After Bagan, Inle Lake is second most traveled destination in Myanmar. Located in Shan State, the small town of Ngweshe is the gate to the second biggest lake in South East Asia and home to the Intha people who live on the lake. Balloons Over Bagan is one of the most popular activity in Myanmar but few know that you can do the balloon ride in Inle, Shan State as well.
I did both, the balloon ride in Bagan and the Inle Balloons ride and I must say I super liked the hot air balloon in Myanmar Inle Lake. Why? Read below my Balloons over Inle Experience.
The Day Before the Balloons Over Inle Ride
For me would have been a double event; doing the balloon ride over a lake and proposing to my girlfriend in the balloon! I was more than nervous before the ride and the reason was a simple one – weather in Inle Lake ! Two days before the balloon ride got canceled due to the rain and during the day it rained for a few minutes. Wind plays a major role in the balloon ride in Inle – if no wind it would be almost impossible to land as we were to find out during our balloon Inle ride.
The sunset the night before the balloon ride was perfect and weather looked to be perfect the next day. If the weather condition are not good in early morning at the first check, the pilots would have called the hotel and informed us about the cancellation. But it was not the case for us. My emotions were starting to grow minutes by minutes.
While in Bagan for the pick up by car, on Inle the pick up happens by boats! Even if you are staying on the lakes as our hotel was Ann Heritage Inle or on shore we will be picked up by boat. The pick up hour hours was 4.30 am and the silence was surrounding the lake. The boats did not started to bring the tourists on their daily sightseeing. There was only one boat trying to reach our hotel – a lot of lotus started to grow close to the hotel pier and it was a bit difficult to reach us. At. 4.40am we were already heading to the departure point. It was still dark and were were not able to see anything.
The Set Up
After 20 minutes of boat ride we reached our departing point. The location is on the ground of a school and even if it was not school day, children knew the balloon will be soon in the air over Inle and one by one started to come and see how the balloon get inflated. Or they were hoping to happen.
The weather was good the night before but in the morning it started to get cloudy and no sign on the sun or the surrounding mountains to be seen. A decision by the pilots was yet to be taken. I was getting more and more nervous since the same day I was about to leave for Yangon and this was my only chance to propose to my future wife! After the first round of inspection and weather check ( Inle does not have a meteo station and the information were not that acquirate) the pilots decided to postpone the balloon ride in Inle for 20 minutes.
Donna, our Oriental Ballooning pilot in Inle for that da decided to set free in the air 4 balloons to see how far they can be seen; the distance covered till the clouds eat the balloon was not very good but in the same time not very bad. She then decided to take a walk to see if the mountains are to be seen again. During those moments I started to ask here some questions. Is it too dangerous to go up? She said, no – all good from this point of view. Then what it is the main concern about the flight? You won’t be able to see too much. Well, I just want to be up in the air I told her.
After another 15 minutes if waiting Donna decided – YES – inflate the balloons! The lake was not that silence anymore; with the air machine pumping hot air in the balloons, kids started to smile again. And I started to breath normal again
UP IN THE AIR
And we were in the air! After 40 minutes delay the balloon started to fly over Inle Lake. It was the only balloon in the air on that day. The balloon ride in Inle is not that popular as the balloon ride in Bagan and Oriental Ballooning has only 2 small balloons allocated for Inle Lake and 4 to 6 person maximum in the balloon. On that day only one more tourist and one more pilot joined our flight with the balloons over Inle.
The lake started to be alive again. Fishermen were already on the lake, intha people were wake up and preparing the kids to go to school. The whole lake was alive and this was the main difference between the balloon ride in Inle compared with the balloon ride in Bagan – LIFE.
Almost every house in Inle Lakes has at least 2-3 kids. And almost all were awake and screaming, greeting to us and saying Mingalaba! With one hand in my pocket not to lose the diamond ring and with other sand on the camera to capture the moments on the lake I was more than happy that I decided to do the balloons over Inle ride. Everything was magical and more was about to come.
For the first 20 minutes the balloon was riding at very low altitude. We were almost touching the houses roofs and we able to understanding what childs were saying to us. At some point I felt as I could take on board on kid with us.
As we were passing the floating villages of Inle with their amazing vegetable crops you were heading towards the lake and we started to gain altitude.
We were about to leave the houses and the intha people behind us and were heading into the clouds.
The Magic Sunrise – Balloons Over Inle Lake
At the beginning of the day we were not sure if we will see the Sun or not during our balloon ride in Inle. The hot air balloon in Inle takes double the about of time compared with the Bagan. Up to 1h and 30 minutes we will be in the air. I know that before and I planned the proposal moment according to that. I was still waiting for the perfect moment.
Meanwhile the Sun managed to win the battle with the mountains souriding the Inle and was starting to warm us a bit.
And then it happened! As we were gaining more altitude, we managed to be above the clouds. I believe we flow quite often by plane and we know the moment after the plane finally managed to pass the clouds. Well, my feeling 100% more impressive compared with the plane moment. I was speechless. Almost everything around was was white. Big clouds below us was covering all the lake; in a normal day without the clouds during the balloons over Inle you can see the whole Inle Lake. Not during out balloon ride but I couldn’t ask for more. I was more than happy to be at 8000 ft.
While pilot Donna was looking for some landing points and measuring the wind direction I carefully started to look after the diamond ring in my pocket, hoping it was still in piece. Since we are not allowed to knee in the balloon I unfolded the paper and staring at my girlfriend I asked the magical question – Would you Marry Me? Her first reply was no Yes but Are you Serious, followed by the YES!
Donno noticed the moment I she finally realised why I was so impatient to go in the air today no matter what! Champagne was waiting for us down but it was still a long way back!
The hills around Inle Lake make a spectacular sight during the months of November to February. Crops are still on the field, mainy garling and soybeans and with the green of the trees and the redness of the soils makes the Inle sightseeing from the group during the popular Inle Lake Trekking amazing. But the above it was more spectacular.
Balloons Over Inle – The Descent
We already spended more than 1h and 30 minutes in the air and there was no sight of Donna was getting ready to land. Maybe she wanted to give as more time as a wedding present! Previous month we had some tourists who did the balloons over inle ride and the landed was on the water! How awesome can be that! You need excellent balloon skills and coordination with the ground team to perfectly land between 2 boats! In my mind I was hoping and praying in the same time for a balloons over inle landing in the water!
But one of the reason why we stayed more time in the air was the lack of the wind; the wind is the one which decides where the landing happens; the balloon pilot can only rotate the balloon and up and down.
As we were on the other side from the point we took off the landscape was different; the floating villages were gone and in their place pagodas and roads took their place.
I believe Donna, the Oriental Ballooning pilot wanted to make our day more special as the landing that followed was very special. Not even once, but 4 times she tried to land and to find the right spot. While in Bagan there is a special area where usually the balloons land or even on the river shores, in Inle Lake tke balloons don’t land on the same place twice. For the first 2 times Donna tried to avoid landing on farmers crops; third time she did not liked the spot and finally she decided to land on a plot close to the road. The ground team was already at their places waiting for us to help with the descent.
The landed was perfect being as smooth as the ascent; after the usually photos, champagne and some snack just on the field, surrounded by some noisy farmers who were complaining about the landing taking place on their plot the transfer to Ann Heritage on the lake was due by car and then by boat.
A fabulous day ended with the help of the great Oriental Ballooning pilot and the amazing Inle Lake team.
If you want to experience the magical Balloons Over Inle ride with Oriental Ballooning you can book the flight online here at the best price online!