Going Balloons Over Bagan
Bagan is an ancient city found in the Mandalay region of Myanmar, with thousands of temples dating back to the 7th century. One of the best ways to admire the sheer size and beauty of Bagan’s temples is up in the sky, from the basket of a hot air balloon. It was my first time in a hot air balloon, and boy was I blown away by the panoramic bird’s eye view. This was definitely the highlight of my Myanmar trip. I mean just look at the pictures below!
Our tour started at 520am with a complimentary pickup from our hotel in a very cool vintage Chevrolet bus. At the flight site, we were served hot tea/coffee with biscuits while waiting for the crew to set up. After a very professional safety briefing by our pilot Chris, we were off for our 45-60min sunrise flight over Bagan. The balloon basket was huge and fitted all 16 of us comfortably. There were seats and compartments as well, though you will probably never think of sitting throughout the entire flight. Why would you when the view is so good!
Our pilot also acted as a guide, pointing out key sights and sharing nuggets of information throughout the flight. The balloon rotated pretty often too, so there were opportunities to take photos from all angles.
Pro-tip: For the shutterbugs, put your camera away from time to time and take in the beauty with your own eyes. It’s never quite the same through the lens of a camera. Don’t worry there is enough time!
When the balloon landed, we were served generously with champagne (or juice), fresh fruits, and light pastries to end a very memorable and breathtaking flight. Those who were interested could also buy a handful of pictures taken during the flight, and an old video for US$15 a copy. We were back in our hotels by 930am, slightly buzzed from a few glasses of champagne, and ready for a full day of temple hopping. :D
Pro-tip: Make friends with the rest of the passengers and share the cost for a copy of the pictures and video.
Many of the temples have been refurbished in recent years, allowing you to appreciate the magnificent religious architecture as they once were. There are three main regions in Bagan – Nyuang U, Old Bagan and New Bagan. Nyuang U is the busiest, with the airport and bus station nearby, and is where you will most likely find accommodation. Do note that there is a tourist US$15 entrance fee to the Bagan Archaeological Zone before you enter the town.
Other than by hot air balloon, most people go temple hopping by bicycle/horse-cart/tour busses. I personally prefer cycling, because you get to travel at your own pace. It is also more fun finding your own little corner for that breathtaking sunset, without having to squeeze with bus loads of other tourists.
Pro-Tip: Take the electric bicycle for about $8/day. It can get quite hot in the afternoon and you’ll be able to cover more ground than on a normal bicycle.
If you can afford it, I’ll definitely recommend taking the hot air balloons over Bagan. At US$320 (if you book directly with Balloons over Bagan) or S$392 (cheaper if you book with BeMyGuest) per pax, it is pretty pricy, but the stunning views are definitely worth it. Book at least 2 weeks in advance during the peak season (Nov-Feb) and note that they usually do not operate during the rainy season (May-Sep). Hope you’ll enjoy Myanmar as much as I did!
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