There are approximately 2,200 surviving temples and pagodas in Myanmar, and most of them are found in the city of Bagan. (I wrote about exploring these temples here). But how does one see them all, or at least most of them?
Impossible? Not really. In fact, seeing hot air balloons flying over Bagan is one of the iconic images of Myanmar (or Burma, as it was known before). The thousands of temples on the Bagan plain mean that the best way to witness the scale of it all, without any form of distraction, is from up on high!
For years, there has been only one company providing the experience: Balloons Over Bagan, with their recognizable red balloons that are usually seen in a lot of travel photos. Although nowadays, there are other companies providing the same experience, our family decided to sign up with this one, knowing that they have done this longer than most. Unfortunately, hot air ballooning also includes an age requirement: children below 8 are not allowed — which meant that I can only bring my 2 boys with me and we had to leave our little girl behind for this activity.
While this is not our first time to ride a hot air balloon (our first experience was last year in Cappadocia, Turkey – which I had written about in a previous post, link here), this second time I must say, was still as exciting as the first!
To see the best of Bagan from above, the balloon must be in flight right before or as the sun is just coming up, as the city is most beautiful early in the morning, and because the temperature is also cooler at this time.
And so before dawn, as part of the service, we were fetched by one of the balloon company’s converted antique buses. That meant waking up at 4am to make sure we caught the bus!
At the site, we enjoyed some coffee and refreshments while the crew inflated the balloons.
As you can see here, we started when the skies were still very dark…and then slowly, we saw the sun about to rise!
And when our balloon was perfectly ready, we were also ready to fly!
Up, up, and away!
For my boys, the whole experience of being inside an open-air basket — a hot air balloon — and flying at that, was exhilarating, to say the least!
Up in the sky at sunrise
We saw the first few minutes of sunrise and felt the cool morning mist blanketing the historical and beautiful ancient temples of Bagan.
Seeing the temples bathed in the golden light of the sun was stunning! From above, everything (and everyone — yes, including us!) looked golden!
From on high, the ancient temples dotting the vast plains of Bagan looked so picturesque, mystical even!
A beautiful descent
Flying in a hot air balloon is very different from flying in a plane, as this felt more like we were floating on air! There were essentially no sounds inside the balloon other than the sudden blasts from the burners and the clicking of our cameras. Somehow, it felt strangely good to just be still and quiet, feeling the moment… and just watching the beauty of nature envelope us.
What an incredible experience to be in an open-air flight without any other form of distraction, except the wind blowing on our faces.
As expected, the descent and landing were as beautiful as the ascent. This whole experience of flying in a hot air balloon at sunrise over the ancient temples of Bagan was truly an amazing and breathtaking experience. It was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family, one trip we will forever remember!
To see the first part of our trip, click here — Majestic Myanmar: The Ancient Temples of Bagan, Part 1