That’s right. I decided that I deserved a splurge, and since I had never been in a hot air balloon…I went for it. Many people surely would like to do this but are maybe hesitant to spend the money, which is completely understandable. So let’s explore whether or not a hot air balloon ride in Bagan is worth it!
There is a balloon riding season, so to speak, in Bagan. Balloons don’t like to fly during the rainy season. If you really want to do this, travel between October and March.
I chose Golden Eagle over the two other companies (partly because they have yellow balloons…my favorite color) and I even splurged for the VIP balloon (8 people instead of 12). The costs were approximately $320 and $380 respectively. I also found out that the company is locally owned by a Burmese family and NOT by the government, which was important to me. The other companies are called Balloons over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning, if anyone wants to know.
They picked everyone up at various hotels and arrived at the launch site. There was “breakfast”. Tea, coffee and some meh croissants. Can’t lie, I kind of expected more but oh well. More tea please!
We were split into groups and given a quick briefing from our pilot. My pilot was a lovely Swiss lady named Lea. I scoped out the balloon and decided the back corner is the best spot (furthest from pilot). I delayed a bit while everybody else ran to get in balloon…”oh we’re going now”? Hee-hee. I got my coveted spot in the back.
Lift off was thrilling…hearing the hiss of the fire and watching the ground get further and further away…watching all the other balloons. It was overwhelming, but amazing. I had a stupid giddy smile on my face the entire time.
The sun had already risen at this point. It was serene to quietly glide over Bagan, taking in the landscape, the people, the dogs playing, and of course all the other beautiful balloons peppering the ever-changing kaleidoscope of a sky.
We soared for about an hour. We first flew over some residential areas and waved to children, eventually arriving to the temple zone. It was surreal to see the places I had seen from the ground. Pictured below is the popular pagoda, Shwesandaw…the one with all the cars! In my post about sunset and sunrise I had mentioned how crowded this pagoda was and how I avoided it like the plague. We waved at everybody below, feeling pretty high and mighty. Well, definitely the high part.
The light was constantly changing, depending on how the balloon turned and what position you were in relation to the sun. I thought it was beautiful in every direction.
I was slightly anxious for landing. How the hell does one land an air balloon? How did she steer it the entire time. Nice that I ask these questions now, huh? Lea was an expert pilot and didn’t cause us the least bit of concern. She expertly maneuvered that massive balloon as close as possible to the river, which helped the crew not have to drag it to the boats.
It was a little bumpy landing, but not at all scary. We were prepped to get in landing position, to put away cameras and crouch down. I think tipping is always a possibility but thankfully that didn’t happen. We all cheered and eventually climbed out. Champagne and fruit were waiting. I had two glasses because…champagne in the morning.
They even give you a little certificate, a copy of the video they take and a miniature hot air balloon.
Yes, yes, yes for days. It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was pure bliss and I enjoyed every second!
Read More: Sunrise and Sunset in Bagan
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