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Hot-Air Balloon Wedding

 It has become a tradition to release kome loy or hot-air balloons, at the end of a joyous ceremony or fun gathering in the north. Only fire crackers could fly along with the kome loy, but not living things. No one really knows how many centuries ago the locals invented the hot-air balloon. But the fantasy in the west came true 220 years ago that the French Montgolfier brothers invented the worlds first airborne enjoyment.

Move over Paris, Chiangmai is becoming the city of romance. Its possible to have unique wedding ceremonies here such as a Lanna wedding ceremony, or being wed on elephant back, or how about in the skies at sunrise on a hot air balloon. It was an historic flight on January 9, 2003 for a romantic couple, Chutrudee Sukhajati, 28, and Peter Kotize, 29, to lift above Chiangmai to exchange wedding vows and rings with Captain Yutakij Wanichanond, the companys cofounder presiding that morning.

After 2 years of planning as well as complicated procedures, similar to setting up an airliner, the Oriental Balloon Flights launched the service to the public in 2002. The company is a subsidiary of Rien Jurg Promotion BV in the Netherlands. The flight offers a birds eye view above the outskirts Chiangmai city at the price of 8,500 Baht per person. It would fly about one hour through the picturesque area of Doi Saket - Sankampaeng - Sanzai.

 The couple first met in Hawaii where Chutrudee a flight attendant with a national airline was introduced by a mutual friend of Peter. One year after that they were engaged. Peter had relocated from Hawaii to Bangkok two years ago.

The morning started around 5.30 am when the couple arrived at the Balloon Club in the Flora Ville Housing Estate, Km.9, Chiangmai-Doi Saket Highway. The bride wearing an elegant gown with veil while the groom wearing a smart light grey vest and scarf met with the nai ampur (District Office Chief), Surapol Panat-ampol, who interviewed them briefly to arrange the official registration document. Around 6.15 am, the couple made merit by presenting prepared food and useful items for 3 monks invited by the Oriental Balloon team.

The Paparazzi was in full force from magazines, newspapers and TV stations. The couple was very good natured about the crowd covering the entire event. Actually, they wanted to repeat a romantic moment in time of about 2 years ago when Peter proposed on their first hot-air balloon ride over Himalayan mountains in Nepal. When the balloon was in position to see Mount Everest, Peter gave her the ring and asked her marry him. The bride was so touched by the pivotal moment that she cried. The captain suspected that she was so frightened of the flying experience, however, she assured him the tears were those of joy.

 Around 6.50 am the balloon was ready for take off. The bride climbed in with her wedding dress and veil swirling around her. There was a lot of smooching for the photographers and the single women were vying for the wedding bouquet toss. Next in went the groom, the nai ampur and also the chief registrar. After the captain climbed in so did 3 cameramen with their videos.

The captain then explained what to do and what not to do when it was time to land. Hold on to the handles inside the basket; dont grab the black rubber hoses and turn your face away from the wind. As the clouds turned pinkish-gold with the rise of the morning sun, the balloon lifted off. The bouquet was tossed. And up into the skies they flew.

Due to unpredictably of the wind direction and speed, the balloon could land anywhere. It was up to the back up team to follow their view of the balloon to find their way to the spot to unload the passengers and set up the champagne breakfast with wedding cake.

 We tried to keep up with the crowd thinking we could always contact on mobile phone. We drove towards the east where the early fog was still thick and hadnt burned off by the morning sun.

Driving to a very remote housing estate in the Poo Ka subdistrict, before in Borsang, Sankampaeng. The balloon was spotted on the other side of a irrigation canal. A local villager passing by informed us the landing site could be reached by taking Soi 4, Poo Ka Nua village.

By the time we arrived, the picnic table had been set up with a beautiful table cloth, a punch bowl of mimosa plus a beautiful wedding cake were being enjoyed. Villagers were delighted to see the glowing bride and her handsome groom enjoying their special moment in the quiet rural setting with a rooster or two scurrying around.

Captain Yutakij presented the passengers with their flight certificate. It was a honeymooners special welcome kit complete with polaroid photo of the romantic moment many of people in Chiangmai will always remember.

The romantic couple will hold their official reception at the end of February in Bangkok among many friends and relatives. But their flight in the sky, will be a special heartfelt moment in time to be cherished forever.

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