Contrary to family and friends opinions, we have not “been everywhere” and “done everything.” It was time for a hot air balloon adventure. This was an experience that we did try to do twice before but both times the hot air balloon ride was cancelled because of bad weather. ex-Marine was thrilled about this since he is deathly afraid of heights. He only agreed to the Chiang Mai try when I threatene: to go without him. This would leave him alone and unable to find the ketchup on a kitchen shelf (even though it’s been in the same location for 30 years) if I died in a ballooning accident. Men!
Vieng Travel managed to get the last two open spots for December 31st with Balloon Adventure Thailand. Is there a more exciting way to see out 2009 and enter in 2010? However, it did mean a very, very early wake up call at 5:30 a.m. A taxi picked us up at the Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, promptly at 6:00 a.m. and began the 30-minute drive north of Chiang Mai to the launch area where the sun was just beginning to rise.
Steve and I were introduced to licensed pilot, Wout Bakker, from Holland, who flies hot air balloons in Holland and Slovakia during the summer months. Some balloons there hold as many as 30 persons but we’d fly in a balloon that holds four-persons plus the pilot.
Another taxi pulled up soon after us with a young Thai couple, the other part of today’s foursome. A small table was set with coffee, tea and rolls…View image… and we stood around eating. Lucky us also got a lesson in ballooning from Ed Whitney, a balloonist from San Diego. Ed was here to watch a friend use his one-person yellow balloon to fly today. Ed originally came over to Thailand for the big balloon festival held around the King of Thailand’s 82nd birthday and stuck around in Thailand to have his balloon repaired and experience different activities. (Say “hi” to Ed, at The Adventure Begins, Club Ed, email@example.com.) The one-person yellow balloon was going to ascend right after us.
Two small balloons were released into the air that tells the pilot about wind, currents, velocity, etc. The big red balloon was unrolled in a straight line on the ground by the crew, Woot hit the burners off and on…View image, the balloon slowly began to inflate from the hot air…View image, and rise slowly from the ground until it stood straight and proud in the air.
A nervous vision kept flashing through my mind of the Wizard of Oz saying “hop in Dorothy” while she screamed, “wait for me, wait for me.” Some late minute instructions from Wout, like “don’t climb out of the basket”…… and one by one the four of us climbed in.
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