Crowds dice with death at Myanmar's explosive fire balloon festival
Published : Nov 13, 2016, 3:36 pm IST
Updated : Apr 16, 2019, 11:40 am IST
The skies of central Myanmar were set ablaze this week with the beginning of the Taunggyi fire balloon festival, one of the most beautiful and dangerous celebrations in Asia.
Brightly coloured balloons with hundreds of homemade fireworks woven into their frames were sent soaring into the night sky, showering down cascades of sparks onto adoring crowds.
The explosive-laden balloons regularly crash to the ground, causing panic below, but visitors say the sight is worth the risks.
The November celebration has become a highlight of the annual Tazaungdaing festival of light that marks the end of Myanmar's rainy season.
While the tradition is rooted in Buddhism, the hot air balloon contest itself was started by British colonialists in the late 19th century.
Visitors from around the world flock to see the extraordinary explosions of light and colour, which police predicted would draw up to 50,000 visitors a day this year.
The huge crowds, lack of safety precautions and homemade fireworks have proved deadly in the past.
Workers scamper across the 50-foot high rickety structure like spider monkeys, using their body weight to send it spinning around at extraordinary speed.
For the balloon makers, who see months of painstaking work disappear in minutes, the competition is serious business as they battle to create the most brilliant spectacle of light.