Myanmar culture is a beautiful subject for tourists to study and experience, and Taunggyi Balloon Festival is one of the best national events particularly in Taunggyi that welcome all to participate. When the colorful hot-air fire balloon is released in the sky at night, it marks the end of the rainy season and urges the competition for the most gigantic and imposing hand-made balloon of the Pa-O tribal community.

What to know about Taunggyi Balloon Festival

On every new moon of the eighth month in the Burmese lunar calendar (often falling from October to November of the Georgian calendar), Taunggyi Balloon Festival is celebrated with a large number of hot-air balloons released into the air. This spectacular event takes place over 7 days and is hosted by the Pa-O tribe. People will compete for the giant, hand-made, and beautifully painted hot-air balloons, illuminating the sky in the evening. The festival is the marking of the end of the rainy season in the country as well as the end of “Kathina” or “Kahtein” period when the monks will be given the new alms and new robes.

In the festive night, the flaming and colored balloons of various sizes and shapes will be released into the sky. It’s noticed that the balloons can be in the forms of tigers, birds, elephants, ducks, pagodas, and houses, and especially, they are colorfully painted in a very eye-catching way. In the local belief, launching the balloons is to offer them to the Sulamani Cetiya in Tavitisma (heaven in their cosmology and home of devas). So, the released balloons would bring away the evil spirits. Nonetheless, the origins of the first balloon releasing festival could be dated back to 1894 when the British celebrated the first hot-air balloon competition in Taunggyi (the capital of Shan State).

Together with the fiery and colored objects in the sky, the festival is also featured with parades, concerts, feasts, carnival games, and fireworks. The event attracts villagers from all over the neighboring areas, as well as many international tourists. Often, the local event organizers will have arranged everything well to serve the travelers who want to participate in the festival. All in all, the key events of the festival are the hot-air balloon competition in daytime and evening and the Kathina Procession. In regards to the Kahtein procession, it is about the donation of robes and other offerings (food, fruits, and supplies) to the Burmese monks. Villagers also choose this day to return home for Kahtein.

Festival of Light in Myanmar
Festival of Light in Myanmar

Plan to travel to Myanmar on Taunggyi Balloon Festival Dates

The Taunggyi Hot-air Balloon Festival 2019 will take place from November 5 to November 11, 2019. The programs have been introduced to the tourists by the local tour agents, which focus on the weaving competition and hot-air balloon competition on the first five days. The sixth festival day marks the Kahtein procession while on the last day, the prize-winning robe will be then offered to Lord Buddha. Often, the two last days of the festival will be most crowded with participants, as on these busiest days, people want to know the prize-winning balloons as well as the honored robe.

So during your Myanmar Tour 12 Days if you want to attend the fire balloon Taunggyi Festival from the beginning of the event, try to schedule to arrive early in the evening when it is not too crowded and you will be able to get front row seats. Some hours later, around midnight, it will be impossible to reach the balloon fields because of the crowds of people on the spot. The fiery and colorful hot-air balloons can illuminate the night sky in the most beautiful way that you’ve ever seen.

What to expect from Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival as a tourist

If your ideas of fun are about color and explosion, then Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival might meet your expectation. Upon your participation, expect to marvel at the spectacle of loud and vibrant colors that are somewhat similar to today’s music festivals. The exciting atmosphere will be filled with Burmese music, food and beer in the contemporary stalls, dancing stages, and bars that open until the early hours of the morning.

The festive atmosphere shows its best in the evening when you see “fire” in the sky. Every half or an hour, the colorful fire balloons will be launched. They come in two kinds: 1) the beautiful hot-air balloons that ascend lightly into the sky and 2) the ones loaded with thousands of fireworks that will explode. When the balloons with fireworks burst into the fantastically multi-colored light shows, all participants get excited with handclaps, photography, praying, or just saying goodbye to stress. In around 15 minutes of firework shows, some people also enjoy the joy of doing nothing and mingling with the crowd. Please make sure you keep a good distance from the ball of fire in order to avoid injury. Note that the accommodation prices in Taunggyi will inflate during the festive period. So, a recommendation for you is to drive away in 45 minutes to access Nyaung Shwe in which more good options will be found.

So with careful attention and reasonable expectation, you will appreciate the exceptionally beautiful experience in this Fire Balloon Festival that you can also immerse yourself in the Burmese culture. The crowds of locals and tourists will first surprise you in the morning, but know that the crowd will become bigger in the evening as the fire balloons will look best in the dark sky. The hot-air “bags” in forms of temples, elephants, birds, etc., provide the amazing Festival of Lights in Myanmar that even make the Burmese feel homesick when it nearly comes to the eighth month of the Myanmar lunar calendar. Images of the fire balloons seem to be imprinted on the mind of not only locals but also the travelers who attend the event, who are all impressed by the dramatic festival loaded with hot-air balloons and fireworks. From now on, schedule your trip to Taunggyi of Shan State to watch the fire in the sky!