Photo: One of Thailand's craziest festivals.


This sleepy provincial capital is about as quiet a place as you are likely to see in this area of Thailand, except of course during the Rocket Festival.

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At that time, Yasothon city literally explodes as amateur rocket-engineers from all over northest Thaialnd descend on the town for a weekend of unadorned madness.

An all-day parade proceeds through town -- the weather is so hot that the tar roads bubble and hessian bags need to be laid down to protect the oft-barefoot marchers. In the evening dancing stages line the main street the thump tunes out all night in a jovial atmosphere.

Set to coincide with the end of the dry season, the festival has its roots in animist beliefs, believing that the firing of the rockets will appease the god of rain who will make sure that it pours down.

Over time the festival has incorporated Buddhist beliefs and today even the state has got involved -- just to make sure the event is good, safe and publicly acceptable.

This has lead to a degree of sanitising of the event with the public wearing of phallic symbols being outlawed. Meanwhile the rockets have got bigger and bigger with some carrying up to half a ton of gunpowder! The thought behind it -- the bigger the better.

Gambling is rife during the ceremony as people bet on the various rockets because the one which goes the highest wins.

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