Taung Gyi Ta Zaung Tai Festival (Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon festival)

The time when the rain is starting to go away, the smell of winter and few drops of dew are dancing on the leaves, one moment is waiting for the people to celebrate big event in this city. Everyone in this city is busy in preparation and excited to participate in this event. This city is located in hilly region and famous for its beauty, peacefulness and warm and kind people. So, I think you can guess which city it is

Such a beautiful and peaceful city is Taung Gyi which is located in Southern Shan State. Everyone in Taung Gyi is waiting for this annual Ta Zaung Tai balloon festival and preparing for this event since August.

(So, what is the Ta Zaung Tai balloon festival? This festival is dedicated to the full moon day of Ta Zaung Mone and Ka. Htein during which the monks are offered new robes. People lighten the candle and make a hot air balloon to offer the Buddha in heaven or as a way to drive evil spirits.  )

The first time of hot air balloon competition has been celebrated in Taung Gyi around 1950. People make a hot air balloon by themselves in step by step. The types of balloon depend on the time that the balloons are set to the air.  For daytime balloon the shape of the balloons are pagoda, different kinds of animal such as elephant, dragon and sometimes the animal family (Mommy chicken, daddy chicken and their daughters and sons) are made to let them release at the same time. In night time, there are two main kinds of balloon called Sein Na: Pan (hot air balloon decorated with many small candle lamps) and Mi:  Kyi (hot air balloon decorated with many fireworks and showing the various effect of fireworks). Sein Na: Pan is decorated with many small paper lanterns in different types of decoration such as image of Buddha or famous image of Myanmar or sometimes the wish written in words like “May the world peaceful”. Another type of Sein Nar Pan is decorated with small parachutes and they will be let down to the ground when the balloon is set to the air. The other type Mi: Kyi is decorated with many fireworks and showing the different types of effect which amaze all the people and enlighten the sky over Taung Gyi. All the balloon is made by the hand with taking a lot of care in every steps including the making the room size balloon with papers, decorated pictures and fireworks. Each balloon for competition cost at least 3000 USD and more depend on the decorated things and weight of firework.

This balloon festival is celebrated annually for 10 days till the day after full moon day of Ta Zaung Mone. It is held in the field in Ho Pone which is near the Taung Gyi University. The opening ceremony is held in the first day of Festival and closing ceremony is held on the day after full moon day of Ta Zaung Mone. Many groups compete for the balloon festival in each year, around 300 balloons during daytime and around 100 balloons during night time per year and sometimes it is more than that. The prize will be given to the winners on the closing ceremony. Most of the people are enjoying the night time festival compared to day time balloon competition. The competitor come in the field which is filled with many people, with cars carrying the huge paper made balloon, fireworks and decorated things. Some of the balloons show various effects of fireworks and filled the night sky of Taung Gyi with beautiful spectrum of fireworks. But some of them fail to lunch and some drop down to ground filled within the crowed and shooting the fireworks in the ground instead of in the air. Sometimes, it causes the injury to some people but it is more excited to see the balloons in close range. Some youngsters says the feeling of running away from failed balloon which is shooting the fireworks is chilling and it is the one of the best moment of this festival.

The field for setting up the balloon is surrounded by local food stalls which are not only the place for having supper but also as a waiting place while the hot air balloons are setting up. The food stalls have different types of local food including the famous Shan dishes. You can enjoy the different types of hot air balloons while having the local Shan dishes. Many people near the Taung Gyi and around Myanmar come here to celebrate the Ta Zaung Tai Festival. Even the weather could not disturb the eagerness of the people. No matter what the weather it is, all the people are waiting in the field for the best time to let the balloons to the sky. Such event is held not only in day time but also in mid-night until the dawn for continuous 10 days. If you are in Myanmar in November, you should not miss the chance to see such a beautiful event in such a beautiful place.

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