Unless you’re the Wizard of Oz, it’s not every day that you get to travel by hot air balloon. These buoyant balloons’ whimsical, feel-good vibe put them high on most bucket lists. Kate Springer chats with the founders of Balloons Over Bagan—Brett Meltzer and Omar Win—who pioneered commercial ballooning in Myanmar back in 1999.
The granddaddy of bucket list aspirations. Leave your vertigo-struck friends at home, and head to the best bungy sites in the region.To get some first-hand insight, Kate Springer talks to Tony O’Rourke, a veteran bungy master at AJ Hackett Macau. O’Rourke has been in the business for 23 years, and he’s logged 984 jumps and counting.
History Lesson: Bungy jumping has actually been around for centuries—the people of Pentecost Island in New Zealand would use vines to throw themselves off towers as a way to ward off spirits. But it didn’t go mainstream until speed-skiers AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch made it accessible with their first bungy spot at Queenstown’s 43-meter-tall Kawarau Bridge in 1988.
Skypark Sochi is lookin’ fly. Photo: AJ Hackett International
Jump Here: “That first jump is always the best jump, because you’re going into the unknown. If you were to include Russia as part of Asia, then I’d say the Skypark in Sochi ($1,686 fromwww.ajhackett.com/sochi), which just opened a few months ago. The location is amazing, overlooking Sochi City and the Black Sea. Over in New Zealand, there’s Nevis Canyon ($1,869 from ajhackett.ibisnz.com), which is the highest bungy in the country at 134 meters tall. But I still prefer the original Queenstown site: Kawarau Bridge ($1,318 from ajhackett.ibisnz.com). It’s only 43 meters high, but that’s where it all started, so it’s a really special place.”
Kawarau Bridge: where it all began. Photo: AJ Hackett New Zealand
Safety First: “When it comes to bungy jumping, safety is the most important thing. There are a lot of cowboys out there, so do your homework. We have jumped more than 3.5 million people in 27 years, and we have never had a fatality.”
The Fine Print: You have to weigh between 40kg to 125kg (88-276 pounds) to jump at AJ Hackett sites. And there are some medical conditions that will keep people from jumping, so check the website for more details.
Lazy Alternative: No time to go to New Zealand? The Macau Tower (www.macautower.com.mo) is just a ferry ride away. It’s also the tallest bungy jump from a building on the planet—233 meters tall. Jumps cost $2,600 per person. www.ajhackett.com.
The Macau Tower is right next door! Photo: AJ Hackett International
Climb a Volcano
If you haven’t toasted a s’more in lava then you haven’t lived, so you’d better get yourself to the top of a volcano. Kate Edwards, the head of Southeast Asia at Hong Kong-based tailor-made tour operator Jacada Travel, recommends Asia’s top trek: Mount Bromo in East Java, Indonesia.
The Volcano: “Mount Bromo is incredible. Everyone seems to think you climb up Mt. Bromo, but you actually climb the mountain next door, Penanjakan, which overlooks Mt. Bromo’s crater for sunrise. And then afterwards you can hike over to Mt. Bromo in about two hours. Don’t worry about training too hard: you have to be pretty out of shape not to be able to do this hike.”
Ain’t no mountain high
Waking up Early: “There are a number of small guesthouses about an hour from the summit of the mountain. Usually people wake up about 3:30am, and they go to see the sun rise. It’s a good idea to go a bit early as it can be busy.”
Ain’t no valley low
The View: “It’s not just one volcano here, there are about five of them in the region. Mt. Bromo is the most well-known, but it’s surrounded by other volcanoes so it is really a special sight. It always has a plume of smoke coming from the center, so when you are watching sunrise and the mist clears: it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Misty mountain hopping in East Java
Step Up: “The landscape high up on Mt. Bromo is quite unusual—it’s desolate, dry and musty. To climb up the crater, it’s about 200 steep steps and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It feels like quite a long way. Usually we get horses for our clients, and then they can look down into the crater.”
Saying a little prayer for you
Where to Stay: “We always suggest Java Banana guesthouse (from $1,008 per night, www.java-banana.com): it’s really the best in the area. It’s not a luxury hotel, but it’s rustic and sweet with little cottages scattered around the grounds.” www.jacadatravel.com
Lazy Alternative: We hear The Peak is gorgeous this time of year. And it’s just about an hour’s stroll up from Conduit Road (among other routes). But why hike when you can take the tram?