Today, I got to check an item that is both on my 2016 bucket list and my all-time bucket list. I rode a hot air balloon over Bagan to see the sunrise.
My friend and I got up at five in the morning. A bus picked us up and we drove through the dark for a while, arriving in a dark place where we were offered tea and coffee. So far so good. It took a while until we could see our surroundings and saw two hot air balloons, still deflated, and their baskets near us.
Soon, the pilot started with the safety briefing. There wasn’t really much to remember but it was still the most intense safety briefing I’ve ever had. Did you know there’s such a thing as a ‘landing position’? It basically means you have to sit down, hold on to a hand rail and lean back. The pilot made us practise it. Then he made us practise it again and again. How hard can it be for some people to sit down? I don’t think the briefing before my skydive was as long and intense and that involved jumping out of a plane!
After that very intense briefing and after having inflated the balloons, we were ready to take off. It wasn’t until the balloons had been fully inflated that I realised how many there were. Ten? Maybe more? It was amazing, watching them rise into the air and taking off after them.
Und just at that moment, as we climbed higher and higher, the sun came up.
It was beautiful! All around us, we could see the temples we had visited the day before. From above, they looked so different.
In the distance, the Irrawaddy became visible, morning mist still hanging above the water.
And then there were the other balloons.
I know I’ve said it before but it was really beautiful. Stunning. Awesome. Words can’t quite describe how much I loved it.
The balloon ride was longer than expectes before the pilot told us we’d be going down soon. He made us practise the landing position again, in case we had forgotten how to sit down during the last thirty minutes.
Does it happen? Do people ever forget how to sit down and lean back?
We made it to the ground intact. The landing was far softer than I had expected, with a crew waiting for us and pulling us down the last few centimeters. Afterwards, a champagne breakfast was waiting for us – and vendors. But I didn’t mind them a bit. After you’ve flown over the temples of Bagan in a hot air balloon, the thrill of it trumps everything else.
There seem to be at least two operators, in case you’re thinking about going. Make your booking weeks, if not months in advance or you’ll be on standby, waiting for someone to cancel. It can take a week or more so advanced reservations are the way to go.
What about you? Have you ever flown a hot air balloon?