Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival
Myanmar is called the ‘Land of Festivals’ as there is at least one celebration every month. If you are able to visit Myanmar during a festival, you will experience a fun, unique part of the local culture. To help get you into the festive spirit, here is more information about one of Myanmar’s most popular celebrations: the Taunggyi Balloon Festival.
The Taunggyi balloon festival happens during the full moon of the eighth month of the Myanmar calendar, which usually falls in November. This full moon, called Tauzaungdine, marks the end of the rainy season and the end of a period of religious donations. It is a big holiday throughout the entire country and businesses shut down so that families can travel home or to pagodas to celebrate.
Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival: Day Time Fun
Taunggyi’s celebration lasts for a full week and runs from early morning until late in the evening. You will want to be sure to have at least one night in town in order to make the most of your Myanmar festival experience!
During the day time, you can visit the festival market which attracts vendors from all over the Shan State and the rest of the country. Sample traditional snacks and browse for handmade goods at the stalls, rubbing shoulders with the locals as you shop. You can also visit pagodas to witness skilled weavers creating beautiful dark red robes. There are even competitions to see who can weave the fastest!
In the afternoon, you will get your first glimpse of the famous hot air balloons as amateurs assemble and launch small balloons in a mini-competition. And, as the evening turns to night, larger and more elaborate balloons take to the skies in the main balloon competition.
Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival: Livelier Night Time
The balloons are made by bamboo and papier-mâché. You will see all different shapes and sizes, with many constructed in the shape of animals or decorated with paintings of famous sites. The balloons come in two varieties, some with votive candles and others laden with homemade fireworks- up to 30kg in some cases!- which explode in to a beautiful display of colors high in the air. Due to the sheer size of the balloons, it takes a lot of fire power and time for them to take flight but the result is unforgettable.
As the night goes on, the festival gets even livelier. More and more people gather at the field to watch the balloons, so you are certain to make a few new friends. While the balloons are flying, local musicians take to the stages for live performances. By this time the festival transitions into a party-like atmosphere with singing, dancing and drinking which sometimes carries on until the wee hours of the morning!
However, these homemade contraptions are not 100% safe and it is not unusual for the balloons to burst in to flames, especially the ones with fireworks! So, it is best to watch these from the outer edges of the field- you will not only get a better view but you will also be away from the debris that inevitably falls from the balloons.
This pattern repeats for several nights between 28 October – 3 November, the busiest days being on 2 and 3 November. So if you happen to be in Myanmar during this period make your way to Taunggyi for the festival. Since it is so popular, a bit of advanced planning is required to guarantee you have a place to rest your head at night. But once you are there, you will not regret it- the Taunggyi Balloon Festival is a real ‘must see’ for visitors to Myanmar!