December 13, 2017

Fire in the sky — the Taunggyi balloon festival

By Maung Lu Aye

It is in the month of Tazaungmon that hot air ballons lit with candles and fireworks are seen in the skies. The Tazaungdaing Festival, also known as the Festival of Lights and spelt Tazaungdine Festival), held on the full moon day of Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar, is celebrated as a national holiday in Myanmar and marks the end of the rainy season.
Among Tazaungdaing festivals, Taunggyi’s hot-air balloons and firework-launching competition is the most prominent festival. The origin of Taunggyi’s hot-air balloons contest dates back to 1894, when the British first held hot air balloon competitions in Taunggyi, soon after the annexation of Upper Myanmar.
The huge balloons created in the shapes of animals, made by teams, are the focal point of the Taunggyi’ festival. The fun begins every day in the early afternoon when the teams enter into the competition of balloons releasing.
When the darkness comes, the hot air balloons are released with two categories: for beautiful creation with proper ascending into the sky and another one is for fireworks.
Themselves mark the Taunggyi festival out as something distinct. Home made by a number of teams who are entered into the competition, they are of course the focal point for the entire event. The fun begins every day in the early afternoon; during the daylight hours the huge balloons are created in the shapes of animals, including anything from birds to elephants. If you are here with a young family or prefer a more sedate pace, this is the time to come to the festival, for it is in the evening that things get altogether more edgy – and spectacular.
The latter balloons reach an altitude of several hundred metres, after which the fireworks burst into an extraordinary, multicoloured shower – which lasts up to 15 minutes.
Brightly coloured balloons with hundreds of homemade fireworks woven into their frames were sent soaring into the night sky, showering down cascades of sparks onto adoring crowds.
The November celebration has become a highlight of the annual Tazaungdaing festival of light that marks the end of rainy season. While the tradition is rooted in Buddhism, the hot air balloon contest itself was started by British colonialists in the late 19th century.
The annual festival with the extraordinary explosions light and colour attracts local and foreign visitors.
In fact, the visitors are dangerous to see the hot air balloons attached with explosives, but it was great.

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