Where in northern Thailand?
Downtown old city Chiang Mai and farmland to the north.
Many of the filming locations for this are familiar, especially that thumb-shaped wedge of limestone rising from the Naam Song river north of Vang Vieng. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/104643415
I agree it's unrealistic that the bat sh*t rocket gang were not only given the 10 million Kip prize, but also the piece of land near route-13 which is Laos' main north-south arterial road. A decent piece of land in that location could be worth 10 times the prize money, but the village elder probably didn't "give" it to them, more like allowed them to continue squatting there until it was convenient and face-saving enough to move them on, or until he was no longer village elder which could be just a year or two.
I was at the rocket festival in Vang Vieng in 1999 and what blew me away (no pun intended haha) was how accurately this was portrayed in the movie. It was as though they filmed the actual festival (probably did) except for the end when Ahlo fires his winning rocket a bit of creative license is added (and some CGI for the colorful finale). But the cheap carnival rides, every adult male drunk on lao-lao, gambling fever and superstitions, etc. I was so convincingly taken back to the real thing. =)
Thanks, Bob! My wife and I briefly visited Thailand in 1995. Some time in Koh Samui, and a few days in Yasothon (Isan, northwest region) for the rocket festival there. A bigger event than shown the movie, but the same spirit. At that time, farang were so scarce the locals didn't even know how to properly overcharge us. 5 times rural price and 1/5th of Bangkok price is a wasted opportunity.
We took the Orange Crush from Khon Kaen to get there, sharing a tiny seat with a Thai who had worked at the US Air Force base in Udon Thani during the Vietnam War. We wisely chose the spacious Aircon from Roi Et back to Bangkok and home. On that bus, we encountered a Thai-Canadian on his way home from the festival. He was the roommate of the screenwriter for the Disney movie "Operation Dumbo Drop". He told us lots of stories about the filming that had just completed up near Chiang Mai, as well as the actual story the screenplay was vaguely related to. The real story was far funnier, and too "R" rated for Disney.
The story was about parachuting a replacement elephant from a cargo plane into a remote village during the Vietnam war. In Real Life, cargo planes are unpressurized at altitude, and elephants are pressure vessels with relief valves at both ends. The aft releases involved entrained solids, which decorated the fuselage. Mission complete, the aircraft returned to a blazing hot summertime airfield, perfumed with Eu de Pachyderm. The daytime ground crew decided the night ground crew could clean the cabin when it was cooler and the aroma abated. They did not know that elephant effluent has a high pH, like sodium hydroxide, which etches aircraft aluminum. By nightfall, the aircraft fuselage was swiss cheese.
I also immediately recognized the karst terrain to the north of Vang Vieng.
I spent a few days there in October 2000, it was a small place then with a few guesthouses a wooden footbridge across the river and a couple of small cafes one with internet. I walked out west to a big cave not unlike the one in the movie... such memories for privileged Australian!
Now it's a tourism mecca with dozens of guesthouses and I'm told hundreds of badly behaved tourists ... mores the pity.
The earlier scenes reminded me of Muang Ngoi much further north.
A beautiful movie and pretty reflective of rural Laos.
Ahlo with his open honest face and inquisitive cheeky manner reminded me of kids I met all over Laos Sabay dee!