Saturday found us at the Thailand International Balloon Festival, a two-day event hosting 15 hot air balloons from “around the world”. As I’ve always wanted to go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta launch, we braved a very early morning to see their first launch and a new future passion was created.
With the sky still black, we arrived at 5:45am, to the empty field circled by pavilions. James and I sat in the dark and watched as trucks, filled with the baskets and balloon “envelopes” that would soon take flight, slowly entered. We kept a respectful distance as they began to setup and test their propane burners, which I LOVED.
The field was shrouded in darkness until a pilot would test their burner shooting up a large flame with a mighty woosh, saturating the field in light for a blinding moment before it all went dark again. Luckily they tested multiple times so I enjoyed the heck out of it.
With their light show complete, they began to drag out the balloon “envelopes”, unfolding them to allow them to be filled with air by a large fan. The event took place at a golf course but the field was small enough that the envelopes had to be criss-crossed with one another (if only the top line), which also created a cue for who could be inflated first.
The “crown-man” role is twofold: one is to prevent the envelope from excessive sway, and two is to prevent the envelope from rising before it is sufficiently buoyant.
Soon the sky began to fill with the balloons as they took to the air, for a short journey over the golf course.
They flew up and over the tall trees, to get lost behind a new balloon that had taken to the air which we tracked until eventually it vanished (landing not far from where they set off). We stayed until each balloon was back to the ground and then a bit sleepy, headed back to the house.
With a few hours of rest, we returned for more quality time with the flames, I mean balloons, and I ended up parking myself next to a balloon to see each step of the setup again. I snapped away at the process, delighting in the feel of the heat from the burner tests as the night was cool enough for it to be a nice contrast.
Fireworks finally pulled my attention back to the real world as the “Balloon Night Glow” event had begun and the pilots blasted their burners in time to various songs. During the evening, the pilots were also more frequently using the “whisper burner” which created a beautiful yellow glow we didn’t see during the day flights.
So while we didn’t win any free rides in a hot air balloon that night, my brush with air ballooning was impressive enough to make me think that hot air ballooning would be a fun future “hobby” (she said about a very expensive sport). If nothing else, I know a hot air balloon ride is at least in my future.
Step-by-step how to inflate a hot air balloon –