Pictures of hot air balloons over Bagan appear among the first images hits when you google Myanmar. The experience is probably the most impressive across the country (and probably in most of South East Asia) hence seeing hot air balloons over Bagan is one of the iconic Myanmar image.
No wonder, as raising above ground is the only way you could actually capture the scale of this unbelievable number of Buddhist temples and pagodas. I came across different information when researching Bagan. Some say there are more than 2000 temples, others mention more than 3000. Truth be told, I don’t care for the precise number, their beauty and cultural heritage are anyway breathtaking.
Organizing a hot air balloon flight
The logistic of organizing a flight is quite simple. At the moment there are three companies that offer hot air ballooning. We flew with Balloons over Bagan and the experience was really good, but I have also read good things about the other two. Booking through a travel agency rather than directly will most probably save you some money.
The ballooning season is quite short in Bagan, starting mid October until mid March, mostly because the air is cooler (since it’s winter time) and the wind is milder. So it’d be important to take this into account if you want to visit Myanmar and see Bagan from above.
Seems all flights are at sunrise, so we needed to wake up very early. At 5:30 we were picked up from the hotel and brought to the starting point. While we drank some tea and were briefed for safety measures, the balloons were getting ready for the ride. We were 16 people in our balloon, 4 in each compartment. You only need to sit down briefly at launch and when told so at landing, so you get to enjoy 90% of the time above the wonderful landscapes of Bagan. I wouldn’t say fear of heights is a problem, as the basket comes up quite high, so you won’t have the feeling you might fall down.
The flight time is not always at the pilot’s knowing, but it depends a lot on the wind direction as finding a place to land might be tricky. Bagan’s colours are most often brown from the dry land and the brick temples. We, on the other hand, experienced a green Bagan, as it had rained a lot during the just ending rainy season.
12 balloons flew over Bagan that day. I have absolutely no idea how long the flight lasted, its duration felt simultaneously like a blink and like the infinit. It was, without doubt, one of the most memorable experiences of all my life.