One of the more quiet adventures you can undertake here
in the beautiful Rose of the North is a flight in a hot air balloon, an
undertaking enabling you to not only enjoy a beautiful sunrise, but also the
scenic, mountain views of the various ‘Dois’ in our immediate
neighborhood. To float on gentle air currents beneath the colorful canopy of
a hot air balloon is an experience that everyone should do at least once.
it be known from this day forth that Mathias ascended into the sky in a free
Admittedly, it’s an early call, as the alarm clock
fulfilled its duty at around 4 a.m. Despite the wee hours, the driver
picking us up was all cheerful and happy, and took us straight to the
Microlite airfield, not far from Doi Saket, where a crispy bonfire awaited
us. Much needed with currently nine degrees Celsius at that time of the day.
We watched the Balloon Team rolling out the huge envelope, and preparing the
basket in which we would eventually end up.
Dee Shapland, a ‘Londoner’ and chief pilot of
‘Balloons over Thailand’, was busy checking and testing the three
massive burners which are the ‘engine’ that would keep the balloon in
crew and onlookers hoping that all systems are ‘go’.
With the sun just about to rise behind Doi Saket, Dee
invited us to hop on board, and gave us a few instructions as to how to
position ourselves for the landing (which he guarantees will happen –
nobody has been left up there forever!). All this when we were still safely
on terra firma (or was that ‘terror’ firmer?).
The sensation of lift-off is like the ground dropping
away at your feet, and if you carried a candle aloft it would not flicker.
There is no need to worry about motion sickness, because there is no sense
of motion like in a plane or a boat on water. When a balloon lands it is
normal to experience a bump or series of bumps when the balloon basket
touches the ground. How bumpy the landing will get depends on the wind
speed, whereby wind speeds here are normally less than 10 mph.
Pilot Dee tests the equipment – the burners are working!
Whilst we were quietly enjoying ourselves up in the air,
interrupted only by the occasional “whoosh” of the burners, we caused a
great deal of excitement to the people (and animals) about 150 meters below
us. Remember, the daily route is dictated by the winds, and the balloon
normally does not end up at the same place twice, and we had dozens of
children on their way to the local schools, plus their parents and regular
commuters, ending up standing on the street, parking their bicycles and
cars, waving and laughing.
About an hour later, Dee, who by the way was in constant
contact with his ground crew and the air traffic control tower, chose a
field which was safe to land on. As wind was basically non-existent, he even
maneuvered the balloon so professionally to land spot-on on the trailer of
his pick-up, thus making the life of the ground crew much easier, as they
did not have to carry the quite heavy basket.
maintaining speed and altitude.
Within minutes, tables and chairs were set-up, the smell
of bacon and eggs was in the air, and we all enjoyed a magnificent
breakfast, watched only by the aforementioned cattle, and a number of local
folks, probably thinking “Why have these strange farangs dropped into our
little moo-baan, and why don’t they arrive by car?”
Chief Pilot Dee than presented us with a special commemorative
certificate, and we all were invited to toast this very special occasion
with a glass of champagne. A very memorable (early) morning came to an end,
and we felt that hot air ballooning must be a great equalizer. The common
denominator seems to be that everyone who does it appears to really enjoy
life, and have a healthy curiosity for new experiences.
landing on the trailer.
in the middle of nowhere.