GEORGE TOWN, Feb 22 – About 10,000 local and foreign hot air balloon enthusiasts filled the Polo Field here in conjunction with the Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta that started here yesterday. The two-day fiesta which attracted 15 hot air balloon participants from the United Kingdom, Belgium, South Korea, United States and the Philippines, featured various types and shapes of hot air balloons, including ‘Trump’, ‘Darth Vader’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’.
A tourist from Poland, Wiktor Lazarsul, 27, said the hot air balloon fiesta always had its own unique appeal, no matter where it was organised, because of its background and scenery. “It was fabulous…I have seen this kind of occasions in Istanbul and Melbourne, the feeling and excitement is different in different places,” he said.
Yui Kazue, 33, from Japan said she and her three colleagues who are visiting Malaysia for the first time said though they could not ride on the hot air balloons, because ticket bookings were made much earlier, it was still worth being a part of the fiesta. “I’m not really frustrated, the queue is long though. But it was still worth it to hang out with my friends and try other attractions here,” said Kazue who tried her skills in playing the traditional ‘congkak’ and batik colouring.
As for Hwa Sze Suen, 40, this year’s Chinese New Year offered a difference to his family, especially his wife and son. “As a Penangite, I feel proud because it is not everyday you can see hot air balloons in our own backyard. We normally see such things only on TV. We are delighted to have had an opportunity to fly the skies, although for a short period,” said Hwa who works in a private hospital.
Apart from the balloons, the festival will also feature other activities such as inflatable playgrounds, creative workshops, archery, photography competition, paraglider performances, remote planes and helicopters demonstrations, and a fun run. Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng in his opening speech said the fiesta would be an annual event in the state government’s calendar of events.
“This Programme is a good start to the 2015 Visit Penang Year,” he said. Also present were Penang Yang Di-Pertua Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas and his wife Toh Puan Majimor Shariff. The Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is supported by the Penang state government in cooperation with the Penang Island Municipal Council and the Penang Global Tourism in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia.