Myanmar Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival -Dangerous and Spectacular
23rd August 2020
Ever seen fireworks blow off from a hot air balloon with thousands of spectators below, some of them even get injured or end up dead? Taunggyi Fire Festival in Eastern Myanmar is a spectacle that is both beautiful and dangerous.
What is Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival In Myanmar?
Every first week of November, Burmese people who are mostly Buddhist, come together to celebrate a bountiful year and the end of the rainy season. The festival also serves to give the offering of light to Buddha. This is celebrated all over the country. However, the Taunggyi Fire Festival is undoubtedly the most popular, not just because of the grand showcase of fire balloons, but also because of the danger that surrounds it.
Taunggyi Fire Festival happens on the hilltop in Taunggyi town in Shan State, eastern Myanmar. Thousands of people arrive in Taunggyi from all over Myanmar and some foreign countries to celebrate and see the famed festival. The festival runs for a week and 300 balloons are flown off.
The famous Fire Balloons
Some balloons are painted in different colors, while mostly at night, small candle lanterns are hung off the sides of the big balloons (some even weighing 60kg) to form a pattern of Buddhist symbols.
Different villages come together to build these balloons and lanterns to be later set up in the field. The balloons made of thin cloth have to be held by about 10 men and then a fire is set up from inside the balloon to expand it. Then the women, children, and all others try to put up the candle lanterns on pre-determined spots to form the Buddha symbols. They have to do this fast as the balloon expands ever more and leaves the ground to light up the night sky.
The Taunggyi Fire Festival’s claim to fame is the fireworks that go off from the balloons. The wick is ignited as the balloon flies off. When the balloons are high enough, the fireworks are ignited and a fireworks display astounds the crowd. With thousands of people gathering at every close proximity to the balloons, there seems to be no regard for safety.
Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival is Dangerous
Sometimes, it doesn’t go as planned though. Fireworks can shoot in whatever direction, even to the crowd below. Heavy and huge balloons can also fall on people. Sometimes people run from stray fireworks which can cause a stampede. Almost every festival season, there are people who get injured. Deaths were also reported in the previous years.
More than just fire shows
What makes Taunggyi Fire Festival fun though is not just the fire display but also the gathering together of Burmese people. It is a truly local experience. The hilltop where the fire display happens become surrounded by souvenir shops, restaurant, and there are even dance clubs scattered in the location.
Burmese people drive up the hill on their cars, truck, and motorbikes. Some even settle on top of their vehicles for a glimpse better glimpse of the goings-on. When a balloon flies off, the crowd burst into dancing and singing. They bang gongs and celebrate. It was truly a festive sight to see.
Not a lot of foreigners know about Taunggyi Fire Festival. Most tourists who come there only hear about the festival when they arrive around November in nearby, more popular Inle Lake.
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How to get to Taunggyi Fire Balloon festival
From Yangon International Airport, you can fly to Heho Airport. From the airport. You can take a bus to Inle Lake and do some sight-seeing here. Inle Lake is the main tourist destination close to Taunggyi. From Inle, there are hostels that organize travel to the Taunggyi festival. They have trips to Taunggyi leaving Inle in the afternoon and evening and back to your hostel in Inle at 11 pm.
When to go for Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival
The Festival happens in the 8th month of the Buddhist calendar that is the end of the rainy season. This usually falls on either late October and early November. The festival runs for a whole week but the biggest celebrations happen on the last night but it can get really crowded.
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