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#66 Hot-air Ballooning over Myanmar

Myanmar is only now slowly opening up and becoming more accessible to visitors, after years of isolation. That makes viewing its treasures all the more enjoyable, before commercial tourism becomes rampant in a nation littered with historic and natural sites. None of which are more impressive than Bagan, site of an ancient capital.

Some 10,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas were built on the Bagan plains, with 2,200 still standing today, spread over an area of 104 square kilometers. From 1044 until 1287, the area served as the center of the Pagan Empire, which eventually faded after multiple Mongol invasions.

Getting around the stupors and pagodas today requires a sense of adventure, with no detailed maps and no signs to assist visitors. The largest complexes are easily visible from a distance, but smaller stupors can be found almost anywhere, in any direction, in various states of repair. Bicycles are essential to cover the distances.

Early risers though have the option of hot air balloons, which fly seasonally from around 5 a.m. Providing the only real opportunity to see the spread of the structures across the plain, ballooning offers a view unparalleled even by climbing the largest temple, Dhammayangyi.