Taung­gyi set ablaze in Tazung­daing Fes­ti­val

Dec­o­rated, fire­work-laden hot air bal­loons were shot into the sky above Taung­gyi this week­end in cel­e­bra­tion of the an­nual light­filled com­pe­ti­tion. Thou­sands of peo­ple from around the coun­try gather in south­ern Shan State ev­ery year to par­tic­i­pate in the

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

THE skies over Shan State were set ablaze this week with the begin­ning of the Taung­gyi fire bal­loon fes­ti­val, one of the most beau­ti­ful and dan­ger­ous cel­e­bra­tions in Asia.

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 ex­plo­sive-laden bal­loons reg­u­larly crash to the ground, caus­ing panic below, but vis­i­tors say the sight is worth the risks.

“I’m very happy and also afraid,” 22-year-old Maung Maung Myint, who trav­elled to the cap­i­tal of Shan State from Man­dalay, said on Novem­ber 11. “It’s scary when the fire­works fly right at me,” he added. 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.

Vis­i­tors from around the world flock to see the ex­traor­di­nary ex­plo­sions of light and colour, which police pre­dicted would draw up to 50,000 vis­i­tors a day this year.

“I’ve never seen so many peo­ple. It’s ab­so­lutely crazy, but ev­ery­one is hav­ing a good time,” said Mark Boyd, 41, from Bri­tain’s Isle of Man. “It wouldn’t be al­lowed in my coun­try. They were dan­ger­ous but it was great.” The huge crowds, lack of safety pre­cau­tions and home­made fire­works have proved deadly in the past.

In 2014, three peo­ple were killed when a bal­loon crashed onto spec­ta­tors below. A young child also died when a bal­loon was blown into the fam­ily’s tent.

And it is not only bal­loons that set pulses rac­ing. Vis­i­tors can also wit­ness more deathde­fy­ing feats on a hu­man-pow­ered fer­ris wheel at the fes­ti­val’s fair­ground.

Work­ers scam­per across the 50-foot-high rick­ety struc­ture, us­ing their body weight to send it spin­ning around at ex­traor­di­nary speed.

Some dan­gle from the bars as the ride hur­tles to­ward the ground, while oth­ers swing be­tween the bars up­side down as the wheel turns.

But for the bal­loon mak­ers, who see months of painstak­ing work dis­ap­pear in min­utes, the com­pe­ti­tion is se­ri­ous busi­ness as they bat­tle to cre­ate the most bril­liant spec­ta­cle of light.

“Be­fore last year I had won ev­ery time. Even so I have never got less than third,” said Thaw Thar Win, who led a group of bal­loon mak­ers.

“It’s not dif­fi­cult be­cause I am work­ing with a team.” –


Photos: AFP

Spec­ta­tors cheer as a fire bal­loon sets off for the skies in Taung­gyi on Novem­ber 11.

Teams pre­pare to re­lease their fire­work-laden bal­loon.

A team cel­e­brates as their bal­loon takes off and ex­plodes in a burst of fire­works.

Some bal­loons feature elab­o­rate de­signs made of thou­sands of can­dles.

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