– By Chuin Ying
To give us a bird’s eye view perspective, we speak to Balloons Over Bagan’s Chief Pilot Mark “Nobby” Simmons on why going sky high over the ancient city of temples and pagodas is such an indelible delight.
Of all the wonderful countries I have flown in, Myanmar is definitely at the top of my favourite list. The scenery in Bagan when you look down on the temples spread out across the Ancient Monument zone is just breathtaking. From a piloting perspective, the calm weather conditions are just perfect.
Working abroad and being able to travel with my family. My wife, Janet and I made the decision to homeschool our two children so that we could stay together as a family during my contracts away from home.
We first arrived in Bagan on my son, Henry’s 2nd birthday while Janet was pregnant with our daughter, Lewella. He will turn 14 in January and Lewella is now 11 so they have spent their childhood living in both the UK and Myanmar.
For my wife and I, we feel that we couldn’t have given our children a better start in life in seeing the world and understanding different cultures.
I hold a couple of ballooning World Records, one of them being the youngest pilot to captain a balloon across the English Channel in 1992 when I was 21. This flight took a lot of preparation and I had good luck with the weather, but to fly from England all the way to France was pretty special.
My first balloon training flight was on May 4, 1989. I was fortunate enough to start working as a Ground Crew for my friend’s father who ran an advertising balloon company in the UK. It took two years of flight training to achieve my Private Pilots License in January 1991, and then my Commercial Pilots License in December of the same year. At the age of 22 years old, I was — at the time — the youngest Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot in Europe.
I have been working for Balloons over Bagan since 2007. In 2014, I was appointed Chief Pilot.
I have flown in over 35 countries during my career. I’ve seen some beautiful parts of the world, from the deserts of Morocco to the snow-covered mountains of Switzerland — all from the basket of a hot air balloon.
I also met my wife while flying in Switzerland. She was taking a year-long sabbatical from university in Toronto and I was attending a winter balloon meet in a town called Château d’Oex when we first met, so flying in the Swiss Alps holds fond memories for me.
Photo credits: Sunrise Sunset Times
In partnership with Balloons Over Bagan, we are delighted to invite you to soar over the ancient city of Bagan with Mark and his team through our exclusive offer: book a ride with us and the second person flies for free*.
Book your next unforgettable ride with your loved ones at firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 68146939.
*Valid only with a minimum of six booked nights with Blue Sky Escapes in Myanmar before 10 April 2019.