26Feb2013

Ocean Park! Woot!

Mine Train Ocean Park

If there’s a better place to celebrate FINALLY scoring a Chinese visa than Ocean Park Hong Kong – at least when you’re a single mother and a twelve-year-old boy – I’d like to hear about it.

OK, so I had my eye on the very reasonably priced lunch buffet at the Shangri-La, — with, fact fans, UNLIMITED SASHIMI — but Zac wasn’t missing out on Ocean Park for nowt.

For Ocean Park is indisputably Hong Kong’s finest theme park, on one of the best locations in the world (apart from the rides atop the Stratosphere in Vegas — do they even count?!).

It’s set atop and around a peak overlooking the sea, which means you need to take either a cable car or a funicular, cunningly styled as the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, from the base to the peak, and then escalators and walkways down the other side.

It’s the sort of creative land use that you only really get in tiny, crowded places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau — truly amazing.

And a whole new area, Thrill Mountain, which was so close to opening last time we visited that a couple of Cantonese popstrels – think pre-Psy K-Pop, but with more makeup – were shooting a promo there, has actually opened.

Yay!

Hair Raiser rollercoaster at Ocean Park, Hong Kong.

Zac is, of course, team leader. “The rapids!” he says, setting off at a run, as I lumber after him – I really need to get on the ski slopes fast, or all my Everest Base Camp benefits are going to be lost.

And so we ride the Raging River, a quite gigglesome raft ride, blissed out by the fact that it’s warm enough not to mind getting wet. (The secondary flume, which we loved last time, is undergoing pre-New Year maintenance.)

Next up? Thrill Mountain.

Zac loves bumper cars, so we ride those, and a whirligoround, and a tame but entertaining coaster called the Polar Express, but eschew one of those terrifying swings that lifts you 50 feet above the ground before it starts to rotate.

There’s a particularly terrifying-looking coaster there, called Hair Raiser, which has, we think, the potential to join Battlestar Galactica in Singapore and Crystal Valley at Happy Valley Bejing in our canons of best rollercoaster ever.

But it seems to be running only once every three hours.

And, anyway, Zac wants to make it to the Mine Train, and have another go on the Raging Rapids first.

Mine Train Roller Coaster at Ocean Park Hong Kong.

The Mine Train, in fact, is one of my favourite rollercoasters. It’s partly because it feels old-fashioned: you’re in a car, with a rigid lap-belt, but none of the full body restraints you get on the more technical new-school stuff. It rattles and bangs like old rollercoasters always did.

And so there’s a real sense of drama to it, as well as an illusory danger: it feels, frankly, almost flimsy as it rattles away, looping out and over the South China Sea, exposing dazzling views of the sorts of tropical islands most people associate more with Thailand than Hong Kong, and, in a rush of adrenaline, down, down towards it, then up the other side.

It’s rather splendid. We have a couple of goes on it, then pause for Korean squid (me) and hotdogs (Zac).

We’re not quite into the Chinese New Year crazy, so the crowds are relatively controlled, and the queues are slight.

Acrobat performing the splits in mid-air at Ocean Park, Hong Kong.

Night begins to fall, and the lights go on. After thousands of years of lanterns, it’s not surprising that the Chinese do illuminations as well as they do fireworks.

There’s already a Chinese New Year theme to them – like Christmas, which it resembles, Chinese New Year gets started well ahead of time.

I’m a sucker for glitter and glitz and pretty lights. (And I ooh and aah at dolphin shows, too, for which I get my wrist slapped heavily by my spawn, who correctly refuses to watch such things on principle.)

And, as we head down in search of ice-cream through that warm, purple Hong Kong evening, a light and water show, rather – how can I put this?! — “reminiscent” of the Bellagio in Vegas, illuminates the lake on the lower levels in shades of fuchsia, scarlet, lilac and gold.

We discover Haagen-Dazs’ new “Secret Sensations” range includes Crème Brulée and Chocolate Fondant, AKA, ice-cream with ice-cream topping in the middle, AKA pure deliciousness.

“Ooh!” I say, again. “Acrobats!”

We sit and watch a troupe of old school acrobats doing their thing, springing perilously high into the air, and an old-fashioned padded clown, so over-inflated he feels like a Mister Wibbly toy – “Is it childish to just want to push him over?” asks Zac – and, in a very old-fashioned way, it feels like a lovely end to the day.

Or, as Zac says, “Theme parks are EPIC!”

I still wish we’d gone on the Hair Raiser, though. Next time…


Like theme parks? You might want to read about Halloween at a Chinese theme park, or meet The Coolest Fairground Worker Ever.

18 Comments

  1. Yvette says:

    Sounds good! Somehow we missed a day at Ocean Park when I was last in Hong Kong, but it’s a city I won’t mind returning to someday so not losing sleep over it.

    Plus it probably reveals something about just how exciting a part of the world I grew up in, but the amusement parks around Pittsburgh/Cleveland are acknowledged to have the best roller coasters in the world (case in point, I’m looking for an excuse to revisit my university town this summer for this one! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cJqhApNBjes#! ). If you guys ever make it to the USA and find yourselves planning to cross Ohio, be sure to stop at Cedar Point for sure. :)

    • Theodora says:

      I really, really need to check out theme parks in the home of the theme park. I’ve heard of Cedar Point, but never been, and, of course, you guys have the space to do the enormous ones…

      Who’dathunk Ohio had it going on like that?

  2. Skelly says:

    After reading this post I regret that we chose Disneyland over Ocean Park on our last trip to Hong Kong. Oh well, there’s always next time… Somehow I find it really difficult to pull myself away from eating and shopping and actually DO something when I’m in Hong Kong :)
    Can I just say that I only discovered your blog recently and it’s one of the most amazing, fun and interesting things I’ve ever read.

  3. I’ve been there and it’s AWESOME. I find it hysterically funny that they rate more visitors per year than Disney.

    Having been to both Disney HK and Ocean Park, I prefer OP (but my 4 year old would disagree).

    • Theodora says:

      Then you have tonnes of OP to look forward to when the kids are bigger… I think the thing about it is that it’s been going for decades, constantly expanding, constantly evolving, and doing these incredible things in such a tiny space.

  4. Barbara says:

    My God, I think my parents took me to Ocean Park when I was 12. That Mine Train was AMAZING!! I was petrified. And so was my gallant dad, who claimed not to be scared and then started whistling and cloud-watching when I asked him why, if he wasn’t scared, had he had his eyes closed during most of the ride. Hmmm?

    Yay for cool parents! (Oh and I miss my Dad so much.)

  5. Been to Hong Kong Disneyland so many times, yet never been to Ocean Park still! Maybe this next trip…

  6. Anne-Marie says:

    I begin to realise what you missed by having a mother who found the big wheel way too scary. And no, we haven’t been to the King’s Lynn mart this year….

  7. Nonplussed says:

    So how was lunch? Unlimited Sashimi!

  8. I want to go here now. That rollercoaster over the ocean looks awesome!

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