Up In The Air

balloon bus over bagan

We didn’t know where we were going after Southeast Asia, to be honest we were feeling a little burnt out. We’d been backpacking and motorcycling and night-bussing around the region for almost three months, and as much as we loved every minute of it, we were itching for a change of scenery. And though we didn’t know where was next, we did know where we’d end - Myanmar. We’d heard about the ancient temples of Bagan, over two thousand pagodas and monasteries scattered throughout expansive green fields, and we were dying to see them for ourselves. 

We debated for a while whether to spring for a hot air balloon ride over the plains, it was going to cost us hundreds of dollars and we just weren’t sure if it would be worth it. Ultimately we decided to go for it, neither of us had ever ridden a hot air balloon before and figured hey, if we were going to do it anywhere, Bagan’s one hell of a place to try it for the first time. 

Getting the balloons ready in Myanmar
busses and balloons in Myanmar
lighting the balloons

A rickety bus picked us up for the ride at 5am, if I wasn’t awake before then, I sure was after the loud, bumpy drive. It was still dark outside when we saw the light of the balloons first begin to pepper the fields, we lifted off just as the first light of the sun came up from behind the horizon. 

A bus and a balloon in Myanmar
The crew lighting up
Our pilot lighting up!
fire in balloons in bagan, myanmar
Balloon moving upward in Bagan

From the first moment our feet left the ground, we knew it was going to be worth every penny - soaring, weightlessly, silently, smoothly over the plains, multicolored balloons dotting against the pastel morning sky. We rose above farmers wearing conical hats, working the fields below, big as ants. Oxen pulling carts along dusty, dirt roads. Everything bathed in the bright golden glow of the early morning, the temples scattered and stretched out on all sides. We drifted over palm trees and pagodas, for sixty minutes that felt way too short. 

Moses piloting our balloon
Balloons in Bagan
Temples and balloons in Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar - balloons in Bagan and a pagoda
sunrise view from a hot air balloon in Myanmar
Farmers in Bagan
Aerial shot over town
bagan balloons

After we landed the pilot popped some sparkling wine and we had a toast. Peter started haggling with a little boy selling souvenirs nearby, but I think he realized he’d lost all bargaining power holding a fucking glass of champagne in his hand trying to knock ten cents off the price of a postcard.

Balloons have landed

You can’t steer a hot air balloon, you have to, quite literally, go wherever the wind takes you. It’s a little weird, not knowing where you’ll end up, but at the same time, it’s endlessly freeing. And with everything up in the air at that moment, it’s definitely a feeling we could get used to.