A Chiang Mai Balloon Adventure
It was an early rise for Citylife on an otherwise slightly misty morning last week. The sun was just starting to bring back colour to the skies as large clouds blanketed the mountains and surrounding farmland. On a grassy plain at the Horizon Village & Resort, a small team of men in jumpsuits began rolling out a large canvas balloon as people began to arrive, still half asleep but excited to soon by flying high in the air, with only the wind to guide us.
We were flying with Balloon Adventure Thailand, part of Flying Media Company limited, the only licensed Thai balloon flying company for commercial balloon flights in Thailand. The journey would be an experience like no other – and paired with their boutique service and quality piloting, we knew we were in safe hands.
The package includes pickup and drop-off for all guests, with a usual starting time of 6am. On occasion, the flight is delayed due to certain weather changes, but unless there is a gale brewing, the flight will go on. Being Thailand, there was ample opportunity for photo shoots, including being inside the canvas balloon itself, before the flight commenced. Once the balloons were filled with hot air, they stood to attention ready to fly, the basket gently lifting off the ground as if it was more eager to fly than we were, before being pulled back down by the balloon crew.
For anyone who has not ballooned before – like us – the climb was comparable to stepping into an open air lift. Gently and steadily rising, you could be easily convinced that you were still attached to the ground by some crane or contraption lifting you up on wires. It was only at around 500m that the illusion diminished, but thankfully the relaxed atmosphere remained. For somebody scared of heights, I surprised myself by not being the least bit bothered.
Apart from the intermittent blast of the kerosene burners, there is nothing but silence as the balloon softly floats around the sky. There was no knowing where we were going, with only the wind to take us. The pilot described how he makes a mental note of the wind direction every couple hundred metres and if he wants go a different direction he just brings the balloon back down to that altitude and the wind will do the job for him.
As we hit 2000m (the legal limit for commercial balloon rides) we all took a moment to appreciate the view. The clouds that were once above us were now below, appearing like a fog across the green rice paddies and with a 360 degree view, I finally understood how Chiang Mai was in a basin, surrounded by mountains at every angle.
Reaching the end of our one hour flight the balloon began to fall, slowly and controlled thanks to the gentle hot air blasts by the pilot. As we reached the ground, the hunt for a landing spot was on. The balloon crews on the ground could be seen chasing us down sois, before we missed the landing and hand to spot another field as the bikes and trucks U-turn and try and find another way in.
Coming in close to the ground, we skirted across the top of a small pond before precariously landing on its bank. Only a skilled pilot could have mastered that landing – just one metre too soon and we’d have all been swimming ducks.
The trip had come to a close but the experience was still not quite over. After we made it back to the Horizon Village & Resort, we were treated to a buffet breakfast before popping open a bottle of champagne to celebrate a successful flight. The pilot told stories of yesteryear when French villagers would attack the pilots unless they had a bottle of champagne and a priest to bring blessings. We couldn’t help but think that all successful journeys should be celebrated with a bottle of bubbly! The adventure was over but the day had just begun, and we even made it back to work before anybody else had arrived!
Balloon Adventure Thailand fly daily, but bookings need to be made in advance. You can contact or find more information by visiting www.balloonadvenurethailand.com.