Up, Up and Away in my beautiful balloon

Saturday, December 22, 2012
Siem Reap, Cambodia
"Up Up and Away, would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon" by the Fifth Dimension

What is the song that goes …. “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon.” Well not quite. Anticipation for my first hot air balloon ride. How quiet will it be. Will we see any temples? How quickly will the 45 minutes go?

At 6.15 am and the phone rang saying the pick up vehicle was already here ... but I was told that it was to be 6.30 am pick up. A few minutes later I was on board the van and quickly did it go picking up 2 more people on route to the outskirts of Siem Reap. I sensed that something was wrong in that some others were picked up at 5.30 am and had expected a sunrise flight. Well the sun was peeping above the distant horizon as we sped (safely) out into the countryside.

Yes, the sky was really orange and it would have been real neat if we were all picked up at 5.30 am and been part of the process of seeing the balloon being inflated. We could see in the distant that the balloon was towering skywards all ready to go … quickly out of the van and the 6 of us were ushered on board the basket, side (door) closed, time for a quick photo of us inside the basket and then away we floated …

By now the sun was rising and the orange hues of the sky had well and truly disappeared and the sun caused the trees to have very long shadows. The mist from the land was still hanging around the trees. The Chinese pilot said that it was a low level flight and low at times it did certainly go. At times we were literally just metres from the ground drifting in between trees. Many of the animals were running away or else just stood there and wondered what was this thing above their heads

My lasting impressions will be of seeing all the local people below come out of their houses, children, adults, those on their bicycles, farmers out watering their crops - all stopped and starred skywards at this is a new attraction for Siem Reap. To balance the basket I was asked to stand next to the pilot right and that meant I was right underneath the burners and with my height boy were they hot. I am sure that I have lost a few more hair. Yes, it was silence and this peace was often broken with the hiss and release of the gas.

 The morning light was naturally great for photography as you will see shortly. I suppose that I had expected to see the temples from this balloon but alas not so. Anyway there was no landing fields around the temples because of the forest. In hindsight drifting over the fields was probably more interesting with Siem Reap not far away in the distance. It is not really a big city.

 The last video (still to be uploaded so don't go looking for it just yet!) is great as it captures when we went in amongst the tree tops and when the pilot said get down or words to that effect as we crashed through the upper leaves.

Soon the 45 minutes was over and down we came ever so low over the rice paddy fields. Will it be a wet or a dry landing? At one stage I thought it was going to be a wet landing but a release of more gas and we lifted a bit more and soon landed right on a narrow farmers track.

 The videos still need to be uploaded.I particularly love the last video with the landing and seeing the ground crew dressed in their orange jump suits running alongside with the balloon having missed its intended landing spot, jumping in the creek as it neared its eventual landing area. A release of gas and the ground crew pulled us from the edge of the rice paddy field so we could have a dry exit.
Well worth the US$125.

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