Tuesday 24 January – Bagan
Taking a Balloon trip was one of the big things on our wish list for this trip and we’d seen rave reviews for the dawn fight over the temple strewn fields of Bagan – flagged as Myanmar’s version of Siem Reap. So we set an early alarm a 5.30 pick up by Ballooning over Bagan, but we needn’t have worried as the local temple kicked off at 4.20 and woke us up long before any alarm was required.
The company, set up by an Australian chap and his Burmese wife, collected us from our hotel in a restored WWII Chevrolet CMP bus partly made of teak which was really stunning and dropped us in groups in a dark field with tables serving coffee and tea.
Shaun our Australian pilot gave us the safety briefing including the landing and take off position we needed to take in the baskets and then we sat back and watched the sun rise over the teams inflating the balloons. They first filled them with cold air using a giant fan, then warmed the air with the burners in roaring blasts until the balloons floated up righting the baskets.
As the sun rose we realised quite how many balloons were set to fly – at least 10 from our company, 2 from Golden Eagle, and at least another 6 from , so the sky would be full of balloons.
A few long blasts on the burner and our basket started to rise – into the dawn sky over Bagan and as we rose, it became clear just how many temples and stupas fill the flat dry plains. The pilot has almost zero control over the direction but could spin the basket gently so we got a 360 view and we alternated between noisy hot blasts of the burner to lift us up, and periods of silence where we gently dropped down.
We sailed for 40 minutes or so south passing temples, stupas, families, farmers and kids on the way to school.
We landed with a bump – to find the ground crew had been tracking our location and had set up breakfast of champagne and banana cake – definitely the best way to see the endless monuments of Bagan and all before breakfast.
We had a quick breakfast back at the hotel then joined the rest of the group for a tour of the main sights of Bagan – unfortunate by this point our early wake up caught up with us and we don’t remember much about the day but we know we went to:
– Shwe zip gone Pagoda
– Ananda temple
Finishing with sunset over the Sulamani temple and beers at the ‘Weather Spoon Bar’ pun intended, followed by a huge burger – there are only so many noodles I can take in a week!