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Hot Air Ballooning in Burma

| Words by Lorin Willson |

A first-hand account of hot air ballooning in over the temples of Bagan

Taking a hot air balloon over the temples of Bagan is one of the incredible experiences you could choose for free when you book our charter on the Irrawaddy Explorer

The anticipation had been building for days. Word was circling around the travelling community that flights had been cancelled due to the weather. This was to be my first hot air balloon ride. I was nervous but I soon discovered I had no reason to be apprehensive…

Balloons over Bagan’s characterful wagonBalloons over Bagan’s characterful wagon

It was 5am and we heard the rattle of our vintage bus before we saw it. A short drive to collect our fellow passengers and we arrived at the launch site, a soccer field. Still overwhelmingly dark we sipped hot drinks before our safety briefing. Divided into groups of 16, with four to each section of the basket we met our pilot, Christophe from Belgium.

One of my numerous photos of the sunriseOne of my numerous photos of the sunrise

Safety is paramount with the crew at Balloons over Bagan. All pilots and technicians are qualified and registered in the UK with years of experience. A 15-minute safety briefing with bonus practice session and we were ready to go. The ground crew worked seamlessly to inflate the balloon and we were soon climbing our way into the basket. The burners sent hot air high into the balloon and within moments we were lifting off the ground.

The average balloon ride generally lasts 30 to 45 minutes. We were extremely fortunate to be able to spend about an hour in the air. The subtle colours of dawn broke away to vibrant hues as the sun rose. Our pilot, Christophe was able to manoeuvre the balloon to ensure we saw the temples from varying heights. Every minute the light changed casting a new rainbow of colours across the temples. We drifted approximately seven kilometres over the plains passing countless temples. We were completely in awe of the breathtaking beauty and stunning scenery that was unfolding before us. A change in wind direction and a friendly reminder from the ground crew meant it was time for us to land. In brace positions (imagine you are skiing!), Christophe smoothly landed our balloon. Within 30 minutes we were out of the basket, sipping champagne and eating croissants. Spirits were high and the smiles could not be wiped from our faces.

My favourite shot of the Bagan sunriseMy favourite shot of the Bagan sunrise

It is one thing to explore the temples from the ground, but it is a completely different experience to see them from a hot air balloon. Hot air ballooning in Bagan operates daily between October and the end of March. Although seemingly expensive, this once in a lifetime experience should be taken by anyone embarking on a holiday in Burma.