We closed out 2010 by taking a ride on the new DHL Hong Kong Balloon.
It’s a ride in a tethered helium balloon, launched from a park in West Kowloon. We were lucky enough to be one of the earliest passengers as they were carrying out a soft launch. It’s a truly awesome experience.
It was a little frustrating as we weren’t aware that for safety reasons the balloon will only fly when the wind is below 15km/h. So after our first trip to the grounded balloon in the morning, we were told to return in the afternoon, when they expected the wind to have died down. Luckily it did, so up we went.
It’s a very different experience riding in a tethered balloon. It’s very windy, as you’re winched out in a netted basket. It’s a cross between a kite and a helium balloon. The basket you’re in does tend to slope a little in the wind, so it’s different from any skyscraper viewing platform I’ve been to.
The views at the top are certainly impressive, however, it’s a little strange, as you’re still dwarfed by the ICC, the giant skyscraper closest to you. In good weather the balloon would be winched out to about 130 metres, which is still a good 350 metres below the top of the ICC!
The basket is in the shape of a giant ring, so you can wander around to your heart’s content. It also allows you to look directly down through the centre of the ring.
It’s truly unique in that you get a birds eye view of Hong Kong, without being enclosed by a skyscraper’s glass and steel shell. The exposure to the elements certainly adds an excitement that you won’t get in an enclosed viewing gallery.
You ascend very gently, as the ascent/descent is controlled by the winch, there are no jolts or jerks, you suddenly look down and you realise that you’re over 100 metres up in the air, and the only way you could tell how high up you were, was by looking at the shadow cast by the balloon on the ground. We were airborne for about 10 minutes in all, which was more than enough to take take in all the views, and pose for numerous photos, and it’s going to be 10 minutes that I’m going to remember for a very long time.
I’d certainly recommend going for a ride in the balloon if you get the chance, it gives you the chance to view Hong Kong from a new perspective!
The ride costs HK$150 and details can be found at the DHL Hong Kong Balloon website
As it’s weather dependent, make sure you call them to check if the balloon is operating that day.