Atlas Obscura: Myanmar's 'Firemasters' Strap Fireworks to Hot Air Balloons for Annual Festival

December 29, 2015

  Hundreds of Pa'oh people dressed in traditional clothing walk down the streets of Taunggyi holding a lantern to celebrate the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights, which happens to coincide with the full moon. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

Hundreds of Pa'oh people dressed in traditional clothing walk down the streets of Taunggyi holding a lantern to celebrate the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights, which happens to coincide with the full moon. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

By Dene-Hern Chen

Seven men, each wielding a flaming bamboo stick, circled a giant paper balloon and worked quickly to fill it with hot air. A small band of people played clangy music and danced exuberantly as the 30-foot-high balloon slowly billowed out before it lifted off into the night sky. The men cheered, the music swelled, the crowd danced.

And then, the pitch-black sky lit up into a dazzling display of a multi-colored shower of sparks and flames.

The crowd ran for cover as sparks whizzed down onto the ground. As the balloon gained more altitude, its undercarriage began emitting a symphony of pyrotechnic prowess—red, blue, green and white explosions arched across the night sky as spectators watched on, pulling on blankets to protect their hair from wayward sparks.

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