When I came to Hong Kong, a major plan was to go to Hong Kong Disney World, as I’ve managed to hit Florida, Paris and Japan. However, it was expensive, and while staying in Hong Kong I kept hearing about another place that was a similar price but a much better deal. Ocean Park, which combines a theme park with a zoo and aquarium. When my last day in Hong Kong arrived, I decided that would be a better use of my cash.
With advice from Esther, I’d found a route to the harbour, which meant I could take a ferry to Hong Kong Island rather than fork out a fortune for the subway again (ferry is a third of the price) then get a bus from the harbour direct to the park. Did have to do some time killing at the harbour since I was a good 30 minutes early for the bus, but did mean I was there just as it opened. Spent the more-than-my-days-budget to get in, and off I went.
The park is set up into 2 sections, each with different areas. The first part hosts the The Grand Aquarium, Whiskers Harbour (the little kid rides), Old Hong Kong and the Asian Animals area. The second section has Polar Adventure, Thrill Mountain, Marine World, Rainforest and Adventure land – home of most of the rides. The biggest problem is that you can’t walk from one to another. You have to use a train (the Ocean Express) or the cable car…which proved a problem near the end of the day.
I decided that since you would leave this area entirely once you hopped on the train, that I would go to the Asian Animals section and finally, finally see a Panda in China. As it happens, not only did I see 3 pandas, but also got to see red pandas in all of their adorableness too!Before you go in, they also have a green screen photo area, and when you leave the Panda enclosure (also home to otters and a massive collection of goldfish), they’ve got a photo of you surrounded by animals and holding a red panda in your hands. And unlike other places, they actually print them out and have all the options available right then and there. It was actually a nice photo, but like all theme parks the price was far too much for what it was and I said no (though kept my receipt no in case I changed my mind). All the rides print out the photo – can’t help but wonder how many photos, keychains and magnets they must throw out…
Decide to leave the Aquarium until I come back since the light show in the evening is in the lagoon right in front, and hop on the train. Its been designed to be a little like a ride – it runs through a tunnel and the roof shows images of the ocean, and a CGI giant squid attacking the ‘sub’).
The first section I hit was Thrill Mountain – where I made the mistake of leaving a very short queue for a ride called The Flash when I realised it had a singles queue and could probably hop on quite easily later. When I returned to the much longer queue, I discovered that the people running the ride were ignoring that line entirely, so I missed any chance of getting on it. Boo.
My first ride was the Rev Booster, which is basically cars being spun very fast. Though when I jumped in a car I found an iPhone lying on the seat. From what I could tell when I turned it on, it belonged to someone called Zack (or knew someone called Zack – the message section was all Chinese characters and that was pretty much the only word/name I could make out). Gave it to the ride controller so hopefully ‘Zack’ got it back.
The RB was nice, but it was a warm up. I hadn’t been to a proper theme park in a while, so I was looking for something a little more adrenaline packed…
They REALLY don’t like the single rider queue in Hong Kong. This ride had one too but the crew member at the bottom wasn’t letting people through, so had to wait in line again (the ONE good thing about visiting theme parks on your own is that line dammit!). Thankfully the second ride along he was gone, so I hopped on in no time flat.
Loved it. Been far too long since I’ve been on a proper looping, adrenaline roller coaster. Came off feeling satisfactorily woozy, and wandered over to the Polar Adventure area – which didn’t have any rides, but did have the seal, walrus and arctic fox exhibits.
The seals were in the middle of a presentation and feeding event, so got to see them sliding around quite contentedly. One of the first times I’ve seen seals in captivity instead of sea lions (though they had them too, just not here). They were a lot fatter that I expected – almost looked like overstuffed sausage containers, though they couldn’t half move if they wanted to. Also had a great viewing area for the shockingly friendly walruses.
The arctic foxes weren’t nearly so photogenic sadly. They were sleeping or just out of sight, so moved on to the South Pole section with the penguins.
This is one of the coolest penguin exhibits I’ve ever seen, pardon the unintended pun. They had the typical fake iceberg podium, but there was also another rockier section in part of the room, and two smaller areas on the opposite wall, one with a small outcropping and one with just water. And on the ground? long tunnels of water that the penguins used to swim to the different sections – every now and then you’d seen a penguin make a break for another area and follow them along.
Its also mating time for the penguins too – most of them were nesting in the rocky area, and spotted two penguins doing what’s required in order to nest as well.
I was ready for some more rides by this point, so made my way towards Marine World, stopping off in the Rainforest as it was on the way. Only one ride here – the Rapids, so hopped on that too. Got soaked naturally (not helped by the fact that there are water pistols on the bridges overlooking the ride so people can aim at anyone avoiding the water – had some fun on that when I hopped off).
Sadly, it was a LOT colder today than it had been the day before. The kind of muggy that suggested rain, which meant being wet wasn’t a great situation. Thankfully worn clothes that dried quickly, and hopped into the Rainforest exhibits while I waited to drip dry.
Finally make it down to the Marine World and first go on the Eagle, which looked great from the ground but was actually pretty tame once you were on it – then went on the Abyss – a sudden drop ride which was excellent. I was tempted to go on again (astonishingly, as busy as the park was, very few rides actually had heavy queues), but decided to have a look at the other roller coaster rides first. Headed North for The Dragon – the ride I’d liked the look of the most…only to discover it was shut for maintenance much to my dismay, and so headed South towards Adventure Land’s Mine Train.
One of the best Mine Train rides I’ve ever been on. Its not quite got the rickety feeling down yet, but the sudden drops are perfect. Did hop on that again before the queues suddenly arrived (rides would be empty and then a tour group would show up) and I headed back up towards the Rainforest to grab the Cable Car back to the first section – there was a bird performance being held there and I kind of wanted to see it. Stopped in the Yangtze Exploration exhibit along the way, and then stopped dead.
The cable car queue is immense. Says 20 minutes on the screen but I’m highly doubting that’s accurate. Either way it wouldn’t get me there in time. Instead I retrace my steps and go back via the Ocean Express again, which isn’t nearly as busy. Sadly it looks like I’ll have to skip the cable car this time – that queue is not going to get any shorter (though with my ‘being suspended over heights’ issues, that might be for the best).
The bird show is…okay I guess. Clearly aimed at young children, it stars what I assume is a lumberjack, who tries to cut down a talking tree, and is introduced to several birds who are flying around on on other crewman’s arms. Sweet, but wasn’t understanding a word and it was mostly just birds flying from perch to perch.
Went to see the panda’s one more time and then headed back to the second section to catch the show in Ocean Theatre. This was the typical dolphin show, which some sea lion action too. It was multi-lingual so slightly easier to understand, but also very low key compared to some shows. Did have a pretty funny bit where they had a plant audience member meet the seals then fall into the water in shock causing a dolphin to rescue him.
After that, went down into Adventure Land again. It’s really hard to get to since its miles away from pretty much everything else in the park. When I got there, the line for the Raging River was far too long, but did get on the Space Wheel (one person cage with no straps that spins you almost 180), before I decided to start making my way back towards the entrance for food, aquarium and light show. Hop on the Mine Train one more time and go straight for the Ocean Express since I know how long the cable car will be by this point.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that everyone else had the same idea. The once quiet Ocean Express is now teeming with people trying to leave or get to the other section. It was an absolute crush in the line, and then on the train – packed as any rush hour subway. Practically had to peel myself off the walls. The whole ‘no way to get from one section of the park to the other’ bit really doesn’t work when it gets near closing time.
Hop over to Old Hong Kong, where they are selling a lot of Hong Kong ‘street food’ at theme park prices. Got some steamed rice rolls (at a much higher price than Esther’s) and fried noodles, then since this was a day for indulging, had some ice cream before going to The Grand Aquarium.
This is probably the best animal exhibit of the park – the Aquarium is very well built and presented. There’s nothing incredibly impressive behind its walls, but there are some great tanks for wandering round. The sea lions are home here, as is the touch pool and several large water tanks depicting various fish collections. Although I liked the pandas and the penguins, felt this was probably my favourite of the animal enclosures (though its called Ocean Park, so maybe that was a given).
After that, grabbed a spot for the show ‘Symbio’ and was faced with the dilemma many people do at these shows. Do I grab a good seat and enjoy the show in comfort, or do I rush to the front and stand to make sure I get a good view? I ended up sitting, and when the show started (and the hoardes rushed forward) I took to standing once I knew there was no one behind me.
Symbio was billingual, and tells a story about 2 raging dragons that started to rip the world apart due to their fighting (told through projections on water and some serious fire and water effects) before the Earth spirit forced them to stop and ordered them to work together to help create the planet as we know it. I think its supposed to represent how humanity should stop abusing its status as the dominant predator and start living in harmony with the animals of the world (a very big theme in this park).
Second the show stops, I bolt for the exit in a desperate attempt to grab a bus before everyone else does. Thankfully this is old hat for Ocean Park – there’s about 5 of the bus I needed, admittedly all quite full, but I’d at least been smart enough to count exact change before the show so could just hop straight on and head for Central bus station – stones throw from the harbour.
Got to say I really enjoyed Ocean Park. Think it was definitely the better choice than Disney. The choice of rides, as well as the extra exhibits (and the fact that I FINALLY got to see pandas) made it well worth the money. Wish The Dragon had been working, and that the weather had been nicer, but had a really great day.
Its not over yet though. Since this is my last night, I’m making a beeline for the Avenue of Stars for the Hong Kong Symphony of Lights. The Avenue is China’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, where stars of Chinese TV and film are immortalised in the street with plaques and hand prints. It also happens to be one of the best places to watch the light show.
Although…that didn’t quite work out.
I’ve seen photos, even seen some video, and what I saw was not a symphony of lights. It was a handful of green LED’s and half a dozen pale white lights. There was music, but it certainly wasn’t in time with the lights. Thing is, when it started it did appear to be in tune, then the lights suddenly turned off. I can only assume something went wrong, lights or electronics broke down, and the light show never actually happened. Because what I saw was pathetic.
Sad to end Hong Kong on a bum note, but did manage to find something I’d been looking for in the ground level of ChungKing – a micro USB adaptor cable! I’d been mooching off my tour mate up until this point and been forced to hold back on adding photos to the blog (hence the delays). Now I’m back in business.