Asia 01/16 – Ocean Park
The first day back in Hong Kong was another dedicated to sightseeing – they really don’t have enough parks here to keep me busy, but we’ll get to them eventually.
The most significant part of the agenda was the famous peak tram. A huge funicular railway that takes you up the mountains on the southern Hong Kong island.
At the top is this observation deck and the usual tourist faff.
More importantly there’s the spectacular views over the city.
And the contrasting untouched regions at the other side.
At night, there was supposed to be a grand light show across the harbour, synchronised with epic music. It turned out to be just awful and a waste of time. The event started by reading off a list of sponsors – basically the owners of the buildings that take part in the show. Some very timid and unenthusiastic tunes were played, while a few searchlights waved backwards and forwards from a couple of skyscrapers. A world class experience it was not.
Damn tourism, let’s go ride something instead.
Hong Kong was beginning to wear me down by the following morning. I had always heard great things about the place from whoever had been (bold claims like better than Singapore), but I really wasn’t feeling it myself. I’m a big fan of this part of the world and though it wasn’t bad to the point of never returning, if I had to choose three words to describe it in direct comparison to those claims, they would be dirty, inefficient and rude – way below my expectations.
The main transport link to Ocean Park involved taking an inconspicuous bus from a side street somewhere. Wanting to be sure of what we were doing, we asked the first driver of said bus where he was going and the response was in essence to shout us back off of the bus. The second bus that pulled up behind it managed no more than a low grunt, which we took as good enough.
After much more of an ordeal than it should have been, crossing huge roads, avoiding shady characters and having to find some back entrance with grubby escalators, we were ready to enter.
Luckily it’s a place filled with awe and wonder, so the troubles were soon far behind us.
We began by taking the fabled cable car from the bottom end of the park to the top, beyond another mountain.
It really is quite the journey, looking out below at where you’ve just come from, the ocean off to the side and the B&M coaster approaching you from behind.
And the B&M was where the day really started. This floorless coaster has a prime location with wonderful views that really add to the experience.
After some faff in the station, where the ‘on-ride photos’ are, for some reason, made by a man with a posh camera wasting time and intricately taking everyone’s picture in the seat before it despatches, the train climbs up towards the crest of a mountain. The first portion of the layout is dug rather unceremoniously into the side of the hill, but you don’t see it for long.
A curved drop takes it into a vertical loop where I immediately began to notice that this rides like no other B&M I’ve encountered – it’s rough, really shaking and rattling all over the place. Not to the point of ruining the experience, but certainly very jarring and unexpected. I later decided it gives it character, so consider it a good thing.
The pace and flow of the rest of the layout is excellent, bouncing from one side to the other through a great sequence of inversions and airtime hills. Hair Raiser has a completely unique style and I enjoyed it very much.
Due to the terrain, this area of the park is on multiple levels with lots of stair and escalator access, making it quite the adventure to explore.
On the same level is a Mack powered coaster which surrounds the entrance to the polar animal exhibits (this place is at least half zoo, too) and the ride itself is rather uninspired.
Further down the mountain is this brightly coloured Arrow looper. I didn’t get on very well with this one, with angry staff forcing me to remove my glasses but hold onto them (and the restraint at the same time) during the ride rather than put them anywhere safe – clearly more likely to lose them than if I had just worn them.
To make matters worse, it was rough. The sidewinder element – half loop, half corkscrew had a nasty jolt that caused the shoulder restraint to punch me in the head, just for good measure.
It ends with a dumb second lift hill with no other purpose than to take it back up to the station. I could have enjoyed it for the setting, but it wasn’t to be.
Further down still is a far superior ride. This Zamperla mine train has one of the most amazing views you could ever hope to find on a rollercoaster and it’s a pretty fun piece of hardware too.
The brake run at the end sways rather unnervingly at such a height, only adding to the exhilaration. Can’t think of a better use for this terrain.
Aside from the coasters, there wasn’t much else in the ride department that interested me. The rapids ride was down, so we jumped on the observation tower to appreciate it all from a greater height.
A considerable amount of time was spent with the vast quantities of animal exhibits at both the top and bottom of the park. As well as the cablecar, there is a train that runs completely underground, insanely, through the middle of the mountain. It has a bit of a theme, with lighting and projections on the ceiling of the cars to keep you entertained on the journey.
With such a packed schedule, darkness soon descended and I took a glorious night lap on Hair Raiser before taking one of the last cablecars back down in the dark – equally magical.
There was a light and fountain show to enjoy near the entrance before departing for the night and it was in these last couple of hours that I finally started to develop a real appreciation for Ocean Park. It has a few flaws, but it’s pretty damn special.