Malaysian Digest

Photo: Mushamir Mustafa

Photo: Mushamir Mustafa

As a kid, I have always seen pictures of hot air balloons, just wished I could fly in one, and journey the greatest landscapes of Earth. Of course, that was just my wishful thinking back then.

But thanks to my job, my dream came true when I was assigned to ride on the first and only commercial hot air balloon in Malaysia, made possible by MyBalloon Adventure, in their exclusive launch on Tuesday, taking me, and some other lucky people, on a magical hot air balloon ride, in Putrajaya.

What Will Happen On The Day You Fly

Arriving at 7am in the morning at Monumen Alaf Baru, Putrajaya right next to the lake, we watched our pilots flare up the huge beasts full of hot air, which is an experience in itself.

Not too long later, the balloon is up, and we are cordoned off to our ‘gondolas’. There’s three hot air balloons, the smallest one can carry two passengers and the biggest one, nine.

Thankfully, it was a beautiful bright sunny morning with a touch of haze in the distance, climbing onto the ‘rattan’ basket, and departing on my maiden flight with the roar of the ‘jet engines’ forcing hot air into the balloon.

basket

As we slowly inched up, people started to look like ants and we could soak up the entire surrounding of Putrajaya. I must say, the 360 degree view is just breathtaking – so much more different than flying in a plane, or helicopter.

And since our departure was at Wakaf Baru, next to the Putrajaya lake, you can see, and even ‘touch’ the lake in the balloon and get the most scenic pictures you’ll ever get flying.

view Putrajaya

view Putrajaya

Our pilot, Captain Filip Audenaert, who hails from Belgium, has been flying for 15 years and has racked up 2000 flying hours, tells us how air balloons are unique.

“When you fly on a plane, a stunt plane, or a helicopter, all you see is through the cockpit or the windows. But in a balloon? You get to see everything! We are like a bird, a free bird.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“It’s safe, and in all my flying I’ve never had a bad experience. In ballooning there’s not many bad incidents. In US there are a few, but in Malaysia or Belgium, never. We’re flying now at 500 feet and this is the highest altitude that we’ll go,” he convinces.

our Pilot Filip

To describe it best, I would call it a gentle thrill. My ride felt safe, and comfortable – even for the height challenged, it doesn’t feel like you’re about to fall off.

Looking down I could see we were passing a lot of houses, a skyscraper that is under construction, a primary school, and we waved to all the people we saw, who all looked up excitedly in amazement at the hot air balloons.

The blue skies and green scenery and sunrise behind us was just beautiful! I guess this is what it feels to be like a free bird calmly flying.

Speaking To The First Female Hot Air Balloonist In Malaysia

Riding along in my gondola was Izzati Khairudin, who with her sister Atiqah, are the first female hot air balloonists in Malaysia.

MyBalloon adventure Director Izzati

Both sisters had obtained their hot air balloon licenses, following the footsteps of their father who was a balloonist himself. The sisters now run two companies, their father’s AKA Balloon, and Balloon Adventure, that caters to the wider public.

“Since he was one of the first balloon pilots in the country, it’s only natural that we picked it up from our father. It has always been in the family and it has always been our passion.

“Hot air balloons are of course something new here, and we should look at it as a new sport, an aviation area that we can explore, because it’s not just about planes and helicopters.

Malaysian hot air balloon

“Ballooning is something that you go with the flow with, you don’t have much control, but nevertheless it’s one of the calmest thing you can do”, Izzati says with a smile.

Relaying stories of her adventures, from flying in Spain and other countries, she then shared that flying during sunset would be unadvisable, because of the weather conditions and the lack of light when flying so late.

Since the two beautiful and adventurous ladies had gotten their pilot licenses, they are now aiming higher.

“We also want to do a tour throughout the Semenanjung, from up North all the way to the South, probably after the Putrajaya Fiesta,” she shared.

As we neared our landing spot, Izzati pretended to be the flight stewardess, announcing “Ladies and gentleman, please brace yourselves in the landing position.”

Back On Solid Ground, Back To Reality

Before you panic, the ‘landing position’ is basically holding onto yourself while the balloon softly thumps the land and skids to a stop.

For a split second I thought the basket was going to tumble, but that never happens.

We landed at a clear spot north of Putrajaya after our almost 1 hour joy ride. I got to deflate pull, tie, and physically sit on the envelop (basically the balloon) to let off air, from the hot air balloon we flew in, along with the others.

After packing it all in a bag, we helped push the gondola and the envelope onto a trailer. It was nice to have fresh towels, a traditional post-flight celebratory balloon fliers’ toast (of apple juice) after, and most importantly a certificate to take home with me upon accomplishing my wonderful adventure − what a fitting finish to a nostalgic time!

Watch my awesome adventure here:

Want To Be Part Of The Adventure?

MyBalloon Adventures runs daily flights, and prices start from RM850 per person, that includes the breathtaking 45-minute to one hour sunrise flight with light pre-flight refreshments, a delicious breakfast line-up post-flight and a completion certificate.

inflight picture media

Looking at My Balloon Adventures Facebook page, they have even had a couple stage a wedding proposal high up in the air – so that could be part of your plan this year.

And one last tip from me, on your ride, do make sure you ask your pilots their adventures so far, because they sure have a lot to tell.

To find out more, check out their Facebook page or website www.mybaloonadventure.com or call 03-90440105. MyBalloon Adventure is the only company to have received an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Department of Civil Aviation and all pilots are FAA-certified.

Full article : Malaysian Digest