In Thailand, Yasothon province is famous for it’s rocket festivals.
Festivities will be held each year from May 11th till 15th.
The tradition goes that rockets will help to kick off the rainy season needed for the farmers. The festivals are not restricted to Yasothon only.
In neighbouring province Roi Et, villages organize their own festivities.
Below is a report of a rocket festival which was being held in a village called Baan Itsia.
Don’t try to Google for Baan Itsia, since the village goes by three different names and there’s no official romanization for it. Anyway, it’s about 25 km from Roi Et city. See Baan Itsia on Google maps here.
Baan Itsia together with annother small village holds a festival every three years, while some neighbouring bigger villages will celebrate it yearly.
This year money was being raised for a new roof of the village’s Buddhist temple. I know what some will be thinking, but the roof wasn’t damaged by the previous festival.
For local amateurs, materials needed are easy and relatively cheap to get.
The propulsion fuel is a mixture of nitratate (fertilizer), charcoal powder and sulphur, also known as gunpowder.
Many people will use home made gunpowder, but for the festivals rocketmakers reportedly prefer to rely on local experts, who will use the right wood for the charcoal and will add some secret extra ingredients, like banana juice, (no kidding). There’s heavily being gambled on whose rocket will win. The time for the rocket being airborne is decesisive.
The rockets are not your average China fireworks for sale for New Year’s celebrations.
Driving up to the village, from far away, the sound of the rockets reminded me of an army base with jet fighters taking off.
The largest rocket I saw measured about 300 by 20 cm in diameter and was carried by six people. It was loaded with about 18,000 cc or if I have to make an educated guess, it contained at least 150 kg’s gunpowder.
Reportedly, one village stopped activities for five years after a man got decapitated from metal fragments when his rocket exploded by accident. The rockets which I saw were made all from plastic, which is probably more safe to use as opposed to aluminium.
When Tom, the guy on the photo below, demonstrated a very small rocket, I was surprised by the heigh altitude it reached. Appearently the rocket fuel was much more concentrated than I had ever used on New Year’s eve back home.
One of the launches: