“Go/no-go?”

Bagan, Myanmar. November 2019 (11 photos)

This is Part 12 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 15 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Should you find yourself in Bagan from about mid October to mid April, one of the options for your travel itinerary is to take a balloon flight over the temples of Bagan. It’s not an essential activity for everyone, but on a personal note I would have seriously regretted not doing it, or if my flight had been cancelled due to adverse weather.

On that note, safety is a major feature of the ballooning process. Each year, experienced balloon pilots from across the world come to Bagan for the ballooning season. At least 4 companies provide ballooning. Each balloon has its own dedicated ground support team. There’s a safety briefing before the flight. Pilots are in constant contact with other pilots and ground teams whilst in the air. Flights are at sunrise and will be cancelled for unfavourable weather conditions.

“We have lift-off”

I’d chosen to fly with a company called Balloons over Bagan, a privately owned company and the first commercial hot air balloon operation in South East Asia. Balloons over Bagan has a fleet of 1944 Chevrolet World War II vintage buses (as above) to pick up passengers before dawn and the bumpy ride to the takeoff zone was a fun experience in itself. I felt like a veteran for this flight, having previously flown in a balloon over Queenstown, New Zealand. That day in Queenstown there were two balloons in the air. This day in Bagan there were more than twenty balloons in the air.

“First glimpse above Bagan”

One can’t control the sunrise, so I will admit I didn’t get the golden dawn light I had hoped for but apart from that it was a great experience. Here are a few photos from my flight…

“Balloons over Bagan”

The aerial perspective is a great way to appreciate the vastness of the more than 2000 temples that remain of more than 4000 temples that were originally built.

“Balloon over Bagan”

“Approaching Dhammayazaka”

“Over Dhammayazaka”

“Dawn patrol”

“Tourists”

They were waving as a greeting. I was waving back as in “get out of the way, you’re photobombing me.”

“Random landings”

“The descent”

Fortunately we didn’t land right on top of those child nuns and monks.

Another way to appreciate the balloons is to photograph them flying low over the temples of Bagan from a suitable ground vantage point, but a lot of luck is required to be at the right spot at the right time. I didn’t get that opportunity.

…..

This is Part 12 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 15 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Balloons Over Bagan

Image

71 thoughts on “Balloons Over Bagan

  1. What a stunning birdseye view. I am so glad you managed to go. Your photographs are as delightful and breathtaking as always!

    When I booked my trip to Myanmar all the hot air balloon spots were taken, and I felt extremely disappointed, especially as I wanted to do it on my birthday. Later in my trip I met a couple who was meant to go on the day I wanted to book for, and they told me how let down they felt when the balloons didn’t fly on that morning. It made me feel sad for them, but better for myself and my ‘missed’ opportunity.

    • Thank you very much, Jolandi. That’s unfortunate and fortunate for you at the same time. By not getting the booking at all, you probably planned a great holiday and birthday. Safety first, but it would have been more disappointing to you to have a balloon ride cancelled at the last moment on your birthday.

  2. What a joy to see these overhead shots of the temples and especially the pentagon shape. The white lines almost seem to have been designed with that perspective in mind.
    Your comment about the safety briefing reminded me of the time I reluctantly went in a glider. The only briefing (when I was in the glider, about to set off) was: Don’t open your parachute in the glider. They are very expensive to repack. In an emergency, step calmly from the plane (!) and wait for a count of ten (!!! – we were not going to be all that high up) before pulling the cord.

    • Thank you very much. It’s a very different appreciation of the structure of many of these old temples from the air. The geometry and design is quite amazing.

      That safety briefing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence! Well, at least you survived the flight without having to open that chute. πŸ™‚

    • I think there were several reasons, including demonstrating one’s spiritual devotion and generosity. In modern times, people don’t build temples anymore, but donate as much as they can to the temples and monasteries. Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in South East Asia.

  3. Love these aerial views and landscape. I especially like, β€œFirst glimpse above Bagan” with all the balloons the same and the 3 temples. What an incredible place and images.

  4. That looks amazing, Lignum, but I’m not much for heights so I’ve never been sure if I’d enjoy a balloon ride. I am, however, thrilled that you took one and I could see the photos of it. What I like most of all is the contrast between the balloons and the ancient temples and buildings on the ground. πŸ™‚

    janet

  5. great photos, as usual. I was a balloon chaser once. random landings is right. you never know where those things are coming down, especially in the mountains of west virginia.

    • Thank you. It’s a case of wherever the wind blows. My pilot for the ride was very cognisant of trying to land somewhere where his ground support could reach us without difficulty.

  6. what an incredible incredible experience. I have seen these types of photos before of the balloons and always think what an amazing experience it would be (even with my fear of heights)…so glad you did it and so glad you posted for me to see and read about your experience. Thank you!!

    • My pleasure. It’s actually very serene floating in the air, above such beautiful landscapes. I have difficulty going near edges/ledges, but ballooning is a different experience I absolutely enjoy.

  7. Heck of an adventure, that’s something I’ve always wanted to try. Are they able to steer them, or were you just lucky going directly over Dhammayazaka?

    • Mostly lucky but a lot of pilot skill as well. Hot air balloons mostly go where the wind takes them, but at different altitudes, the wind direction and speed is different, so pilots fly up/down looking for favourable winds. iPads and laptops are essential for pilots these days. There are also several vents at the top of a balloon, and I believe the pilot can selectively open one or a few to gently try to nudge the balloon in a certain direction.

  8. I think you do sound like a veteran on your second hot air balloon flight. Sounded like this was just another bus ride for you πŸ™‚

    Agree it wasn’t the best sunrise but at least it was dry for a take off. The soft light seemed alright and those are some soft dusty shots you got there – in a way capturing the dustiness of life in less developed parts of the world.

    Lol you waved back eagerly. It’s lovely the other basket waved at you. They might look tiny in the shot, but I like how you managed to capture the waving very clearly – and that stands out in the image. It’s such a simple, happy scene high up. Well done.

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