Monday, June 6, 2016

Burmese Days 18: The Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival in Tri-X

Taunggyi, a hill town in central Burma at 4,700 ft elevation, is the capital of Shan State. It was a garrison town during the British colonial era and is now a busy commercial and administrative center. But most tourists know it for the famous fire balloon festival, during which towns in the surrounding region pool their talents and skills to build amazing balloons. Although rooted in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology, the festival resembles a rock concert or state fair.
The balloons are made of paper (yes!) and carefully pasted together in the shape of animals. Once airborne, you see giant cows or sheep floating across the sky.
The balloons are filled with hot air from open fires. Needless to say, an occasional balloon catches fire, either on the ground or partially aloft, burning up the hopes of the town that sponsored the team. It is all in good fun. In the USA, a fire brigade would be present and spectators would be told to stand well back. Here everyone runs and avoids the falling shards of burning paper. But I am surprised that they do not use some form of enclosed (no exposed flame) heat source to do the initial filling of the balloons.
If the launch is successful, the village team goes into celebration mode.
The local tough guy teenagers were in really good spirits.
In town, we saw nuns or novices waiting in line for food. It might be donated by people in town.
We had lunch in a local cafeteria-style restaurant. The chicken was excellent. At a place like this, if you are a typical westerner, you better drink beer or bottled soft drinks and avoid any raw vegetables or fruits. But otherwise, the fare was very good.

Photographs taken with a Leica M2 camera, mostly with a 35mm f/2.0 Summicron lens. This is the 7-element type 4 Summicron from the late 1990s. I used Tri-X 400 film, developed in Kodak HC110 developer, dilution B at 68° F, and then scanned the negatives with a Plustek film scanner. The negatives had some lint and spots, which I cleaned with Pixelmator software.

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