Hong Kong, Part 4 – Ocean Park

Author’s Note: This is one of five posts looking to the past, to my trip to Hong Kong in September of 2008. Some of the details may be a little fuzzy because it was twelve years ago.

On Sunday of the weekend in the middle of the trip, a small group of us got tickets to go to Ocean Park Hong Kong, a theme park on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. Ocean Park is the second-largest theme park in Hong Kong, right after Hong Kong Disneyland. In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen Hong Kong Disneyland for this day, but at the time I was thinking, “I can see Disney at home. I want to see something different and unique to Hong Kong.”

In that regard, I was not disappointed.

Ocean Park considers itself a marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park, and amusement park. It’s really got a little bit of everything.

I didn’t see many marine mammals, there, but I think there was an Orca show that we missed. Here’s a couple of seals.

Apropos of nothing, Ocean Park is home to the single most entertaining bathroom signage I have ever seen. If there’s a sign, you know people were doing it.

There was a jellyfish enclosure, with a lot of the little floaters swimming past.

They also had a panda enclosure, and the signs pointing the way to it were just absolutely freaking adorable.

The entrance to the panda enclosure was lined with these corny panda bears. No, I don’t know why. It sure is cute, though.

The pandas themselves were basically giant oreo-colored goobers. We saw one fall out of the tree he was climbing, because he just didn’t care.

I shall caption this next photo, “munch munch munch.”

There was a cable car connecting the two sides to this park. A lot of the park was under construction when we were there- looking at the Ocean Park site as it exists today, I can see that they’ve added a lot in the last twelve years. They have penguins and meerkats! (Thankfully, not in the same enclosure.)

I may need to go back at some point. In the years since we visited the heavily-under-construction Ocean Park, they have opened:

  • “Thrill Mountain” with five more rides, one of which is a floorless rollercoaster.
  • “Polar Adventure” which includes the penguins, as well as snowy owls and Arctic foxes.
  • “The Rainforest” with a river rapids ride, an expedition trail, and capybaras!
  • “Aqua City” expanded the aquarium out quite a lot and added a sea life carousel.
  • Probably a bunch more that I didn’t catch in my reading tonight.

The cable cars took us from the animals to the rides.

The crest of the cable car line had a pretty nice view.

And then we were able to see the theme park rides ahead of us.

Once we were off the cable car, we could wander a amusement park side, between snacks and rides and things for kids.

This was a culture show with acrobatics and the like.

There were the usual thrill rides. I actually did go on the old roller coaster, which has since been converted to a virtual reality coaster. No, I don’t know what that means either.

One of my favorite things at this entire park was the adorable squid vending kiosks.

…and the squid design isn’t just to be cute- they actually sell squid there. By the way, don’t let those prices throw you off- $32 Hong Kong dollars is just over four bucks of US currency. The combo with soft drink for $42 HK dollars is about five and a half US dollars. That exchange rate is crazy.

What’s your favorite theme park?

40/52 (and 19 of 30!)


Nordic Adventure, Part 6: Copenhagen

The fourth city in my five-city romp through the Nordics was the capital of Denmark:  Copenhagen!

Copenhagen is full of fascinating things to see and do.   For example, directly opposite the main train station is Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world.  Opened in 1843, Tivoli is the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world, the most visited theme park in Scandinavia and the fourth most visited in Europe.


Most of the rides are considerably more recent than the park’s opening in the 1800s.  For example, the red track here is The Demon, which only dates back ten years to 2004.  Some roller coaster enthusiasts posted a video of their ride if you’re curious.


In the center of the city is the Rundetårn, or Round Tower, completed in 1642.


The tower was built as an astronomical observatory at the top and a library partway up.  The path to the top is a helix, a sloped walk.  This was chosen over stairs because so that a horse and carriage could go to the top.  This allowed them to move books and sensitive scientific equipment up the tower easily.


The center of the tower is completely hollow, and you can see all the way to the bottom.   A daring tourist can step right onto this thick observation glass.


This is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It was founded in 1897 by Carl Jacobsen, the man who founded the Carlsberg beer brewery.  It’s an art museum which originally contained Jacobsen’s private collection.


The museum was originally a sculpture museum, and sculpture remains the primary focus of the atrium and grounds.  This is Kai Nielsen’s sculpture, “Water Mother,” front and center in the Winter Garden.


In front of the main stairway is a rather nifty statue of Neptune.


…and this attractive fellow is in the gardens out back.


Let’s get this out of the way right now- You’re going to see Segway riders in a bunch of these pictures, because I took another Segway tour when I was in Copenhagen.   The city of Copenhagen contains hundreds of miles worth of bicycle lanes, 14 miles of which are on the streets in the city.  Segways are allowed to use bicycle lanes in the city, so it’s an amazingly great way to cover a lot of ground.  Plus they’re really fun.


I can’t really remember why I took a picture of this wall, but it sure is a happy wall, wouldn’t you say?


This square is called Gammeltorv.  That round thing is a fountain but I guess it was still covered from the winter.  I had a very enjoyable traditional Danish meal at a restaurant in this plaza.


Copenhagen was nine days into my travels, and I needed to do some laundry.  I found a marvelous place called The Laundromat Cafe, which has locations in Denmark and Reykjavik Iceland.  The Laundromat Cafe is exactly what it sounds like-  a nice place to get a snack or a beer while your laundry is running in the handy coin-operated wash machines.  I did a load of laundry, and had a delicious pastry.  The girl behind the counter said this was a traditional Danish pastry, but I never caught the name of it.  I can say that it looks and tastes like a strawberry  Pop-Tart, only more delicious.


Non-sequitur time!  The Metro in Copenhagen has large clear windows on the front and back of each car, and if you take video from inside, it looks a little bit like the opening credits to Doctor Who.  Behold!

Amagertorv is a popular meeting place in Copenhagen because the Stork Fountain is a pretty well known and easy to find landmark.


This building used to be Nikolaj Church, but now Nikolaj Kunsthal is a contemporary art center.  They do their best to keep the confusion down, by way of this handy hanging banner on the front of the building.


Frederik’s Church is often referred to as the Marble Church.  It’s due west of Amalienborg Palace.  This is the largest church dome in Scandinavia, and it was probably modeled after the Basilica in Vatican City.


This is the courtyard at Amalienborg Palace.  Amalienborg consists of four identical palace buildings in an octagonal courtyard.


You can tell it’s a Palace because there are guards with fuzzy hats.  It’s a royal thing.


Den lille havfrue, or The Little Mermaid, is a fairly famous bronze sculpture by Edvard Eriksen which sits on a rock by the waterside.  The head of the statue is modeled after ballerina Ellen Price, but Price didn’t agree to model in the nude, so the body is modeled after the sculptor’s wife, Eline.  The statue is a frequent target for vandalism, and tourists climb onto the rock with her quite often for photographs.  In fact, the solitude displayed in this picture is very much an illusion, as you’ll see in the next photo.


Later in the day, I took a boat tour which passed the Little Mermaid from the water.  This view gives you a much more accurate idea of what it’s like by the Mermaid’s rock.


The Gefion Fountain, near the Little Mermaid, is the biggest monument in Copenhagen.  It was created for Carlsberg Brewery’s 50th birthday.  The legend of Gefion was told to me three different times while I was in Copenhagen, and it goes roughly as follows:

The Swedish king Gylfe offered Gefion as much of Sweden as she could plough in one day and one night.To get the most out of it, Gefion turned her four sons into big strong oxen and harnessed them to a plough.   And then they ploughed. And they ploughed. All day and all night. So deep in the ground, that when the time expired, Gefion could lift up the land and drop it into the sea between Sweden and Funen Island in Denmark.  And that’s how the beautiful and historic Zealand Island – the biggest island in Denmark – came to be.


Near the Little Mermaid is an old well preserved star-shaped fortress called Kastellet.  This is one tiny corner of it.


Apparently, this bridge is the source of considerable embarassment for the Danes-   the construction was begun from both sides, and when they got near the middle, they realized that the two sides did not actually line up.  The construction company has since gone out of business and they’re left with an incomplete non-connecting bridge.


The spire on the left here, with the four entwined dragons, is actually the Stock Exchange. This is very misleading, Copenhagen!


This is the Royal Library in Copenhagen.  The structure in the front is referred to as the Black Diamond, and the part in the back is the original Library building.


The Royal Library Garden exists behind the structures in the previous photo-  it’s a really quiet and pleasant place in the middle of the city.


This is Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish Parliament.


Anchored in the harbor is the Royal Yacht Dannebrog.  Dannebrog serves as the official and private residence for the Royal Couple and other members of the Royal Family when they are on official visits overseas or on summer cruises in home waters.


When the royals are waiting to be picked up by the boat, or when they’re waiting for state visitors, they wait in Toldboden.  They use the gazebo-like building on the left, with the crown on its roof.  Non-royals are allowed to wait in the other structure.


My visit was just after the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted in Copenhagen.  It was so recent to my visit that they hadn’t even taken down the banner on the giant music hall yet.


I don’t have much to say about the Opera House.


Frederik’s Church again, this time from the water.


The neat looking spiral spire is Christianshavn, the Church of Our Savior.  The circular stairs to climb the tower are on the outside of the building.  I didn’t climb this one, regrettably, but it looks really neat!


Copenhagen’s City Hall Square.


Alongside of the Copenhagen City Hall is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, author of faery-tales such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen…er, I mean The Snow Queen.


Have you ever been to Copenhagen?

Getting My Roller Coaster Fix In Germany

It’s safe to say that the few years I lived in Orlando kind of spoiled me for theme parks-  Disney and Universal are the gold standard for theme park crowd control, ease of navigation, and kick ass rides.  That doesn’t stop me from trying other theme parks though.

Since I was already in Köln, it seemed like a good idea to spend a day in nearby Brühl to visit the 45 year old Phantasialand theme park.  I stayed in Brühl the evening before going to the park, but I could just as easily have stayed in Cologne-  you can get to Brühl Mitte from the Cologne Bahnhof in thirty minutes or so via a streetcar, and from there, a bus runs to the theme park every so often.

The entrance area was chaotic and not very well organized, which led to the quote of the day: “I hate this park.”  Even though I had a lot of fun in Phantasialand, this was said at least a dozen times throughout the day.

Phantasialand is broken up into several separate lands, none of which are very clearly marked.  We got turned around several times and had trouble finding our way repeatedly throughout the day.

One thing they did right, but in a strangely frustrating way, was their version of Speedpasses.  You can buy them in packets of four, but the entrances aren’t always easy to find or follow.  Still, the Speedpasses made it possible for us to ride a lot in a single day that we wouldn’t otherwise have managed.  They turned 70-90 minute waits into ten minute waits on several of the rides.

I posted some pics from the theme park to Facebook, and a lot of my friends commented that it looks a great deal like EPCOT back in Florida.  I can understand why though-  Phantasialand has a golden geodesic dome over one of its attractions.  This was built after EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth, but it’s still an easy comparison to make.

The park has an often fantastical look about it.  For example, this ride is called the Würmling Express, and it’s a sort of single car slow-moving monorail.

There’s a 3D animated shooting ride called Maus Au Chocolat, in which you shoot balls of chocolate at animated mice to score points.  You compete against your seatmate for highest total- it’s pretty fun.

Not so fun, in my opinion, is Talocan, seen in the picture below.  I don’t like getting held in inverted positions or getting flipped around in that sort of scenario.  Especially when you can see far around you.  It was popular though.  There’s no accounting for taste.

The best part of the park was the roller coasters.  The Colorado Adventure had an old west mining-train theme to it, and that one kept banging us against the sides of the car. I spent some time before we went on that one trying to figure out why the sign had Michael Jackson’s name on it.  I learned when I was preparing for this post that he actually opened that ride, and there are photographs of the man himself on the coaster, trying to hold his hat in place.

The others coasters were better at keeping us from swinging around so much in our seats.  Winja’s Fear, an indoor coaster, had a lot of fun spinning action.  There’s a relaxing all-dark coaster called Temple of the Night Hawk.

And then there’s the Black Mamba.  It’s smooth and fast.  Really fast.  According to The Internet, the ride hits 4.5G at points.  There’s one particular corkscrew that is amazing to ride.  We briefly considered going back to hit the Black Mamba again, it was that good.

It turns out that there’s a metric pantload of theme parks in Europe.  I get the sense that Phantasialand is one of the three best known though.  Now that I’ve been to Phantasialand, I need to check out the other two-  Europa Park and Disneyland Paris.