Considered to be a highlight of any trip to Myanmar, the “Land of Festivals”, the cultural diversity of Shan State, as well as its breadth, mean that it is a hot spot for both ethnic and Buddhist celebrations, many of which are intertwined. Most notable are, Shan State Day in January, Kakku Pagoda Festival and Pindaya Cave Festival in March, the impressive Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival and food offering ceremonies in Inthein in October and Taunggyi’s stunning Hot Air Balloon Festival in November.
Kakku Pagoda Festival
A cluster of more than 3000 pagodas, said to be from Bagan period, but in the Yun Shan style, are grouped on a small hillock overlooking the Hopon valley. Pa-O people flock to the festival in their best costumes to pay homage to the pagoda on the full-moon day of Tabaung. The best time to see this is at dawn, on the full moon day, when villagers come with offerings to be offered to the Buddha Image. The festival ends with the pilgrims offering rice and other items to more than 1000 monks.
Pindaya Cave Festival
Shan Pa O, Palaung, TaungYoe, Intha, Danu groups residing around Pindaya come and camp under the huge banyan trees to take part in the festival. The Pindaya Cave houses hundreds of Buddha Images, old and some new. During the festival time, thousands of devotees come from villages around the area to the cave. It is a joyous scene, people coming in groups by cars, some coming in a huge line of traditional bullock-carts. The tribals circle the ox-carts, and in the middle, people do their cooking and rest for the night during the festival.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is Inlay Lake’s most prominent celebration, during which four out of the five Buddha Images from the pagoda are conveyed around 14 villages on the lake by a royal barge towed by the boats of leg-rowers. A spectacular sight as hundreds of boats follow the procession, the 18-day long event also includes boat races that are fascinating due to the unique style of leg rowing. Most festivals are determined by the lunar calendar so dates change yearly.
Taunggyi’s stunning Hot Air Balloon Festival
The most spectacular event of the year is the Hot Air Balloon Festival held every November in Taunggyi commonly called the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival. Thousands of local pilgrims and international tourists choose to visit Taunggyi, especially to watch scores of giant paper animals being inflated and floated off into the sky. The competitions run during the day and at night when the sky is colorfully illuminated with hot air balloons. Hot air balloon in theshape of elephant , ox, horse, water buffalo, bird, pig, fish, owl, and parrot are sent up into the sky.