Photo: Rockets for the whole family.

Introduction

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Most of the time Yasothon is a quiet provincial town attracting very few travellers to its old quarter and giant toad king. But on one weekend in May it explodes with parades, parties and rockets that climb into the clouds.


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The town’s rocket festival, or Bung Fai, is the best known out of many rocket-launching parties held around the same time of year in provinces all over Thailand’s northeastern “Isaan” region. They’re all rooted in the animist belief that the god of rain might need a jab or two before he’ll wake up and produce the precipitation needed to grow rice. It’s a perfect excuse to play with fire.

Yasothon’s giant toad is just the best. Photo taken in or around Yasothon, Thailand by David Luekens.

Yasothon’s giant toad is just the best. Photo: David Luekens

Yaso, as it’s often shortened in local speech, is otherwise a sleepy town serving as capital of one of the smallest provinces in Isaan. Tourists are extremely rare outside of festival time and this is expressed by a crummy selection of hotels. There are no expat pubs or travel agents, and many of the streets have so little traffic that kids can play on the pavement without a care.

We enjoyed the Ban Singha part of town with its languid lanes lined by potted plants, napping cats and century-old Sino-European houses. One of them still displays the signage advertising its original function as an opium den. Some great eats can be scored in this area, including no shortage of fiery Isaan food and the sun-dried mango jam that Yaso is known for.

Escape the heat at Wat Maha That. Photo taken in or around Yasothon, Thailand by David Luekens.

Escape the heat at Wat Maha That. Photo: David Luekens

At the centre of this heritage area sits Wat Maha That, an 18th-century temple sporting a sacred chedi, Phra That Anon, along with the province’s principle Buddha image and a beautiful old scripture hall built on stilts above a pond. Neighbouring Chinese shrines and Vietnamese eateries hint that these groups have some prominence in an area mainly settled by ... Travelfish members only (Around 600 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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