“At first we didn’t know which way the fireworks were pointing,” confides 20-year-old Kham Than Htun as he inserts more cylinders of fireworks in neat rows attached to the hot air balloon basket. Straightening up and brushing some gun powder off his fingers, he continues, “But every year we learn.”
In eastern Myanmar, the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing hot air balloon festival was held at the start of November. Over 300 balloons were entered in the evening show, spanning just over one week. Balloons were decorated with Buddhist symbols and each weighed an average of 60 kilograms with fireworks.
The full moon celebration is also known as the “festival of lights” and is a holiday when Buddhists offer light to Buddha.
Over the years, these light displays have grown from humble candle arrangements to the more extravagant fireworks displays. This year, one shop owner was killed and at least 12 people were injured when a balloon crashed into the crowd, yet the local Pa O population say the festival will continue despite the danger.
Libby Hogan is a journalist based in Yangon, Myanmar.