Hot-air balloons head for Loikaw

LOIKAW, Myanmar, 17 January 2019: Myanmar’s Balloons Over Bagan confirmed, Tuesday, it will base its hot-air balloon flights in the remote ethnic region of Kayah State.

Balloon Over Loikaw is now the fourth option in the arsenal of this pioneering adventure tour operator. Already under its belt are aerial tours in Bagan, Inle Lake and a two-day “balloon safari” in Shan State.

Definitely off the beaten-track, Loikaw is situated on a 3,000-foot plateau in east Myanmar and is surrounded by mountains and rice paddies. It is home around 10 ethnic groups including the Kayan, whose “long-necked” women have been exploited as photo shoots for tourists visiting Myanmar and north Thailand for decades.

Loikaw’s hot-air balloon rides are planned for daily sunrise take-offs year-round with a capacity of six to eight passengers per flight. The aerial excursion lasts for one to two hours.

Powered by liquid petroleum gas, the balloons soar to maximum altitudes of 10,000 feet.

Claiming safety is a priority the company media statement said, “most of its pilots and technicians are UK-trained, while the remainder are Australian, Canadian, and Spanish license holders. All flights are comprehensively insured.

“With its pagoda-topped hills, mountain ranges and beautiful valleys dotted with farms and villages, Loikaw was a natural choice for our next venture,” said general manager Tun Thura. “You can imagine the astonished faces of farmers working in their fields when our balloons come gliding by.”

Getting there is not easy or cheap. There are daily flights from Yangon.

Two airlines fly from Yangon to Loikaw; the national airline MNA and privately owned Air Kanbawza.

The latter announced a new three weekly service between Loikaw and Heho Airport (the nearest airport to Inle Lake).

However, a check of Air KBZ’s booking website failed to get dates for flights to Loikaw, which limits the practical choice for foreign travellers booking directly to just the national airline MNA.

Myanmar National Airlines has improved its website and now offers international travellers payment channels through credit cards and Alipay.

A daily nonstop flight takes 50 minutes from Yangon to Loikaw using a 70-seat ATR72 aircraft. A check of the airline’s website booking page confirmed flights (21 and 28 February) with a roundtrip fare of USD224 including airport taxes. Payment can be made from overseas with credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard directly through the airline’s website.

The hot-air balloon flights cost USD300 per person.