I suppose everyone needs to fly in a hot air balloon once in their life. It might as well be over Bagan.
It was expensive – let’s just get that out of the way. And it’s not a long flight – around 45 minutes. I had buyers remorse for a day or two. However, those 45 minutes seemed to last for hours and the whole experience was magical. To share it with our whole family was priceless. Looking back, I have no regrets!! It’s one of those memories seared into your brain that will remain clear for the rest of your life.
Watch the video and enjoy…
About the experience: There are four ballooning outfits in Bagan (as of early 2019). We went with Golden Eagle because they had the highest rating. Their service was impeccable from start to finish. They arrived on time at our hotel (at 5:15 am) and providing a candle light breakfast. Our pilot was Swiss and we learned that most of the pilots in Bagan, along with the balloons, are European. We watched the uniformed crews set up, the pilot inspect the balloon – safety was never a concern.
You can choose between an 8 passenger basket or a 16 passenger basket. Each basket has compartments that hold some combination of four people (2×4 or 4×4) and a compartment for the pilot and the tanks of propane. Since we were going for the “one and done” program we picked the smaller eight passenger basket and shared it with a Spanish couple and a Korean man. I can’t speak for the difference between the 8 or 16 person basket, but I do know that each person in our smaller basket had a 360 degree view of the terrain. Being in a larger basket may not offer that.
Watching them fill all of the balloons is quite exhilarating and provides a magical light show. Three of the four operations set up in adjacent fields and they coordinate the liftoffs so as not to run into each other. Due to the wind direction we were the last Golden Eagle balloon to leave, and Golden Eagle seems to go first (we went first the day we flew, and noticed they were always the lead balloon during our three days in Bagan).
All balloons lift off prior to sunrise and are somewhere out over the Bagan Archaeological Zone when the sun creeps above the horizon. The balloon pilot flies at different altitudes based on the wind direction. We started low because of a westerly wind to “line up” over the Bagan Archaeological Zone, then we rose to catch the more southerly breeze. In general the balloons pass from the northeast to the southwest and we seemed to be more over the main attractions than in previous days. We passed to the southwest over New Bagan and landed a little long on the dried riverbed of the Irrawaddy River. Once on the ground we were treated to more snacks, champagne and more Golden Eagle logo gifts.
The hot air balloon ride was a highlight of our trip to Myanmar as well as of all Southeast Asia.