An agreement was drawn up the night before in order to decide what to do on our last day in China. The plan was to wake up at 6am, look out the window, if it was raining meet each other within half an hour and travel to Hong Kong Disneyland. If it looked clear outside, go back to bed for 2 more hours, meet at half 9 and go to Happy Valley.
As though the World knew this was going to happen I was exactly 1 floor below Heartline in the hotel. So imagine the comedy when 6am comes and both of us are shining lights out the windows. Our rooms were facing a housing block who probably assumed close encounters of the third kind. Either way all looked good outside, Bullet Coaster I’ll see you soon.
Happy Valley Shenzhen
Happy Valley parks, of which there are many, are owned and operated by the OCT Group. Heartline has been to most, if not all of them and had prewarned me to expect the park to be frustrating. Well he wasn’t wrong in stating that because today was going to be rather testing indeed.
We got to the park about half an hour after opening and went straight to the ticket office to ask the golden question “are all the roller coasters open today?”. The lazy woman replied “read the sign”, lovely…
The sign said only the rapids and waterpark were closed today so we paid our money and made our way in.
We planned to start with Bullet Coaster but it wasn’t going to be easy to get it however. Massive areas of the park were completely fenced off which meant we had to walk the longest possible way to get to Bullet Coaster.
On this very long walk I started to notice that the park was in a bit of a state and I’m not just talking about the areas that were fenced off and in pieces. Everything seemed to look very neglected and forgotten about. Truthfully this was what I was expecting from China but after Oriental Heritage yesterday looked stunning I clearly raised my hopes too high for Happy Valley.
I then started to think, we’ve just walked past many rides that aren’t operating meaning that sign was lying, I really hope that’s not going to affect us.
Thankfully when we got to Bullet Coaster it was open so we powered straight into the queue. There were 2 people in the queue infront of us and 2 people in the train having their restraints checked. This was it, time to start preparing myself. Then these restraint checks continued on for another 10 minutes and I started to get really nervous. To confirm these suspicions the station and queue were cleared and the ride was closed.
I know there are much more important things in life to get upset about but I was devastated. It was torture to be standing right next to this insane looking roller coaster but not being able to experience it. I was almost certain at this point it wouldn’t reopen, based on what Heartline had told me of China and Happy Valley.
Heartbroken I went to tick off the park’s other coasters.
Snow Mountain Flying Dragon – Heartline, who’d already ridden it, sat off this Vekoma SLC, leaving me to my thoughts about Bullet Coaster’s closure. I was so concerned with other matters that I managed to zone out the whole ride.
Next we wanted to go ride the park’s mine train coaster, which Heartline missed last time he was here, however…
There was literally no way to get to the mine train because all paths to it were closed off. On closer inspection we noticed that the mountain the coaster used to run through had been removed and the ride now resembled a collapsed multi story car park.
It would appear the lying sign would come back to haunt us. It was now, with the assumed loss of Bullet Coaster that I started to get angry. They’d lied to us, half the park is closed off and the parts that are open look awful and/or are broken.
We decided to camp out Bullet Coaster for a while and sat on the wall opposite the entrance. Heartline’s wife asked the staff on the entrance what was happening, this was the reply. “Restraints are loose, not a big issue, should be open in half hour”, I wish I could believe that.
Half an hour came and went and nothing changed, they were working on it though.
They’d need to speed up though because we had to leave the park at 1:30 at the latest, in order to catch a plane out of Hong Kong airport.
This was even more frustrating than it not opening at all, knowing you’d just missed it and you’d probably never get the chance to come back.
Baby Coaster – We made the very long walk back to the front of the park soI could tick of the park’s Wacky Worm, I really wasn’t in the mood to enjoy it though.
North Pole Adventure – Not even the park’s ghetto shooting Santa dark ride could cheer me up.
We walked back to Bullet Coaster and reached it’s entrance area at exactly 1, so we had half an hour tops to watch it not open…
BUT IT WAS!
Bullet Coaster – The change in mood in both me and Heartline as we launched in the queue was unforgettable, we went from God awful, life sucks to OMG BULLET COASTER in half a second, it was amazing.
Everything about this S&S launch coaster is over the top and stupid and it begins with the queueline videos. They list everyone who can’t ride and it’s pretty much everyone on Earth. Then they show extremely over the top Chinese men bolting wheels onto Bullet Coaster before giving a cartoon thumbs up, fantastic.
Then there’s the batching process….
Despite the ride having airgates they don’t let the next batch of riders into the station before the last lot have all fully left. When you’re eventually let into the station you are told to stand on a dot each behind the air gates. Then a 2 minute Chinese only PA announcement is made, followed by a member of staff doing many full body excercises, which everyone must join in with. Once everyone is warmed up the air gates are opened and you are free to take your seat and the restraints are locked.
And then it hit me, I was about to ride Bullet Coaster, I am so not ready. The train wasn’t helping the situation either. Though super comfy, they are incredibly open and with what’s about to happen this was a concern.
After dispatch the train slowly leaves the station and moves onto the launch track. It had been a while since a coaster had truly gotten under my skin but as I sat there, with the train gently rocking back and forth and absolutely terrifying noises coming from the ride’s launch system I could hear my heart beating.
Then suddenly, you’re off, 0 – 83mph in less than 2 seconds, smooth as silk but face tearing.
Clearly I’d be insane to love this coaster as much as I do if it was only for the amazing launch, no things have just gotten started. After the launch you fly up an amazing top hat that rewards you with a nice burst of air time, then leaves you pinned out of your seat the whole way down it. Between this point and almost the end of the coaster you are subjected to an amazing combination of air time moments and an incredible sense of speed.
Unfortunately things ends rather weakly as you travel down a jerky spiral into the brakes.
We managed to get 3 laps on Bullet Coaster in the half hour we had left and I fell thoroughly in love with it.
If it wasn’t for Bullet Coaster opening, this probably would have been one of the most disappointing park visits of my life. But thanks to Bullet Coaster it’s probably only top 5.
Running slightly late now, we rushed back to the hotel for our luggage then once again crossed into Hong Kong. The metro journey to the airport was frustrating and uncomfortable but worse of all slow.
Thankfully we managed to make our flight back to Singapore though, a flight I can’t recall at all.
Tonight I stayed in the 5 star Crown Plaza hotel in the aiport, easily one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had and I’d earned it.
I stayed until almost check out at my amazing hotel and then very slowly made my way on the MRT over to Heartline’s location. We took it easy and then went to the cinema in the evening.
More chilled exploring of Singapore.
Today was our last day and we started it very late, meaning I was able to get 13 hours sleep, which might be a new record for me.
We didn’t really do much when we met up either, instead choosing to just relax.
Our plane left Singapore at 11:55pm and what followed was 14 hours of discomfort.
After a breakfast that tried to kill me, the plan for the morning was to head out to Knight Valley and score the amazing looking (and imaginatively named) Wood Coaster. Following some confusion, there was actually a bus literally outside the hotel that went all the way out to the resort, which is way beyond the city to the east. The bus took the most tedious of journeys imaginable, all while I wasn’t feeling too good and after a good couple of hours, it dumped us at the end of the road that heads into the resort.
Immediately we were swarmed by a crowd of old people trying to sell us plastic buckets and spades. Granted, there is a beach here at Dameisha, but we were clearly heading up towards the park which is in a beautifully mountainous location upon which those wouldn’t be the most useful of tools. They followed us all the way to the car park barrier, ignoring both a plea for ignorance and a direct no before eventually finding someone else to bother.
That turned out to be the highlight of the journey as upon arrival at the ticket desk, we were informed that the wooden rollercoaster was closed for maintenance. The one and only reason I came. Because of the nature of the location, I never even laid eyes on the ride that had spited me so badly, hiding somewhere a mile up in those trees. It was time to get back on the bus and endure the exact same journey all over again, this time without even excitement to carry it.
The other plan for the day was a park in the city, opposite Happy Valley and back where we started, that had an insignificant cred.
Window of the World Shenzhen
The first things we came across were dinosaurs. The majority of this massive park is based around recreations of landmarks and there is very little focus on amusements.
How thoughtless! It turned out we were going against the ‘recommended route’, but the afternoon was pressing on and I didn’t care. I want the cred.
And it’s located inside this cave, decorated by a man in pain. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this ride. There were some cool looking promo videos in the queue that showed intense volcanic activity being the scenery for a magnificent rollercoaster. This was slightly true, though the ride never picked up much speed or did a whole lot. It had a good atmosphere but ended up mostly forgettable.
The only other ride we tried was the Bobkart nearby, the first one I had encountered and one of the longest in the world. It was great fun, accelerating far quicker than I had imagined for something completely under guest control and with enough speed there was even a semblance of airtime over the bumps in the layout, which seemed to go on forever through the trees. They aren’t creds, but I’ll have to find more of these now.
Satisfied with some form of completion, we whiled away the evening looking at the sights.
The attention to detail was very impressive, particularly when the stereotype for any Chinese imitation of something is to be of poor quality.
And they had absolutely everything. It just went on and on.
By the end of all that it was time to collect the luggage and head back over the border to Hong Kong.
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.
As Oriental Heritage was deserted we managed to ride everything we wanted, including re-rides on Jungle Trailblazer and still had a few hours left of the day.
So we decided to venture next door to the Fantawild Dreamland park.
Before we left though we phoned around to help us plan for tomorrow.
Happy Valley: “All the coasters are running now, nothing’s planned to be closed tomorrow, however wind, rain or cold temperatures may cause closures”.
Knight Valley: “Maintenance”.
Fantawild Dreamland Xiamen
Unlike the Oriental Heritage parks, Fantawild’s Dreamland parks don’t really follow a central theme and are more a collection of everything, normally supported by 2 less than exciting coasters.
While we only came here to tick off the coasters, much to our surprise the park contained yet more amazing dark rides, one of which you’ll probably never see anywhere else.
The Wizard Academy – Much like Legend of Nuwa next door, this dark ride uses the Spiderman/Transformers ride system, unlike Nuwa though, this one’s not amazing and that’s mostly down to the dumb story it tells.
You show up at the Wizard Academy, an evil (maybe) wizard attempts to kill you many times, then at the end he gives you a certificate and you’re now accepted in the Wizard Academy, right.
This would probably be an amazing dark ride at any other park but it pales a bit compared to the other incredible dark rides at the Fantawild parks.
Mount Tanggula – My first ever Golden Horse coaster, it was terrible but extremely funny, I think I like it.
Stress Express – The first time we saw any other park guests today was on the park’s boomerang, each to their own.
Jinshan Temple Showdown – Now this is the ultra special dark ride I’ve been alluding to over the last 2 posts.
I think it might be my favourite dark ride in the World, if it wasn’t debatable if it even counts or not.
This incredible dark ride is made up of 2 parts, both amazing, both mind blowing and both forever etched in my mind.
The first part is a boat ride, past the most authentic dark ride sets I’ve ever seen. We are talking better than Disney, this was next level, I wish I could describe how realistic it looked. Live actors combine with state of the art special effects and multimedia to create a truly beautiful experience.
The second part is witnessed on foot after you leave the boat and in the most basic sense is a show but it’s so much more than that. It’s shocking, gripping, intense and just perfection.
When everything ended I just stood there speechless and I still don’t have the words.
Terror Twister – I never thought China would be home to the least offensive SkyLoop but here we are.
Qin Dynasty Adventure – This ended up being my 2nd favourite dark ride of the day and easily one of the best I’ve ever done. It uses the Indiana Jones dark ride system and while it’s not quite as good as Indiana Jones it’s still amazing and insanely intense.
Sadly we were 1 minute too late to ride the park’s final dark ride but I’ve since heard this was no big loss.
Fantawild Dreamland ended up being a surprise hit, we entered expecting to tick off a few pointless coasters but left after experiencing 2 unforgettable dark rides.
We had no rush to get back to the station for our bullet train to Shenzhen, so we decided to take the bus. It was slightly less terrifying than the taxi but certainly wasn’t pleasant.
The bullet train journey back went well but getting a taxi from Shenzhen station back to the hotel didn’t. There was some weird colour coded system going on that everyone but us seemed to understand.
We worked it out in the end though and I was so happy to crash once we got to the hotel because today had been a long one.
Thanks for reading, click here for the final part of this trip report where we actually make it to Happy Valley Shenzhen.
Today started very early as we needed to be at Gold Coast airport for our 8am flight back to Singapore.
Once there we had just enough time to have a meal before we were due to be boarding our flight to Shenzhen.
While Scoot had been great at getting us to and from Australia, today would be their downfall with our plane leaving 2 hours late and then losing yet more time in the air, meaning we didn’t touch down in Shenzhen until 1am.
Heartline had always told me China can be hard work and I was about to experience it first hand.
By the time we got through immigration and collected our luggage it was now 2am and we were ruined. We made our way to the airport hotel for a very quick sleep, 4 hours if I remember, before checking out and making our way to a hotel near Happy Valley where we were going to be based for the rest of the trip.
It was raining when we got to this new hotel and I was already fearing the worst. While it’s common knowledge that rain and Asian parks don’t go together, I’d heard that China were the worst offenders. I’d come to learn though that the Chinese will use just about any excuse to not run their coasters.
Our plan was to visit Happy Valley and Knight Valley today but because of the weather Heartline decided it would be best to phone them to see what’s happening.
Happy Valley: “It’s raining, the coasters won’t open until the rain has stopped, then we’ve had sunny weather to dry the tracks, then we will test them to see if they can open”.
So that’s a no then…
Knight Valley: “The wooden one isn’t running, weather is bad and it’s under maintenance today and tomorrow”.
And so is that…
The plan for tomorrow was an 8 hour round trip to Xiamen for Oriental Heritage, while we are phoning around let’s see if that’s still an option.
Oriental Heritage: “Tracks have been wet for a few days now, if they dry, the coasters should be open”.
That clears that up then…
With plans ruined we effortlessly crossed “one of the most hostile borders in the World” from Shenzhen to Hong Kong to go shopping.
On return to Shenzhen that evening we had the best Pizza Express of my life and purchased our bullet train tickets to Xiamen. We just decided to risk it in regards to our plans for tomorrow because it was the only day we could make it work.
Today was another very early start, in order to catch a taxi to the train station, thankfully we’d actually managed to get some proper sleep last night.
Chinese bullet trains are fantastic it turns out and just as awesome as the Japanese ones but MUCH cheaper.
The almost 4 hour journey flew by and better still the sun was shining!
After arriving at Xiamen station we went to the bus park but only managed to confuse ourselves. After a while we just decided to get a taxi to the park in order to save time and anymore confusion.
This taxi journey was actually scary, as is the way the Chinese drive in general.
Oriental Heritage Xiamen
The Fantawild company operate many different parks across China and they have set styles they build the parks around. This was one of their Oriental Heritage parks, which basically means it’s themed, beautifully I must add, around traditional Chinese culture.
Most of their Oriental Heritage parks contain large Gravity Group woodies all named Jungle Trailblazer and nearly all of them unique. Jungle Trailblazer was the main reason we came on an 8 hour round trip to Xiamen but I was also very excited to try out the park’s many dark rides because Heartline had told me Fantawild dark rides are amazing. Enough back story, let’s get to it.
After yesterday’s farce you cannot imagine our excitement when we got to the park entrance and found out that everything was open.
We quickly slammed our money on the counter and began powering towards Jungle Trailblazer.
Between the park entrance and the coaster we saw not one other park guest, it was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever witnessed.
Jungle Trailblazer – Oh how I wanted this to be great, but it wasn’t…
Jungle Trailblazer (Xiamen) is a ride of 3 parts.
Part 1 is really good and starts with a vicious first drop followed a 10 foot tall air time hill. Following this is a sideways air time hill and then yet another air time hill. While none of these air time moments are quite as good as I wanted them to be, they are still really good fun.
Part 2 is meant to be more of the same but the coaster has now lost so much speed that none of the air time moments have any effect.
Part 3 is even worse because you are now pretty much crawling your way back to the brakes.
If Jungle Trailblazer rode for it’s whole layout how it rides it’s first 1/3 then it would be a fantastic wooden coaster but sadly it doesn’t and that’s such a bitter disappointment.
Galaxy Express – I remember rather enjoying Orkanen but this Vekoma SFC clone seemed to lack a lot of what made that coaster good.
So with Jungle Trailblazer being much less impressive than I was hoping for, it was all hinging on the park’s dark rides now. Thankfully this would not only be where the park would shine but it’s where my mind was about to be blown.
The Legend Of Nuwa – This dark ride uses the Spider Man/Transformers ride system to take you on an adventure where you help Nuwa (a Chinese Goddess) protect a magical stone from some bad guys. It’s fantastically done and while not quite as good as the rides it’s based off, I still loved it.
The Flaming Mountains – While I didn’t like Forbidden Journey, I absolutely loved this ride. Using the exact same technology, better utilised and with an actual story, this thing is beautiful. You join forces with a golden monkey to fight a demon bull and it’s even more fun than that sounds.
Rumble Under The Sea – This ride features a huge trackless dark ride vehicle, following a young warrior girl trying to get an angry dragon to unflood the city. It’s very good, just perhaps not as good as the other 2 dark rides in the park.
Those 3 dark rides alone were worth the trip here and more than made up for Jungle Trailblazer being weak.
Little did I know I was yet to ride the day’s best dark ride.
Thanks for reading, click here to continue today’s adventure in Xiamen where we venture next door into Fantawild Dreamland Xiamen.
This may be the most brief Disney trip report around. At the time of visiting, it had only relatively recently opened and was already big news everywhere, to the point that I had personally got fed up of reading about it. Figured others might think the same.
Day 8 – Shanghai Disneyland
After turning down a few hundred imitation Mickey Mouse ears on the excessively long metro line to the park, arrived in the outside shopping street and bought some tasty cakes for breakfast before heading inside.
The park as a whole wasn’t busy, but Soarin’ was already on 120 minutes and had run out of fastracks. First ride on your right as you enter is a great place to put it, gobbles people up for the day. Nothing else broke 30 mins all day and we only bothered with fastrack on the 2 coasters, out of principle rather than necessity. The rapids ride and Crystal Grotto were closed all day and I was somewhat disappointed about those. Pirates was also closed, for now.
Peter Pan’s Flight felt like a nicely freshened up version of the older ones and a good kickstart to the magic.
Didn’t bother with the Winnie the Pooh ride this time. Been there, done that.
The walkthrough attraction inside the castle centrepiece was quite interesting with various scenes from Snow White sung in Mandarin and a bit of projection trickery. It didn’t contain anything from other films like I had expected though, with all the apparent clues to every other Disney film in history in the queue line.
Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue was good fun, as the classic Disney shooting dark ride should be. Just a shame the spinny lever that usually rotates the car didn’t do anything.
There was also a Star Wars exhibition in this area plugging the release of Rogue One.
This ride is so visually impressive, inside and out. I have already made my feelings on Motocoasters quite clear and this is obviously the best of the bunch by a significant margin, with a surprisingly strong launch and plenty of pretty things to look at – the indoor section with the projections that follow the train is nothing short of mesmerising. I just still can’t get on with assuming that position, it simply detracts from the experience for me. A re-ride further proved my point, as we happened to get batched into a disabled car that’s located on the back of one of the trains. Tron was much, much better as a normal sit down rollercoaster.
With some perfect timing, we happened to be walking past Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure just as it opened and got on the first boat of the day, following a 6 mile casual stroll through the huge queue while everyone behind us was desparately trying to overtake. Wow. My previous belief that ‘Disney’s best rides are non-IP’ went straight out the window. This attraction is quite the masterpiece of immersion and words cannot really do it justice. Straight up there amongst the very best of dark rides for the sheer combination of everything it does better than I have ever seen before – animatronics, projections, screens, the vehicle movement. It has it all. Soon after we left, it broke down again (still ironing out some teething problems obviously). Later still, we happened to be passing the very moment it reopened for a second time. A clear indication of skill on our part.
The pirate related show in the same area was rather entertaining. It was quite dialogue heavy, but had some good stunts towards the end.
The canoe ride was a waste of time. Tried to scouted it out quite a bit beforehand and couldn’t see much going on, but thinking of Jungle Cruise and Disney, I presumed there must have been something special about this attraction. There wasn’t. Just some half-arsed rowing around some open water.
The other coaster in the park is very well themed and ridiculously smooth with those magic cars, but unfortunately it’s weak as a mine train – I know Disney revolves around family experiences but at least the other iterations give you something to think about. This was purely visual entertainment. Didn’t feel the need for more than one go.
Got hand stamped and went back out to the village via the smaller exit for some food that nearly killed me. I expected better from Disney endorsements.
Gave up on the merchandise shops because they were stupidly laid out and far too packed. It seemed that most of the guests’ day out consisted of Soarin, Shop, Show. So to get ahead of the curve, we settled in for an early wait at the castle for the closing show.
Everyone was surprisingly civil during the whole build up and throughout the actual event. Being constantly on edge for losing a good spot seemed like a wasted effort. The show was very good of course, I couldn’t really place it above or below any of the other standard film and song snippet based closing shows that I’ve seen at the other parks, I imagine it just depends on your personal preference on what films and songs you get at the time. This was the first time I saw Star Wars make an appearance in it, which was cool, if a little odd.
It’s a very nice park, but for now it lacks a couple of extra killer rides for a Disney, just to keep you there for a truly satisfying full day experience. As good as Pirates and Tron were, they wouldn’t keep me here for another 12 hours. I’m not so sure the upcoming copy and paste Toy Story land will fix anything about that issue… so it could be a good many years before I think about returning.
Days 9 – 11
The following morning we were due to head to Happy Valley Shanghai, but minutes before we left the hotel for the day I was suddenly very, very ill and ended up bed ridden for the next 2 days of the trip. I can only assume it was from the food outside Disney the night before and fear through that guesswork has completely rewritten how I will experience China in future – be a lot more selective about meal consumption, it just isn’t worth potentially ruining the trip for a bit of sustenance.
This unfortunate episode meant that there was only a Saturday morning left with which to attempt the Happy Valley visit before our early evening flight back to Singapore. Having spent 2 days in bed pretty much doing nothing but obsessively running through in my head how I could still achieve what I wanted at the park, what to ride in what order, what I would skip if it was busy, we took the stupidly long metro out to the place armed with the most meticulous gameplan you can imagine.
It all went wrong very quickly. The ride closure sign indicated that the Gravity woodie was to be closed for the day (priority ride #1). Though there are several other significant coasters in the park, they are all clones and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world to miss them for now. I was still thinking that the more I got done today, the less there would be to do next time (clearly now that I have messed up and will HAVE to come back in future for the star attraction).
Got as far as the queues for the ticket window, where it was a complete scrum. There were tons of people around, making it look worryingly busy and they were all faffing here over no more than a couple of open windows. A good half an hour passed in the queue with very little progress, all while I’m getting rather anxious about the mountainous task that lies ahead. As I finally near the front, I get blatantly queue jumped by a large group of teenagers who are all brandishing money, both on their phones and shouting out to various people dispersed throughout the mess of crowd behind me and simply taking forever to do what they need to do. At this point, still not feeling 100%, I decide no, I’m not putting up with this today, it will just be horrible.
So we went to see one of the local water towns for a bit of culture instead.
Bonus China highlight: Particularly enjoyed the excessive lengths to which they went to indicate that this cable floor cover was a trip hazard. Yes, that bloke in the brown suit has a megaphone and it is his responsibility to announce “mind your step” every few seconds.
Click here to see a summary of all China trips made on this travel visa.
After increasing levels of mishaps in the last few days, this day ran like a dream. A morning train took us to Changzhou, from which we found the tourist office and another minibus driver to the first planned park. We were told to wait around for other guests to show up, but none did. There was only one other girl on the bus ride and she didn’t even come to the park.
Day 7 – World Joyland
This meant that Joyland seemed like ghost town number 3, with 0 cars in the car park, the shuttle bus running just for us and then abandoning us for the duration. There was no sign of any guests throughout most of the park until the back half, where a tour group of young adults had formed a queue outside a certain ride entrance.
The B&M flyer opened a few minutes later and even though I was the latecomer in this scene, I managed to nab the back row of the first train because the locals have no interest in such seats.
The whole starting inversion sequence was surprisingly intense and very enjoyable. The 540° roll is particularly unnerving as you dont expect it to keep going after the first twist, before it disappears from under you, dropping straight into the lung crushing loop. After that though I felt that the rest of the layout didn’t do enough for me with a series of slow turns and the other repetetive inversions that most of these have.
An overall fun ride at least and definitely worth doing. I grabbed a couple more goes in empty trains both front and back about half an hour later as the locals have no interest in re-rides either. Highlight: Those extra 180° came out of nowhere. Lowlight: Intensity fizzles out very quickly.
This mine train clone was the next of the staggered openings. Wouldn’t say it was particularly worse than the originals, except perhaps for the relative young age of it. Highlight: That dragon on the front of the train. Lowlight: A lift hill too many.
What an ordeal. Incoming novel: This was the last of the staggered openings and I was first in line, ready and raring to get this thing out of the way. The queue opened on time, but stood at the station gate for nearing half an hour. Once we were let in, I sat down and habitually pulled down the restraint. This act earned me a death glare from one of the 2 female attendants for the ride, who immediately went to the control box to reset the restraints. Lesson learnt. The staff were on the warpath now, let battle commence. Everyone else had sat down by this stage but of course hadn’t considered any of the standard loose item rulings on rides. They were now told verbally and 11 people slowly mumbled away and stood up, fumbling in their pockets and removing an item or two, leaving the train to put them in the designated area. Most of them sat down again, only moments later realising they had other stuff in there, several times. Next it was the physical inspection. The attendants climbed onto the trains and gave everyone’s legs a good squeeze and then all 12 of us were on our feet again. I’d been had for sneaking a tissue on board, others had been had for phones and other items they’d somehow missed. We were violated and shamed, but we were ready. Almost. The restraints were applied, one by one, but the last bloke in the train became the first person in Asia to do the walk of shame for size reasons. He wasn’t particularly big, he just had a thick padded coat on (it was barely 5°C today, but all the coasters opened, take that Oriental Heritage Ningbo). I considered pointing out that he could probably manage it but had given up on life by this point. The restraints were unlocked, an empty seat has now become available. We must fill that seat. Guest number 13 is let into the station, sits down, gets up twice more for various items in his pockets. The restraints are sorted for the second time. We are now forcibly told to raise our arms and hold on to some thin ribbon hoops on the sides of the head rests. I was glad for these, having died on many rides previously due to not holding properly on in awkward positions. I didn’t dare disobey the rule because they probably would have E-stopped me upside down for it.
The ride was rougher than I had experienced on these and only did a single circuit. Worth it. Highlight: A legendary tale Lowlight: A large percentage of life gone
The main dark ride in the park has been closed for an upgrade for quite a while now it seems, which was a little disappointing.
There was a lack of water in the water ride, aside from the fact it was a tad chilly for that sort of attraction.
Most indoor things seemed to be closed actually, but at least it wasn’t the B&M. Had it all knocked out in very little time. A visually impressive park that lacks a bit of substance. Would have liked to try a bit more.
Having no desire to hang around all day, spoke to the most friendly and helpful guest services on earth who found us some sort of Chinese Uber straight to their rival park, using their personal phones. Fabulous people.
Day 7 – China Dinosaur Park
Had a minor meltdown at the entrance to the second park after being told, as I stepped through a turnstile and handed my ticket over, that the ‘4D coaster’ wasn’t running.
A brisk walk proved this wrong within a couple of minutes, so just make it up as you go along.
This monstrosity of an S&S 4D coaster created anticipation like little else on the very casually paced 200ft backwards lift hill. While being intimidating, mental and almost entirely unique as an experience with the rotating seats, it didn’t leave me absolutely gagging for more, though it sure was a lot of fun.
The first drop in the position it puts you in (facing the floor) is ridiculously good, but it then feels like the whole ride was planned around that one moment and the rest is just a case of let’s see what happens – seats bouncing around somewhat awkwardly with little sense of purpose. I feel they’ve only scratched the surface on what can be done with this type of ride, but I also see why people would love the uncalculated wrath of it chucking you around. Highlight: First drop. Lowlight: Cred anxiety.
Spinning coaster clone, you know the score. Highlight: +1 Lowlight: Such a low quality package compared to the rest of the park.
This caught me off guard. I expected a themed version of the same rubbish from the previous day, but it turns out Zamperla Motocoasters can have lift hills and interesting layouts. Dinosaur theming is also a plus. The riding position still sucks though. Highlight: A pleasant surprise. Lowlight: Locals following baggage instructions in the dark is a recipe for disaster.
Did the King Kong ride just because it looked far superior to Bobbejaanland’s.
There was also a haunted walkthrough with dinosaurs of course. Didn’t disappoint.
A ‘Desperados’ style static screen shooting attraction, this time riding dinosaurs, was a refreshing experience after coming across so many standard cowboy (and upcharge) versions worldwide. Instead of shooting bandits, we were calming down rabid dinosaurs with injections. It was just a shame that they turned the house lights on almost immediately when the final scores came up, so no one knew the outcome of the game.
Had enough time for admiring the plentiful theming and a couple of re-rides on the beast just before they started closing things down for the evening.
I still can’t believe how well it all came together on this particular day, recent experiences had lead me to expect either one or both of the major creds to be down and to be forced to spend a whole day in each park just through impracticalities. Can the luck hold?
The final city of the journey was Shanghai, where we set up shop for many days hoping to hit a few ‘local’ parks as well as shuttle out to a couple of others. I underestimated how huge the city would be, thinking that a nice central hotel location would cover everything comfortably. It still did to an extent, but the metro journies alone could take hours.
Day 6 – Jin Jiang Action Park
Not the most glamorous of city parks. Took a little while to spot it from the nearest metro station – it’s amazing how well a huge flyover road network can block the view of a massive ferris wheel and rollercoaster. Took a stab in the dark with ride ticket quantities, as the staff at the entrance couldn’t possibly tell me what was actually open, even though they insisted on knowing the exact number of rides I wanted to buy up front before going in. Let’s find out.
Turns out the star attraction was closed when we got inside so I burned through all the tickets in a huff of a hurry.
Not a good start as the operator of the first attraction clearly didn’t have the time of day for me. “Sit on the ride and read the instruction sign for 10 minutes while I have a smoke.” “Ok.” “Feet flat on the floor. FEET FLAT ON THE FLOOR.” “Anatomically impossible mate.” Dispatch. What a weird representation of motorbike riding. The transition out of the launch is really awkward and then it meanders slowly downwards and gets stuck on the brakes for a further 10 minutes. Highlight: +1 Lowlight: Junk
Highlight: +1 Lowlight: More junk.
An indoor powered coaster with over the top lateral forces and a dinosaur to look at. Cool.
Shuttle loop cred – Spite! Would have quite liked to have given this a whirl. The ferris wheel was also closed. Ready to leave already?
Plot twist! The ride started testing at some point and then managed to get stuck partially up the lift. I sat and watched for a while to see how this would play out. After much nothingness, it lowered itself back into the station where parts in the vicinity of the wheels were treated to a bottle of lube. Asked the staff how it was going and was told they’d be ready in a few minutes. More than a few minutes later, after paying Winter Wonderland prices for a single extra ticket because of course I had got the quantities wrong earlier, I was sitting in the front row. Killed some time by demonstrating to other guests on how the restraints were supposed to be used while the staff went to buy more lube and then off it went.
The famously temperamental Vekoma creation was a lot better than it could have been. The layout is still a boring Boomerang, though scaled up and with vertical spikes. Hanging horizontally into the restraint, facing the floor on the lift hill was a little more unnerving than usual and overall it rode surprisingly smoothly. Highlight: Made the park worthwhile. Lowlight: What a tease.
Oriental Pearl Tower
It may not be the tallest, but Oriental Pearl Tower is the observation deck of choice in Shanghai, because it has a cred in it. The free museum underneath was mildly interesting as well.
Those ones look a bit taller, but they’re short of something else.
They’ve stuck Virtual Reality headsets on this indoor coaster and probably jacked the price up for it. 2 creds at London prices in one day? You used to be cool, China. The VR was bizarre, pretending you were on a coaster outside the tower rather than inside it. The imaginary coaster layout was that of a child’s scribble, which didn’t match much of the physical sensation from the ride and the default direction of facing didn’t line up with the direction of travel, or your head, at any time. Clever. Highlight: Instructions on the car. Lowlight: Rather have just ridden in the dark.
This was supposed to be the last cred stop of the day, but spite! Once again they couldn’t confirm or deny the simple question of is the rollercoaster running from outside the entrance, so we had to go in to find out that it had been closed for months (it has since gone for good). Burned a few hours ticking off all the simulator attractions mainly to justify the price of entry, but also to save doing them elsewhere in another of these branded arcades. The transformer ball one was somewhat fun, in an evil way, in that it could flip you onto your head while you were supposed to be shooting robots. The other highlight was a Sonic the Hedgehog themed dodgems ride, on which driving over projected images on the floor gave you points and a sense of competition in addition to senseless bumping.
I already had a reasonable plan for getting to the next park, but decided to get some local opinions for a laugh. Not a single person knew of its existence and the best answer we got was “I believe that’s an art gallery.”
Day 5 – Oriental Heritage Ningbo
So stuck to the original plan. A couple of faffy hours on a coach and a bus later, we landed at the entrance plaza.
The staff in their infinite impracticalness were unable to confirm or deny ride openings (a common theme for the next few days), but wove a tale about the weather and the fact that outdoor attractions will open if it gets to 15°C. The bus earlier that morning had said 14°C so there was a chance, I guess. I haven’t come all this way for nothing.
The park was having a spruce up for Chinese new year, including painting the floor and making it a pain to get around the first area.
The only other guests on this day comprised of a massive, massive tour group of old people from a more ‘rural area’, let’s say. I’m pretty tolerant in foreign lands when it comes to less than ideal attitudes from others, but these were some of the most offputting you could ever come across. While walking around the park in general, with tons of open space, I had more than one occasion of them just making a beeline for me and barging shoulders for the fun of it. In queues they would be smoking, shouting, pushing and shoving each other like an angry mob, not understanding the situation and then failing to achieve anything through this in terms of gaining time. On the rides they would just talk loudly amongst themselves, really just not caring at all about where they were and what they were doing, seemingly incapable of appreciating the day out. Pretty much all the rides that were open were running on time slots, so we couldn’t really avoid any of these encounters either.
Jungle Trailblazer – the Gravity Group woodie and main reason I came to the park, the Boomerang cred, the water rides and the flat rides never opened. With a bit of further quizzing, the ride staff impression seemed to be that the 15°C rule mentioned earlier is for park opening time and after that point they just give up for the day. Right…
One thing that was open was the indoor cred, a Golden Horse mine train clone in the dark with the screams of the damned as ambient noise throughout. Wasn’t overly impressed.
Jinshan Temple Showdown was amazing, but I’m not sure I was fully able to appreciate it with what was going on around us. The showdown in question is between ‘Lady Whitesnake (a lady that is cursed with the ability to turn into a white snake) and a demon hunter bloke who feels it’s his duty to hunt her down, without any willingness to learn her intentions or whether she is a threat to anyone. “A demon is a demon.” The story has a bit of a cliff hanger ending, which is rather refreshing for an attraction of this nature. The ride consists of a huge boat that drifts around intensely mesmerising scenery of a traditional Chinese water town, interspersed with endless projections and the occasional real life actor telling the story as you go along. At the end of the boat portion, everyone alights and enters a show room with standing areas amongst railings. The show is one big impressive set piece amongst which the actors return, water projections occur and many other water (and fire) effects go off, ending in a jaw dropping spectacle of flooding and fountains.
The indoor drop tower, The Plummet, was disappointingly weak. I didn’t think much of the use of the indoor aspect, and the hardware itself has that lame controlled feeling you get when a tower does both up and down motions, but doesn’t commit to either with any real force.
Tale of Nuwa is a Spiderman technology dark ride telling another Chinese tale through 4D screens and significant vehicle motion. There’s a hole in the sky and as the riders in the vehicle you’re helping out the creation god (Nuwa) retrieve and transport the key to fix the hole, but a big red bloke, a big blue bloke and a couple of dragons are out to stop you. Much fighting ensues. The car itself got a bit confused between scenes and became stuck a couple of times throughout, making the whole experience a little jarring on the whole.
Did their localised version of Disney’s Small World ride, which was empty, just for a quiet sit down. It wasn’t great.
Tried the History of Chinese Opera dark ride as well and regretted it deeply, as did some of the old people who literally got out of the moving vehicle and hobbled off before it had finished, with little to no reaction from the staff. Though it contained some more impressive scenery of ‘Oriental Heritage’, everything was taken at a snail’s pace and, coupled with the opera aspect becoming rather grating, it just wasn’t very dynamic or interesting.
And that was about it. I had high expectations for this place and ended up having little positive to say about the whole experience. The effort of getting here far outweighed the quality of the time spent at the park. The star attraction being down didn’t help of course, but in my mind it was meant to have some killer dark rides and shows that could have easily made up for that fact. Jinshan Temple Showdown was the obvious highlight, but otherwise, eh, just didn’t feel anything for the park at all.
The train from Nanchang to Ningbo was our first encounter with just how loud and tiresome local conversations can be, particularly between the older generations of the population. Another ~4 hour journey aross the vast expanse of the country felt incessantly plagued by everyone else shouting into their phones that were (unnecessarily) in speaker mode and generally yelling and faffing across several rows of seating throughout larger groups. I have since become rather immune to all of this and, like with the driving, can now see the entertainment value but it was particularly jarring in the early stages.
Day 4 – Romon-U Park
It might just be an unfortunate snapshot, but the quality of people and service definitely took a dive in this part of the country. Faced with another almost empty park, the staff here treated my presence as somewhat of an inconvenience to the point that it was just plain uncomfortable to take more than a couple of rides on a coaster. They had decided to abolish the cheaper late entry tickets that I had my eye on as of 1 week before my visit. That coupled with the entire outdoor section of the park being closed due to rain and/or maintenance made it a rather overpriced affair (most expensive park so far, fewest attractions).
The presence of the star attraction stopped me from hating the place too much though. What a difference both a lap bar restraint and theming (and a lift hill instead of a weak launch) can make (take note everyone, everywhere) to the almost identical Kanonen layout that was rather uninteresting to me.
The interaction with the surrounding scenery is very intense with the near miss sensations and awe-inspiring aesthetic – it adds so much. I got lost for a good hour just taking bad pictures. The layout offers several moments of good airtime, through the first drop, top hat and some smaller pops between the corners and inversions. The loop is also taken at decent pace that provides a little weightlessness, rather than just feeling like filler. Highlight: Finally being able to appreciate the little hill before the loop, with a lap bar. Lowlight: Trim brakes on the other little hill.
Took a wander outside in the rain and got it confirmed by some bloke that the other cred, Dragon Legend, was closed for ‘maintenance’ rather than rain, which is better. I guess.
Another day, another haunted walkthrough. The one here was mostly amusing again, but one scene was very claustrophobic with body bags hanging from the ceiling and actually created some genuine fear. Can’t have that.
Really didn’t think there was much else worth riding except the tram for a few pictures. In fact, most of the time was spent just exploring every corner of every floor of the impressive looking indoor section and seeing what was and wasn’t on offer.
The park closing show was quite spectacular with water projections on this stage and millions of lasers filling the entire indoor area. It left me leaving the place reasonably happy, though still disappointed with the spite, the staff attitude and the overall lack of worthwhile attractions.