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Published: January 11th 2017
One thing that I very much wanted to do while in Bagan was to take a balloon flight over the archeological zone and see the temples from the air. With over 2,200 pagodas and stupas, there was no way I was going to see them all on foot. And besides, hot air balloons are really cool.
There are three balloon companies in Bagan, but the government limits the number of balloon licenses to twenty. During the high (read dry) season, tickets sell out fast, so best to make your reservations well in advance. Make that months in advance.
I went with a company called “Balloons Over Bagan.”
All their pilots are trained overseas, with many coming from the United Kingdom. The man who piloted my balloon flies in Bagan during the winter, then moves on to southern Africa, and Colorado. These guys know their stuff.
They picked me up at 5:30 in the morning in an old wooden body VW bus. The story is that the Canadian military brought the buses over to Myanmar during the Second World War. After the war, it was too expensive to ship the buses back to Canada so here they stayed. The
varnished wood interior is beautiful, but I think the springs and shock absorbers gave up quite a while ago.
At the launch site we had tea and cookies while listening to a safety briefing and watching the balloons being inflated.
And then we were off.
It was a little cloudy, but you could just see the sun sneaking over the horizon as we rose in the air. The government of Bagan has now restricted flights directly over the pagodas, and balloons cannot descend below 300 feet over the archeological zone. I fully understand the desire to protect these monuments, most of which are over a thousand years old, but I wish we could have gotten a little closer.
From the air you can get a feel for the extent of the monuments on the plains of Bagan. Considering these temples were built about a thousand years ago or more, it’s staggering to see the size and intricacies of these structures. And since balloon flight is silent except for the burst of the propane burners to make the balloon rise, you get to see a lot of other things on the ground. Like
the team of bullocks working in the field, or the man laying out handmade bricks to dry in the sun.
All too soon we were setting down in a field and toasting with the traditional after flight glass of champagne. And shortly after we landed, the family of the guy who owned the field came out to try and sell us paintings and crafts they had made. Possibly useful information:
There are three balloon companies licensed in Bagan: Oriental Ballooning, Golden Eagle Ballooning, and Balloons Over Bagan. They all take off just before sunrise, and since balloons are dependent on the direction of the wind, they all go in the same direction and see roughly the same things.
The government limits the number of balloons operating in Bagan to twenty, and with the three companies currently operating, that limit has been reached. Consequently, flights fill up very quickly. I made my reservation five months in advance, and I met several people who had been unsuccessful in securing a seat.
Tot: 2.725s; Tpl: 0.065s; cc: 40; qc: 126; dbt: 0.0837s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb