The Chinese celebrate a week long holiday at the start of October known as a “Golden Week”, during which the vast majority of companies are shut down. In order to compensate for the lost productivity, the state designates a number of weekend dates throughout the year as working days in lieu. One of those days this year was Saturday 12th October, which meant that my weekend was cut in half.
Several weeks ago, I spent some time looking at different cities in China to determine places that I could get to with same day return flights and an appropriate number of parks for a day trip. In the end I settled on Dalian, a coastal city located one hour away from Beijing by air, and home to three parks with a total of six roller coasters. While it might have been possible to do the day by public transport, a friend of mine was able to arrange me a driver for the day for a very reasonable charge. This gave me a relaxing day with ample time in all three of my locations.
13th October 2013
The first stop of the day was at Xinghai Square, best described as a permanent fairground located right next to the sea front in the centre of Dalian. There were plenty of people milling around the park when I got there at 10:30am and all attractions were operating, but there were definitely far more observers than passengers. I was able to walk directly on to Spinning Coaster (#1966), a Beijing Jiuhua copy of the ubiquitous Reverchon mouse. This clone was virtually indistinguishable from the original, and as such was quite a good ride; the only negative was a very violent straightening device at the end of the ride. The car spun a lot, and after my second ride I felt more than a little dizzy.
I wandered around the rest of the park to see if there was anything else of interest. My eye was caught by the Horror House, but I decided to skip it as it didn’t look like it was worth paying two and a half times what the coaster had cost. I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was being quoted a special tourist rate, as the owner tried to negotiate with me after I refused his first price, but I decided to ignore him and head to my next destination.
13th October 2013
Half an hour later I’d arrived at Laodong Park, a large city park that was mostly gardens and flowers, albeit with a small rides area off to one side. As with the earlier park I was able to walk almost directly on to the Loop and Spiral Coaster (#1967), a ride that was pretty much exactly what I’d anticipated it would be; not awful, but not sufficiently fun for me to consider a second lap.
The Jungle Mouse was clearly under maintenance, with an engineer doing something to a mid-course block brake. Rather than wait around, I wandered up to the top of the park and took a lap on the Giant Wheel for some aerial photographs. I’d just begun my circuit when my camera decided that my memory card was faulty, and I was most of the way back to ground level before I’d fixed it. Fortunately, however, the operator wasn't paying attention as my car went past, granting me a second circuit free of charge.
There was no obvious progress on the mouse, so I decided to set myself a cut off time of 12:30 for departure, figuring that one missed credit was preferable to being short of time at the third park of the day. I was pleasantly surprised when the ride started cycling trains at 12:25, and at 12:29, the engineer declared himself satisfied. Jungle Mouse (#1968) proved to be dull and uninteresting, but it was a credit and allowed me to leave the park satisfied.
13th October 2013
Discoveryland is located approximately fifty kilometers outside Dalian. I’m not sure what I’d expected from the park, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating an entrance plaza that looked like it had been copied brick by brick from Disneyland Paris. At the very center of the park, built on stilts above a lake, was a large castle sculpted from sand; I wonder where they got that idea from. There was even a small scale copy of Main Street USA.
I’d been warned ahead of time that the star attraction at the park, the Premier Rides Crazy Cobra, was out of commission due to an order from China’s Special Equipment Inspection and Research Institute. This, er, discovery led me to utter a curse lasting slightly longer than the four seconds this ride takes to launch to 60mph, but at the end of the day just gives me a valid reason to return in the future.
Though there’s no question that Discoveryland is a really beautiful park, filled with some of the best theming I’ve seen anywhere, the operations are horrendously slow and dealing with them requires a level of patience that I simply do not have. Case in point was Flying Dragon (#1969), an enclosed Golden Horse spinning coaster, which today was dispatching one car every five minutes on average; resulting in a half hour wait to ride with just twenty people in front of me. The theming in the station area was quite nice, but outside of that the ride was simply a (nominally) spinning coaster in a box illuminated by moving green light beams; a credit, but little more than that.
The other operational coaster today was Dizzy Love & Whirling Passion (#1970), and to describe this as horse manure does an injustice to all the high quality fertilizer in this world. The same model of knock-off SLC as I rode at Tianjin Shuishang Park, the English language lacks sufficiently powerful obscenities to accurately describe the experience of this ride, which did its best to kill me. I was very tempted to buy my own ride photograph, as the expression of pure horror on my face was special indeed.
The credits completed, I went to the target shooting dark ride, The Adventures of Mr Knight. The operators insisted that every car had to be fully loaded, meaning that I had to wait for three other passengers before we could ride, but in due course they turned up. Very few of the targets were working, but as the car had no scoring it really didn't matter very much. Right next to it was a walk through Haunted House, an excellent attraction albeit one that was somewhat shorter than the one at Happy Valley Tianjin. I took my time appreciating the various different scenes but still managed to catch up with a large group towards the end, who then proceeded to tailgate me; it seems that they were looking for someone else to lead the way.
I took a quick ride on the Condor (a genuine Huss, no less) that turned out to be my last ride of the day. It was 3:30pm, ninety minutes before the posted closing time of the park, and the vast majority of queue lines had already closed as they were “full”. I’m given to understand that the queue for Crazy Cobra is often closed by lunch time (!). With nothing else to do, therefore, I did a lap of the park with my camera, and in so doing discovered a Hallowe’en show that was themed (with full licensing, right?) to the Harry Potter movies. Dumbledore, Hagrid, Dobby, Firenze, and Harry were engaged in a heated discussion in Chinese that had a large audience spellbound, pun not intended. I also caught the “Thief with Mask” show, a stunt performance with a few motorbike jumps and fire effects that similarly mesmerised those watching.
Though the park had yet to officially close by the time the show ended, there was no sign of activity anywhere else. My mission for the day completed, I located my driver and returned to the airport, where I enjoyed a pleasant few hours sitting in the “Food Bazzar”.