Eddy, our Austrian friend whose been here 5x, loves meeting people. He's a photographer and his fb webpage is exit hamster. He organized two vans for 12 of us to go the the hot air balloon competition to celebrate a national holiday. The festival has been going on for days. it's been raining unusually hard dyring their dry season. We've seen muddy shoes at the hostels and heard crazy fun stories.
I still wasn't sure what to full expect. We went to the festival on the last day, on the super full moon. We've heard it took hours to get there vs the normal 45 mins because now so many tourists want to experience this local event. Hotels have been booked up and buses leaving town are now also full.
Internet is still spotty and super slow. I'm so happy I booked everything days ago before I arrived to Inle lake. It's been frustrating to try to save my pix to create space for more and trying to book hotels, bus and air for my next steps. I have no idea how I travelled before smartphones!
The streets were full of vendors, tattoo booths, games and food with garbage piling up everywhere. Fireworks go off from the actual balloon as soon as they take off. Our first balloon started shooting fireworks down at us and we all ran as if we're in a battle zone, people fall and don't look down. We were all shaken up, some more than others. We were told that usually the fireworks go up safely but it can happen that they backfire in a way.
The second balloon was doing ok and then started shooting at us again. In the midst of chaos, I somehow lost the group. I wandered around and surprisingly not so many tourists were in sight, I was ok with that. I managed to find the group later on closer to the balloon action.
I've never been to burning man but I and others thought of that while seeing people in a circle dancing, singing, drums beating; Wanting to see something catch on fire. The excitement by the locals could be felt by us all.
Our 3rd balloon caught on fire the second it went up. And we were very close, another chaotic run away. Luckily no one got hurt and they had fire trucks ready to take care of it. I got some pix but the videos do a better job showing what happened. I have videos on the Google album link that is below.
After that we took a break. Later on we saw the other balloons beautifully lit with candels. After the festival, We were told that there have been deaths, this week a child caught on fire.
We went on the Ferris wheel that is manually powered by 5 teenage boys that run around like monkies to get it going pretty fast. The seats and box was so small and Blondie is so tall and scared of heights. She was screaming at first and the two locals teen boys sitting with us were entertained. Nice views of the massive crowds; we saw another balloon up with fireworks. The best ride ever!!!
The night ended with some awesome techno music. even Myanmar beats America on the club scene. Again, we were the only foreigners there and this time the local chicks seemed to love us. One asked if I was single. She was happywithbmy response and said she is 28 and single is the best :) we danced with them, took photos, at their request. They kept asking us "are you happy?" So cute!! Some were wearing hats and coats. It's so hot here especially at a dance club. It's their winter but I'm amazed they were actually cold.
I heard about this festival when I landed here but didn't intend to go until the Dutch girls invited me on their journey. Happy I came and experiencd a crazy cultural event. Below is some info I found online about the holiday and balloon festival.
"The Tazaungdaing festival, also known as the Festival of Lights and spelt Tazaungdine Festival), held on the full moon day, is celebrated as a national holiday and marks the end of the rainy season."
"In Shan State, particularly in Taunggyi, hot air balloons lit with candles, are released to celebrate the full moon day. The balloons are released as an offering to the Sulamani cetiya in Tavitisma, a heaven in Buddhist cosmology and home of the devas, or as a way to drive away evil spirits, although the origins of the tradition date back to 1894, when the British first held hot air balloon competitions in Taunggyi"