November is the best time to visit Taunggyi, the capital of Southern Shan State. The Kahtein Holy Robes Presentation Ceremony, the Festival of Lights and the Taunggyi Hotair Balloon Festival occur at the same time on the Fullmoon Day of the Myanmar month of Tazaungmone(November).
As Tazaungmone nears everyone is excited. They are gearing up to compete in the annual Taunggyi Hotair Balloon Festival. The festival is also a competition between the town's various quarters on who can send up the most elaborate and decorated hotair balloons. The competition is divided into 2 parts: the daytime competition and the Nya Mee Gyi or the Big Night Balloons, sent up at night.
The legend goes that Tazaungmone is the fairest of all Myanmar months and the sky is clear. At this time the peole had also finished their harvest and it is time to pay homage to the Sulamuni Pagoda, said to be in the Abode of the Celestial Beings. They construct hotair balloons out of bamboo and locally made mulberry paper(Shan paper) in various shapes and sizes. They most popular would be of course in animal shapes. These are normally sent up during the daytime.The judges would give them points on the originality, the design and the flight characteristics of the competing balloons and decide the winner.
The Nya Mee Gyi balloons are more elaborate. They cost quite a big amount of expenses, some even in hundreds of thousands of Kyats. The organizers bring their contraptions to the competition grounds and set up the balloons to be flown into the night sky. Many are decorated with small lanterns hung on the sides. The judges give points on the originality, the intricate designs on the sides, the pyrotechnical display when aloft etc. And these balloons must also be sent up in an allotted time or be disqualified.
These balloons are really huge. Some would measures in tens of metres in diametre and over 10-20 metres tall. They also carry a load of fireworks. As theses huge balloons ascend toward the stars, the fireworks shoot off in spectacular pyrotechnic display , much to the delight of the onlookers.
Loud cheers erupt as the balloons goes up but the unsuccessful teams stay silent, vowing to do better next year.
Photos by:Sonny Nyein(Swiftwinds)