Monday, December 14, 2015

Ballooning Over Bagan: The Temples at Sunrise

The most magical way to experience the pagoda-studded landscape of Bagan is to take to the skies in a hot air balloon at sunrise, floating in the dawn light above curls of mist over the plain of ancient Buddhist temples. The only drawback is the 4:30am wakeup call to ensure prompt arrival at Golden Eagle's base camp before sunrise. With hot coffee and croissants waiting, crews begin the arduous task of inflating the balloons and tethering the baskets for our departure as the sun rises over Bagan. After a safety briefing by our Swiss pilot Urs, we rose and drifted with the breeze, we were able to see quite possibly the best panoramic views of Bagan and its surrounding temples. One of the most important archaeological sites in Asia and arguably the world, the thousands of temples at Bagan sit on a dry agricultural plain wedged in a bend of the imperious Irrawaddy River. Floating from treetop level up to 1500 feet in the air, travelling where the winds took us, the views were breathtakingly beautiful and allowed for spectacular photographs of the temples and panoramic vistas of the ancient kingdom. Depending on the winds, the trip can last up to an hour and is celebrated with a glass of champagne after landing and disembarking from our padded nest. Although not inexpensive, the experience is a memorable one and affords unparalleled views of one of the most astoundingly beautiful wonders of the world.

Arriving at the base camp at 5:30am for a cup of coffee and croissant

With the moon is still high in the sky, crews begin to lay out the balloons

With baskets attached, the balloons begin to inflate

With the flame alit, the balloon begins to raise upright

With eight people per basket, the balloons are secured on the ground until the local airport gives the pilots the "thumbs up" to lift off

Up, up and away!

Our Swiss pilot Urs

First view of the temples at sunrise

Overgrown with vegetation, some of the temples are visited by very few

Like a hidden secret, a small temple hidden away in the undergrowth

Higher up the air, the balloon affords breathtaking views of the plains at sunrise

Htilominlo Temple from the air

Temples with the majestic Irrawaddy River in the distance

Floating above Bagan's Archaelogical Zone with spectacular birds-eye views of the temples

Ballooning over Bagan 

The gleaming magnificent gilded bell-shaped dome of Dhammayazika Paya dates back to 1198 AD

A balloon hovering close to the ground, looking for a safe place to land

Urs pouring champagne for our group after a successful landing

Urs made me a ''Golden Eagle" balloon momento from the champagne cork!