Oriental Ballooning Bagan
Oriental Ballooning is one of the 4 companies along STT Ballooning Golden Eagle and Balloons over Bagan who operate the balloon rides in Bagan. 4 different companies should mean 4 different services types. There is not that much difference between all there and we will compare them into a next post.
Oriental Ballooning – Short History
Oriental Ballooning was founded in 2013 and started operating the balloon ride in Bagan from 2014.
Oriental Ballooning Bagan obtained its AOC (Air operators certificate) in November 2013 and has been offering flights in their boutique 4-12 passenger balloons over Bagan, Mandalay, Inle lake, Pindaya and Ngapali Beach as well and will begin operating the balloon ride in Hpa-An in October 2020.
If you want to know about how safety the balloons in Myanmar you have to know that the balloons are made in the UK by Cameron Balloons, the world’s most popular, most experienced and largest manufacturer of hot-air balloons. The prices of the balloon starts from 17,000$ and they have to be changes every few years. This is one of the reason why the ballooning in Bagan and Myanmar is a bit expensive,
All pilots and technicians are European nationals who hold UK professional licenses, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. We can see Oriental Ballooning pilots list here.
What You Need to Know About the Oriental Ballooning Flight in Bagan
Oriental Ballooning operetes will 7 balloons in Bagan. The Ministry of Tourism allows only 32 balloons to operate on daily basis in Bagan. The Oriental Ballooning balloons are designed for a premium balloon ride experience and have 4 compartments in the basket but only 3 person are allowed in each compartiment. Depending on the day it can be only 8 or less but the maximum is all the time 12 person in the balloon making the balloon experience with Oriental Ballooning more enjoyable!
My Balloon Ride Experience with Oriental Ballooning
Over the last few years hot air ballooning in Bagan has become the ultimate activity for all of Myanmar. Almost every traveller’s itinerary must include Bagan and Inle Lake and even Ngapali Beach where the balloon ride in Myanmar can be made.
We had organised our hot air balloon ride with Oriental Ballooning, one of the safest and most popular operators in all of Bagan and Inle Lake. Oriental Ballooning is a premium balloon ride in Myanmar offering limited seats in the basket for a higher comfort of the passangers. In Bagan, Oriental Ballooning has a limit of 12 person in the basket (8 to 12 depending on the number of persons doing the balloon ride in Bagan on that day) and 4 to 6 person only for the balloon ride in Inle Lake.
The sun was still sleeping when we we were picked up from our accommodation in Bagan at 4.45am in the morning. Stars were able to be seen being a good sign that for that day the balloons in Bagan will be in the air.
We were the first one to be picked and then we heading to Bagan Lodge to pick other clients. Lucky there are a group of 7 person there and that was the only stop of the day before heading to the departure point. The departure point of the balloon ride in Bagan is close to Amazing Bagan Hotel, close to the golf court of Bagan.
Coffee & Snacks
We were welcomed by the chief pilot and then we heading to our table. Each balloon & pilot has its own table and everything was already set up; fresh coffee and croissants were served. If you wanted some cereals you can have it from their mobile shop while was located close to the tables. Since breakfast was not yet available at the hotel I jumped to the croissants, took some cereals and coffee was served by the one of the pilots. I was what I needed to wake up and to be fresh & go the the balloon ride with Oriental Ballooning.
Pilots & Introduction
Each tourist was taken to his table and then the presentation of the safety measures began. Even it was my third balloon ride in Myanmar (after the one 2 years ago with Balloons Over Bagan and last november with Oriental Ballooning in Inle Lake) I listen carefully all the instruction. For example when I am flying I never listen to the stewardess instruction.
Before the safety measure presentation, the pilot introduced himself. In November, in Inle Lake balloon ride I fly with Donna but this time I was assigned to Ravi which is the head of the pilots for Oriental Ballooning, making him one of the most experienced balloon pilots in Myanmar. He is from UK and in the offseason of the balloons in Myanmar he does Balloons Over London. One tourist from UK was a bit surprised that he never saw a balloon in the Great Britain capital and the reason was that the rides are taking places early in the morning, around 4.30am and in the east side of London.
I was very curious about the rules the pilots have to follow and they do have to follow similar rules as a airplane pilot. Plus every 9 days they have to take 1 day break and they go to bed before 9pm. Even if it’s an awesome job it’s not for me – I am not such a matinal person.
After 25 minutes till our arrival at our landing point it was time for action!
Taking already 2 times the balloon ride in Myanmar, this is my favourite part of the all balloon experience in Bagan. I compare the experience with the Formula 1 starting grid; motors are rowing, pilots are getting ready one by one, spectators are this time ready to join the pilots and the engineering are preparing the car. Fuel in our case is the hot air. It’s a great sensation to be surrounded by the noise of more than 20 balloons becoming alive like an ancient dragon during the medieval times.
Before the balloon takes off, you are assigned a place in the balloon. You don’t choose where to stay; the pilot knows your weight (that’s why weight is mandatory when you make the online booking of the Oriental Ballooning ride) in order for the basket to be correctly equilibrated.
Above the 3000 Pagodas of Bagan
During your trip to Bagan you will probably see 5 to 10 ancient pagodas a day in depth. The rest just a glimpse but during your balloon ride over Bagan we will be able to see way more and pagodas.
Like a feather in the breeze, Ravi lifted into the air in a gentle ascent. As Ravin held the burners on we climbed faster and faster to the east side of Bagan. The execution was brilliant; we can barely felt that we were 300 meters in just a matter of minutes.
The direction and how many pagodas we will be able to see depends only of the wind direction. The pilots can only move up and down and rotate the balloon.
We were one of the last one’s to take off so we were able to see almost all the other balloons in front of us. Behind us were 2 more Oriental balloons. In front of us 3 Golden Eagle and 14 from the Balloons Over Bagan. I must say that the most photographed balloons were the ones of Golden Eagle Ballooning due to their great colour. So I suggest to have the ride either to Balloons Over Bagan or Oriental Ballooning in order to take great shots!
No even Ravi was an excellent pilot but his history knowledge of Bagan were outstanding. With each big pagoda we were passing it, a short introduction and details about the pagoda were explained. But almost everybody in the balloon was to busy taking photos and selfies!
As we were approaching the landing time – usually the balloon ride in Bagan takes from 45 minutes to 1h and 20 minutes all depending of the wind direction, I was hoping for a sand landing. One day before, one of our clients had the luck to have that experience; even at the start of the ride some sand particles were falling from above; first I did not realize it was just sand then we were told about the yesterday landing with occured on the banks of Irrawaddy River in Bagan. In Inle Lake balloon ride I was hoping for a land on the water. But not even these time luck was on my side; the balloon landing did not occur on the sand, rather on a field.
Weather was not the best to take great photos. It was too foggy and cloudy in the same time and light was not very good at all. But I wanted to focus more on my ride experience and to have as much as interior memories rather than photos. Best time for the balloon ride is in late November, January and February. End of March we can get great photos due to the morning fog but it has not to be cloudy in the same time.
After 45 minutes as other balloons were already on the ground it was our pilot turn to find a spot to land. First it has to be away from anu high building, fences or trees. Secondly it has to be on a land which has no plantation on it; plus the balloons company in Bagan have to pay a landing fee to the owners of the land.
The landing was executed perfectly by Ravi; the basket hit the ground and the impact was minimal as if we landed on the water. Seconds away the ground staff was taking care of the balloon.
The Ground Staff
Each balloon is assigned up to 20 person who handles the ground operation; from bringing the balloon to the take off point to inflating it and safety measures till takes off in the air. In the same time, there is a mobile team who is coordinated with the pilot for the landing point. They have to follow the balloon from the take off till the landing. Sometimes there are no roads and they have to take in on the fields or even on the water. The ground staff is very important to be at the landing point before the balloon lands to help it land gently; without them, accidents might happened. So far they did their job brillianty!
After the balloon lands, their job is to gather it and put in the in the car and transport it to the base. In the same time, the ground staff has to arrange again the chair and stuff for the snacks and drinks after balloon ride finishes.
Beside being a great pilot, Ravi is a great person with great sense of humour. After a short history on how the balloon where invented (by french brothers – Montgolfier) and champagne history it was time to open it. As Ravi promised, the person who was able to catch the cork would get a free ride! Everyone was ready to catch it and get this new opportunity to do the balloon ride again and this time for free! But everyone felt to catch it! Then the second opportunity came when the second champagne bottle was to be opened. Again, the corck was missed to be catched! As Ravi said after the second failed attempted, the free ride back to the hotel was missed by the person who were to catch the cork!
Make sure to plan at least 3 days in Bagan for your adventure. Why? Cancellation may occur at the start of the balloon season in Bagan and at the end. Sometimes due to wind condition and unseasonal rain the ride gets cancelled. If seats available for the next day we will be reschedule; if not full refund will be issued to you. That doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s better to be safe than sorry; last year a total of 8-10 days had cancellation out of 6 months.
- Book your hot air balloon through a licenced Myanmar Travel as it will be cheaper than booking it directly with the balloon balloons in Bagan. reliable and licensed travel agent for hot air