What did I do last Sunday? Not too much... just WENT ON A HELICOPTER RIDE!!!It was amazing.

Incredible. Exhilarating. Inspiring. I'm exaggerating now... but really it was great.

But anyway, the way this came to be was that one of my host mom's Mandarin classmates who came over during one of our Christmas gatherings was a helicopter pilot. And, during the dinner party, he graciously invited to take me on a ride around HK in a helicopter! Of course I expressed great interest, and before I knew it, the flight was scheduled!

So, on Sunday I met the pilot (Mr. Fung) at the Fanling Railway Station, and we took taxi to the People's Liberation Army Barracks at Shek Kong (in Hong Kong), where the HK Aviation Club is located. It was an experience in itself to see the PLA's Hong Kong base! The soldiers in their blue Communist uniforms, holding big rifles guarding the gate, always walking in stride with one another and none walking alone (they seemed to have buddies they stuck with at all times), were fascinating. They come from various areas of China, so most don't know Cantonese or English. Just Mandarin. So communicating with the gate guard who wanted to see my I.D. was kind of tough. But, bodily gestures and Mr. Fung's translation made it a non-issue. After passing through an airport-style metal detector and luggage scanner, I was in! Then there was a slight issue: the Aviation Club is nowhere near the entrance to the barracks/base. And no taxis or other public transport are allowed inside to take people around. Most of the club patrons posses their own private cars which they can easily drive to the Club, but we had none with us of course. So, luckily, a student-pilot happened to be entering the Base at the same time as us, and he was in his own car. So, we requested a ride in his beautiful Audi, and he drove us to the runway area. It turned out this man who drove us was a retired German entrepreneur/businessman living in Hong Kong who decided to learn to fly in his old age. Very cordial old fella'! Anyway, after a long while of watching other pilots take their turns  in the 2 shared helicopters the flight club owns, it was finally our turn. Now, originally, the plan was for Mr. Fung to take me all around Hong Kong - seeing Victoria Harbour from the air as well as some of the 'rural' areas. But, the cloud cover was extreme on that day, and visibility made it impossible. But still, we were allowed to make circles around the airport and stay fairly low to the ground!
Now to the ride itself: After the pre-flight checks, we hopped into this tiny, insect-like helicopter.and Mr. Fung started the rotors. The feeling was instantly captivating - the deep rumbling of the engine and shaking of the whole craft as it awaited Control Tower permission to take off. When the message finally came that we could go, we gradually lifted off the ground! It was amazing compared to an airplane's takeoff - this one was quick, controlled, direct, and downright comfortable. We just rose straight into the air, and once Mr. Fung pushed to throttle, we began or ride! The feeling of the whole flight is incomparable to a fixed-wing aircraft in every way. This didn't feel like a speeding ship in the sky - it felt like a jet-pack. It seemed as though simply leaning left or right could have made the copter turn, and that the machine was an extension of the pilot's body as he deftly maneuvered around the sky. I was enraptured (is that a word?) by the 1 hour trip. Even though the sight-seeing itself was quite limited by our low altitude and lack of permission to travel outside the vicinity of the airport, I loved the experience in its entirety. My first ever helicopter ride was... perfect!
We safely landed after an hour in the skies around Shek Kong, and that was that. I hope that this isn't the last opportunity I have to take a ride in a helicopter - its definitely something I'd like to try again.

Exams are over now! I get results soon... I'm kind of worried. They were nothing like exams I have taken before in my life. These were 3-hour long ordeals, basically consisting of writing essays spitting back exactly what the notes from the lessons said. Or, in some cases, essays about things never once mentioned during class. Confusing. But I did my best and what's done is done. I'm just looking to pass all my subjects (easier said than done). And that is that!

Ben Choi




Comments (1)

On January 26, 2010 at 8:26 AM , Priscila said...

Dear Ben,

Last year bab.la and our blog Lexiophiles launched the Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2009. It was rewarding and we really enjoyed bringing the exchange blogger community together, and here we go again:

It’s time for The Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2010, also known as IX10.

We are looking for the top 100 blogs about life abroad and your blog has been nominated. The nomination period goes from January 22nd to January 31st. Feel free to spread the word among bloggers writing about life in a foreign country.


The voting starts on February 1st and goes till February 14st 2010. At the end of the two-week voting period, the blogs with the most votes will win.

If you want to read more about IX10 visit Lexiophiles (http://www.lexiophiles.com/featured-article/the-top-100-international-exchange-and-experience-blogs-2010).

Send me an email in case you don’t want to be included in this list or if you have any further questions about the competition.

Kind regards,

Priscila

On behalf of the bab.la and Lexiophiles team