EXPERIENCE TAUNGGY I F I R E BAL LOON F EST I VAL
The festival takes place annually, beginning in late October or early November and ending on the November full moon. Large animalshaped balloons are launched throughout the day and candles and fireworks balloons begin after dark
Things seemed to reach a breaking point in 2014, when unusually windy weather led to the highest balloon crash rate yet. Twelve people were hospitalised and four people died, including two fire masters, who sustained severe burns while hoisting an exploding fireworks cage off a tent full of spectators.
There have been no balloon-related deaths since then, possibly due to new safety measures, including stricter enforcement of firework weight limits and a wooden fence to keep the throngs of people from swarming the balloon teams.
Than Zaw’s wife, Daw Wai Wai Thaung, regrets the fence. “I love to stand as close as I can and then run away from the fireworks. That’s my favourite part,” she shares.
And in one moment, with nothing but a waist-high picket fence between me and a hail of fire, I could see what she meant. Why else would 10,000 people huddle under giant balloons firing mortars in every direction but up? It appears that standing in the way of danger has become an inextricable part of this tradition, making it one that should be given a wide berth by the faint-hearted. ag JEROEN DE BAKKER graduated with honours from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam in 2012, after which he travelled to Myanmar for a year and a half to work on his book Myanmar: Beyond the Surface, which he selfpublished after a successful crowdfunding campaign. www.jdebakker.com
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