When I first moved to Thailand, I had no context to help me understand the swirling columns of black smoke and flashing orange plasma in the sky. It lookd like a special-effects depiction of an airliner crash scene.
Turns out it’s just the first step of the sugar cane harvest:
Step one is to burn off everything that’s not the cane itself. Leaves, snakes, cane rats, weeds. Then the cane workers go in with those curved knives to trim each cane, chop them and load them onto gigantic trucks. Since cane is just a grass, it grows back after the harvest. Except this season it appears each field is being disked, which is inconsistent with the idea that it’ll all automatically grow back.
The fires fill the air with little curlicues of ash which fall on everyone for months. Good thing teachers will be wearing all-black for the duration of the mourning period — until 12 October 2017.