It was 5:30 in the morning and I could barely open my eyes. I had avoided tubing in Vang Vieng so I could wake up early enough to catch a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the hills of Vang Vieng.
Yes, believe it or not, I went to Vang Vieng and didn’t partake in the average party-goer debauchery of drinking in inner-tubes.
My muscles hadn’t quite started working yet, but I jumped in the bed of a pick-up truck and, before it even pulled out onto the field, I could hear a deep whoosh from around the corner. I had never heard the sound before, but I already knew what it was. It sounded exactly like I thought it would. Two flamethrowers exploded in thunder as they shot fire into a giant red balloon which billowed in the air. A man sat inside a flimsy little basket, reached out to us, and ushered us inside.
I was about to fly through the air while confined to a straw hamper.
Two dutch boys, a Chinese couple, a Japanese girl and myself squeezed into the wickerwork. It was crisp outside and the sky was illuminated, but shadows still rested upon everything below it. The sun was nowhere to be seen.
And then, without even realizing it, our basket was off the ground. The treetops scraped the bottom of our pannier. Just like that, I was floating through the air.
The fire-shooters went quiet and we hung in the air with perfect buoyancy. It felt like we were dangling from a piece of string, suspended above the deep green earth. A layer of cotton hugged the curvature of the earth.The mountains poked their little green hats out from the silky cotton expanse and we dangled more than a kilometer above them.
The sun rose and cast its shiny orange glow on the mountains and rivers below. With one flick of our driver’s finger on the trigger, flames shot upward and the balloon abruptly rose with far greater speed than I would have expected. In 20 seconds we went from 15 feet in the air to 1.2km. I popped my ears.
I couldn’t believe what I was actually seeing. What it must be like to be a bird!
And so, you see, this is why I travel–for the unexpected delights that unexpectedly fill my senses with joy in a way that resounds through the timeline of my life. I’ll never forget the day I went hot air ballooning over Vang Vieng. It was truly something special.