A popped-rice garlands float. (Photo: PATSINEE KRANLERT)

Yasothon is best known for Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) that takes place in early May. But in the first week of next month, Feb 3-7, the northeastern province will have another grand celebration that, unlike Bun Bang Fai, you can't find elsewhere.

Called Hae Malai Khao Tok, which can be translated as Popped-Rice Garlands Procession, the cultural event is held in Maha Chana Chai district every year preceding Makha Bucha Day, a religious national holiday, which this year falls on Feb 8.

Highlights of the event will be the demonstration of floats adorned with tens of thousands of garlands created by stringing popped rice together by hand, piece by piece. The popped rice is made by exposing husked sticky rice in heat, pretty much the same way as popcorn. Villagers in many communities of Maha Chana Chai build their popped-rice garland floats and send them to the ground in front of the district office for the public to appreciate during the festival and the judges to decide which is the most beautiful.

During the five-day fair, there will be lots of entertainment and goodies. On the last day, Feb 7, all floats will be moved in a parade to Wat Ho Kong about a kilometre south of the district office. The winner will be presented to Wat Ho Kong, while the other floats will be sent to the temples of the villages they are from.

Maha Chana Chai district is located 40km southeast of Yasothon downtown. However, since there are no commercial flights to Yasothon, the most convenient way to get there from Bangkok is to first fly to Ubon Ratchathani (about 100km from Maha Chana Chai) and take a taxi or rent a car from there. The town has several guesthouses and small resorts.

For details, call the local office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand at 045-243-770 or 045-250-714, or visit the event's Facebook page at bit.ly/2smCLs9.

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