Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 25 November 2013 • Abroad
It all began in February, 2013 when Air Asia was having a promotion. Diyan and I bought promo tickets to a country that recently decided to be more open to tourism: Burma, or Myanmar. The total trip is 9 days, consisted of 7 days in Burma (including Rangoon -or Yangon- and Bagan) and 2 days stopover in Malaysia.
I was super excited! It’s been a while since I had a trip more than a-week long. Browsing on ‘what to do in Burma’, the excitement rose as high as possible when I stumbled upon a website that talked about hot air balloon riding over Bagan. I forgot what the website was, but it had a photo of the Bagan view taken from the balloon up high. A vast land with forests, sandy plain, meticulous thousands of temples and pagodas seen from above, it was amazing!!
I made up my mind to put balloon riding in my itinerary, until I saw the ride fare: USD 320 / pax.
Suddenly I wasn’t so sure about going on the ride.
However, the Bagan image taken from the balloon was stuck in my mind. Riding it or not, Bagan was absolutely a must-visit to Diyan and me. So it felt like I couldn’t live peacefully knowing that I could ride the balloon but didn’t. Soon after we got married, we got our finance planned, and voila! The balloon fare was calculated in our travel budget plan!
We were going on a balloon ride over the enchanting Bagan plain!!
Travel plans didn’t get more exciting than that!
Then October came. It was time for us to apply for visa, book for accommodations and make sure on the bus schedules. We wanted to be more detailed than usual because I read that you can’t use ATMs nor credit cards in most of Burma.
However, Diyan was very busy at work, that it took him 2 weeks to get a leave permit from the office. By the time we could apply for visa, it was already late in October. We didn’t book anything until we got the visa, not even the balloon ride. I was nervous because according to Lonely Planet, November is the start of high season in Bagan. But booking the ride meant we had to transfer the nonrefundable money – all of the USD 640 for 2 pax, not just a sum of deposit – plus the bank transfer fee of USD 25. What if the visa didn’t come through?
6 days after we applied, we were so relieved that the visa came out! We rushingly e-mailed the balloon company to book slots, and I was pessimistic when they didn’t reply soon enough. Almost a week later they replied, and it was negative 🙁
But the show must go on! So we flew to Burma with a balloon ride crossed out of our plan. But we got the cash with us, all saved extra carefully so as not to fold even a teeny bit of the money (dollars to be exchanged and used in Burma have to be in super mint condition!).
On our second morning in Bagan, we went to the balloon office, asking about the possibility of us going. The nice Burmese woman with good English told us that all of their 7 balloons are full booked in the whole November, but if the government approves of 3 more balloons added to the arrangement, then we could go.
YAY!! THERE’S HOPE!!
We had to wait – again, nervously – for the news until the next evening. And guess what! THE GOVERNMENT APPROVED THE NEW BALLOONS AND THAT MEANT WE WE WERE SCHEDULED TO GO THE NEXT MORNING! That was one of the best news I’ve ever heard in my life! 😀
We prepared everything before we went to sleep. I set up the alarm, and my subconscious didn’t stop thinking about the balloon ride, that I kept waking up almost every hour. Even Diyan, who used to sleep in, was awake BEFORE the alarm went off. We were ready to be picked up at 5 o’clock, 10 minutes before the appointed time! So unlike Indonesian :))
The clock ticked.
It was 5.15 a.m. and nobody came.
The phone rang in the lobby, the guesthouse staff picked it up. I had a bad feeling.
After the phone conversation, he continued with his chore, so I thought that wasn’t the balloon office calling.
The guesthouse staff approached us and asked what we were doing.
“We’re waiting to be picked up by the balloon company,” I said.
Then he was saying something about the balloon in a poor English, we couldn’t understand. He told us to wait a moment, then he went and came back with another staff that speaks better English. That guy told us that the balloon office had called to say that the ride is cancelled due to weather condition.
He was so much like the Grim Reaper to me. I was upset beyond control. I even snapped at the poor-English guy for not letting us know the second he got off the phone and let us wait there for nothing! (For which I apologized the next day). Diyan was as upset, but he was much calmer than me.
We were supposed to go back to Yangon in the evening, but we decided to give balloon ride another try the next morning. So we extended our stay at Aung Mingalar guesthouse, which cost us another USD 40, and wasted our USD 20 deposit at a guesthouse in Rangoon.
Who knows, the weather might be back to normal condition in a day’s time 🙂
At the evening, we repeated the preparation, but this time we got our hopes a bit lower, so as not to get as disappointed if it turns out that we couldn’t go again – may God forbid. Again, I was restless in my sleep. We were ready at the lobby at 5 a.m.
Then the phone rang.
Nobody picked up.
The phone rang again. There was nobody at the reception.
Diyan had the urge to pick it up but was afraid that it wasn’t about the balloon.
15 minutes went by. Two Burmese guys on a motorbike came to the guesthouse and met us.
“We’re from the balloon company. Sorry, we can not fly this morning, because the wind is not good,” one of them said.
That was the deepest I had my head down. I thought I was ready to hear the news, but I wasn’t.
We went back to our room in silence. Diyan continued his sleep, me writing this. I had to let this out. We can’t give it another try on this trip because tomorrow we have to fly back to KL then Jakarta. We had to surrender…
This whole balloon thing might sound like I’m being dramatic and exaggerating things. Well, think what you like, but this is truly how I felt about it. I was heartbroken when my first attempt of riding a hot air balloon in Vang Vieng failed in April 2012 due to stormy weather, and I am heartbroken over a similar thing today. I mean, what is it with me and hot air balloons? Am I not destined to ride it at all? Is this God’s way of telling me to just save up the money? If things happen for a reason, could somebody please tell me, what is the reason behind this??
However, this doesn’t keep me from hoping. Our Ha Long Bay 2D1N cruise got cancelled in October 2009 due to a typhoon effect. But we went back for the cruise in April 2013, and it was 3D2N, even better!
Maybe, this is God’s way of telling me to come back to Burma later, see other beautiful places there, and get on that balloon in an even better condition that I can’t even imagine, yet.
For now, I am still keeping my fingers crossed.
And the dollars will remain untouched until then ;D
Have you wanted to do something in your travels but failed to do it? Share your stories and help make me feel like I’m not alone 🙂