Balloon Fireworks Burn Down Tourist Cottages at Inle Lake

By Zarni Mann 17 December 2013

RANGOON — A fire caused by a wayward hot air balloon Monday night destroyed 18 floating cottages at a high-end tourism resort on eastern Shan State’s Inle Lake, hotel staff said.

According to staff, a homemade balloon launched by locals in Khaung Daing village celebrating a pagoda festival was blown in the wrong direction by strong winds and flew low over the Inle Khaung Daing Village Resort, on the lake’s western shore.

Fireworks attached to the bottom of the balloon shot downward at the resort’s cottages, causing raging fires that devastated the thatch and bamboo huts suspended above the lake.

“The wind was so strong last night so that the fire easily spread from a cottage to another,” a member of the resort’s staff who was on duty Monday night told The Irrawaddy, asking not to be named.

“Since the cottages were built with thatch and bamboo, the fire spread very quickly. But we managed to evacuate all 30 guests and get all their belongings out in time.”

The nearby Shan State capital of Taunggyi is famed for its annual fire balloon celebration—taking place every November to mark the Buddhist Tazaungdaing festival—at which locals launch numerous homemade balloons and attach large batteries of fireworks.

According to resort staff, guests had been given substitute rooms at the resort’s main hotel building on the bank of Inle Lake.

“I think it will take some time to rebuild them, so that we will need to handover booked clients to some other hotels,” another member of staff said.

The Inle Khaung Daing Village Resort, which is part of the group that also owns the Hupin Hotel in Nyaung Shwe, was built in 2007. Rooms cost between US$120 and $250 per night.

With the fire occurring as the high season for tourism gets into full swing, tour operators in Rangoon, Mandalay and Taunggyi said they are trying to shift bookings to other hotels, but are facing difficulties.

Thandar Win, a tour operator in Rangoon, said the fire meant she would have to make new arrangements for some tourists who had planned to stay at the resort in January.

“Since it was an accident, we understand and will not complaint. The hotel has already suffered because they will lose a lot of money from all of their investment in those cozy cottages,” she said.

“Hopefully we will find rooms for our clients in other hotels. It is difficult to find another hotel because the peak tour season is on its way.”