By Thiha Lulin
In our country Myanmar, hot air balloon flight began in Bagan. Almost everyone is still contemplating that hot air balloon flight in Bagan is perfect. Of course, there are different beauties across the country. The flight of hot air balloon in Bagan is not perfect enough. Being able to fly hot air balloon everywhere in the country ensures more perfection. I had ever thought of flying hot air balloon in Bagan only. I was doubtful about whether the impressive beauties of overlooking view and sunrise in Inle Lake outdid Bagan as I was flying the hot air balloon over the water surface of the lake. These days the flight of hot air balloon is available in Hpa-an on ethnic Kayin land where it isn’t too far from Yangon. Diverse geographical features in the ethnic area can be also enjoyed and these feelings are irreplaceable.
Nearest hot air balloon flight from Yangon
Hot air balloon flight service is available in Bagan, Inle, Mandalay, Ngapali, Pindaya, Loikaw and Hpa-an. I am accustomed to oriental ballooning. Among these places, Hpa-an is the nearest to Yangon. The motor road is in a good condition and it is four hours’ drive from Yangon. The travellers are not very familiar with the nature beauties of Kayin State. Anyhow Hpa-an can be regarded as hot air balloon flight region and it is the nearest place to Yangon.
Hot air balloon flying in the sky of Hpa-an
Oriental blooming attracted local people in and around Hpa-an on 15 December in 2019, becoming the focus of attention on social media. Firstly, local people were unaware of the flight of the hot air balloon and later it was known to all local people. On that day I saw an opportunity for the flight of the hot air balloon in the sky of Hpa-an for the first time. While flying the hot air balloon, I felt the breathtaking beauty of Kayin State.
Oriental Blooming group members came to the hotel where I put up and picked me up there. Upon arrival to the sports ground of Kayin State at about 5.30 am, we had a friendly conversation with each other. Coffee, tea and snacks were served us and we were all to fly the hot air balloon. The pilot of the hot air balloon cordially greeted those who were going to fly individually. The pilot started talking about the trip of hot air balloon. There may be a few changes in schedule according to early and late sunrise. It also depends on wind direction and weather. The pilots decide not to fly the hot air balloon when they suppose the weather is not good and it is windy. It is not easy to forecast the day which we want to fly. It is not meant for Hpa-an alone and the remaining parts of the country are the same matter.
The foreign pilots taught those who were going to fly the hot air balloon how to follow the rules before and after the flight. During that time, photographing, using phone and being talkative were prohibited and all are allowed doing nothing. All the passengers have to listen to what the foreign pilots instruct. Nothing is more important than life. And then the hot air balloon was ready to fly and waited for the passengers to carry. All the passengers ran to the hot air balloon and got into the basket of the hot air balloon. The hot air balloon rose slowly and slowly reaching in the sky within five minutes. At that time the hot air balloon brought outstanding natural beauty to the passengers. I had to feel the beauty of the sun rising behind Zwegabin mountain, a famous monument of Kayin State as if my tear rolled down. The scenery in Kayin State is not the same as that in Shan State. I feel like my beautiful country and the native place of the ethnics. The creation of the God seems unbelievable. Similarly, the beauty of Thanlwin is just like reigning queen. While we were in the hot air balloon, we were able to see the proportional beauty of Thanlwin bridge and Hpa-an town, fields and plantations outside Hpa-an, natural caves and pagodas.
When the pilots flew low, the views of ripe paddy fields and already-harvested ones seemed more beautiful. The waves of farmers’ families harvesting in the fields and sincere greetings both in Kayin and Myanmar languages were breathtaking and heart-stopping, and it strengthened loving Hpa-an more.
The places of the rise and fall of the hot air balloon are different. It depends on the wind direction. After flying the hot air balloon for about one hour, we had to take position to go down in an open empty field. The villagers are very simple. All the villagers young and old came up to the hot air balloon and they were worried about all the passengers aboard the hot air balloon. They asked why you went down with this hot air balloon. Their question words made us smile and thank them as they came up to us and were worried about us. How lovely Kayin ethnics are in Hpa-an!
All the passengers including foreign pilots got off Oriental Ballooning and drank champagne on a happy occasion as a gesture of a success of flight. The lid of champagne made in the form of hot air balloon was given as gift and then the certificate of successful flight was also presented. We were taken back to the hotel. It was an unforgettable journey for me.
Oriental Ballooning group offers transport service. Breakfast is served before the start of hot air balloon flight. There is also a photographing program while flying the hot air balloon. Upon arrival back to ground, a celebration is held with champagne and a variety of fruit. Balloon Flight Certificate is issued by own name. Hats and bottle of water are given as presents. Insurance is also included.
The facts of paying attention
Pasoe (nether garment of Myanmar males), htamein (woman’s skirt), skirt and mini skirt are not okay to get into basket of the hot air balloon. Pants and short pants are more suitable. The pilots do not allow the passengers listening to songs and speaking over the phone loudly, supposing that it might cause disturbances to others in the same flight.
Small Action Cams are okay to take photograph. It is required to notice not to fall when taking selfie with the use of the stick. Not everyone is allowed jumping in the hot air balloon. Those who are afraid of height and those who are startling should take care. I am also afraid of height, but the flight of hot air balloon is not as exciting as that of a plane. I need not to be worried about that.
Enquiries have been received since I broadcast Hpa-an hot air balloon flight. They wanted to know where to buy the ticket for the hot air balloon flight and how much it costs. The price of the hot air balloon flight is K250,000 per person. The service of the hot air balloon flight will begin in October of 2020. But if there are six passengers for hot air balloon flight, the service like charter will be offered. The visitors to Hpa-an and nearby people can book the flight of the hot air balloon after collecting six persons.
For nature lovers
The flight of the hot air balloon is so unique for all visitors. While I was in Hpa-an, I put up at My Hpa-an Residence by Amata Hotel, which it located in the quiet locality at the foot of Zwegabin mountain. It is not far from the town. It looks modern and lovely with several bungalows. The visitors can feel the nature of mountain and forest among rubber trees. The moon above the mountain and sounds of the animals at the night time are a paradise for nature lovers. The employees are generous and friendly to the visitors and the restaurant is very excellent. The menus of breakfast, lunch and dinner are inclusive of Kayin cuisines. The visitors can try for traditional cuisines as they like and the opening of the restaurant is not so long yet. It is a favourite of foreign travellers and the prices are very reasonable. The price still remained K65,000 in December in 2019 and it will rise to K70,000 in 2020. The visitors will like visiting Kayin villages with better views, compared with Hpa-an town’s. This is very suitable location for those wishing to do hiking and trekking. I visited nearby places by bicycle. It is not far from Kyaukkalat and Yaygu as well. The road is straight and it is also okay to climb Zwegabin mountain. It is an undeniable fact that it will be cherished more by feeling the beauty of Kayin land together with Thanlwin river and Zwegabin mountain. The visitors will immediately realize what I would like to say in course of flying the hot air balloon. Looking forward to seeing the days the hot air balloon flying in the sky of Hpa-an land under the arrangement of Oriental Ballooning. Wishing all the people could travel with best of health and happiness free from all obstacles. (Translated by Htut Htut (Twantay)