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Sunday, 14 February 2016

Egypt: Day 4 - Riding on a Hot Air Balloon in Luxor


JC and I were just looking for a car to rent for our excursion to Valley of the Kings on our first morning in Luxor at a travel agency booth near the entrance to the hotel when we noticed that they have hot air balloon rides too in Luxor.

“Do you think you want to try that?”

“I dunno. Do you think it’s safe? What’s their safety record like? Didn’t they have a few accidents a few years back?”(That's JC with his many questions, heh!)

“No clue, but we can always ask...”

After booking the car, we browsed the hot air balloon albums at the booth, still not sure whether we wanted to go on the ride. Neither of us has been on such a ride before. It’s something that has kept me intrigued that I wanted to try it out at least once. I was however afraid that it might trigger my fear of heights, which has been known to happen from time to time. I wondered what I could do if there was an attack while I was up there in the air. There’s simply nowhere to run, literally.

(And… and… what if I suddenly needed to pee whilst up there? Ha ha!)

JC on the other hand has a fear of small/enclosing space so his concern was more on the size of the “basket” and the number of people who’s going to be flying in the basket. Not a perfect combination, I guess. Add that to the safety, regulation and enforcement concern, you can understand our worry.

It was then that I saw a photo of Tony Blair, the former British PM, happily smiling whilst flying on a hot air balloon belonging to the company. Now, I’m not exactly a fan of Mr Blair - although I did vote for his political party back in the 90s - but I told JC that “If this company is good enough for Tony Blair, it’s good enough for me.”

“Hmm… So do you want to go for it?”

“I’ll do it if you’ll do it,” I agreed with some escape clause.

“I’ll do it if you’ll do it,” JC countered. 

- - - - - - -

The morning started early. We had to skip breakfast at the hotel and travelled in a van to the centre of Luxor to catch a boat just to cross the Nile before getting on the van again to get to the flying field. On the boat we were given some snacks which we happily munched. After all, we haven't had our breakfast yet.


Boats on the West Bank, Luxor
I had initially wondered why we needed to take the boat when we could have just gone straight to the field with the van. It’s not like there are no road bridges that cross the Nile, you know? The company probably just wanted to add something to the experience, I guess, but I bet it wouldn’t beat enjoying sunset on a felucca the afternoon before. 

I was wrong.

From the river bank, we saw that some balloons were already up in the air and, despite the very hazy weather, that got us very excited.


Hot air balloons hovering above the West Bank, Luxor
We arrived at the flying field soon after and I started to have some mixed feelings again about flying. It was exciting to watch balloons being prepared and started flying but at the same time, the same concerns came back playing on my mind.

JC wasn't exactly happy with the size of the basket either, although I'm not sure how much bigger he wanted the basket to be.


Our hot air balloon was being prepared
Soon, our balloon was all fired up and ready to fly, and there's no turning back for us anymore. We took off after some safety briefing by the pilot, and plenty of silent prayers on my part.

The concern and worry however were gone the moment I started appreciating the view that I was seeing.


Deir el-Bahari ("The Northern Monastery") with Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut being the main feature here.


Deir el-Medina (I think!)



Oops!

Flying again

It wasn't long before I came to realise that the ride's pretty unique, mainly because of the changing landscapes over which we flew - barren land, green cornfields, excavation sites, historic temples and tombs - all against the backdrop of a rocky mountain.

I was simply awestruck by the view.





Whilst hovering above a cornfield, the pilot asked all of us passengers if we'd like to fly high in the sky or low and see some of the sights closer from above. I was willing for the balloon to go higher and further, which is, of course, pretty ironic, considering the fact that I was not even sure I'd wanted to fly on a hot air balloon even at the very last moment.

The majority, unfortunately, voted to fly low to see the sights from above. In hindsight however, it's probably the better choice because of the haze/dust.



Excavation work in progress



The Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

This was how low we went down during the ride

The Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

An archaeologist's abode, or so we were told.


Preparing to land. 
After about an hour or so, it was time to land. The pilot gave us another quick safety briefing, advising us on the position to take whilst landing and what to do in the event of a crash landing.

I closed my eyes and started my silent prayers again just before we landed. The landing was not that smooth but when I opened my eyes again, I was surprised to see that our basket had nicely plunged right into the back of a truck that was to carry it back to wherever the company keeps their basket and balloons when they're not flying.

I guess it was quite a smooth work on the part of the pilot after all.



Can you believe that we actually landed on this truck? Needless to say, I was very impressed! :)

Crew packing up the balloon

Upon landing, there was a certificate giving ceremony and some dancing around with the company crew. I didn't participate in the dancing. (I know, such a party pooper, heh!)

I was instead looking longingly at another balloon that was preparing to land, already wishing that I would have the chance to go on another ride soon.


- - - - - - -
We might have taken the plunge, or rather, rose to the challenge – by doing something we’re initially afraid of – and couldn’t have been more happy with our decision. Have you done something that you're afraid of and conquered your fear, whilst travelling? If so, what did you do, and where did it happen?


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Going to Luxor, Egypt?
We recommend Sheraton Luxor Resort for your accommodation requirements there.

For other blog entries on Egypt, click here.


18 comments:

Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. The scenery is beautiful - you are right, all of the different landscapes are very unique. I have never been in a hot air balloon before, hopefully saving it for a ride in Myanmar later this year. My biggest fear conquering experience was swimming with sharks in Belize!

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    1. Ooh! If you're doing it in Bagan, it's beautiful too! I've been there but didn't get to do the hot air balloon ride because of time constraint so only managed to catch the sunset there.

      Swimming with sharks?? Nice! I wouldn't need to think about it, as I know I wouldn't do it, lol!

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  2. what an experience this must have been. Just going to Egypt would be a great experience but i am sure hot air ballooning you will remember for ever. i so want to go to Egypt and see the old temples and ruins its a major bucketlist destination for me

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    1. Hi Mark,
      Yes, it's definitely something that I'd remember for the rest of my life. If you're into old temples and ruins, you just can't go wrong with Egypt.
      :)

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  3. Definitely a unique view of Egypt! The pictures you have here are absolutely incredible, and the whole adventure sounds very exciting.

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    1. Hi Carmen,
      It's definitely one of the more memorable "adventures" that we had whilst in Egypt!
      :)

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  4. There's nothing like seeing things differently from above, it is so unique and fun to get another look at things that you typically would not notice from the ground, nice photos.

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    1. Hi Noel,
      Very true. I didn't notice much of the cornfield the day before when we went to Valley of the Kings so I was very surprised at how green it was in some parts of the West Bank. Seeing some of the temples from above without having to pay their entrance fee was quite cool too, LOL!
      :)

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  5. That's a great post! Finally something else than Cappadocia and it looks beautiful. I can imagine you were first scared. I was scared to dive to 30 m and to a wreck but at the same time I was so excited. I never regret I did it. Diving is so beautiful. I am still always a bit nervous but that's just part of the game.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Melanie! Yes, usually people only talk about hot air balloons either in Cappadocia in Turkey or Bagan in Myanmar. In both cases, their landscape, while beautiful too, remain pretty much the same during the ride. That's why I thought this one is a pretty unique ride.

      Ooh diving is something that I haven't got the guts to try yet although I've always been tempted by beautiful underwater photos taken by friends who do dive, heh!
      :)

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your fears!! That's exactly what keeps me a little afraid of going up a hot air balloon...what if I need to pee? The take-off and landing! So happy to read the ride was smooth and that you actually had fun! Thanks for the courage booster. Love the amazing pictures from the top! Still can't believe you landed on the truck!!

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    1. I myself was surprised because I didn't feel worried at all whilst up in the air. It's probably because of the view that took my breath away, and my mind off the fear. And I thought it's kind of funny I actually wanted it to go higher and already wishing to go on another ride soon after we landed.

      Give it a shot! You never know, you might just like it!
      :)

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  7. What an amazing experience! I would LOVE to go to Egypt. The shots you got where you can see the shadow of the balloon are incredible.

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    1. Hi Mags!
      Indeed it was, to us. We were rather lucky to be standing on the shadow side rather than facing the morning sun.
      :)

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  8. Ever since I was a teen I was in love with Egypt. Something about the pharaohs, writing on the wall, the Sphinx and pyramids. This post reminds me balloon riding over Cappadocia in Turkey. Great post!

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    1. Hi! If you haven't, then you should really go to Egypt at least once! I didn't think I'd go there but my friend (JC above, asked if I'd like to join him), and I thought, why not? Turned out I just loved it there!
      :)

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  9. Loved the post! I enjoy hot air balloon rides, however, I haven't taken one outside the US. I have this bookmarks for use later! Thanks for a great post and inspiration!

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  10. Very beautiful photos! The ancient sites look amazing.I would love to do that when I go to Egypt one day...

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