China + Japan 06/19 – Knight Valley
I had some days spare to use in Asia while out in Singapore again and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Not enough time to do anything too major, though sadly there aren’t many places left out this way I could do for too long anyway.
With RMC consistently hammering into my rankings over the last 6 months, Hakugei was obviously the most major draw in the region. But it didn’t feel like enough – all that way for one ride… I don’t think I’m quite ready for that stage of the hobby just yet.
Hit some more of China was the other idea, with new stuff up and coming all the time and the odd bits to mop up in between. But they’re so slow in getting things built – rides that spited me over a year ago still not being ready and I couldn’t be arsed with the disappointment again for now.
If I can add one more major coaster to this trip, I’ll be happy.
So I took a gamble on some wood and booked three dirt cheap one way flights.
And in no way did it look like it was going to pay off.
I’ve been spited by Wood Coaster twice before. It’s about my most spiteful ride going. I got as far as the entrance of the park the first time, after 90 minutes on a bus from hell and then being chased down by people trying to sell me plastic buckets and spades for a trip up the mountain. The ticket desk said the coaster was closed. I walked away.
The second time I was in Shenzhen I didn’t bother with all that, just phoned up the park 2 days in a row from somewhere nicer and got the usual stories about “it’s been raining the last few days so… you know… maintenance.” Yeah, I know.
The park website has become more fancy these days and now has details in writing about their extensive maintenance schedules for rides. For the star attraction it says every Monday, every third Thursday of the month, every April (and from personal experience every January or every time there’s sight of rain either before or after that day). In summary, the world’s most closed coaster.
To avoid all that then, we’ll hit it on a Saturday in June.
As the day drew nearer, the weather forecast for the city was just… terrible. 2 weeks of thunderstorms either side of the day I was going. It doesn’t make meteorological sense, but it’s China, so that’s that then.
Day 0 – Arrival in Shenzhen
So I landed with the full expectation of just spending a rainy day in a hotel.
I’m obviously getting too complacent with the whole immigration/entry/getting around system in China because I expected to just walk in the door and get a transit visa on arrival this time.
There weren’t any staff available for this when I got there, so I spent a good hour standing around in ghost town airport waiting for someone to show up at the visa desk while the immigration helpers did their best to avoid eye contact with me following our initial encounter and a couple of other officers at their desks eyed me suspiciously.
I thought the people I was waiting for were gonna be one of the official uniformed looking immigration officers that rocked up with their 7-Eleven instant noodle dinners and disappeared into an office to eat said dinners rather than acknowledging my existence, but it wasn’t them.
Instead what seemed to be some random/normal looking airport staff member appeared while chatting into her phone and asked to look at my passport. She looked at it and walked off again without saying another word to me, still on the phone. Clearly no one knew what they were doing and they don’t get many people doing it this way. I would say I’ve missed this fun, but it already felt like a wasted journey to begin with.
She eventually reappeared with a friend and they bumbled their way through the process over the period of another hour or so, constantly phoning people up, running off to somewhere else in the airport to get information on something, looking up something on the internet or chatting to other officers at the desks.
Eventually I got a stamp and got in. They were gone again before I could thank them for their swift service.
And now the metro is shut for the day. I do love a good taxi.
The faff didn’t end there as the hotel ended up being the first I’ve ever come across in China that doesn’t accept ‘foreign cards’. It’s 2am, give me a break, I want to sleep. This was only a daytrip, so I wasn’t packing enough cash to settle that and do everything I wanted to do the next day but fortunately, as they bluntly told me, there was a cashpoint round the corner. Ugh.
It’s not actually raining though.
Day 1 – Knight Valley
Less than 3 hours later and I’m getting déjà vu from the previous time I was in this city, waking up stupidly early in the morning to check the ‘weather situation’ outside before deciding whether to bother with a 2 hour journey to the park for absolutely nothing. It’s still not actually raining, but I’m too tired to care. Back to sleep.
Still wasn’t willing to commit to the extra journey purely on a whim at this stage, so waited ’til office hours and phoned the number we had had some success with before. No luck, couldn’t get through to a human. Well, I’ve come this far, lets see if I can at least lay eyes on the damned thing this time, open or otherwise. But I ain’t taking that bus again, someone can drive me.
The hotel staff were like “whoa man, don’t do it, that’s gonna cost you £20.” Their opinion was ignored.
It rained the tiniest of bits on the journey over to the park, but otherwise was just lots of low hanging cloud in a regular fashion for a mountainous climate. Game over I thought, they’ll be doing their track walk now and instantly think ‘time to go home’.
Driver bloke was friendly enough to offer his phone number and a return journey once we arrived, as it was a ‘remote area.’ That’s a sound option, I thought. Could be returning in about 5 minutes.
Got to the ticket desk. There was a sign of closed rides up on display, which I don’t even remember existing before, more positive steps? Wood Coaster wasn’t on it. The woman with the tickets re-confirmed this. In we go then.
I think the following walk was my new peak in cred anxiety. I’ve been lied to by staff enough times now to still think it’s not open. I failed to pick up a map so didn’t know where I was going either.
You keep climbing these escalators up the mountain, half of them broken, and still can’t see the ride for about 15 minutes of walking – I expected it to be dominating the hillside, but it’s insignificant in comparison to the size of the resort.
Passed a sign with ride specific opening times. ‘The Wood Coaster is open from 10:00-18:00.’ Is this actually happening?
I joined the queue at 10:00 and there was a bunch of engineers on platform, with the ride making familiar GCI brake noises. It took them another half an hour, but it tested and it opened.
Ahhhhhhhhh. It was so good to get on it. That and the ride itself is… so good. I was a little worried as GCI have been a source of minor let downs for my last 2.5 years as well as seeing reports of it having not aged well. But if there’s one GCI out there to rival the mighty Bamboo, it’s this thing.
I got everything I want from one of these – it’s fast, relentless, has buckets of airtime, goes on forever and is aggressive – really, really, aggressive. Perfectly on the limit.
The layout is just majestic. Never mind the station flythrough that due to questionable park operations no queueing guest ever sees, there’s a bloody quad down passing in between the station and the brakerun. It did a Lightning Rod before Lightning Rod and it made me giddy with happiness. I loved everything about this ride so much.
And whose wonderful idea was it to stick a big wooden coaster up here anyway? It did the Wildfire turnaround atop a mountain before Wildfire did. That makes me love it even more.
There was a bit of jeopardy added to the whole experience (which probably heightened it even more) in that the lift hill contained an assault of weird looking moths and other weird and not wonderful flying creatures that would crash into your face or land on you as the train climbs 200ft into a rainforest. Eww. I hate bugs.
I don’t even want to know what those things are doing to you when you hit 60Mph, but I ended up with one inside my shirt that looked like a leech at one point. So much no. But so much yes.
Have some more pics.
Just to tease me a bit further it also rained a little more during a queue for another lap. They made announcements about stopping if it got worse, but it didn’t, so they didn’t. Good for them.
Kinda wish the park ended there, but there was some other stuff to see. Stumbled into what I only knew as discount Waterworld. Sums it up nicely. Wasn’t the most professional of performances, but it was a laugh. The show ended to announcements of “stick around to have a photo with the white man.” Think I’ll pass on that one.
Foolishly followed the crowd out of there into the queue for an underwater ride simulator. Some aggressive announcements were being made about an 80 seat capacity and 30 minute show intervals. It then turned into an old timey bumpkin scrum as the, less refined, guests started pushing and shoving to make sure they made it in to the next show. It’s only the second time I’ve seen this sort of behaviour (the first being that awful tour group at Fantawild Ningbo) so it’s far from the norm, but it is rather disgusting to behold. We didn’t make it to that show and left the queue rather than wait again. I’m sure it was nothing mindblowing.
From there it was a hot and sweaty queue for the cablecar up to the top of the mountain. Things only got sweatier when the greenhouse-rooved portion of the queue became home to two huge hairy moth things that were bigger than my hands. If they end up at Wood Coaster, I’m dead.
Some lovely views up top. Didn’t bother with any of the rides as the queues were too grim.
Did the funicular train back down, it was completely empty in contrast to the cablecar for some reason.
The Bobkart spited me disappointingly, but got what I came for.
Got a friendly staff girl to lend us her phone so we could contact the driver from earlier, as our Chinese SIM had conked out up the mountain. He said 40 minutes. This made an easy excuse for me to have one more lap of Wood Coaster, as the queue was invariably 30 minutes for 30 people.
When he turned up we made an outlandish request to be driven to a mall in the city to get some food rather than straight back to the hotel, at which point he got all mopey saying he wouldn’t have bothered coming back for us if he’d known it wasn’t the full fare. Well thanks.
And that’s it for one long day in China. Seems like a lot of text for one ride. Good times.