STT Ballooning started the balloon operating in Bagan last year with 2 balloons only and this season (2019/2020) which started in early October and will end in mid-April had a total number of 8 balloons.
April is considered a hot month in Myanmar and as the location in Bagan in a semi-arid area the temperature do rise quite high and it would be difficult to run the balloons in Bagan in a safe condition after 10th of April.
The Bagan hot air balloon experience with STT Ballooning
The hot air balloon tour departed from Bagan area which is located in the dry central plains of the country, on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy in the Mandalay region.
The thing about riding in a hot air balloon is that the weather and wind both need to be perfect. If the wind is too strong, or blowing in the wrong direction (which can happen in the evening and this is one reason why there are no balloon rides in Bagan during the sunset) it’s not going to take off. If the weather isn’t good, like rain, there’s a good chance the flight will be cancelled – this is the main reason why there are no balloon rides in the rainy season in Myanmar starting from mid-April (hot season) and till the end of September (when the rainy season comes to and end in Myanmar)
The day before our ride in Bagan with STT Ballooning we got the pick up time confirmation 2 days in advance – the confirmation of the pick up time does not means automatically that the balloon ride is going to take place. The balloon ride in Bagan can be canceled just before the pick up time (and we will be called to your hotel – so no need to panic if no car is coming) or on the taking off place where after the chief pilots does the weather assignment can take the decision to cancel the balloon ride due to the weather.
STT Ballooning , the hot air balloon company we fly with, offers one flight times per day – (1) early morning at 5:20 AM pick up from your hotel in Bagan in order to catch the sunrise and operates at the moment with 7 balloons with the capacity of 16 persons in the basket (the Standard Service) and Premium Service with the balloon capacity of 8 person only and European Breakfast included in this luxury balloon package.
Balloon Ride Travel tip: Given the unpredictability of weather (especially in the begin and end of the season plus during the peak season of the New Year) it’s best to schedule your hot air balloon tour early in your trip, just in case it gets cancelled. This way, you’ll have more chances to try again another day; if case of cancelation and seats are available for the next day we will be scheduled accordly.
You are entitled to the following privileges beside the normal inclusion as free pick up, snacks and certificate at the end of the balloon ride in Bagan. What is not included with the STT Standard service is the inflight photo (available only for the Premium balloon ride only)
- FREE Admission to Bagan Viewing Tower
- FREE Admission to Bagan Golden Palace & Dandaree Show
- 25 % Discount on use of Treasure SPA
- 25 % Discount to Food & Beverage delights at Bagan Viewing Tower
- 25 % Discount to consumption at The Little Thai Kitchen
Hotel Pick Up & The Snacks before the Ride
The team from STT Ballooning arrived came to our hotel in Bagan at Royal Palace Hotel located close to the Bagan Airport in Nyaung-U , just 5 minutes away from the taking of point which is the best in Bagan compared with the another balloon operators ( Oriental Ballooning or Balloons over Bagan which have their departure point close to Amazing Bagan Hotel and the golf court) The free pick up is included in their balloon package.
Shortly after our arrival we have been taken to our table and shortly our pilot arrived and introduced themselves. Most of the pilots are experiments pilots from UK, Australia or Europe.
Snacks included a cheese or vegetable sandwich (quite good), water, coffee, juice and some croissants.
We were free to go near the balloon to see how they got inflated. To be honest I enjoyed more the atmosphere when flying with Oriental Ballooning or Balloons over Bagan as their take off point is located on the same area and to hear the noise and feel the hot air from more than 15 balloons inflating in the same time is absolute amazing! In that morning only 4 balloons were being operated by STT Ballooning.
The lift off was smooth and fast. We were taken to our basket and a short instruction had been informed by our pilot (shorter and not that compresses as the other balloon operators) but still it was OK. We took off just before the sunrise like 10 minutes and it was still a bit dark outside.
Other balloons did take off after the sunrise and it was great for us to take of before and we did enjoy the magnificent sunrise of Bagan in a balloon! That feeling is great and you must be in the air to feel it and be one with the balloon.
The hot air balloon tour with STT Ballooning
During the flight, the basket floated up and down. The wind is the one which direct the balloon and the pilot can only coordonate the up and down movements. What I liked about the STT Ballooning pilot was that he did rotate the balloon several time in the air in order for us to have a 360 view and not to miss a good photo. He was a bit inexperienced with flying over Bagan and in terms of information none was provided (my comparison goes with my previous flights with Oriental Ballooning & Balloons over Bagan). He even apologies saying that is his first year in Bagan.
It was a amazing experience to see the pagodas from above. Once the sun is more and more the light becomes better and your photos are much better.
The wind was calm but I could still feel it cold against my face. Mornings are quite cold in Bagan and once you go up it becomes more cooler; that’s why it’s recommended to bring a long sleeve cloth with you.
As the basket climbed higher and higher, I decided to stop making photos and to enjoy the view and the other balloons floating next to us.
While in the basket you can expect a very smooth ride balloon . You won’t feel turbulence like you would in an airplane or if the wind gets a bit stronger as well.
Most of the time spend during the balloon ride (around 1 hour in Bagan). we won’t hear anything, not even the birds singing except for the camera noise and people talking about their great experience in balloon. The other exception is when the pilot blows more hot air in the balloon. That noise is a little loud and in the same time some sand comes out as well (have no idea why sands does come out – I will probably ask the pilot next time I will be doing the balloon ride in Myanmar.
Landing & Afterwards Experience with STT Ballooning
The landing location is always different and don’t think they land on the same stop on daily basis. The location of where the balloon actually lands will change depending on the wind. Hot air balloons cannot technically be steered, they simply float with the wind. Because of this, each landing location is different.
Depending on the wind direction or speed on that day the hot air balloon experience in Bagan can be longer or shorter. If wind is a bit stronger the balloon ride will be unfortunately a bit shorter; if wind is not blowing to hard it can be much longer than the minimum 45 minutes as they are intended to fly in Bagan.
As we were flying and approaching to the balloon ride to end the pilot used a tablet to locate an appropriate field to land on and in the same time communicating with other pilotis to see which spot is the best on that day. Some fields have pre-clearance for landing, while other fields do not allow the balloon to land without permission as they are cultivated by the locals and image more than 30 balloons and 500 people per coming coming in your yard every single day and ruining your crop which is our main income for food & money. The balloon companies does pay a fee in order to land in Bagan but I am not sure how much from that fee goes to the farmers and how much goes to the local government.
Best spot and free of ruing the crops is on the river banks. That makes the trip and the balloon ride in Bagan even more fun & great and longer as we will be transported back to the land first by boat and second by car. And it’s a great opportunity to have the breakfast in the middle of the water on the sandback. Unfortunately during all the 5 balloon rides in Bagan I have never landed on the sandback (usually happens in the second part of the season when the water level is much lower compared with the after monsoon months in Myanmar)
Sandback is not a good place to land if you were a kid which sells souvenirs after the balloon ride. Most of them come from very poor families and they income they made is for them to continue to go to school (the don’t skip school as they can go after the balloon lands which is still early in the morning). Some of them same hand made paintings or local laquer to be sold. Don’t push them away – we have paid more than 300$ for the balloon ride and you can give & buy a souveriv for 4-5$ in total which might make a different in their daily life.
After the landing we went to the special arranged spot for us to have the final part of the balloon experience in Bagan. Along champaign, fruits and juice we were had been handled the certificate of participation and and a cute toy with the STT Ballooning logo. After some short photos with the pilot and some thank you words from the crew & leading pilot we were taken back to our hotel in Bagan to enjoy the rest of the day is this top destination spot in Myanmar.
The day ends with a glass or more of celebratory champagne. This is a tradition in the hot air balloon industry dating as far back as 1783!
7 FAQ after my hot air balloon tour in Bagan, Myanmar
(1) The weather dictates the journey
This is why weather is so important and why sometimes a hot air balloon ride may be cancelled. The wind determines the direction. And it needs to be almost perfect.
(2) Time in the hot air balloon will vary
Every hot air balloon experience is different in each location in Myanmar: from Ngapali Beach, Loikaw, Inle Lake and Mandalay. The total experience takes up to 4 hours from start to finish, including the post flight celebration and the drive back to your hotel in Bagan
From takeoff to landing, the flight usually lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour.. Our flight was just below 60 minutes but compared with Inle Lake when I have been in the air more than 2 hours The entire tour was about 4 hours; so we need to plan accordingly if you have a flight or departure from Bagan on that day.
(3) It takes a team to deflate the hot air balloons
After we landed, our pilot asked us to stay inside the basket while the STT Ballooning ground team deflated the balloon. Once it was safe to get out of the basket, our group was asked to go the arranged place for each balloon tourists.
Each balloon has assigned at least 8-10 crew which helps both at taking off and at the landing place to secure the safety of the taking off and landing. Compared with the balloon ride in Cappadocia where I have seen a maximum of 3 people per balloon – and the reason is simple as the balloon is landing directly in the back of the car and no need a big crew to handle it.
Even if the balloon ride season in Bagan is only for 6 months they are paid during the whole year and this is one reason why the balloon ride is more expensive compared with other destination where you can take the hot air balloon ride.
(4) Kids can fly in a Bagan hot air balloon in Bagan / Myanmar
This is the main question regarding the tourists with kids willing to take the a hot air balloon tour in Bagan. The answer is YES and NO. Kids under age of 7/8 years are not allowed in the balloon ride and their height has to be at least 137 cm ( shoes does count in measuring it). Kids over 7 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
(5) Choose a company with a good safety record
For Bagan all the balloon companies have a great safety record with no accidents in the past 20 years.The pilots have extensive training and experience with hot air balloons and the company has an excellent safety record and are mostly from UK, Australia, Europe and New Zeeland plus they do have another job in the low season in Myanmar especially in Africa and Mongolia.
(6) Hot air balloon distances will vary
The distance you travel will vary from one day to another . It’s mainly depends to wind speed and direction. On a standard balloon ride in Bagan , you can expect to cover 10 to 20 kilometers.
(7) Pregnant Woman are not allowed to fly
The reason is that the landing might be a little bumpy and have chances of miscarriage. If you don’t inform the pilot before the balloon ride and you are being caught we will be not allowed to do the balloon ride and no refund will be given back to you. Safety first, remember?