When the 2013 ballooning season in the UK comes to an end it certainly won’t mean the end of flying for one of our Virgin Balloon pilots.

Mark Simmons, who has been a commercial hot air balloon pilot since 1991, will swap British skies for the exotic climes of Bagan, an ancient city in the Mandalay Region of Burma (Myanmar).

Every winter during the UK’s low season, Mark travels to Myanmar to show people the awe-inspiring sights of thousand-year-old pagodas and the mighty Ayeyarwady River with Balloons Over Bagan.

“It is just incredible. Every time I return, it takes my breath away. We offer people sunrise and sunset champagne flights from October through to the end of March and it’s a fantastic way to see this ancient kingdom. “It’s certainly different to where I fly in the UK and I enjoy both but for different reasons.”

Mark, who is known to friends and colleagues as Nobby, said it’s an incredible way for people to experience the unusual landscape.

“It’s about the whole experience,” he said. “People enjoy watching the setup of the balloon and at the end of every flight, there is a Champagne breakfast prepared on the landing site by the ground crew. Not knowing where you are going to land is always exciting and makes it a great adventure.”

Mark also said that living in Bagan during the winter months provides his family with unforgettable memories and new experiences.

“My wife Janet and my children Henry who is 8 and Lewella who is 5 are also there for the four months with me. This year will be their third visit to Bagan and we home educate our children so that we can travel there as a family and they can experience this beautiful country and unique culture” he added.

In the UK, Mark takes passengers for hot air balloon flights in Bristol from Ashton Court, as well as Royal Victoria Park in Bath, Monmouth and Pandy, near Abergavenny.

Mark started flying when he was a teenager and to this day he holds the record for being the youngest pilot to captain a balloon across the English Channel in 1991, at the age of just 21.

This year, a collection of Virgin Balloon Flights pilots will join Mark on his adventure in Bagan. Dave Sutcliffe, Des Bimson, Pete Philpott and Gavin Chadwick are also going along for the ride.

He will be returning to Virgin Balloon Flights for the start of the 2014 season.

To book a flight with Mark in the UK visit our page about balloon rides in the south west.