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Balloons Over Bagan

Jack Knoll
jack knoll balloons over bagan

Southeast Asia is a Backpacker’s dream.

On my second trip there, I was determined to get further off the beaten path. Myanmar seemed to be the best place to make that happen.

My 4:00am cellphone alarm made four hours of sleep feel like a lot less. Motivated by the excitement that lay ahead, I managed to throw on my clothes, grab my camera bag, and step out the door of my sleeping quarters into a pleasant 75-degree dewy courtyard. It was still dark and the silence of the electricity-devoid desert enveloped me. There were no dogs, cars, airplanes, or noises of any kind. Eagerly sipping a cup of coffee, I waited on the dirt road in front of my room until the faint sounds of a bus broke through the quiet.

The 15-minute bus ride couldn’t have taken us farther than two miles and, joined by other adventurers from surrounding accommodations, we filed onto a sectioned-off piece of the giant grassy field. Pre-dawn pops of burnt umber crept above the horizon. We circled around the car-sized basket in front of us, anxious to jump aboard and take flight.

Propane burst into flame as our pilot Gareth pumped hot air into the enormous balloon.

The whole process took close to an hour until enough air had been filled. Gareth quickly filed his intentions with local air traffic control - we would be the first of 18 balloons in the air that morning. With a final burst of flame, we were airborne. Thousands of temples rolled below us as we drifted to the south. The timing couldn’t have been better; moments after takeoff the sun pierced the horizon sending rays of orange and magenta across the east-facing walls of the countless ancient structures. At that moment, it was hard to imagine anything in the world that would rival the view that lay below.

jack knoll balloons over bagan
jack knoll balloons over bagan