After spending just a couple of days in China the previous January, I had become hooked on checking out what else this massive country had to offer. There has been a boom like no other for the theme park industry out here over the past decade or so, with larqe quantities of both parks and very impressive looking rides flying up at a rate of knots.
It’s a fascinating country in which to experience new parks both as a bit of a road less travelled and the fact that they have a rather unique take on how to operate compared to the rest of the world, for better or worse (mostly worse as we’ll come to find out).
We flew into Guangzhou from Singapore and immediately took a high speed train down to Zhuhai, on the border with Macau. Trains are king in China, aside from driving being somewhat inaccessible to outsiders (and potentially suicidal if you were to try it in the cities), the almost incomprehensibly huge distances between cities (and parks) are consumed with relative ease by what I consider to be the greatest rail network in the world.
The coverage of the trains is vast beyond belief, the journies unbelievably cheap and on more than one occasion they have set the record for the fastest I’ve ever travelled on land.
Outside the station there were a number of small tourist huts, one of which offered a dedicated coach to the first park of the trip.
Day 1 – Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
This park exceeded my expectations as an overall package and was possibly the only park on the trip that had that ‘just nice to spend the day there’ atmosphere. It was incredibly relaxed and well run, with a satisfying selection of rides, animals and shows.
This very attractive B&M is the most accomplished wing rider I’ve graced so far. The theming and interaction is excellent and the layout is simple but fun sequence of elements. The straight first drop provides an unusually satisfying sensation of airtime that can usually never be found on these models, before the restraints tighten around your shoulders at the pull out and restrict any further chance of this occuring, as is always the case with any strong positive force on these.
Highlight: Sluggish back row of the train in the first inversion provided a wonderfully floaty and sustained upside down moment.
Lowlight: Sluggish inline twist is a bit of a lung crusher.
Again this Mack looks great with the theming and floating by the real polar bears at the beginning is cool, but all in all it’s just a water coaster that fails to stir things up much. Not my favourite Polar Xplorer.
Highlight: Realising it isn’t quite a cloned layout.
Lowlight: Realising it might as well have been.
The second Mack is a similar story in that it looks great and floating past the various animals on display at the beginning of the ride is cool. Aside from this it’s a bigger, more lumbering water coaster that fails to stir things up much.
Highlight: Walrus Mountain theming.
Lowlight: Better to look at than to ride.
Did Sea Odyssey, which is an Omnimover dark ride that weaves in and out of screens that bounces between a narrative about a metal fish enduring some mild peril and some real life aquarium tubes. They also chucked in a big erupting volcano set with ceiling projections at the end. Not knowing at all what to expect, it was impressive and good fun.
The 5D theatre was a surprise hit as well. You never quite know what you’re getting with your Ds and often they can feel like a bit of a waste of time. This was the real deal however, with impressive visuals and effects. The story featured the park mascots and went through scenes based on the rides and areas in the park such as flying a parrot through a forest, venturing inside Walrus Mountain, riding the big ass whale on top of the aquarium and saving some penguins from evil Mr fire-breathing sea monster (he needs a ride next).
Such a committed theme and I love the whole concept of a park taking pride in its attractions enough to use them into other forms of media.
The rest of the day was spent with many more flights on the parrot, alterating with a few animal shows and zoo exhibits at various points. They have a huge selection of animals and the scale of the main aquarium often makes the amusement aspect of the place seem secondary.
The Beluga show stood out as particularly unusual when they invited guests to come up and let the creatures pop out of the water and kiss them somewhere around the face, after showing a video montage of many national celebrities receiving the same treatment.
We stuck around until nightfall to watch the fountain show across the lake centrepiece of the park – always an enjoyable and slightly magical experience.
The huge screen over the entrance plaza is yet another awesome visual that this park has to offer.
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom remains one of my favourite parks in the region, though I really hope they manage to pad out the ride lineup in future to make it even more formidable.