June is my birthday month! Some would say it was a pretty “big” birthday this year, but I don’t mind about the number. To celebrate, I took the day off work, and went to a theme park.
Aside from HK Disney, about which I don’t hear much, there is one celebrated park here in Hong Kong called Ocean Park. It’s located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and offers a free ticket to birthday celebrants holding an HKID!
So off I went. I visited from 11am to past closing 🙂 Here is a map if you want to peruse.
The first thing I did was ride the gondola / cable car from the bottom part of the park up to the top on the mountain. To get to the ride, visitors queue in an area which looks like a film set of old, traditional Hong Kong. Pretty cute! It made me think of the book I was reading at the time, Gweilo, about a young English boy growing up here.
The views from the ride are wonderful. It starts by ascending a long, green hill from the bottom area, known as “The Waterfront” up to the top area, called “The Summit.”
Moving up the hill, riders can see Deep Water Bay and as the cable cars reach the crest, Repulse Bay is revealed beyond. (This photo is taken from halfway up the hill, so only Deep Water Bay is visible.)
The weather was gorgeous and I was talking to myself in the compartment, saying “this is awesome, this is amazing, wow, great birthday present, thanks Hong Kong” and things like that. I had a big grin on my face. Being on that boat down there would have been cool but I was glad to be right where I was.
The ride is actually quite a long one as mini-cable cars go! Coming down from the top of the mountain towards The Summit, a big mass of twisted yellow metal becomes visible. Oh yes, I was going to ride that.
When I got off the cable car, the first thing I did was walk over to the water ride, “The Rapids.” Almost nobody was there so I got a whole raft to myself! I didn’t manage to get completely soaked, but I did get wet and the water felt fantastic on such a hot day. (I think it was around 31C/89F.)
After that, I walked around on the midway a bit. The sky and colours were gorgeous and again I felt wonderful just being there. I went to the theme park all by myself and didn’t regret it for a minute. I could do whatever I wanted!
Next up? The “Arctic Blast” roller coaster. A bit of a line so I got to watch it go around a few times and smiled at the screaming riders. Then it was my turn. Front car for me!
It was so much fun! No upside down bits but a classic. After that I went on the “Whirly Bird” – a lot like the Golden Zephyr at Disney’s California Adventure, if you’ve been. A girl sat on the other seat and we were both exclaiming over the sights. It’s a ride at the top of a mountain that just spins you around fast in an open sky-flier. All of the southern part of HK Island, Ap Lei Chau, Lamma, and Dadong Bay are visible.
Ocean Park. What’s not to love? Yeah, it was super hot, and the “Mine Train” ride I wanted to go on was closed for maintenance. So was the “Ocean Park Tower” viewing platform. But who cares? I was having an amazing day.
Next I went in to the Shark Mystique Experience. It was good to get out of the heat and the walk-through aquarium was nicely put together. There were many types of sharks, as well as rays. The experience ended with a sobering area full of facts about shark depletion, and pictures of models posing for a campaign against eating shark fins. Evidently Hong Kong hasn’t followed California’s 2011 lead in banning shark fins.
After that I rode another coaster called “The Dragon” (this character means dragon:龍). I didn’t take any pictures of that one, but I rode in the front car and loved it so much that I got off and asked if I could ride again, and they said yes. An operator suggested I ride the back car this time, so I did. It felt different, though I can’t explain how.
I felt a bit hungry but decided to ride one more ride, a lovely looking carousel/swing ride. That was a really nice way to end the first half of my day, and I was giggling and saying “whee!” as I went around.
Lunch! I didn’t feel like dropping a few hundred at one of the cafes, so I went to a kiosk and indulged in some lovely fried foods. The birthday ticket comes with some coupons so I got a 20% discount. It was still theme-park prices ($60 something dollars for what you see below.) But I was pleased and damn that chicken was good. The onion rings were crispy and I had them with chili sauce, watching a Mainland family gulp their McDonalds nuggets.
Golden Fried Chicken. Infinitely preferable to the golden arches. Now for more rides! Or rather, more ride. I had decided to see a show and had just enough time to ride a single one before I needed to walk to the Ocean Theatre. I rode The Eagle. But after I got off, I asked if I could ride again (there was no line to speak of) and did! The second time I took a pic in the air but it didn’t come out as amazingly as I had seen it in my mind’s eye!
Then I went to the water show! It had a loosely scripted story which was really just a facade for some cool dolphin jumping and swimming and some sea lion play. I enjoyed it, and it had a strong ecological message as well, which I appreciated. What I did not appreciate were the totally gendered adjectives used to introduce the various dolphins (females were “docile”, “calm”, “helpful”, and “patient” etc., while words for males were “intelligent”, “playful”, “fast”, and “fast learner”, etc.) Dolphins are known as some of the most intelligent and playful creatures on earth, but only the males have these traits at Ocean Park, evidently.
I also wondered where the dolphins live when they are not performing, as the enclosures on either side of the stage seemed small for one dolphin, let alone four. Perhaps they’re preaching sustainability while practicing animal cruelty.
After the show, I went to the Ocean Wonders area. At least the seals had more room to play, and the submerged tunnel was a nice place to watch them gliding overhead.
The park puts an admirable emphasis on conservation and raising awareness about environmental destruction and habitat imperilment issues. The below photo showcases part of one of the beautiful exhibits about the vanishing arctic.
Emerging, I decided it was time for more rides. First up was “Rev Booster” – a simplistic-looking spin-you-around ride that is surprisingly fast and fun. I wanted to go on it again but they told me I had to go out and come back in (despite the lack of line) so I decided not to.
No big loss! It was time for the much anticipated “Hair Raiser”, which I had been building up to all day. It was not running continuously (probably due to lack of people) so I hadn’t been able to scope it out as I usually like to. I knew it was floorless and that sounded good to me!
Walk through the clown’s mouth to enter the ride! It was suuuupppper fun! You can see what it’s like with this POV ride-view. Didn’t find one with female producers, unfortunately, and the guy who posts videos with the best shot quality frequently makes sexist and racist comments over the videos (not here fortunately, but I still suggest muting the audio).
After that it was time for a walk in the Rainforest area near the water ride, and I made a friend!
Actually, it flew at me, but same thing, right? The above shot is not zoomed in at all. That bird was about 5 inches from me. After that I saw lots of cool animals and environments. I loved the lushness of the terrariums.
So green and so many minute living things. I could have spent hours looking at the tiny details.
But it was getting to be time to go because oddly, the park closes at 6:30pm. So I left that area and took the “Ocean Express” train back down the mountain. At the bottom there was an outdoor exhibit in honor of World Oceans Day, which featured this face made of bottle caps salvaged from the dump. While I looked at it, one of the curators came to ask me my opinion and we had a nice chat.
I was going to make my way to the exit as it was almost 6:30, but when I walked by the aquarium I saw that they were still letting people in, so I got another 15 minutes of experience in there. Only wish I’d had more time. I walked slowly to the exit, feeling peaceful and happy.
This is the order of what I did that day:
Cable car to the top
Arctic Blast roller coaster
Shark Mystique Experience
The Dragon roller coaster, rode x2 front car & back car
The Eagle, rode x2
Ocean Wonders show
South Pole Spectacular Experience
The Rainforest Walkthrough Experience
Pretty nice day, huh? The Hair Raiser was my favorite! What’s yours?
On my way to the bus, I saw the new MTR station being built at Ocean Park, and thought “I’ll ride the MTR here on my birthday next year!” That is, if I’m still here. But I think I just might be.
As a final, lovely goodbye, the clouds above the park’s exit were stunning, bidding me a good night as I left and the golden glow of sunset ushered day into night.