In the last four years of traveling and living overseas, I’ve been lucky enough to do some pretty amazing things. Taking a hot air balloon ride in Bagan, Myanmar has to be right up the top of my list of “best experiences” as the view was simply stunning.
I was in Myanmar with my good friend Izy, and we’d already realised that the country was going to be hell on our budgets. There aren’t very many hostels in most towns, and the hostels and guesthouses they do have are usually $20-$30 a night, which is a lot in Southeast Asia ($4 will get you a bunk bed with air conditioning in Cambodia).
However we also knew that Myanmar was a once-in-a-lifetime kinda trip. We’d both been wanting to go for years, and it was now or never, as Izy was heading to South America, and I was moving back to Thailand.
We did our research, and settled on Balloons Over Bagan for our balloon ride. We were actually lucky to even be able to make a booking, as these guys are often sold out weeks in advance.
Balloons Over Bagan have been flying over the pagodas and temples since 1999. The price of balloon rides in Bagan is around $330 USD each, and there were 14 of us in the balloon, with at least ten balloons in the air. People will pay a lot for these kids of experiences, and they’re onto a good thing.
I’ve had a hot air balloon ride on my bucket list for ages, and what better way to do it than at sunrise, over the ancient city of Bagan? So we woke up at the crack of dawn, ready for pickup at 4.30am. After a bumpy ride out to the fields, we were offered coffee and waited anxiously to find out if we would even be flying.
There was a high chance that it wouldn’t go ahead, because we were technically in the shoulder/off season for hot air balloon rides. Only around 1 in 3 mornings were suitable weather for flying at the time, and those who had booked for the day before had been unable to fly.
Luckily we were good to go, and we had a brief safety talk where we were instructed not to touch any of the cords hanging down, and not to stand on the seats. We then watched as they began to blow up the balloons.
Eventually it was time to get in. I’m not scared of heights, but I can definitely see how it could be disconcerting if you were. I thought it would feel different when we rose into the air, but as we stood in the basket it just felt like we were standing on the ground, although we could see the ground far below us…a very weird feeling indeed.
It was the wrong time of the year to see a picture-perfect sunrise, but it was still gorgeous. The light was perfect, and the way it hit the pagodas was amazing. Almost enough to turn me into a morning person. Haha I kid.
After the sun had risen, our balloon pilot tried to get us as close to the pagodas as possible.
It was so quiet and peaceful in the balloon. None of us did much talking, and while I definitely took a lot of photos, I also focused on simply enjoying the experience and living in the moment. From the air it was easy to see why so many people want to travel to Bagan, as there are more than 2200 temples and pagodas waiting to be explored.
After we had spent around half an hour in the air, we began making our descent. The landing was bumpy to say the least, and we landed hard, floated back into the air, and were dragged along the ground as we landed again. Good fun!
While the balloon ride was expensive, it was worth every penny. I probably wouldn’t do one again, unless it was somewhere like over the pyramids in Egypt, because i feel like I’ve experienced it now, and it doesn’t give me the adrenalin rush I love.
If you do get to Bagan, and you’re looking for a different way to see the pagodas, consider splashing out and going for a hot air balloon ride. If you can tolerate the early morning it’s well worth it!