As anyone who has tried it will tell you, rising silently into the sky in a hot-air balloon makes for a spectacular start to the day – and when you’re zooming above famous temples or renowned natural settings, all the better! Since we’re unlikely to be seeing Singapore from a floating basket any time soon (the island’s small size means the airspace is tightly regulated), we’ve rounded up some of the best destinations for hot-air ballooning in Asia, below.
Also, because a premium balloon flight in an exotic locale isn’t the cheapest travel experience around, we’ve listed a bunch of relevant benefits you can enjoy as a new or existing holder of an HSBC Advance Credit Card, to make your trip a holiday of a lifetime.
Right, then: strap yourself in!
#1 Siem Reap, CAMBODIA
If you thought the Angkor temples of Siem Reap were spectacular when seen one by one from ground level, how about peering down on all of them (there’s over 1,000, by the way!) from a hot-air balloon? You’ll need to time your travel just right, though. The window of operations for balloons at Siem Reap is small: they generally operate only from December to March each year. Sunrise and sunset flights are available.
Try it: Angkor Hot Air Balloon offers 30-minute flights for around S$135 per adult
HSBC Advance Credit Card customers: Check out the exciting travel deals available when you use your HSBC Advance Credit Card to book your trip.
#2 Bagan & Inle, MYANMAR
Among the most iconic images of hot-air balloons in the Asian sky is from Bagan in Myanmar, where operators have been taking tourists to the sky for decades. Angkor might have loads of temples, but Bagan is a whole new level (though there are some restrictions on balloons travelling directly over the top of the temples). You can now also balloon over beautiful Inle Lake. Flights operate for six months of the year, from October to March, and rates tend to be higher than in other Southeast Asian countries.
Try it: Balloons Over Myanmar offers 45-minute flights for around S$450 per adult.
HSBC Advance Credit Card customers: With HSBC’s Card Balance Conversion Plan, you can divide big travel purchases (flights for the whole family, for instance) into 3, 6 or 12 interest-free instalments with no processing fee.
#3 Furano, JAPAN
Is it just us, or does a winter visit to the snowfields of Hokkaido – Niseko, in particular – seem to be the current favourite getaway for Singapore-based travellers? Yet Japan’s northernmost prefecture is well worth visiting in summer too, and Furano in the middle of the island is a picture-perfect place for getting sky-bound in a hot-air balloon. The views of Mount Tokachi and the Daisetsu National Park are majestic – especially when the lavender is blooming in June.
Try it: Asobiya offers 30-minute flights for around S$205 per adult
HSBC Advance Credit Card customers: Enjoy an additional 8% off bookings to certain destinations made through Asia-based online hotel booking site, Agoda.com. Valid for bookings to 31 December 2017.
#4 Cappadocia, TURKEY
“First the sun appeared over the chimneys, and then came dozens of hot-air balloons, soon swelling to hundreds, perfectly covering the golden sky as far as the eye could see.” So goes the eyewitness account of an Expat Living writer’s recent ballooning experience in the historical Turkish region of Cappadocia. It’s no wonder this place is rated one of the best ballooning spots around the world; the views of the famous limestone spires and caves are incredible.
Try it: Butterfly Balloons, based in Goreme, offers flights for around S$220 for a minimum of an hour.
HSBC Advance Credit Card customers: charge your entire travel fare to your account and receive coverage of up to S$300,000 for you, your spouse and children, including travel accident and flight inconvenience.
#5 Chiang Mai, THAILAND
The Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai might be up in the mountains already, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go higher still. And, as far as the best hot-air ballooning in Asia goes, this is a destination that’s highly regarded by travellers. On a sunrise flight, you can expect to see lush jungle, rice paddies and lakes and villages in mist, and Chiang Mai itself in the distance, twinkling in the first light of the morning.
Try it: Balloon Adventure Thailand has 50-minute flights from around S$360.
HSBC Advance Credit Card customers: You can now make payments with Apple Pay in stores, in apps and on the web, by using your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Mac, and enjoy the same rewards and privileges as with your physical Credit Card.
For those who want more …
If you’re a genuine ballooning enthusiast rather than someone who just wants to tick off a bucket list, here’s good news. Kuala Lumpur hosts an annual four-day carnival called MyBalloonFiesta (formerly the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta). Held around March each year, the fiesta features hundreds of colourful, oddly-shaped balloons, from cats and clowns to Darth Vader. Aside from ballooning, there are food trucks, performances, fireworks and more. The venue, Desa Parkcity, is about 25 minutes from Kuala Lumpur city centre via taxi.
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Disclaimer: Any activities undertaken in connection with information in this article are at the reader’s own risk.
Read on for other great travel ideas in Asia!