December 3, 2010
My two favorite experiences in Jaipur were actually the two most unusual ones not done by many tourists. The first was the Monkey Temple and the second was a hot air balloon ride over the countryside near the city. After taking a hot air balloon ride in the Masai Mara I got completely hooked and jumped at the opportunity to do one again in Jaipur. The balloons are run by an Australian based company named Sky Waltz. The balloons go out twice a day in the early morning and afternoon all year except summer because it is too hot. They operate out of a few locations around India and can be booked privately or as a group. The balloons have multiple launch sites including the Taj Jai Mahal Hotel, which I ended up staying at for a few days, but I was not staying there when I took the balloon and we launched from a field about a 30 minute drive from Jaipur. You have to get up very early because the launch is around 6am, but it is worth it to see the sun rise from the balloon. You go very high and at times it was a little scary, but extremely beautiful. I was hoping we would o a little closer to the city and the Amber Fort, but the balloon is controlled by the wind and we spent most of our ride over rural villages, which was still very beautiful.
Landing was actually almost as fun as the ride itself. Unlike my disastrous tipping episode from the Masai Mara (which you can read about here) the landing was very smooth and all the local people from the village we landed in came out to greet us. They had never seen the balloon before and some were entranced and others frightened. One elderly woman ran up to us panting and screaming thinking we were invaders from the sky, but once she calmed down and we explained who we were she was very excited and even did a dance for us. All the villagers were very kind and I had a great time taking their photographs and showing it to them on the digital camera. Truly a not to be missed experience!