After waving goodbye to the bustling city of Yangon at the start of March, it was time for Mr O’T and I to pack our bags and continue forth with our Burmese adventures. The next stop on our travel itinerary was the ancient city of Bagan, otherwise known as the land of 2,000 temples.
When I began compiling my 2017 bucket list at the end of last year, I couldn’t look past all the incredible images of hot air balloons I kept seeing on Pinterest. I was researching alternative modes of transport at the time, as I love trying out new things. But what I didn’t realise, was that the images I was scrolling through on my app were actually photos of Bagan – a part of the world Mr O’T and I had already earmarked to visit as part of our trip to Asia in March.
Fast forward six months and here I was, at 04:45am in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to get on the road. It’s a rare occurrence for me to be up at this hour but this was one adventure that was worth the early morning wake up call!
With only three hot air balloon companies operating from Bagan, you’re not spoilt for choice when it comes to booking your trip. This is definitely a good thing as it means you don’t need to procrastinate for too long before making a reservation.
I booked our hot air balloon ride with Golden Eagle for two main reasons. Firstly they operate in smaller groups, with only a maximum of 10 people per balloon. Secondly Golden Eagle are slightly more conservative when it comes to the weather – they won’t operate balloon flights unless the wind direction is perfect. As safety is paramount with this type of activity, I thought it best to err on the side of caution.
After a timely pick-up at 5:15am, we made the short 20 minute drive to our departure point in the middle of the desert. It was still dark when we arrived and quite chilly too, but a warm breakfast of pastries, hot tea and coffee soon beckoned and it would have been rude of me to turn down a croissant 😉.
Daylight began to creep in and after a temporary setback courtesy of the weather, Golden Eagle confirmed it was safe to fly. Watching the specialists fire-up the balloons was absolutely fascinating and was almost as thrilling as the ride itself!
Getting into the basket proved quite amusing and if I were to give you one tip, it would be to wear trousers at all costs – no one wants to see your Bridget Jones granny pants, however nice they may be!
Once our group of 10 were safely strapped in, we were given the all clear for lift off and my goodness what a lift off!
Hand on heart, nothing can prepare you for the views from above. Bagan is magical from the ground but from the skies it really is something else.
For the first 10 minutes of our flight, I was lost in a trance of jaw dropping beauty, desperate to soak up every single second.
Eventually my brain kicked into gear and remembered that I had a phone in one hand and a camera in the other.
Our hot air balloon ride lasted between 30-40 minutes and for the duration of the flight, I was quite literally lost for words. Hovering over 2,000 temples and watching the skies turn from a moody orange to bright blue was something else. My fear of heights was long forgotten and I can genuinely say that I’ve never felt more at peace with the world.
To be able to experience moments like this is too special to do justice to. My experience also reinforced to me, the power of having a bucket list and of writing down your hopes and dreams and making them happen!
Soon enough, we were told to prepare for landing. For all the hot-air balloon novices out there (myself included), there are two types of landing. A soft landing and a hard landing, the former being the preferred scenario.
As you might have guessed, we told to prepare for a hard landing which meant there was a strong possibility that the basket could topple over on landing. Instead of freaking out (which I would usually do in this kind of scenario), I got a fit of the giggles. For whatever reason, I found the entire prospect of toppling over with a group of 8 Chinese tourists quite hilarious 😂.
Mr O’T on the other hand did not find our scenario remotely funny. What didn’t help matters was firstly, we were incredibly close to the Irrawaddy River and secondly everyone in the group was doing the opposite of what we had been told to do for a hard landing 😂.
Soon enough we hit the ground with a thrilling bump! We all crouched down in the basket preparing for our fate when right at the last hurdle and to much relief, our basket bounced back to an upright position. Our captain was fantastic throughout and we were never in any real danger which was comforting.
After jumping out of the balloon and taking a few more snaps, we made our way over to the champagne reception area to toast to an incredible once-in-lifetime experience!
Floating through the skies of Bagan in a hot air balloon really is magical. If you’re ever in Bagan and have the money to spend on this once in a lifetime experience then I would urge you to go for it, because the memories you’ll capture, really are worth the splurge!
What did you think of my VLOG? Have you ever been in a hot air balloon before or visited Bagan?
Maggie O xox
Book your hot air balloon ride as far in advance as possible, preferably at least two weeks beforehand as places get snapped up very quickly.
It’s better to book your experience for the beginning of your Bagan trip. Adverse weather conditions can result in hot air balloon flights being cancelled and rescheduled for a later date. If you’re flight does end up being rescheduled then hopefully it will still be within the time period of your stay in Bagan.
Wear trousers and take a warm jumper/coat as Bagan is very chilly first thing in the morning even though it averages 37C during the day!
Take a pair of flip flops with you too as a boat will take you back to your pick-up point. Getting into the boat can prove a little tricky as you need to get into the Irrawaddy River to reach the boat due to low tides. Make sure you have a pair of flip flops with you as your feet will be a little muddy and wet by the end of the boat ride.