RAINING ROCKETS in Chiang Mai

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by Rod Page, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    No need to ride half-way across Thailand; Chiang Mai has its very own Rocket Festival right on the backdoor step. Held over 3 days early in July each year you need only travel some 20kms along R1317 out past San Kamphaeng towards Mae On before heading into the mountains on your right.....just follow the crowd, you'll easily find it.

    I've been to this event in the last two years & have yet to see another 'farang' there. It has a wonderful local feel; anything but driven for the tourist market.

    2010
    I headed out in the afternoon of day 3 of the festival, Sunday, to the mountains east of Chiang Mai - absolutely beautiful ride out through the rice fields & buffalo, an abundance of wonderful teak houses & spectacular mountain scenery. In the hills behind San Kamphaeng overlooking a large reservoir locals gathered amidst much fun & laughter, much music & merriment, much food & drink to launch rockets to please the gods so as to ensure good rains for the season ahead.

    A massive launching platform some 25m high with a long access ramp had been built from bamboo:

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    Rockets were waiting, stored & being fine-tuned in areas under the surrounding trees - its a wonderful sight to see these creations suspended from the trees, draped in flowers & the cloth of monks, their support team, monks & all, seated thereunder:

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    There's a competition to judge the firings; a competition which assesses the trajectory of each firing. Prizes await the winners:

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    Also present are the offerings to the fish of the lake & money 'trees' for the temple:

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    Rockets are standardised for fairness being constructed using a bamboo pipe about 1.5m long & around 12cm in diameter filled with gunpowder & firmly attached to a long bamboo shoot to give an overall length approximating 20m:

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    There's a scoreboard - a firing which fails to ignite or launch scores '0', those that explode on take-off 50, but the vast majority are assessed on how high & how straight they fly:

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    I had mistakenly thought that these monks were taking bets - a pragmatic way to ensure fairness - but on reflection feel they were taking entry fees & issuing firing numbers:

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    Five or six men surrounded by monks & teams of chanting musicians carry the rockets one by one to the launching pad. The rockets are carried up the launching pad & put in place. One fellow remains with a 2m pole to light the rocket which he does from a well protected area atop the launching pad - one wonders about their hearing though as the rockets sound like fighter jets on take-off:

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    The idea is that the remains of the rockets fall into the dam area below. Its quite dangerous - ie, great fun - the crowd gathers quite near-by & we saw several rockets blow up literally straight off the launching pad, straight over-head. Two years ago one such explosion caused a piece of bamboo to be embedded in a spectator's head. At times the rockets fly off in completely the wrong direction, much to the amusement of those present, flying straight over-head for the hills & not the dam!

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    Its a good day out (as is the 'party-mode' night that follows) & can you believe it - this morning, the day after the firings, the Thailand Meteological Department has issued a warning for heavy rain, even flooding over the next 4 days for most of Thailand!

    (To be continued............................)
     
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  3. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continuation....................)

    Headed out slightly earlier this year - Sunday July 10. The idea was to see more closely the operational side of things & to join locals in their feasting; something I'd been too 'reserved' to do last year.

    The rockets were arriving at the same time I did:

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    I climbed to the top of the launch-pad from where you can see the lake below where all prayed their rockets would finally come to rest:

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    I was joined by a fellow hopeful that mobile reception was possible up here. What's more interesting was the installation this year of fencing atop the launch-pad to prevent rockets firing backwards up over the heads of spectators, often exploding overhead; something that occurred more than once last year to the great concern of spectators:

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    The throng gathered around, underneath & beside their respective creations readying for take-off:

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    Monks enjoyed a little something as mid-day quickly approached:

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    I headed off to try my luck with some of the local delicacies on offer; & a fine offering it was:

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    I took the water buffalo - delicious - garnished with a sprinkling of fried giant water bug & short tailed cricket; all washed down with various locally brewed spirits:

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    but found these to be very much an acquired taste:

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    This was one, however, I could not bring myself to sample; few would, I believe, if you look closely:

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    Bon apetit!

    (To be Continued............................)
     
  4. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued...............................)

    To the rocket launching........

    Some prepare with a certain mysticism:

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    Others look for success deep down:

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    Others appear already assured of success:

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    Others again are already ready to celebrate:

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    And the band/s play on:

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    Rockets are run up the launch pad, lowered into place & ignited:

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    I watched this one from across the lake into which it is calculated, though not always successfully, that the rockets will end their flights:

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    On the ground teams prepare for their particular launching with an enthusiasm that must surely help their machines:

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    And successful launches are wildly acclaimed, directly in the vision of judges, of course:

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    In the end, the scoreboard tells the story ('0' indicates the rocket failed to launch whilst '50' indicates it exploded shortly after take-off; clearly most succeed):

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    The launch over, the fun & games commence. The crowd was welcomed to the stage accompanying the dancing girls for a long night ahead:

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    With rain threatening I had to pass this year.....but not next!
     
  5. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Fantastic! :thumbup:
     
  6. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    Great report as usual Rod and looked like a load of fun. Thanks for that. Where do you hear about these little known festivals?
     
  7. KenYam

    KenYam Ol'Timer

    Thank you Rod Fantastic information and Pics. Hopefully next July I can go to see as I live very close by, and knew nothing of this rocket festival.

    Cheers Ken F
     
  8. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Ken - the biggest 'reward' was that Davidfl told me he'd never heard of it either.
    Colin - you're prettyn 'good on the tooth; how did the 'tucker' here look to you?
     
  9. The Goddess

    The Goddess Member

    look like you had a great day and yummy lunch;-);-):thumbup::thumbup:
     
  10. JB2112

    JB2112 Ol'Timer

    5 months later. It's amazing what the rainy season can do.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    This thread elicited a good response when it first appeared so perhaps it warrants being brought back to your attention as July, the month when the festival would normally be staged, is approaching rapidly.

    Thai culture being so inextricably linked to the lunar calendar can, to western eyes, see dates change inexplicably. Just in case this wonderful, colourful & very local event is set to be staged earlier perhaps the scouts could head out into the hills to firm up on details now.
     
  12. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Perhaps a few more specific directions Rod? Is that near Huay Mae On Reservoir?
     
  13. JB2112

    JB2112 Ol'Timer

    I believe these are the coordinates of the launching ramp which you can see if you zoom in closely.
    18.690414,99.207771

    Take the 1317/new San Kampaeng Road and go 20km or so to the 1147. Go right and from here you will have to follow your GPS!

    I hope I am around for this.

    There is a decent restaurant not too far away with swimming pool.
    http://www.baanponglodge.com/
    18.70987,99.201905
     
  14. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    OK, thanks. I guess that could be launching ramp. Not very clear. That would be at the Huai Pa Rai Reservoir, ( N18 41 25.5 E99 12 28.0 using the format most of us use). There is a Forestry Office just north of there at Huai Lon Reservoir. I would think they would have some info. I will see if I can check it out.
     
  15. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I just received this from a friend. So I guess we have to wait another year.

     
  16. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    This event should be taking place over the next couple of weeks. (I trust Davidfl can determine the details - if not let me know).
    A great event its well worth attending.
    Half your luck for all those attending!
     

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