Helicopter Ride Over Manhattan

Dear Sam,

I just really want to start off by saying—how the hell are you supposed to top this year’s birthday gift?

A helicopter ride over Manhattan is definitely up there now.

Thanks

Love,

Me

Boys, if you reaaally want to impress your girlfriends and have a reasonably okay credit limit then I suggest you try out Sam’s ridonkolous gift idea.

Last year, Sam and I started the “Birthday Experience” where we go somewhere for either one’s birthday to celebrate. Copenhagen and Disneyland Paris last year, his and hers respectively. And this year, unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it to Sam’s Egyptian Birthday trip. (Don’t ask, sensitive topic.)

I love New York. I fell in love with the city the first time I went there and because Sam’s never been, thought it would make for an amazing birthday trip!

This year, Sam surprised me with an awesome birthday gift. Quite bold though, as he knows I’m scared of heights. But for this one, I made an exception. (For good reason.)

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking of trying out this epic experience:

You will find New York Helicopters at Pier 6 near the Staten Ferry Island terminal. A lot of other helicopter companies base themselves there so make sure you check in the right one.

You’re meant to check in 30 minutes before but the eager beavers in us came in an hour early and they were kind enough to let us in on the earlier one.

They fly every 15 minutes.

After waiting for about 10 minutes, they called us so they can strap in a belted life jacket. They explain some safety rules like don’t open the doors (duh) and wait until they open it for you once you’ve landed after the flight.

The helicopter can carry 8 people, two in the front (including the pilot), six in the back. Luckily, we were only 5 passengers. We rode with a girl whose mom was (I assume) scared to go with her on the flight and another lovely couple from Down Under.

Before you get on the plane, they take pictures of you one by one and then assign all passengers a seat. They advise you to strap on and hand you big headphones with a microphone so that we can talk to each other and we can hear what the pilot is saying.

.. And then you are off!

It lasts 15 minutes more or less so it is not that long.

Your pilot will be saying a few things here and there. “To your right, Central Park.” -—you know the gist.

We could not have had a better day. They could cancel due to bad weather and Sam and I have had our fingers crossed for a good couple of days. Thank you, Weather Gods!

They take you back down and they do the whole thing all over again, so you sit on the helicopter and wait while they take pictures of the next passengers. As they assist you out, they are assisting new people in.

You go back inside the building and they talk you into buying the pictures, which you may have probably guessed by now, I caved in to. ($35)

With regards to cost, I can’t tell you exactly how much it was as Sam won’t tell me. But you can buy the ride from $183 on Groupon. Worth every dollar, if you ask me. It’s not like you would ever do it again! (Or would you..)

Sounds and Sorcery: Disney Fantasia (The One In The Vaults Where It Gets Trippy)

Dear Sam,

I have never heard of The Vaults until that one night where it just magically appeared on my Facebook home page and voila! (Those ads actually work.)

The Vaults is located under the Waterloo train station and they do different exhibits every few months.

When I saw that they were doing Fantasia, I knew I just had to go!

The tickets go from £30 for adults. If you go on weekends, it costs more. We went on a Friday and it cost us £38.

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You walk in and already you feel that the night will be different. 

You start off handing your tickets in and in return they give you headphones and a lanyard with an iPod hanging off it.

And then the “immersive music concert experience” begins..

The headphones starts whispering to you and you get in the first room where you lie down on circular couches.

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The ceiling starts projecting visual art that moves along with the music that starts playing. It is so trippy. 

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I tried to take a picture but it didn’t really do it justice. (Mostly because it wouldn’t stop moving and I just ended up getting blurry shots.)

This goes on for about ten minutes. (Although I can’t be sure because you lose track of time.)

The song stops playing and then your headphones starts whispering to you again. They usher you out of the room and let you start queuing for the next room.

The one thing I noticed about all the rooms is that they are all so so damp. So best to leave coats in the cloakroom or not bring one at all.

The next room is the cauldron room. There are four actors doing their version of Fantasia. It was a bit nostalgic seeing the story being played by actors. They do the bit of the iconic water bucket and “Mickey Mouse”.

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After this room, your headphones start telling you that you are free to pick which door to choose.

I found it really cool how sensitive the iPods were and how it changed music for every room.

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We chose to enter the volcano room. I loved how we were trying to walk through the tunnels and trying to balance ourselves on some of the floors.

We then moved on to the flower room.

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The Nutcracker Suite is up next. An ostrich, a hippo, an elephant and a crocodile starts dancing for the crowd.

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The hippo was my fave!

If you go up the steps in front of the stage, you go up a mini exhibit for kids where they can design their own costume. You also get to control the clouds for the mini ballet show.

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There is a nice bar where you can chill and grab a few drinks before you enter the last door. Make sure you have seen all that you want to see before you enter this part of the experience because you won’t be able to go back to the other rooms.

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The last room is filled with benches for people to sit in front of the projector where they show a short film. (Another weird and quirky one.)

And then they open the cloth revealing a mystical forest where you can walk through before you make an exit.

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The exit was an entrance to their bar / lounge area which was surprisingly quiet. The place was quite hip with old lecture chairs, projectors and cool art displays on the wall.

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The night was fun and different–quirky.

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London always has something new popping up and we never run out of things to see. 

This exciting underground world is up until the end of September and you can book your tickets here.

 

Thanks for always being a trooper, 

Isabel

 

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Dear Sam,

For someone who is afraid of heights, it’s surprising how I said yes to this.

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But how could I not really?

Doing my research, over half a million went up on the hot air balloon last year and there have been no reports of people tipping over, failed hot air or bad driving skills.

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So again, how could I not really? #yolo Continue reading “Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia”

What Travelling Has Taught Me

Dear Sam,

Hi my name is Isabel and I am a travel junkie. (This is the part where everyone in the hypothetical room goes, “Hi Isabel.”)

It is so easy to get hooked though, isn’t it? It’s like getting a tattoo; it is almost impossible to only have one. After you get the first one, you start getting this itch of having another one.. and another one.

And with over 40 cities to date, I still want more. Continue reading “What Travelling Has Taught Me”

The One Down Under

Dear Sam,

However short, I loved our Sydney trip. If it were my first time going, I think I would have been stomping my feet, telling you off, why you made me agree to only five days.

My first time in Sydney was five years ago and that was my first ever trip outside Asia. And overall, my second trip outside the Philippines. (Boy, much has changed since then!)
Continue reading “The One Down Under”