Even wondered what was the hype about HOT AIR BALLOONS? Vasenta Selvanayagam reveals how this hour-long ride made her see and experience a whole new side of Klang Valley that she never could imagine seeing.
Floating in a hot air balloon 800 feet above Kuala Lumpur is a spectacularly serene way to experience Malaysia’s bustling capital.
Two feet on the ground, that’s how I’m happiest. I’ve never been comfortable with flying. My artsy head battles to trust the mechanics of planes, particularly when turbulence is involved, and I regularly check the flight route map to assess the feasibility of rescue possibilities, should a rescue be needed.
Yet here I am: The sun’s just rising over Kuala Lumpur and I’m about to climb into a hot air balloon and take flight for … well, no one is quite sure where.
“As balloon pilots we can control our height, but when it comes to the direction we go in, we’re at the mercy of the gods,” jokes captain Mohammad Sobri Saad, who’s been flying hot air balloons since 1996.
Really? My grip tightens on my camera as I try to appear calm yet interested; we’re chatting while two balloons inflate, the baskets lying on their sides in the grass. “So, we’re going up, and that’s about as much as you know?” I ask.
Sobri chuckles. “Ballooning is all about safety. I’ve already released a helium balloon so we know what the wind is doing. It rained last night, so conditions are good today, and we’ve done a thorough check of the envelope. It’s going to be a lovely flight.”
“Envelope” is ballooning-speak for the 21,500 square meters of fabric that, along with a gas canister and burner, is responsible for the flight.
It’s not rocket science: Hot air balloons fly on the principle of hot air rising, just as they have since 1783, when they were invented. The pilot regulates the hot air that fills the balloon to an average temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit and, as long as the air in the envelope is sufficiently hotter than the air outside, it will fly.
“Wind is air moving from high pressure to low pressure areas,” explains Sobri. “The greater the difference, the faster the wind blows. In Malaysia the temperature differences are smaller, so conditions for flying balloons are calm in the mornings. However, because of our hotter temperatures we can only fly until around two hours after sunrise.”
Nur Atiqah Khairudin — one of only two female hot air balloon pilots in all of Malaysia — and two associates inspect the “envelope,” the term for the balloon fabric. Photography by Narina Exelby
When Moon, the name given to “my” pink balloon, has inflated and pulled the basket upright, I clamber in next to Nur Atiqah Khairudin, captain of my flight.
With a whoosh of the burner, Moon gracefully lifts us up and the ground slowly drifts away. “So, you don’t know where we’re going?” I ask as casually as I can muster.
“No,” Atiqah smiles. “It’s actually what I love most about flying, that thrill of not knowing where you will land. No matter how often you fly, every day will give you a different experience.”
Atiqah is one of the pilots at My Balloon Adventure, a family business started by her late father, one of the first balloonists in Malaysia. As well as organizing the MyBalloonFiesta each spring, every morning they take guests into the airspace near Kuala Lumpur, taking off from different places depending on conditions and regulations. Sometimes they fly right over Putrajaya, a city just 15 miles south of the capital that’s known for its beautiful late 20th-century architecture. Seeing the pink-domed Putra Mosque, surrounded by a lake, from the air is utterly breathtaking, says Atiqah.
Today, however, we’re lifting off from the equestrian center at the Universiti Putra Malaysia; we’ll be flying over farmland and palm plantations, looking down on cows, as well as commuters heading into the city.
“I really like for things to be in my control, but flying forces me to let go because I cannot control the wind direction,” explains Atiqah. “When I fly in the mornings, the rest of my day becomes calmer.”
A drone’s-eye view of Kuala Lumpur courtesy of a hot air balloon flight. Photography courtesy of My Balloon Adventure
I begin to understand what she means. There is something incredibly peaceful about moving with the breeze and I settle into the flight, thrilled to watch mist rising from dips in the land and to have a drone’s-eye view of trees, pastures and grazing cattle.
The flight is so smooth, so serene, that I wonder whether the ballooning industry has any necessity to innovate. It turns out, they do: While a wicker basket will last a lifetime, the life span of an envelope is limited to around 450 flying hours in cooler, drier climes, and just 250 hours somewhere hot and humid like Malaysia. “Manufacturers continually try to create a fabric that can withstand higher temperatures and allow for longer flights,” says Atiqah.
The sun’s rays are strengthening, so our air time is almost up. We’re flying lower now as Atiqah looks for a place to land. Treetops become larger; we fly over a train and the driver looks up at us, blows his horn and waves.
Atiqah spots a clearing on the side of a hill. “When we come in for the landing, bend your knees in case it gets adventurous,” she cautions.
She nudges a lever that controls the burner, pulls on ropes that control the parachute valve — a vent at the top of the envelope — and we slip gently down between some trees. With a light shudder the basket touches the earth and, for the first time in my life, I’m slightly disappointed to have my feet back on solid ground.
The administrative capitol of Malaysia, Putrajaya, has a new attraction to add to its long list of things to do there. At and exclusive media launch recently, more than 12 passengers were given the opportunity to experience an unforgettable hot air balloon ride, organized by MyBalloon Adventure, the first and only commercial hot air balloon company in the country.
The location is above the beautiful grounds of Putrajaya and the mode of transport is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology in the world – the hot air balloon. In 1723, the first manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes. Today, it is a common item on the bucket list of many.
The journey takes approximately 45-minutes or up to an-hour of flight time for a journey of a lifetime to most. Adhering to very strict guidelines, the pilots of MyBalloon Adventure radios the Department of Civil Aviation every single time a flight takes off. “This ensures that the Department of Civil Aviation is aware of our presence in the sky. This is a must-do safety measure for us here at MyBalloon Adventure,” assures Captain Sobri.
As the balloons begin to ascend above the vast cityscapes of Putrajaya, the passengers are greeted with a beautiful sunrise with the bright orange sun beginning to peer over the horizon.
Nestled in large wicker baskets below huge balloon-shaped envelopes, the naturally air-conditioned 360-degree view seats beat any first-class cabin seats on board a plane.
As the ground below continues to get farther away, all the passengers can hear is the occasional sounds of the on-board gas cylinders which are used to heat the envelope and keep the balloon afloat. The mood is calming, the air is silent and the views stretch as far as the eye can see. In the distance, one can see the Twin Towers and not too far from there, the KL Tower.
For the many passengers on flight, the experience is a ‘first’. For the three pilots of MyBalloon Adventure, this is part of their daily routine and this is their ‘office in the sky’. With more than twenty years of ballooning experience and thousands of flying hours under their belts, passengers would be rest assured that they are in the good hands of the FAA-Certified hot air balloon pilots.
Weather permitting, MyBalloon Adventure operates daily. It is the only company in Malaysia to have received an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Department of Civil Aviation and is the only active ballooning experience company in the country.
“Once you are up in the sky, the feeling is more therapeutic than ‘edge-of-your-seat’,” shares one of the passengers.
As the balloons glided and soared gracefully in the sky for at least forty-five minutes, the passengers took plenty of picture-perfect moments; taking in the stunning and breathtaking views from 500 feet in the sky.
Myballoon Adventure offers bespoke ballooning experiences starting from RM850 which includes a stunning, breathtaking 45-minute to 1 hour balloon flight conducted by their vastly-experienced FAA-certified hot air balloon pilots; light pre-flight refreshments; a delicious breakfast line-up post-flight and a completion certificate to top off the wonderful experience. For passengers looking to pop the question to a loved one up in the sky or raise a toast with colleagues in mid-air, MyBalloon Adventure can make it happen.
PEOPLE now have one more reason to visit Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya, and this time they can do their visit 500 feet above the ground in a hot air balloon, while watching the sun rises. Run by MyBalloon Adventure, the daily hot air balloon ride starts at around 7am in the morning at Monumen Alaf Baru, Precinct 2, Putrajaya; the same spot where the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is held every year.
One of the pilots is Captain Filip Audenaert from Belgium, who has been flying hot air balloon for the past 20 years. On the ride, passengers will see the beautiful view of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. If the day is particularly clear, Twin Towers, KL Tower, Genting Highland and the KLIA twin airports will also be visible. Just bring your cameras and GoPros to record the memorable experience. Following the flight, passengers will be picked up at the landing spot, given a refreshing cold towels, bottles of mineral water and the traditional, post-flight celebratory balloon fliers’ toast. To top the wonderful experience, passengers will be ferried to Cyberview Resort and Spa Hotel in Putrajaya for a buffet breakfast, and at the same time, be presented with a Certificate of Participation. The Myballoon Adventure experience starts from RM850 per person and advance booking need to be made at www.myballoonadventure.com.
When you are a child, there is an undeniable sense of magic to Christmas. But as we get older and wiser, we realise that gifts are meaningless if they can’t be shared with the ones we love.
The best times are those that family and friends experience together and Christmas can be much more than a day spent giving “stuff” to one another. Instead, it can be a fairy-lit dance of memories!
And what better way to share the festivities with family and friends than a magical experience on a hot air balloon?
Greet the stunning sunrise this December, as you float majestically through the clouds. Imagine the scenery below you as the breath-taking vistas of Putrajaya with its picturesque architectural and modern cityscape unfolds before you and the ones you love.
Family and friends will appreciate the gift of a magical voyage of discovery over Putrajaya’s celebrated highlights, experiencing first-hand what it’s like to soar in a graceful hot air balloon and gain an unforgettable bird’s eye view, just a stone’s throw away from the city of Kuala Lumpur.
With the wind plotting your course, each magical flight is unique and one that a loved one and you will surely remember for a lifetime. Passengers are not only greeted with delicious, light refreshments before the flight, but they are also encouraged to get hands-on by helping with the balloon inflation.
Following the flight, with feet firmly on the ground, there is the traditional balloon flier’s toast and a beautifully-set sit-down breakfast at the Cyberview Resort and Spa Hotel in Putrajaya.
Myballoon Adventure, the first company in Malaysia to operate commercial hot air balloon rides, is offering various gift packages starting from RM850 all-year round (not just festive seasons!) which includes a stunning, breathtaking 45-minute to 1-hour balloon flight conducted by their vastly-experienced FAA certified hot air balloon pilots; light pre-flight refreshments; a delicious breakfast line-up post-flight and a completion certificate to top off the wonderful experience.
Be sure to purchase your hot air balloon experience as a gift for family and friends (or even yourself!) as early as possible to avoid disappointment by booking online here.