The old town of Bagan with its many beautiful temples was the highlight of Myanmar for us. What’s more, when you see the temples looming up from the misty fields at dawn, it is a wonderful experience. You can of course see this at one of the various viewpoints. However, if you want the ultimate experience, take a balloon flight over Bagan. This is truly a bucket list item! First, some background information on Bagan before we give you more information about our experiences on that fabulous trip.
At the time of the kingdom of Burma, between the 11th and 13th centuries, Bagan was the capital. The successive kings built many temples, ranging from small ones to large. Each successive king wanted to exceed the number and size of temples by his predecessor. In total, more than 5,000 temples were built on the plains around Bagan. Now, there are about 2,000 remaining, restored and open to the public. For the Burmese, Bagan is a sacred place with a religious function and many visit the city on weekends or during holidays.
Balloon season officially runs from October to early April. Fortunately, the period had been extended a bit, so we could also go in mid-April. A ticket is not cheap: expect to pay over $300 dollar per person. However, the experience is unforgettable! We booked with Balloons over Bagan. They have been operating balloon flights in this area since 1999 and now also over Inle Lake. There are other providers too, but this organisation makes it an experience from beginning to end. You will be picked up at your hotel in the early morning in a 50s bus. The bus takes you to the field where the balloons are already ready. While filling the balloons with gas, you meet the captain and the rest of the passengers. You will receive detailed instructions about safety once on board.
The balloon flight
When the balloon is ready for departure, step into the big basket. There is room for 16 people. The basket is big enough to give everyone enough space and you all have a perfect view. What’s more, the ropes then get loosened and you slowly rise, waved goodbye to the helpers. The view is phenomenal. The temples loom up out of the rising ground mist, the sun rises slowly and illuminates the plain with a beautiful skimming light. Several other balloons also take the same route. Meanwhile, the captain tells you what temples you see and other facts. Through an in-flight camera, several pictures are taken of the group. You actually will want to float about for hours enjoying the view.
However, after about 45 to 60 minutes, the command “prepare for landing” unfortunately sounds. Everyone sits down in the basket and holds on to the handles. Then the captain puts the balloon safely on the ground. You get out, are welcomed by the helpers and enjoy breakfast with a glass of champagne. Finally, the captain hands you the certificate and it is time to get on the bus. With great lasting impressions, you get off back at your hotel. Another thing scored off the bucket list!