Visiting worlds’ maddest firework event
It was during my first visit in Myanmar in 2012 that I heard of the Myanmar fire balloon festival. I had just missed it, but heard from a fellow traveler how spectacular and dangerous this event was. This year I was lucky enough to be in the country at the time of the event. Getting accommodation nearby was just impossible, so I settled myself at Nyaung Shwe at Inle Lake at the fantastic Ostello Bello hostel who organized transport each to the festival.
I visited the festival 4 out of 7 days and am glad I made it out unscathed. I’ve visited quite a few events and festivals in my time, but there really is nothing like this event. The friendly vibe and excitement during the preparing of the balloons is unique in itself. And when the balloons go up, the crowd cheers and dances. When the fireworks go off, it is just fantastic. You’ve never seen fireworks like it, that just continue to go on forever in the sky. They are said to hold up to 20.000 fireworks, crazy!
About the Myanmar fire balloon festival
Celebrating the end of the rainy season, locals from all over the country in Myanmar create hot air balloons with candles or fireworks to send into the skies in Taunggyi. Or at least, they’re supposed to. Things don’t always go well. Each year people get hurt and even die due to incidents. Without any proper security and things created by non-professionals, it has earned the reputation of ‘Worlds craziest and most dangerous firework event’.
I spend 4 nights here capturing footage for this movie and was lucky to make it out without any injuries, but got pretty close. The burn marks in jacket can testify to that. Nothing went terribly wrong when I was around, but things did go bad at other moments. Like the complete firework installation falling into the crowd and exploding on the ground. Pretty crazy. But a seriously amazing event to attend, with the friendliness of the locals being one of the highlights.
The event is held each year in October or November in Taunggyi, near popular Inle Lake. It’s free at attend and attracts tens of thousands of people each day. The last day is during the full moon and is the biggest day, but the only big thing is the crowd. I highly suggest to avoid the last 2 days because of the big crowds, the days before it’s much more quiet and enjoyable.
Beware of the dangers though if you’re planning on visiting it. It is best to stay far away from the firework balloons if you don’t want to take any risks. As you can see in my video here below, I took my chances and got away with it. There was one time when the fireworks started going off about 10 meters above the crowd, with thousands of them shooting in all directions. A pretty crazy situation.
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