Hot air ballooning over Bagan

If you’ve watched travel shows on TV then you have probably seen a segment somewhere on hot air ballooning at sunrise over the thousands of ancient temples and pagodas that are scattered around Bagan. We were up very early this morning for a 5:15 am pick up to take us to the launching fields where we were met with fresh croissants, Danish pastries and fresh hot coffee. After a short debriefing the balloons were first filled with air with two large high power fans and then a few bursts of high intensity flames. There were ten people in the main compartment which was split in two and a separate compartment for the pilot. The wind was calm and the air was hazy. A few more bursts of flame and we gently started our ascent. Our company was the “Golden Eagle” with three balloons along with two other companies which brought the count to ten balloons that filled the airspace. Our top altitude was about 2,000 feet where we saw the sunrise over the horizon albeit through a fairly thick haze which unfortunately didn’t lend itself to the best light for photography. Joyce was nervous at first but quickly relaxed once we took off. There is no wind (you move with the wind) and the ride was smooth although we would be lying if we said the thought of the balloon blowing up in flames and crashing to earth didn’t cross our minds. We flew a little lower later in the flight and with more sunlight the details of the temples and pagodas became clearer but we didn’t see the colours of the early morning sunshine that you see on any brochure or travel show but the experience was still a “once in a life-time”. Upon touch down we celebrated (our safe landing?) with a chilled glass of champagne. This is a ritual after all balloon flights and the reason why as the story goes is in the 1700’s a French man-made the first manned hot air balloon flight and landed in a farmer’s field. Not being up to date on manned balloon flights the farmers figured he was not from this world. I’m not sure if they tried to stone him death or not but on his subsequent flights he carried a bottle of champagne with him to prove to whoever’s field or house he crashed into that he was in fact from France and not the moon or some other place where hot air balloons wouldn’t work anyway. This flight was definitely on our bucket list so we can now cross this off and move to next one, space travel!

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