Asia 01/16 – Happy Valley Shenzhen
The destination I had made specific plans for was Hong Kong, which we flew into soon after returning to Singapore.
The day of arrival was designated to a bit of sightseeing – temples and gardens, the former feeling like it could have been anywhere out in this region, but the latter was rather nice, other than being told off for eating a snack.
Particularly like the contrast of surroundings in this shot.
Murder in the bouncy castle.
I had decided to be particularly adventurous while here and the next day we took the metro to the border with China. After some intense research including watching a man who filmed the whole crossing from start to finish in secret on his phone (naughty), I knew where to find the obscure little office that issued on the spot 72 hour visas. Some cash was exchanged and I soon had a huge sticker in my passport with the Great Wall on it. We’re in.
The city of Shenzhen lies directly on top of Hong Kong and we were soon back on another metro heading to the hotel to drop off the bags. I immediately noticed that the trains were significantly cleaner and more efficient here and the pricing is ridiculously cheap.
After negotiating some overly friendly hotel staff, it was another couple of stops down the road to my first Chinese park.
Happy Valley Shenzhen
We began with some confusing messages about staggered openings of the rides here and spent a significant amount of time getting lost around a construction site.
The park was virtually empty and nothing seemed to be running yet, so this wasn’t an issue. Within the construction site was one of the creds, a mine train, that was closed for the duration. My first Chinese spite.
After navigating past that, we found ourselves in a particularly attractive area. It becomes even more attractive when you find out what lives at the other end.
This S&S air launch coaster was the driving force behind my adventurous nature on this trip. There are only 4 of this type of ride in the world, 3 of which are in China and the last of which is the fastest accelerating coaster in the world, in Japan. Though the Chinese installations don’t have a record of their own to claim, their layouts looked extremely enticing.
I joined the queue in nervous anticipation of what I was about to experience and there were only 20-30 guests in front of me. It was here I learned how things are in China.
Slow. Faffy. Frustrating.
It took around 20 minutes to get on the ride through a combination of factors.
Within the station, it is a park chain policy to have guests undergo an exercise routine before boarding the ride. You line up in the usual manner within air gates inside the station and the attendant on the opposite platform performs a bit of a speech prior to overseeing the routine. Stretch, 2, 3, 4. Reach, 2, 3, 4. Twist, 2, 3, 4. It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’d love to know how it came about. In the same way as you would warm up before a sporting activity, the impression seems to be that if you don’t prepare your body for the forces of a rollercoaster, you might hurt yourself.
On top of this, there is absolutely no hustle in any of the ride staff. Everything is done with an air of, ‘oh, we’ll get there eventually, no rush’. This is absoultely fine as a mentality and on some levels I appreciate it. At the same time, the enthusiast in me can’t help but find it frustrating. I’ve seen how the Germans do it, it just doesn’t need to be like this, we could all get so much more done if you simply went a bit faster.
But the guests share the same mentality. They aren’t like me, thinking ‘I’ve come a long way and I want to ride this 100 times and 100 other things in the park and you’re all stopping me from doing this.’ It’s just a day out and very inconsequential.
The way they board the train, sit down, don’t think about what’s in their pockets, get told by staff, fumble around, get up again, put items in the baggage holders, sit down, find there’s something else, get up again, laugh and chat about who sits where with friends, who will or won’t sit next to the foreigner, stop and take selfies in the train, stop and take selfies by the baggage holders, write a text to someone… I could go on. There’s no consideration to the fact the attraction has a line of people behind waiting to experience it. Their time will come, but no one, no one will help that along.
Except me, I’m in the seat, lap bar down, ready to go. The anticipation is killing me.
I was scared on the launch track as I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this ride. Weird hissing noises, a long pause. BAM.
A launch like I’ve never experienced before. One second we weren’t moving, the very next second we’re doing 80Mph and being viciously ejected over a top hat. My head didn’t have time to keep up and it’s as intense as anything.
As quick as you crest that first hill, you’re down in a tunnel below the water and then up into the next massively forceful element. And the next. And the next. Each one hits the spot just right, with different combinations of very strong airtime.
The ride ends with some crushing positive forces into this tight cornering and a brutal snap into the brake run (bracing required) which seemingly has trouble slowing you down so fast. We still had a lot of energy left to give.
Even with the 20 minute dispatch times, I struggled to ride this coaster back to back. It was that intense. I had to sit down on a bench and recover each time. Oh, and I absolutely loved it.
To space it out a bit, there were some other things to do of course.
The Vekoma SLC has an enormous queueline with extensive theming that all seems entirely unjustified for what the ride is.
It is a big thing that goes upside down though and that works for some. I had ridden this alternate layout as Kumali in the UK first, but the installation here was actually the original. It wasn’t too bad… but nothing more than a one and done for the cred to me.
Outside the entrance to this ride was a haunted walkthrough, which we tried for a laugh. It contained some weird moments like a yeti on an operating theatre table and was mostly amusing rather than scary, which suits me fine.
It seems S&S also installed this frog hopper on a beach nearby while they were building Bullet. Or did they?
The other cred in the park is a Wacky Worm on top of a building, for intimidation purposes I guess. I like the way the character on the front of the train has his fist out – clearly has places to be, unlike everyone else round here.
Indoors from there is the legendary Santa shooting dark ride North Pole Adventure. They may have missed the point with either the scenery or the hardware as, amongst other things, you are actually firing at Christmas elves in their workshop, hindering them from their tasks. Fun though.
We considered trying a rapids ride, but there was a huge fuss at the station (with no one else around). The staff outright refused to let us do anything with our bag other than take it on the boat with us and perch it precariously on a lap, on top of the seatbelt. As the boats were particularly evil and had water jets installed directly into them, jets which we saw another returning to the station were doing nothing short of waterboarding guests, this would not have ended well. Not being allowed to simply put it on the floor anywhere in the remote vicinity of the ride that wasn’t on it, we decided to bail out. It ain’t worth that.
Instead, we tried a weird haunted experience around the corner where you sit around a table in the dark and wear headphones while ghosts whisper directly in your inner ear and things go bang. Not understanding a word of what was going on and therefore unable to get caught up in the story, this bordered on unpleasantness and wouldn’t be something I’d choose to repeat, but it was worth a try.
The train around the park was nice. Can’t go wrong with a train.
Other than that, it was Bullet Coaster as much as I could handle before the all the rides shut for the day. The park and a couple of select flat rides near the entrance actually stayed open for several hours after the rest and, not having anywhere to be, we ended up in a 4D cinema with a lot of waiting around, wondering what it could be. It ended up being Ice Age, something I could have watched at Alton Towers. Nothing exciting or exotic then.
That marked the end of the visit. 4D cinema aside, this really was my most exotic park visit to date and, frustrations aside, it was totally addictive. I found there’s an extra element to be going so far out of my way, onto the road less travelled. Exploration becomes half the fun and I immediately knew I wanted to see and do a lot more in this part of the world, aside from the fact they have vast quantities of incredible looking rides – there has been a theme park boom in China like the world has never seen before and I want to be a part of it.