The Cheapest Hot Air Balloon In The World: Vang Vieng, Laos
Towards the North of Vientiane, on the Nam Song River in Laos, is the small town of Van Vieng. Green paddy fields that are in contrast to the limestone caves and cliffs in a serene surrounding, paint the town of Van Vieng in picturesque hues. The town used to be a party spot at most times, but come 2012 and with the Laos government pulling the plug for these bars, the town was reborn as an adventure destination. Now, you can hop on a motorcycle or a scooter on rent and explore the town, or go tubing or trekking all through the day. Feel the blood rush into your veins when you go hiking or Zip-lining and once you are done with the adrenaline pumping sports, soak in the beauty of place by going for a ride on the hot air balloon. Van Vieng prides itself in its hot air balloons, which are easily the cheapest hot air balloon ride across the globe.
Booking the ride once you reach
Once you are in Van Vieng, book a balloon ride and the adventure begins at sunrise, right from when your pick-up arrives in a tuk-tuk. The balloon generally has a good capacity so if you are on the trip with your family, the experience will be fantastic. There are generally three air balloons in Van Vieng that are up at the same time, depending on the number of bookings received. Almost 8-10 people can fit into one single hot air balloon. All hotels, as well as the tours and travel agencies, book the balloon ride through the only company doing this in Van Vieng, and that is Balloons over Van Vieng. It is in a way good as it saves the tourists from going around the town, trying to get a better deal. The price of taking a hot air balloon ride ranges from $78- $90. Tourists generally book the tickets for any adventure sports online these days, but in this case, it is good to wait till you arrive at Van Vieng and book it for the next day. The online prices offered by some tour companies can go as high as $95- $150 for the same balloon ride that you can book for somewhere close to $85. The balloon rides in Van Vieng are the cheapest as compared to the other places offering it. The next best location in terms of pricing is California and that too has a ticket price of at least $50 higher than what you would get in Van Vieng.
The perfect time to hang out in the air
Most days, the weather is perfect but in case of a rare chance of weather conditions that do not support the ride, the reservation automatically gets shifted to the next day or is canceled and the money refunded to you, depending on what you choose. The rides offered are for both sunrises as well as for sunsets, but, it is advisable to go for the sunrise ride in order to get the perfect view of the scenic beauty below. The sunrise ride tends to present a big disadvantage in not being able to see around you clearly through all the smoke that tends to rise from the houses below. The smoke rising from the burning of garbage tends to spoil the experience as well. The place seems to get a bit foggy towards the night and with the sunrise ride, the view gets clearer with the sun melting away the fog as it rises.
Carry those glasses and carry that hat
The hot air balloons pose no danger as opposed to the other sports activities. And the people organizing the ride do not hand out any major safety instructions while you get in, except for asking people to keep their belongings safely tucked in their bags or belts. So, venture in only if you do not have a fear of heights and are a true adventure seeker. There are no safety belts as such in the hot air balloons at Van Vieng and you are free to move around the balloon, soaking in the scenery with your eyes while capturing the moments forever in your camera. As far as the clothes go, you can take a light sweatshirt or a jacket along with you, in case it feels a little chilly in the morning. Ladies, let your dresses and skirts take a break for the ride as you would not want for yourself a Marilyn Monroe moment once you are up in the air. The air directly under the center of the balloon tends to get a little hot at times and wearing a hat would save you a little from the heat.
And you are flying, well almost
Even the air starts to smell a little different when you are up in the air and gradually the feeling of almost flying sets in. The sound of propane being pumped into the balloon by the pilot will be the only sound that will break the serenity of the place. It hardly takes 20 seconds for the balloon to cover up the distance from 10 feet to1.5 km, once the flamethrowers come to life. Pop your ears like you do when traveling in a plane. 40 minutes is what it takes to complete one ride but when you are up there, time seems to come to a standstill while you are in the middle of the two facets of nature, the earth, and the sky. The first few minutes into the ride might give you a limited view with the clouds that look like cotton candy right below you. But as you go a little higher, the clouds tend to dissipate and that is when the magic begins. The view below almost seems mystical with the sun still rubbing its sleepy eyes and casting shadows on the earth while illuminating the sky. As you sit in that huge wicker basket attached to the balloon and start to ascend, everything that loomed large when down below like the trees suddenly start to appear puny. The balloon ride gives you a bird’s eye view of the spellbinding canvas laid down below and the memory gets etched deep inside you forever.