Experiencing Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Inle Lake
Taking to the skies in a hot-air balloon as the sun slowly breaks above the horizon is a pretty exciting, ‘tick-it-off-the-bucket-list’ experience many of us would love to have… But riding in a balloon over Inle Lake – that’s the kind of thing that makes your trip to Myanmar truly unforgettable!
Getting Ready for the Hot Air Balloon Ride in Myanmar
Following an informative safety briefing, it's time to inflate the balloons which were sprawled lifeless on the grass. Balloons swelled with hot air all around, making for an impressive panorama everywhere I looked. I had never been so close to a hot air balloon before and was surprised by the size, suddenly feeling very small in comparison.
We climbed, or maybe I should say ‘fell’ into the basket; it's a challenge to get into the high basket, but that also meant it was difficult to get out, which is reassuring when you are preparing to go 1000’s of feet in the air! From the basket, the burner was deafening, and the heat hits you like a wave when you open the oven. Luckily, everyone was presented with a gift of a baseball cap to help keep the heat from our face.
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Lake Inle
With such a small group in the basket (4 other people + the pilot), and only one other balloon in the sky, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and we were able to chat with the pilot and ask lots of questions. Except for when the burners were fired up, there was silence, and a sense of peace and solitude, alone, drifting high in the sky. Below, fishermen were at work early crawling along the lake in their narrow boats like ants, cars sped along the road, and the villages slowly awoke.
Lake Inle, nestled in a valley and surround by formidable mountains, is beautiful. Especially at sunrise. But it was the human element of the people that live on, and survive from, the lake that amazed me most. Houses, monasteries, shops, schools, – entire villages – are built on stilts in the lake, and the people who live there travel between them by boat. The edges of the lake are covered with floating gardens – long, straight rows of vegetation and soil are clumped together to produce an organic floating platform upon which other crops such as tomatoes are grown. These floating gardens form a beautiful pattern of art from above, and amazingly represent a very unique way of life with humans living harmoniously with nature.
Unlike at Bagan, a balloon flying overhead remains a novelty for the locals who live in these villages. When we landed in a sugar cane field (harvested), we were instantly surrounded by a whole village who had come out to admire the balloon and say hello to us. We interacted and took photos of them, while they took photos of us, and then, once again, it was time for a champagne toast with the pilot to another successful flight.