4 people were killed by a wayward rocket. The judges have cameras and binoculars to watch when the rocket stops going up and starts going down. I don’t really get it. It was a very cloudy day and I certainly couldn’t tell, but every entry that went up got a time in seconds for how long it took to turn around. The highest score I saw was about 350 seconds. These rockets are fast, so that is very high. The day was a definite adrenalin rush!

The scoreboard

Every boy had rockets in their pockets.

Getting a medium size rocket ready. Plants are used around the ties so the rockets stay in place but can easily slide out and up.

One of the big ones, you can get an idea of the scale by the men climbing around it getting it ready.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rocket Festival Day 1 – The Parade

All 8 villages entered the parade with floats for their king and queen, music, dancers, and a float about their village. The kings were on stallions of course and the queen on a beautiful ornate temple like float. The parade took 3 hours! It proceeded down main street and went all the way to the wat where the kings and queens were presented and each said a little bit about themselves. I was a judge and the ones who spoke English to me got more points…only fair. How else could I judge their intelligence, not by their Thai!

The monkeys!

One of my favorite bands

A queen

A king

Thai dancers

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rocket Festival – Getting Ready

Rocket Festivals are held throughout Thailand as a sort of prayer for rain. The rockets are shot up into the clouds, encouraging (cajoling) the clouds to release water. They are held in May and June, the beginning of the rainy season. In my Amphur, it is a 3-day celebration complete with a parade, a beauty contest for the best King and Queen, a contest for the rocket that shoots the highest and a contest for the rocket that goes the furthest. Villages win money for the best parade presentation and for having the best King and Queen. Major betting takes place during the rocket competitions. I have been warned repeatedly to stay back from the rockets and don’t stay out late…too much drinking!
Here is my office getting ready for the big event, the traditional start of all special occasions!

We were serenaded by these gentlemen as we worked!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Thai Field Trip

Definitely a different trip than Ko Phi Phi – the bpai tiao to jangwat loei was actually a working trip billed as a tourism conference. I spent two days on the road with a fellow PCV’s (Bobby) SAO, like a tessabaan only smaller. 50 of us loaded onto a festive double decker bus decorated with Disney characters, only Mickey was a vampire, Daisy was a bat – you get the idea. They still had those big Disney smiles. The bus was typical Thai, lots of loud speakers blaring karaoke for hours. No exaggeration, more of an understatement – FOR HOURS! Thais enjoy karaoke and they enjoy long bus rides. I think the road trip getting there is probably just as important as the destination.
Jangwat loei is in the far north on the Laos border. We stayed at the Chaing Khan Hill Resort which is right on the Mekong River with a spectacular view. It is a tourist destination for farangs and for Thais. Chaing Khan walking street is a charming spot with old, old hotels and lots of good shopping. On the way to and from we stopped at two national parks, phukradueng and the second one I cannot name because I only saw it in Thai letters. Beautiful tropical forests, waterfalls, and amazing rock formations. We also stopped at a lake for lunch, eating on our own floating boat. Very charming. We also visited a local OTOP (One tambon, one product - a Thai economic development program I will blog about another time)and saw how they made delicious coconut kanoms (desserts).
It was unanimous among the farangs (Bobby and me) that two days is our limit on that kind of trip. The bus ride is wearing and when you stay with your coworkers there is no time off to gather your wits and not worry about your lousy Thai!

These markers mark road locations throughout Thailand, 0 = the beginning!

Mekong River with Laos in the background