Seeing hot air balloons drifting over the temples of Bagan at sunrise is one of the most iconic images of Myanmar. Being in one of those balloons is an experience not to be missed and is one of the absolute best things to do in Myanmar. Here we share our experience of our magical sunrise balloon trip over Bagan.
The day started early – with a hotel pick up at around 5am. We were transported via antique bus to the launch field where we sat in the dark with our fellow passengers, drinking tea and coffee and waiting for the pilots to make a decision whether conditions were right for flying.
This wasn’t something we had anticipated – the possibility that conditions may not be right for flying. The ballooning season in Bagan runs from October to March, with conditions at the beginning and end of season being particularly unpredictable. In fact, in the first 12 days of the season this October, only four flights had gone ahead before ours. One of our fellow passengers was on his third attempt at going up!
So we sat and waited and watched the sun rise, and watched all the pilots huddling together, looking at the sky, letting off one helium balloon after another to judge the wind direction. Each balloon drifted toward the river, the only place we didn’t want to head – later in the season it is possible to land on a sandbank in the river, but in October it would be a very wet landing!
The sun rose and we were all still sitting there watching those balloons determinedly drift towards the river. Just as we were all starting to feel somewhat disconsolate, and around ten helium balloons later, the pilots reached a decision – we could fly!
From then on the field became a hive of activity – safety briefings for the passengers and the balloon teams kicking into action to get the balloons filled up and ready to fly. Once we were all fully briefed on how to safely climb into the basket, and more importantly what position to take for landing, it was time to go.
There are three balloon companies in Bagan, but they all set off from the same field and from what I saw all the pilots from all the companies worked together to make a decision as to whether conditions were right for flying.
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive as the balloon lurched off the ground, but once we were drifting up into the sky, a sense of calm came over me. It’s so peaceful gliding over the fields, with just the occasional burst of noise as the pilot blasts the flame to fill up the balloon.
It is honestly such a magical feeling – taking in the surroundings in the beautiful morning light as you silently glide on by.
We had been ballooning once before – on honeymoon in South Africa – but I preferred the Bagan trip as we kept fairly low to the ground, meaning we could see what was happening below us and even shout hellos to the village children as we passed!
The only disappointment, due to the time of year we flew and the wind conditions, was that we didn’t actually fly over the temples and pagodas of Bagan – which is kind of the whole point.
We did see them from the balloon, but we needed to land in a field before we really got to them. Later on in the season and you can fly right over the top of them. Something to bear in mind.
On landing in the field we were served a champagne breakfast with pastries (champagne on landing is a ballooning tradition, and one that I thoroughly approve of!) before being taken back to our hotel for 8.30am – where we found our children still fast asleep under the watchful eye of a babysitter and blissfully unaware that we had been on an adventure without them!
We went ballooning in Bagan without the kids, but we found lots of fun things to do with kids in Bagan – you can read all about them in our article Things to do in Bagan with kids.
Important information for ballooning over Bagan:
Ballooning season runs from October to March.
There are currently three companies offering ballooning over Bagan:
Book as far ahead as possible – there are limited numbers of balloons and they book up quickly.
Children need to be aged 8 or above to fly. Height restrictions apply too.
There is a premium service available – the balloon holds just 8 people instead of 12-16 passengers. (We did the normal service and it was great, I’m not sure the extra money would be particularly well spent).
You will be picked up from your hotel at around 5am and return around 8.30am.
Conditions need to be perfect to fly – if there is rain, or the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, your flight will be cancelled.
Ballooning is expensive – around $330+ USD per person.
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