Asia, Myanmar

Hot air balloons over Bagan, Myanmar

March 26, 2016
balloons-over-bagan-myanmar

Myanmar was our first destination of this trip and one of the first things the search engines are showing you when you try to see how the field of temples look like, are the balloons over Bagan.

We had never been on a balloon ride before, so this was kind of special.

The first thing you need to know: it is expensive. When we saw the price of 380usd for a 50min ride, we were very hesitant to splurge on this activity. We were on the beginning of a 3 month trip which will include Australia and New Zealand (not exactly cheap destinations), so we had to be careful with our budget. After some reflection though, we decided to take it and were so glad we did it.

There was a slightly cheaper option but more crowded in the basket. When you’re paying so much money, a 60usd difference that goes into your comfort, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it seemed like the right choice. This way we only shared the ride with 2 other couples instead of 12-14 other people.

Another thing that helped us decide was the fact that we booked through a travel agency rather than directly with Oriental Ballooning, so they got us a pretty substantial discount. We paid 300usd p/p in the end, for the premium service.

They picked us up from the hotel while it was still dark and after a short drive we arrived at the meeting point. We were given tea, coffee and cookies while they divided us into teams and allocated us a balloon.

The sight on the ground is impressive as well with 20 something balloons from different companies being prepared. The roar of the fire coming from the balloon’s furnaces was filling the field.

 

Before we even realized, after the safety briefing, we were floating.

Words fail to grasp the sensation of flying over this mystical land of temples, with the morning mist drifting through the temples as the sun rises above them.

There are over 2200 temples and pagodas on the plains of Bagan, most constructed between the 11th and 13th century, as a symbol of a powerful kingdom. This makes Bagan the largest concentration of religious buildings in the world so the chance to glide above this magical place is unique. There is no modern structure to brake the “going back in time” feeling.

Unfortunately, the morning we flew was very misty and cloudy so couldn’t experience the stunning sunrise over the temples. Also the light was less than ideal for taking “post cards” like photos.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed every minute of it and the 50 minutes flight went by in a flash.

Before we landed, we got the chance to peep into some villages from above and see a farm or people working the land.

After landing, we had some champagne and snacks. Totally unnecessary in my opinion, since everybody was heading back to their hotels for breakfast afterwards. Money spent here could have been taken off the expensive ticket.

Important things to know before booking hot air balloons over Bagan:

  • The authorities have restricted the minimum height and flight path, probably looking to direct more tourists towards their monstrous and illegal viewing tower they erected in the archeological park. This means the balloons no longer get so close to the temples. It is an important aspect. If you don’t have a long lens, you’re not gonna have the long awaited picture.
  • You’ll have to wake up before 5 am and wait to be picked up. Needless to say, it well worth it.
  • They only fly between November and March, otherwise it is too hot or rainy. So if you are visiting outside the season, you won’t be able to take a balloon flight.
  • Remember to book through a travel agency for a discounted price
  • The balloons are highly dependent on the weather. If it’s raining or a bit windy, the flight will be cancelled. Even if they are allowed to fly, but the weather is not perfect, you might not see the sunrise at all, which is one of the main reasons you want to be up there. So you have to be prepared for not having the flawless experience in the air.

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