I made it safely to Malaysia, the balloon did too and the truck is on its way by ship. It will arrive into Kuala Lumpur around the middle of the month.
The first couple of days after my arrival into Malaysia was spent getting ready for the balloon festival in Putrajaya, just outside of Kuala Lumpur. In the same hotel were some of the passengers’ families from the MH370 flight, which meant a lot of media hanging around in the lobby and a huge crowd of them would gather whenever a press conference was held. It made the whole tragedy very real when you could see the families of the victims. If one of them was crying, suddenly you would hear a camera snap, then hundreds more when others photographers saw and joined in. I did feel sorry for the families.
The balloon festival started on the 27th of March. I unpacked the balloon with my crew and loaded it onto the pick-up truck(provided by the festival organisers). Just as we were unpacking a big tropical storm passed over with extremely heavy rain, including a lot of lightning and thunder. We were under a tent, but it still made for a challenge as water seeped down any hole it could find.
The opening dinner was that night. There were various cultural music groups playing and the food was great.
We flew the following four mornings. We were only allowed to fly to 500ft and a maximum of 3km from our take-off site in Putrajaya, due to Kuala Lumpur International Airport being not far away. The wind is very light there which means you can still stretch the flight out. There were 21 balloons and pilots from all over the world.
Putrajaya is the administrative district of Malaysia. Similar to where I was a couple of weeks earlier in Canberra, it was made specifically for that purpose. There are lots of wide roads and it is well laid out. It seems to have a slower pace of life compared to just up the road in Kuala Lumpur.
During the festival I did something with UNICEF Malaysia’s ambassadors, Upin and Ipin. They are very famous cartoon characters in Malaysia and South East Asia in general. They did a photoshoot with the balloon, then went to meet some very excited kids in the crowd. I will do something more with them when I return from The Philippines.
Each morning we had a balloon competition called Hare and Hounds. The ‘hare’ balloon takes off 5mins before the other ‘hound’ balloons The hound balloons follow the hare balloon. Whoever throws their marker, (each pilot is given a marker before the flight) and gets closest to where the hare balloon lands, wins. There is skill involved, but luck also. There was a Hare and Hound competition each morning. I was lucky enough to be the overall champion this year.
The balloon was packed again and is tomorrow being air freighted to The Philippines, along with 13 other balloon from the festival here in Malaysia. I fly to Manila on the 8th and the balloon festival runs from the 10th-13th. After Manila I return back to Kuala Lumpur, by which time the truck should be arriving at Port Klang.