Myanmar fire balloon festival opens
Taunggyi, Myanmar - The gigantic hot air balloon folded into itself and fell in a ball of flames, scattering onlookers below at the beginning of Myanmar’s stunning yet treacherous fire balloon festival.
Nobody was hurt this time but every year several are injured at the event in Shan State’s capital Taunggyi, a highlight of the annual Tazaungdaing festival of light that marks the end of the rainy season.
The celebration is rooted in Buddhism and draws tens of thousands each day.
It has become a ‘festival for the whole of Burma’, competition judge Thein Zaw (54) said in between balloon inspections.
After months spent working on their designs, competing teams launch - or try to launch - some 200 homemade devices over the course of the ten-day festival.
They are weighed down with frames carrying hundreds of fireworks or candles, and a miscalculation on when to light the rockets can result in a fiery catastrophe. Points are scored for aesthetics, teamwork, height reached, and the duration of time spent in the air, explained Thein Zaw, who has been on the judges panel for 13 years.
On Monday, the competition began after a dancing display by many of Shan’s ethnic groups and the release into the night sky of hundreds of traditional lanterns. “I’ve been coming to this event every year since I was a kid,” said Thuzar Lin (26) after a kaleidoscopic shower of fireworks from her group’s creation rained on onlookers.
A hot-air balloon in the sky during the Tazaungdaing Lighting Festival at Taunggyi in Myanmar’s Shan State on Monday