Monday, 8 June 2015

Hot air ballooning: Up, up and away in Turkey and Myanmar!

Have you ever been hot air ballooning? Despite the cost, the greatest thing I had to overcome was my fear of heights, the old vertigo I've suffered from forever! What a world was opened up to me when I finally realised my dreams and that first take off was so quiet and awe inspiring, that I was instantly an addict! If only it was a cheap pastime and not so outrageously expensive....but you only live once, or twice as they say in James Bond speak!

 My first encounter with the hot air ballooning specialist world was in Turkey where we and about 80 other balloons loaded with enthusiasts took off in the misty dawn of Cappadocia, from the small township of Goreme. This is a fascinating area as it has the elements of science fiction:  troglodyte caves which were dwelling places for Christian monks and unusual landforms called fairy chimneys that soar into the sky, providing the most unusual and photographic footage from the sky. All of these are easily and wonderfully noted from above but while on foot, take quite a long walk to admire!

Firing up!

Ballooning over Goreme's fantastic caves and landscape in Turkey!

Up, up and away in our beautiful balloon!

Enjoying our landing with champagne!

 Ballooning itself is totally a well run business as some pilots told us they spend six months of each year in some areas and then some return to their homelands like Britain and U.S.A. It is a booming industry if you are a trained pilot apparently, with the industrious companies running local team labour to launch and help recovery at landing and provide champagne, certificates and food for travellers on landing.

 But also, as we discovered in Myanmar, some companies have a tie in with local vendors who rush out into the paddock as they did at the Temples of Bagan, to sell us items of clothing, goods and food! Central Bagan was the capital of the mighty Pagan Empire around the 11th and 12th centuries, and has once again gained popularity with the thousands of tourists who visit each year.

Bagan temple view from the ground level in Myanmar!

View from above, some of the over 2000 temples remaining built between 1044 to 1287! A magnificent sight.

Shot taken from balloon camera, I am left of the pilot, hanging on tight!

Despite all this, it is interesting beyond the commercialism to meet up with fellow travellers and as these are isolated areas you usually end up seeing them again at outdoor restaurants and venues later on for a celebratory drink! The odd rough landing can be heart stopping for the adventurous like one we experienced, but nothing that we could not laugh about afterwards! MY TIP: Take your courage and your camera ( videos are excellent memory keepers when ballooning!) and enjoy the blissfully quiet flight over amazing vistas!