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!)

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.