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Rise of Haikou not all hot air
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The 2008 China H1 Hot Air Balloon Challenge Games will be held from April 24 to 30 in Haikou, Hainan province, together with the second Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Haikou is the only Chinese capital city in a tropical zone. The temperature there never dips below 20 C any time during the year. The warm weather, rain forest and seaside scenery make Haikou a famous tourist city.

Haikou is also becoming known as center for hot air ballooning. Ten balloons featured in last year's Challenge Games, with more than 40 balloons expected this year.

It is a common misunderstanding that airplanes were the first craft to take people into the skies. Actually, about 120 years before the Wright brothers, the Montgolfier brothers made the first hot air balloon in France. On October 19, 1783, the first manned balloon traveled across Paris and stayed in the sky for 25 minutes.

Today, hot air balloons are mainly used for recreation. They cannot move horizontally and can only go up and down using different air temperatures.

Air balloon travel is slow and cannot exceed 5 m per second. But the leisurely pace is ideal for sightseeing.

(China Daily April 17, 2008)

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