Flying a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan and Inle Lake in Myanmar

You may have seen some awesome photos on my Facebook page (if you haven't liked it already, why not!?) about a hot air balloon flight I did in Myanmar, and be wondering how I'd managed to fly in a hot air balloon. It's true – It's a little out of my $3 a day budget. I had sent an email to a hot air ballooning company offering to write an article in exchange for a complimentary balloon flight over Bagan. It was a long shot, but it can't hurt, can it? Their reply shocked me, 'Sure – would you like a balloon flight over Inle Lake too?”

I also write for a website called 'Adventure In You' which has a massive audience specialising in adventure travel in South East Asia, which is probably why the balloon company was so keen, but securing this package also reflects a nice vote of confidence in my writing ability.

Balloon Ride Over Bagan

Other hot air balloons in the sky over Bagan, Myanmar

My first flight was over Bagan, the ancient capital of a wealthy Empire which would someday form modern Myanmar. Prosperous and devoutly religious, they set about building temples and Buddhist stupas in something of a frenzy, until some 10,000 were strewn across the Bagan plains, an obscene number for so small area. Today, only a fifth (but still over 2,000!!) remain to form the breathtaking spectacle you can see today. My balloon took to the skies alongside 21 other balloons, and stayed low, floating above the temples which seemed close enough to reach out and grab.

Temples of Bagan in Myanmar from hot air balloon.

A thick fog had rolled from the nearby Irrawaddy River overnight, and woven itself between the temples, giving the early morning scene a sense of peace and stillness. The sun broke the eastern horizon, and the temples absorbed its amber rays, displaying the golden hues in their brickwork and intricate details. The scene was ever-changing, the temples and scenery unfolding before my eyes as though revolving along a conveyor belt, with temples fading from view to be replaced by others.

Temples of Bagan in Myanmar from hot air balloon.

A temple of Bagan directly from above from a hot air balloon in Myanmar.

Many other hot air balloons in the sky over Bagan, Myanmar.

Flying Over Inle Lake

I knew nothing about Inle Lake; I had only gone for the air balloon flight, but I was blown away by the lives led by the people who lived there, and their harmonious coexistence with nature.

As the balloon soared higher, I saw that the lake was sliced into narrow rows. These were the 'floating gardens'. Vegetation has been clumped together and made into these rows which are held in place with sticks of bamboo to the muddy floor of the lake. They are actually floating, and can be rearranged by removing the bamboo struts. On these floating lanes, tomatoes and other vegetables can be grown which;

a) don't need watering.
b) don't destroy the habitat for fish.
c) look really pretty from 6,000 feet above.

The floating gardens of Inle Lake with a hut in Myanmar from a hot air balloon.

The floating gardens of Inle Lake with a hut in Myanmar from a hot air balloon.

With a hot air balloon the wind dictates your journey, writes your story, and it decided it wanted to give us a glimpse into normal village life by blowing us directly overhead. The village was built on the lake. Yes, on. Houses were erected on stilts. Schools, shops and monasteries too. Each household had a boat moored up outside which was used to go to the shops, to drop the children at school, or for a cup of tea with the neighbours. A world away from what we would call 'normal life', and yet for those people it was exactly that. A hot air balloon drifting overhead was a pleasant break from routine, and they rushed out to wave and take photos, wearing the characteristic wide and genuine Burmese smile I have come to love.

A floating monastery on stilts taken from hot air balloon.

A hot air balloon above a floating monastery on stilts in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

A floating village on stilts on Inle Lake in Myanmar from a hot air balloon.

The two balloon flights were a beautiful and memorable experience, absolutely one of the highlights of my time in Myanmar, and I hope the photos and words do some kind of justice to it. Anyway, now I'm off to ask Richard Branson if he'll send me into space in return for a article. It can't hurt to ask can it?!

Fishermen over Inle Lake at sunrise in Myanmar from a hot air balloon.
Fishermen start their day early, soaking up the first rays of sun as they hit the lake.

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10 Replies to “Flying a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan and Inle Lake in Myanmar”

  1. What an adventure, you’re seeing so much, and on a bike, I salute you ! keep going and enjoy every day of your life!

  2. Alistair Hitchcock says: Reply

    God, your blog makes me miss taking of for any part of the world at a moments notice. Remember to take five minutes every now and again to appreciate how much you’re achieving!

    1. If I’m encouraging others to get out there and see the world/have an adventure, I’m happy… that means I’m doing my job right!

      Thanks for the good advice – I do take it for granted all too often I think!

  3. Bill and Margaret says: Reply

    Ah but…’Mums the word’…..ie Mum is THE Word! Bill and Margaret T

  4. From your very first blog I knew it was always going to be a good read as you have a flair for writing and you have the ability to make your experience ours too. Keep up the good work, have enjoyed your adventures very much. The photos are fantastic too.

    1. Glad you felt like you’d been along with me for the ride!

  5. I can only imagine that Richard Branson would be honoured and delighted to have you as part of his team. Unfortunately, whatever Richard B says, you have a major hurdle … your mother forbides you from heading into space!! 🙂 xxx

    1. Is that the same mother that forbade me cycling around the world? 😉 xxx

      1. Haha … I don’t think I ever forbade you. I like to think of it as ‘resilience training’!😂 Building your long distance pitfall planning for every possible disaster that might befall. You’ve got to admit, that although you’ve never experienced any of the pitfalls I highlighted. Had you in fact done so, you would have been prepared for them!! And can I just say, you’re going to love my ‘problems with going into space’ list!! Love you xxx

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