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Laos

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Hot air ballooning was always a faraway bucketlist item, something I’d do when I had lots of spare cash because, let’s face it, it’s hard to justify spending $350USD on a 40 minute ride when my frugal self usually tosses up between a $2 or $3 dinner option. You can imagine my joy when I learned that Vang Vieng was home to the world’s cheapest hot air balloon ride. I knew then that I had to do it. We spent our first couple of days in Vang Vieng watching the same 3 balloons go up in the late afternoon before sunset. After chatting with a couple of different tour companies, we realised that there was only one company operating the balloons so we knew the best deal would come from the company directly.

RISE & SHINE SLEEPY HEAD

We arranged for a sunrise ride which meant an early morning wake up at 5:30am. A tuk tuk pulls up at 6am to pick us up. We load into the back of the tuk tuk, the early morning cold breeze chills us as we speed through the empty roads of Vang Vieng. We arrive to see the 3 balloons laying flat on the ground and a team of men wearing camo scurrying around to get set up. Being the Lunar New Year, all 3 balloons are jam packed. The first balloon leaves the ground at 6:30am. We decide to go in the last balloon so that we have time to take photos and film the other balloons taking off.

hot air balloon laos
Balloon prep

hot air balloon laos

TAKE OFF

As soon as the first balloon is set up, there’s a lot of yelling and it’s all a bit frantic. Random people are getting pulled into the balloon – I guess there isn’t much time before the balloon starts floating so it’s just GO GO GO. We scramble into our balloon, still trying to zip up our backpacks as the balloon ascends from the ground. By 7am, we take off and are up in the sky within a couple of minutes.

Hot air balloon Laos

Hot air balloon Laos

IN THE SKY IN A HOT AIR BALLOON

I am surprised that my fear of heights isn’t triggered. We are 600m high and yet I don’t feel the tiniest bit of anxiety, it’s almost like I’m on a plane and the slow movement is actually quite calming. Between snapping photos and filming, I enjoy a few moments just appreciating the 360 degree view of mountains lit up by the sun’s glow and a haze softening the light. My moment is abruptly interrupted by continuous blasts of fire – no one tells you how loud this is. Regardless, soaring through the sky in a balloon is just pretty damn awesome.

Vang Vieng Hot Air Balloon

GOING DOWN

After 40 minutes, we slowly descend, sweeping above the houses in the town below us. It feels like we are skimming the roofs and could touch them. We brush past a tree and the same camo dressed team of guys is below ready to catch the balloon – I didn’t know this is how we’d stop! The guys push their weight down on the basket as we swap our places with the new group waiting to go up. We are hurried into the tuk tuk and driven back into the main town. By 8:00am, we are back in Vang Vieng, happy to have enjoyed quite a magical experience. Now I get what the fuss is all about.

Vang Vieng Hot Air Balloon
Landed safe and sound!

LOGISTICS

The Company – Vang Vieng Balloons

Vang Vieng Balloons is the only hot air ballooning company in Vang Vieng (at the time of writing). It offers hot air balloon rides, paramotoring and bus / minivan tickets out of Vang Vieng. Unfortunately the paramotor operator was away when we were in Vang Vieng so we could not go. Chansouk is the main guy running things on the ground and we found him extremely helpful. He also speaks great English and is open to negotiating prices. It is preferred that you visit the shopfront directly to arrange a booking although the below email address was provided to me. Bookings for the following day usually aren’t a problem.

Vang Vieng Balloons
Contact: Chansouk
Email: vangviengbaloon@gmail.com
Times: 6:30am, 4pm and 4:30pm (additional times depending on season)

Cost

Vang Vieng Balloons charges $90USD (formerly $80USD). Tour companies sell the hot air balloon ride as an intermediary so they also charge a commission. The cheapest rate you’ll find is through the company directly and we recommend you to chat to Chansouk about discounts.

What if I’m scared of heights?

I usually experience extreme physiological effects when my fear of heights is triggered. I get sweaty palms and tingles from my feet. My heart starts racing and everything starts to feel numb. It was really interesting that I didn’t feel any of these sensations during the balloon ride. I think this is attributed to the extremely slow floating and the basket being quite high. Also, the impressive views can be quite the distraction.

Do we recommend it?

Absolutely. It was quite a surreal experience and getting a full birds eye view is really cool. If you’re after a ride with a lot of balloons in the sky, this isn’t the place. It isn’t going to look like photos in Turkey or Myanmar. At any time, you’ll only ever see a maximum of 2 other balloons in the sky. With the lowest pricing point for this activity, it’s definitely the backpacker’s version of a luxury balloon ride. We felt safe the entire ride and really enjoyed the beautiful views over Vang Vieng. Going at sunrise is the better option as the afternoon rides are a bit too early for sunset.

We hope that if you’re planning a trip to South East Asia, you make time for Laos and a hot air balloon ride. Let us know in the comments if you’ve enjoyed this experience before or if it’s something you’d be interested in doing!

Vang Vieng Hot Air Balloon Laos

Vang Vieng Hot Air Balloon
Panoramic views of Vang Vieng

RELIVE THE RIDE WITH US BELOW!