Short Cuts

2 minute read
Jason Gagliardi

ROCKET MEN It’s all good fun until someone loses an eyeand then it gets even more fun. In Thailand’s northeastern province of Udon Thani, the rocket men like nothing better than a big bang, and some of the kingdom’s top rocketmakers stage secret gatherings near Si Sutoh Temple at Kam Chanode three or four times a year, usually on important Buddhist festivals. Secret, that is, until the first blastoff, which can be heard for miles around. Kilograms of home-cooked explosive are packed into PVC tubes strapped to bamboo poles, fuses are connected to a car battery to provide an ignition spark, and thenwhoosh!the rockets shoot up into the stratosphere. It’s illegal, and very, very dangerous, but that doesn’t deter the moonshine-lubricated spectators crouched near the launching platform from placing bets on whose rocket can stay aloft the longest.

ONLY THE LONELY Phu Tork means “lonely mountain” in the northeast’s Isaan dialect, but since a stairway was finished in 1974, the steady flow of tourists means you’ll never be alone at its monastery. Its seven stories provide spectacular views of Nong Khai province’s Bung Kan district. At the top of the mountain is a slightly spooky forest, where, if local lore is to be believed, you might be joined by otherworldly company.

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