Nha Trang is different from way up here.
One-hundred meters high in a motorized hang glider, the striking coastline – bright beaches against pure blue seas – comes into sharp focus. The bay and the islands stand out against the clear sky as the familiar white houses of the city fade into the rolling green hills in the distance.
The view is thanks to the new moto-hang gliding service opened by Mai Linh Corporation in June.
First you step into what looks like a small dinghy boat with a propeller motor and wings. Then you strap on a helmet and seat belt and soon your pilot has you flying.
“The feeling of being up high is so great,” Linh, a tourist from Ho Chi Minh City, told Thanh Nien Weekly.
“And I can take extraordinary photos of Nha Trang from a different angle.”
Phuc, another tourist, said, “Only by flying that high could I enjoy the wonderful beauty of Nha Trang Town to the fullest.”
At the price of US$70 per 15- minute flight, it’s pricey, but well worth it.
Mai Linh’s three two-seat gliders, each with a three-blade propeller and a boat-like bottom for sea takeoffs and landings, were imported from Italy at $60,000 apiece.
With a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour, the gliders – known as “trikes” – are controlled by certified pilots. Ho Minh Chau, director general of the group for the South Central Region and Central Highlands, said the company was training around 30 pilots for the service.
“Tourists can control the trikes by themselves, as long as they have completed a training course and fly it according to guidelines given by our staff through walkie-talkies,” Chau said.
According to Chau, the company has applied for a license to run a larger trike project at Hon Do Beach, also in Khanh Hoa Province. The firm wants the $3 million project to include a larger hang gliding “station” with many more trikes, where tourists line up to wait for a ride. Chau said he wants the complex to include a restaurant, drinks and entertainment and games.
In August, the group also introduced motorized hang gliding, now available in only 22 countries and territories, to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the northern province of Quang Ninh.
Chau said the company had gotten government permission to import a total of ten gliders.
“We expect to import 20 for a performance celebrating Hanoi’s 1,000th anniversary [October 10, 2010] and then put them into use for our business.
“We’re even considering it the first step towards a flying-taxi service, if we manage that in the future.”