The Pyin Oo Lwin Balloon Festival Experience
The spectacular Pyin Oo Lwin annual balloon festival, a full moon festival at its craziest best, is one of Burma's most exhilarating events. Take a tour of royal Myanmar's finest sights with this great big festival cherry-on-top. Jade describes here what you could on a 2 week trip built around the festival.
See the sights of the last royal capital of Mandalay before travelling to the colonial hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin, or Maymyo as it was known during its time as the summer capital of British Burma. Tranquil Pyin Oo Lwin is home to one of Myanmar's more excentric festivals, and it's one of our favourites.
The spectacular and sometimes hair-raising balloon celebration coincides with the November full moon festival and the health and safety inspectors are nowhere to be seen. During the daytime beautifully crafted paper lanterns in the shape of different animals are launched into the sky, rising gently off the ground with the hot air of the flaming lanterns below and drifting away with the breeze. Once darkness falls, more colossal balloons are brought to the square and loaded with the candles that drive them skyward. But that's not all. When a balloon rises into the air its base, loaded with fireworks, explodes filling the night sky with a riot of flashing colours and a cacophony of sound.
A two-week Burmese adventure would start in Yangon giving you the opportunity to explore to wonderful Scott market or take the fascinating circular train. In the evening make the pilgrimage to the iconic golden Shwedagon Pagoda. Fly on to Mandalay for the sunset view of U Bein Bridge and the chance to visit the treasures of the city. Head on up to the cool hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin and take in the beautiful botanical gardens. The next day it's festival time, so go and enjoy the festivities at this little visited spectacle. Your adventure then continues by train, crossing the Goteik viaduct (the highest in the world when it was built in 1899), to Naung Pain and then transfer back to Mandalay. After another night in Mandalay take the public day ferry down the famous Irrawaddy to Bagan. Enjoy a couple of days at the historic site and perhaps take the spectacular early morning hot air balloon flight before flying to Heho and transferring to tranquil Inle Lake by road and boat to spend two days visiting the stilt villages, floating gardens and the acient temple site of Indein. Round off your trip by returning to Yangon or fly to the coast to enjoy a few days unwiding at Burma's best beach at Ngapali.
Where to stay:
I have carefully selected charming properties in spectacular locations to give you the best experience in the country. Stay in the colonial boutique Savoy Hotel in Yangon, the elegant Rupar Mandalar in Mandalay, the delightfully located Kandawgyi Hill Resort for the festival, experience a lake front villa on stilts at the Inle Resort and stay in a garden room set amongst temples at the Hotel @ Tharabar Gate when in Bagan. A truly wonderful mix of accommodation to enjoy.
Jade's Top Tips
- When at the festival keep your wits about you and be ready to duck - not every firework laden balloon gets far of the ground before the explosions begin!
- Visit my favourite place eating stop, the Moon Café in Bagan - a short walk from your hotel. I recommend the pumpkin curry and the spicy papaya salad.
- Take the spectacular balloon flight over Bagan
When to go:
As the festival coincides with the November full moon it obviously changes each year. So get in touch early so that we can build your trip around the dates.
How much will it cost:
For two people this journey would start at $3,995 per person excluding international flights.