Taunggyi Balloon festival
"LOOK AT THE SKY!"
As I raised my head to follow my friend's pointing finger, all I saw was this exploding star right above our heads, as people were cheering loudly and congratulating themselves. We were at Taunggyi's annual hot air balloon festival and it didn't take long for us to realize that around one balloon out of three explodes while mid-air, and that's okay.
This week-long event takes place every November in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, in Myanmar. This celebration is held around the Full Moon of Tazaungmon, a Myanmar national holiday that marks the end of rainy season.
Aso known as the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights, the whole event consists in the releasing of balloons as an offering to the heavens, to ward away evil spirits. The tradition started with the British in the late 19th century, and nowadays it is rooted in Buddhist cosmology.
After an afternoon of releasing animal-shaped balloons, the night sky becomes the stage for two types of balloons - some are lit up with candles, and others reach the skies loaded with thousands of firework for a more spectacular show. Shan State is a very ethnically diverse state, and each tribe presents its own balloon.