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PTR:David's EPIC Asia trip! TPR China +Japan, Korea, Taiwan!


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Day 16, part 1: Beijing Shijingshan

 

This was the first day of actual coastering on the TPR China tour! (Well, unless you count the alpine coaster up to the Great Wall.) And it was a big day, in terms of numbers of coasters – the biggest day of the whole trip! There were 16 credits to be had, if you count powered coasters, which I don’t. But only two of them were powered, which still leaves 14 credits in one day, which is pretty impressive. And not one of them was a coaster I’d ever need to ride again! But they were nice parks, and I’m glad I went.

 

The first park we visited was Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, just west of downtown Beijing. It was actually a decent sized park, with a ton of coasters, most of which were actually adult or at least family sized and most of which were what we called Chinese knockoff coasters by the Beijing Shibolai Amusement Equipment company. For those who don’t know, Chinese knockoffs are coasters by Chinese coaster companies that rip off other coasters by other companies, much like Chinese companies do with so many other western products. Yes, they even do it with coasters!

 

On different days at different parks, we’d visit them in different ways as a group. But usually, we’d start on some or all of the coasters together, then split up. At parks like this where there was virtually no one else in the park, we generally stayed together through all of the coasters, then we had a set amount of time we agreed on to explore what we’d like.

 

Robb and Elissa decided to start first with Feng Shen Coaster, to give us a true taste of what to expect from coasters in China – rides that might kill us! Feng Shen was a Chinese knockoff shuttle loop coaster -- or Circle Reciprocal Coaster, according to the manufacturer’s plate. What made the ride scary was that at the top of the loop, while the train was upside down, it basically dropped an inch or two onto the tracks, and made this horrible scraping sound. We figured that if we didn’t die on this coaster, we’d probably be safe on the rest of the trip! From there, we headed to Mine Coaster, which had some decent caves for theming, along with trees growing all through the coaster’s structure! It was also a tight fit, which caused many to bang their knees!

 

Then we went to Shenzhou Coaster, a knockoff SLC – where I experienced my first ever denial from riding a coaster, because I was too big. I handled it fairly well, but it was still a sad moment. I actually might have been able to fit, but didn’t get the chance to try. They had told us that we had to be under 200 pounds to ride. Most of the bigger people had opted not to bother trying, so we didn’t hold up the group. But when I saw people who were pretty close to my size riding, I decided to give it a shot, along with some others. But when the ride ops saw us all heading up, they gave us all motions that we couldn’t ride. It was a shame, but I didn’t want to cause any trouble, especially not on a group trip. The one good thing is that everyone who did ride agreed that it was horrible and painful! So I didn’t miss much.

 

Next, we rode the Worm Coaster, one of many wacky worms that we’d ride on the trip. The most interesting thing about it was the closed ticket booth, shaped like the head of a worm. That was actually one of the neat things about this park: some of the rides had ticket booths in the shape of some character.

 

Then we caught a ride on the Golden Horse spinning coaster called Spinning Coaster – which, like most spinners in China, didn’t spin all that much. Then it was time for my second denial ever – and at the same park. The coaster was Atomic Coaster, a Senyo knockoff of an Arrow loopscrew. I actually tried on this one and almost made it. Oh well. Again, I hear that I didn’t miss much, though it supposedly wasn’t as awful as the SLC knockoff.

 

Robb decided to check out the station for the Spinning Batman coaster, even though it was pretty clearly closed, although the station was wide open to the public to enter. The coaster clearly hadn’t been running in quite some time, judging from the stats of the station – although I guess in China, that may not be a good way to judge! There was sand all over the floor, and some holes in the floor of the station! There were sandbags in the coaster car seats. And inexplicably a moped in the station! That’s another credit we weren’t getting that day! But people who’d been on the last TPR China trip had said it was awful, so again no big loss there.

 

Then we tried to ride the indoor themed Jurassic Adventure coaster, which turned out to be my 900th coaster, although I didn’t know it at the time. I mostly lost count during the trip, and had a vague idea that I’d be hitting it that day. Later, I’d post a picture on Facebook of myself and Neil on Spinning Coaster, thinking that it was my 900th, but I was slightly off. But the first train of TPR people broke it! It got stuck just after the lift hill! Robb was all excited, taking lots of video! Eventually they got it running again, and since this is China, they didn’t bother to make sure it was safe, and just let us foolish American credit whores ride! And of course, we did! It was an ok ride and had a surprising amount of non-animatronic dinosaur statues and fake trees inside.

 

From there, we wanted to ride the Crazy Mouse, but while the station and the plot of land and the footers (with screws sticking out of them!) were all there, the coaster itself wasn’t! Next was Space Trip, a neat Schwartzkopf-esque family compact coaster with lots of big swooping turns. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I’d expected to. Apparently, there are two other versions of this model, including one more in China and one in Cuba. Ironically, there was one that closed a few years back at Sun Park, the park we’d be visiting very soon.

 

We had a little time to explore the rest of the park. For the smaller parks, TPR generally bought us tickets for all of the coasters, and anything beyond that we’d have to pay for ourselves. But in most cases, the rides at these smaller parks were at most a dollar or two. Most of us opted to hit the haunted attractions here. The park had a haunted walkthrough, which was really cheesy, and in some parts falling apart! But they keep the lighting on a lot of these so low that you have to take pictures so that you can see everything with the flash! We also rode the shooting dark ride, themed to “American Adventure”, which was just awful, but in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. The guns couldn’t even remotely aim either. Most of us barely hit anything, and we’re mostly experts at these rides!

 

When our time was up, we gathered up and took the bus to Sun Park.

 

to be continued...

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A good park has to have mascots!

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Beijing Shijingshan is a pretty big park.

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Feng Shen Coaster, a shuttle loop knockoff.

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Sorry, a Circle Reciprocal coaster!

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One of the problems with taking pictures on this trip was that many of the parks we visited were dead. So, for the adult coasters with larger capacities, it was sometimes hard to get good pictures with people in the trains! We'd all be in the station or riding. Then, when we left, there would be no one or hardly anyone riding! Still, I'll take actual rides over pictures of rides any time!

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I can almost hear the car screeching along the track here!

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Mine Coaster.

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Such extensive theming! Let's call PETA for cruelty to animatronic crocodiles!

(Bonus points if you got the reference.)

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This is a crappy picture, but I would drink a lot of these orangey drinks on the trip, since I'm not much of a soda person. Most park drink shops had either real orange juice or this stuff.

What we loved most about this was how earnest she looks! We later realized when seeing "her" in a picture with an actual woman that "she" was a man!

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Posting this so much later than everyone else means that everyone already beat me to the EPCOT jokes...

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Here we're crossing the street to the other side of the park.

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I loved the ticket booths at the park, even though most of them were closed. Those are 3-D glasses on his head, so I guess this was a 3D or 4D theater.

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Bill doesn't look suitably scared.

Besides, there's no time for this now, we have credits to get!

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Well, if that didn't scare you, Bill, this knockoff SLC will!

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Well, some of us had a credit to get. Some of us weren't allowed on!

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This doesn't look nearly as painful as I'm told it felt!

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Just imagine a lot of painful screams here. Seriously!

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Duh, wanna buy a ticket? It's a dumb yokel worm as a ticket booth!

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(Barely) Spinning Coaster.

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Denied credit #2 of my life, my day and this park!

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Well, it's not like I haven't been on many loopscrews before, most of which I imagine were less painful!

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Theming in the abandoned Spinning Batman station.

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Well, maybe this theming is a little better than the wall scratchings.

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No, I don't think we're be riding this.

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No, Betty, the moped doesn't count as a credit!

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Grrrr.

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Larry and Jolie are very impressed by the theming!

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It's actually not bad theming for a smaller park.

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Some nice theming on what I imagine is a Disko knockoff.

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Pretty impressive theming for a Top Spin knockoff!

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As you can see, the park was really crowded!

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Time to ride the Crazy Mouse....

or not....

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Yay! A Space Trip to EPCOT!

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Robb's always working!

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I like this shot.

It was actually a pretty decent coaster, probably the best in the park.

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Now, it's time for the haunted walkthrough. Neil doesn't like these, but trudges through it like a trooper!

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Now THAT's some Klassy theming!

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SCARY!

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At least I can see you with my flash!

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A really odd and really crappy ride.

No, I'm talking about American Adventure, not Robb!

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This was the best picture of a crappy ride I was able to get with my crappy camera. (You'd think they'd go well together!)

You're not missing much!

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Sorry, I just knocked the train full of TPR people, getting them stuck on the track. I learned that trick from a Hadrosaur.

(This is out of order, because I accidentally posted the same picture twice.)

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Yeah, it's the weird dichotomy of the park -- and much of China, to be honest -- that I found interesting. On one hand, you have some really nicely themed flat rides and even the ride ticket booths. On the other hand, you have a haunted house and shooting dark ride that are practically falling apart!

 

Walking around the cities is actually much the same. On one street you'll have all these modern, LED-lit tall hotels. A couple of blocks over, you'll see a row of decrepit pet stores with 5-10 hungry, sad cats in each tiny dirty cage. Then a few blocks over, you'll see a long row of new -- but uninhabited -- skyscrapers that they built to give people work. But it's not clear if anyone is every actually going to move in to them! And a few more blocks over are some gorgeous ancient temples.

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Great update David.

 

I appreciate that really awful photo of me in the haunted walkthrough. It really was pitch black and you couldn't see a thing in there! Your flash definitely blinded us all.

 

The SLC at Shijingshan wasn't good at all but the loopscrew was the best one I rode on that trip. I think they got progressively worse from this one onwards!

 

Space Trip really surprised me, I really enjoyed that ride. I also found it funny that the speaker on the lamppost near to Space Trip was emitting a very loud excerpt of "White Noise - Great Hits" it seemed. I think Robb has a short video of that and TPR's new found ability to turn it off!

 

Going back to Feng Shen Coaster, yeh, not much to say but it was terrifying. I remember sitting in the train and attempting to get my OTSR to lock and then the op came over and gestured that this one was broken and to just loop the seatbelt through the restraint and that will do.

 

Anyway, looking forward to Sun Park.

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^Neil, I salute you for having the courage to endure the haunted-house attractions. You are a trouper, indeed.

 

I was denied Shenzou Coaster, too, but wasn't bothered about it.

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That was the cool thing about Neil. Yeah, I teased him and laughed a lot and gave him grief. But even though a lot of the upside down flat rides and haunted rides scared him, he still tried them all.

 

I think that's an aspect of this hobby that we tend to forget about: that many amusement park goes are truly afraid of the rides. For many of us who are more experienced park goers, it takes a lot to truly scare us. The thing that most scares me most these days are whether the coasters are going to be so rough that they hurt! (See lots of Chinese knockoffs or Vekoma coasters or badly maintained woodies for good examples,) But we forget that when most people walk up to a really tall coaster, or one with inversions, they're inherently at least somewhat scared. And conquering those fears is a big part of the fun of this hobby. But most of us have already conquered a lot of those fears.

 

For me, the scariest moment of the trip came just after the TPR China trip, when I jumped off of the Macau Tower for the controlled Skyjump. I'd ridden nearly 1000 coasters at that point, but jumping 764 feet down off a tower was truly terrifying. Jumping off was really hard to do. But I did it. And once I was off, I was fine, laughing and throwing my hands up.

 

That's an experience that's hard to come by these days for a lot of us, who are experienced coaster and theme park enthusiasts. Yet, it's such a basic part of the experience for most of the other people in the park.

 

 

As for being denied for the two coasters, I tried to be ok about it. but it bothered me. As a credit whore, it's always hard to miss a coaster. Overseas, I'll honestly not go out of my way to get in a crappy coaster credit. But when it's sitting right in front of me, I'll definitely ride it. But there was also the blow of being to fat to ride. it was my first denial. And it was tough on the ego. I've gained weight for some time, but it had never affected my hobby until that day.

 

But at least the three credits I missed on the trip were all crappy ones. I'm getting more concerned about potentially getting denied on Expedition GeForce. I'm going to try to lose some weight -- and not just for the coaster, but for overall health and looks. But I don't know if I will make it. Time to go back on the Intamin diet plan!

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Thanks David! It wasn't the fact I was scared of those flats, but more the fact that I am not normally a flat ride person. I like to stick to my good of trusted (oh this is china we are talking about, somewhat trusted anyway) coasters. I am not a fan of getting dizzy at all but some of those flat rides out there looked so unique that I just had to put up with them and ride them.

 

That pink and yellow contraption at Happy Valley Beijing that rotated you slowly upside sown and kept you there with all the blood rushing to your head was very uncomfortable and made me very dizzy and I remember the laughing that ensued from you when we came off!

 

The other memorable ones were that horrible excuse for a frisbee at Victory Kingdom. I have no idea what they did to it but boy did that make me feel horrible! Frisbee's are normally fine just like the large one at HV Beijing which I really enjoyed! I also love Maelstrom at Drayton back home.

 

That other unique ride at Victory Kingdom looked dreadful but didn't turn out to be that bad whereas their Waikiki Wave was awful. I think I went to rest at the aptly named "Stomach King" restaurant after!

 

In regards to the haunted walkthroughs that China seems to have a thousand of, overly not keen on them as I do seem to jump at the smallest of scares, (especially those pesky air cannons!). The first few at the HV parks were ok. I think the worst was the pirate ship one at Chaunlord Manor and a little one at the Xiaofantain place. So must apologise to everyone who endured a trip through any of those with me, especially Chuck.

 

But yes, I do fully agree that some people who don;t visit amusement parks alot, it is a big thing to ride some of these rides.

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Walking around the cities is actually much the same. On one street you'll have all these modern, LED-lit tall hotels. A couple of blocks over, you'll see a row of decrepit pet stores with 5-10 hungry, sad cats in each tiny dirty cage.

 

I thought those were butcher shops.

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^ We kept asking the guides (because virtually no one at any of the restaurants we visited spoke any English) at all of the group meals what a lot of the dishes were, especially the ones that were basically some fried meat product in some sauce, which were the majority of the meat offerings. I was waiting for one of them to give a look and say, "Um, don't ask". Or even worse, tell us with a cheery smile that it was cat or dog.

 

I'm still wondering if they always told us the truth.

 

At some of the amusement parks, when we'd find the random meat on a stick vendors, I took to using sounds and sign language to convey my questions. If it looked like chicken, I'd point at the meat on the stick and mime flapping wings with a questioning look on my face. Generally, they got it and would nod yes or no. For beef, I'd moo. If they said no to those, I'd snort like a pig. If they didn't answer to any of those, I'd move on!

 

The same skills would later come in handy at the night markets in Taiwan. Although one time when I ordered chicken, it turned out to be fried chicken SKIN on a stick! That was just odd.

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Day 16, part 2: Sun Park

 

Both parks this day were similar in my mind – big parks with a lot of mediocre coasters. Sun Park is East of Beijing, and is built on Nanhu Lake, which gives the park a certain lakeside park charm. Its biggest claim to fame is probably its tall Starflyer knockoff, with a great view of the park and surrounding area and the lake. The coasters were all kiddie or family rides, with the exception of one large loopscrew knockoff.

 

Being a lakeside park, this park was quite spread out. Since Robb and Elissa had been here before, they didn’t need the credits, and opted to just be tour guides instead. Rather than having us all sit and wait for all of us to ride the low capacity mostly kiddie rides, they opted instead to send people ahead to the next ride. Elissa would go ahead and buy the tickets, while Robb would stay back at the last ride and direct people to the next one, with the help of Hanno and other TPR mods. This ended up saving a lot of time.

 

First up was a space themed powered Dragon Wagon knockoff called Space Scooter, then a loopscrew knockoff creatively called Roller Coaster, the only adult coaster in the park. Then a Jungle Mouse with that name, and another Spinning Coaster by

Golden Horse that was so exciting that I forgot to take any pictures of it! I was tempted to just insert a picture of any of the other Golden Horse spinning coaster, since no one would know the difference! The most notable thing about the Mine Coaster was all of the cats who lived under it! We were worried the train would hit one of them, but cats are too smart for that! Sliding Dragon was a powered coaster with I believe more or less the same layout as Space Scooter. Rainbow Children Coaster was a cute kiddie coaster with fairly extensive knockoff Disney Tarzan theming all over it, which made Rainbow an odd name for the coaster. You’d think they’d have called THIS one Jungle coaster or something like that?

 

Fruit Worm Coaster was a tiny little oval coaster with basically only one small hill. The seats were TINY, and we had to contort ourselves to fit. For TRUE whores only! But everyone made it! I think we laughed more on this coaster than on any other. For some reason, Fruit Worm Coaster had, along with the obligatory apple that the coaster goes through, these two big pineapples with weird looking faces on them. Do worms even eat pineapples? I guess they do in China!

 

From there, we had a bit of time to explore the park. Some of us headed to the big Starflyer knockoff. Unfortunately, the lapbars were super tight, so those of us with larger behinds and/or thighs were in for a tight fit! My legs were literally going numb on the ride! But at least it was a nice view of the park and the lake.

 

I also hopped a quick ride on the park’s dark ride, which was a weird combination of monsters and space, with some very obvious rip-offs of theming from the Buzz Lightyear rides, of all things. There were actually quite a few flat rides scattered all over the park. Time ran out before I got a chance to ride the Battle Field of Happiness CS ride, which was basically an outdoor shooting (not so) dark ride, but on coaster track, although it was powered. I guess the true whores could count it. Some of us did managed to ride it, and I suspect that at least one or two of them counted it! I probably could have fit it in, but I didn’t want to push the meeting time. The first rule of a TPR trip is BE ON TIME!

 

From there, we headed out to dinner, and then a few of us went on to a Chinese acrobat show and to see the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest at night. I’m going to split the rest of the night off into a separate post, since I took a bunch of pictures.

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The nice looking entrance area to Sun Park.

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Love knows no borders!

I want to go on the Lifeline Express Bright Journey!

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Park map porn.

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The powered Space Scooter "coaster".

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Yeah, that looks safe and well maintained!

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Sadly, this was far from the most whorish we'd get today!

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Too much to make fun of here to single out just one thing!

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A nicely themed flat ride.

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Introduction to Battle Field of Happiness CS.

"Smoking or carrying dangerous articles is forbid" Just sit down in the ride and immediately pick up your laser gun!

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Battle Field of Happiness CS.

Because shooting terrorists makes you happy!

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While both this sign and the one in the last picture say the same thing in broken English, they have completely different Chinese characters. Hmmm.

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"Roller Coaster."

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It wasn't THAT painful.

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Jungle Mouse. Do mice even live in the jungle?

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Jon's looking comfy.

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Bill's having way too much fun!

Hey Bill, it's only a Jungle Mouse!

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Mine Coaster and some of its cats!

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Let's take a closer look at these ferocious beasts!

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Don't hit us!

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Hey, ride op! Don't hit the kitties!

Or is that where the park's burgers come from?

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The first of many Sliding Dragons on the trip.

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But is it really sliding if it's powered the whole way?

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Hmmm. She looks familiar.

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Definitely familiar.

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No, it doesn't look like Disney's version of Tarzan at all.

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No similarities at all.

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It's actually pretty nice theming for a kiddie ride.

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She's probably calling the Justice of the Peace! "Where the hell are you? We're waiting in the middle of this mostly kiddie amusement park under the gay rainbow stand for you to get here and marry us!"

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Probably the most whorish credit of the trip!

With the creepy pineapples!

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This group fit ok, but for many of us, it would be a tight squeeze!

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Ow! Even when you hurt yourself on a ride like this, you have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

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Or should I say the ridiculousness of US?

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Martin is embracing the ridiculousness of it all.

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OK, Martin, you're having a liiiittle too much fun here!

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No caption needed!

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Important poll: who's having more fun on Fruit Worm Coaster: Martin, Big Mike or Brian?

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Cheryl is wishing she was sitting in the front of this contraption! Can you blame her?

Don't forget to unrecycle!

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I wanted to try this thing out, but there wasn't the time.

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Would you ride one of these in a park in China?

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Neil looks quite happy for someone who very possibly may be about to die.

The covered seat in the front isn't too creepy for a ride that goes very high in the air, right?

Dave's just hoping (as I was) that the tight lapbar didn't rip off his legs!

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Well, if you're gonna die, you're gonna die. So you might as well just go for it and have fun and enjoy the awesome view, eh?

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Space Scooter doesn't look any more exciting from overhead. Unless we come crashing down on it, I guess.

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No, this dark ride didn't rip off Buzz Lightyear too much!

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An odd combination of theming.

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But do you really need a reason to include a dragon? Especially in China?

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A minotaur among the asteroids.

Why ask why?

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A flat ride and a parachute knockoff.

Edited by David H
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Day 16, part 3: Chinese acrobats show, Bird’s Nest, Water Cube.

 

After the parks, we headed out to dinner. Another typical lazy susan big table dinner.

 

Since the first day of the trip, Bruce, our Beijing area tour guide, had been trying to talk people into either a Chinese acrobat show or a kung fu show, not to mention a massage! Virtually no one had expressed interest. But I actually wanted to see a Chinese acrobat show. Since I’ve become a fan of Cirque du Soleil over the years, who hire many Chinese acrobats for various of their shows, I was interested in seeing a real Chinese acrobat show while I was in their country. Big Mike, Megan and Josh were the only others who wanted to go. Bruce took us to the Chaoyang Theater, took our money, bought our tickets, and dropped us off, saying he’d meet us after the show. We noticed that the tickets were less than what we paid, but I guess it was possible that that helped pay for the use of the bus. Or he just ripped us off, which was more likely!

 

When we got to the theater, we noticed that literally everyone in the theater who didn’t work there were in big groups of white, western tourists. We imagined Bruce getting teased by his fellow tour guides for only convincing four of us to spend the money on the upcharge attraction, while others had whole buses full of people there! Clearly this was a show that was entirely put on for tour groups. I imagine there hasn’t been an actual Chinese person in the audience who wasn’t a tour guide in years! I'd be curious to see if there are acrobat shows that the locals go to, and if they're any different.

 

Still none of this was any surprise, since every non-theme park item on our agenda was clearly designed by the government to take us to touristy sites and/or to get our money. We definitely weren't seeing the "real" China. We were seeing what the government wanted us to see -- and pay for.

 

We picked up us some snacks -- including authentic microwaved popcorn -- and sat down to watch the show. We'd opted for the VIP seats that were a bit more expensive, and supposedly much better, only to find that we were maybe 5 seats closer to the center -- as I expected. The show was good, but nothing spectacular. They did make a much bigger deal about costuming and pageantry than most circuses or acrobatic shows in the West -– unless you’re used to Cirque du Soleil, who have taken those aspects to extremes. But it was a relatively cheap show and was entertaining enough. And it helped fill my craving for something “Chinese” to do, even if it was touristy Chinese -- kind of like our meals.

 

Since the Beijing Olympics, Megan had wanted to see the Beijing National Stadium, which was built for those Olympics and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and many of the competitions. The building is also known as the Bird’s Nest, because it looks like one. Next door is also the Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, that was similarly built for and hosted the Olympics and now hosts a water park. Originally, the TPR China trip was going to spend some time inside the water park, but many recent reports have said that that facility is now very disgusting and unhygienic. The last thing anyone wanted was to get sick at the beginning of a 3 week trip in China, so the water park stop was called off, though we would be making a brief stop outside to take pictures. Both buildings are beautifully lit up and night, and Megan had wanted to see them. The rest of us agreed, since we didn’t really have any other plans, and it seemed like a nice sightseeing stop after the Theater. Bruce got us a taxi, and instructed him to take us to the area and to wait for us, then take us back to our hotel. We’d pay him ourselves.

 

Since the facilities were closed at this point, first the taxi took us to a spot on the road that was closer to the Bird’s Nest and a good spot for taking pictures. Unfortunately, we got some of our only rain on the trip during this stop, but it was intermittent and not too bad. Then he took us to a bridge over some streets which gave a really good view of the water cube, and would allow us to take pictures of both stadiums nicely lit up at night. At some point a whole bus full of westerners joined us on the bridge for a bit. There’s also a nice hotel/office complex nearby shaped like a dragon. Many pictures later, we headed back to the hotel.

 

All in all, it was a nice night and a fun diversion from credit whoring!

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Tonight's lazy susan restaurant.

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Inside the restaurant, some art to convince westerners that the tourist meal we got was authentic Chinese.

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Some signs in the theater lobby promoting the show, in front of the little snack bar store. The plant is blocking the high tech popcorn maker -- a small microwave!

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Yes, we're VIP's, along with half of the theater!

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Dance and costuming were important aspects of the show.

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Is that my VIP seat?

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The spinning juggling with their feet was pretty impressive!

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Strength and balance.

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The screen above announced what each act was.

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This act is one of my favorites is several of Cirque do Soleil's shows. This troupe did it justice.

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It's hard to get a good picture here because the guy on the right is jumping rope!

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Lots of ladies on a bike. They did manage to get several more than this on the bike, but this picture came out the best.

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That's two motorcycles in there.

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More pageantry in the finale.

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The Bird's Nest.

Too bad my camera sucks at night shots, especially when there are bright lights.

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The Water Cube. The colors can vary, but tonight they were all blue.

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From the bridge.

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The whole gang from this little journey.

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The dragon's head.

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Next up will be the first of the many Happy Valley parks we visited, along with stories of their horrible operations!

 

One thing I wanted to mention is that on the TPR park of the trip report, there will be some coasters that I had a hard time getting pictures of, particularly with trains on them. This wasn't a typical coaster tour. Usually, we'd have ERT during a certain time, then head out on our own. The problem is that Chinese parks have no history with or even concept of ERT. So, we'd walk to each coaster as a group and ride together for a filming session. That usually meant we were on the coaster and/or in the station together, which made it hard to get shots of the coaster running. And if Robb's filming us, it was appropriate to fill all seats, rather than running off to take pictures. Sometimes, we'd have the option to leave the station and take pictures, but not always. And I wouldn't want to leave the group, and create an awkward and inappropriate situation for TPR! Even if leaving the area was allowed, if you had the choice of riding a mega-lite or taking pictures of one, which would you take? Then, we'd head to the next coaster together, often across the park!

 

Once the park was open and filming was done, we'd often have limited time to see the rest of the park. Sometimes we wouldn't even make it back to where one of the coasters was. And Chinese park operations were often HORRIBLE. If you wanted a picture of a coaster train in it, that might mean waiting 5-10 minutes for the next train! And if you screwed it up.... So, with limited time, and being with groups of people, we'd often opt to just head to ride something else. I'd rather ride a kooky Chinese flat ride or experience a decrepit Chinese dark ride than stand there waiting for a train for the perfect picture! There are enough other people out there who got pictures too.

 

Speaking of groups of people, we were often together in large groups. That means you're going to see a lot of pictures of people's backs and other TPR people taking pictures. but not waiting for clear pictures meant I was able to take a lot more (without holding everyone up.)

 

All in all, I managed to get some decent shots, I thought. But there are some coasters that I barely got any of. And some I'd have loved the chance to get more of.

 

But I went on this trip to RIDE coasters, not take pictures of them. The pictures were just a bonus! Hopefully, you'll enjoy them!

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Day 17, part 1: Happy Valley Beijing

 

Here we go. Our first excursion into China’s Happy Valley chain of amusement parks was at the second park they built, in Beijing. The chain is owned by OCT parks who also own Splendid China park (and once operated a sister park in Florida, near Disney), two Window of the World parks, the OCT East Resort, which includes Knight Valley and a water park, and a bunch of other touristy sites. By the end of the trip, the TPR China tour would hit all of their amusement parks, except for the Window of the World in Changsha, Hunan. If there is one thing that all of the OCT and Happy Valley parks have in common, it’s exceptional theming. The theming isn’t always quite up to the level of Disney or Universal parks, but it’s a big step ahead of what Six Flags or Cedar Fair parks usually put out. As for tides, they’re pretty big parks, with a nice assortment of flats and coasters, most of which are usually themed. All of them have at least one and usually several haunted walkthroughs and dark rides. For coasters, they tend to have a lot of clones, but sometimes they’re clones of very good rides, like mega-lites or S&S launched coasters or B&M flyers. But there are also a healthy (or is that unhealthy in the case of Vekoma SLC’s?) sprinkling of mine trains, Vekoma SLC’s and spinning mice. But at least the chain mostly uses the actual major coaster designers, like B&M, S&S and Vekoma, rather than Chinese knockoffs. Where the chain does get creative, though, is in some very good wooden coasters with creative newer designs, which they’re started building with their newer parks. In fact, OCT are the only parks in China with wooden coasters, most of which are at the newer Happy Valleys (plus one at Knight Valley.) Note that unlike with most other chain parks, all of the Happy Valley parks are just called Happy Valley, with no distinction between them in their names.

 

Unfortunately, the operations of the Happy Valley parks were so bad that they made us appreciate Six Flags parks. (Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!) Almost everything loaded super slowly. It was not uncommon to see 5 or even 10 minutes go by before another train would go out. I don’t think I ever saw more than one train on any coaster with full trains (I’m not counting single car mice here!) Often rides had staggered operating hours, even if there were long lines for the other rides. All I can say was that we were very lucky that we went in the off-season, because if the parks had been very busy, they’d have been a nightmare. To be fair, we weren’t actually lucky; it was good planning on Robb and Elissa’s part. The best part was that they managed to get us filming time on all of the major coasters (and some of the minor ones, too) at all of the Happy Valley parks! It’s fair to say that during those sessions we probably got more rides than we would have if we had spent most of the day in line.

 

One odd thing about the Happy Valley chain is that their mascots are ants. Because kids just love ants, apparently. Huh?!? I guess it's not all that much stranger than a mouse, if you think about it. But I think mice, while being household pests, are still a lot cuter than ants!

 

Happy Valley in Beijing is one of the biggest and most extensively themed of all of the Happy Valley parks. In the center of the park is an island themed to Atlantis, which features Crystal Wing in a giant mountainous castle. There’s water surrounding the island, and also separating the many other areas, themed to Mayans, ancient Greece, ants (for their kiddie area) and much more.

 

First off, though, the most amazing development of the day was that the rain the night before washed away a significant amount of the smog! It was still probably at toxic levels, but you could actually see more than a block away for the first time in the trip! The sky actually IS blue in China! My poor lungs were so grateful!

 

We arrived at Happy Valley, getting in early for our filming sessions, and walked by Extreme Rusher, the S&S launched coaster the Robb told us he’d heard had been broken down for a while. This would be the first of these coasters we would not get to ride on this trip, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last. But as disappointing as it was, you have to expect that on any coaster trip, there will be some coasters that will be broken down. But why couldn’t it have been the SLC?!? Oh well. Most of us would take lots of pictures of it, and sometimes stare at it wistfully, but that was as close as we were getting to riding it.

 

All we could do is head to the coasters that were actually operating. So, we headed to Crystal Wings a B&M flyer that is a clone of the Six Flags Superman: Ultimate Flight coasters. But this coaster is probably the best example of what theming can do for a coaster. And Happy Valley really themed this coaster impressively well, building a mountainous castle around it with lots of crevices for the coaster to pass through and nearly miss. We gave Robb time to set up his cameras, and then filled in the train for our first official filming session. We switched seats a lot and got a lot of rides. I’ve always been a big fan of the B&M flying coasters, and particularly love the positive G’s in the pretzel loop, though I’ll admit that the ride kind of fizzles out after that. But not when you’re riding through a mountain, with lots of near misses!

 

After a bunch of rides, we headed next door to film on Golden Wings in Snowfield, a coaster with a pretty name that belies the pain that we’d feel, since it’s a Vekoma SLC. Still, after the SLC knockoffs, it was actually a relief to ride the real thing. The Happy Valley parks have opted for newer models of the SLC which change the layout of the inversions completely into a vertical loop, cobra roll and zero-G roll. They’re also a bit taller and faster. This one is an extended version of the model with en extra helix. Note that some of the SLC knockoffs also used this layout with the cobra roll. In theory, I like the idea of having a cobra roll there. It’s one of my favorite elements on inverted coasters. But, unsurprising to anyone, Vekoma messed it up, and it’s rough as hell. A shocker, I know! Few of use wanted more than one or at most two rides on the SLC.

 

By this point the park was open to the public, but we mostly stayed together to get all of the credits. We tried to get a ride on Harvest Racing, a Golden Horse spinning mouse with the ant theming of the kiddie area, but it wasn’t open, and didn’t look like it had been open for a while. Then again, with the park’s staggered opening times, it’s possible that it opened at night or something.

 

The weird thing was that they closed the SLC right after we rode it (or more accurately never opened it.) I never did see it operate, but others said that it did eventually open, with the weird staggered opening times the park has for its tired. So, this huge park has five coasters, but two of them are broken down. And they still decided not to open one of their major remaining coasters until hours after the park opened. That’s Happy Valley right there. We did ok with the queues, but only because we’d gotten on the two biggest rides before the crowds got there. I never did ride Crystal Wings again, because the line was just too long, and didn’t seem to be moving much at all.

 

From there, we all headed back to ride the mine train coaster. What was weird, though, was that there were some signs with the name “Flight of the Phoenix” and others with the name Jungle Racing. Honestly, the Jungle Racing theme seemed to fit the ride better, and since that’s what it’s called in RCDB (and I think in English on the park map also), most of us called it that. However, there was a giant Mayan-style phoenix outside, so who knows what they meant to be the name. This wouldn't be the first time we'd run into coaster with multiple names on the trip. The theming was again very impressive, with a side-by-side double lift hill with Mayan-style statues surrounding it. Luckily, we beat most of the crowd to the ride way back here in the park, so it was pretty much walk-on. The ride itself was quite fun. And really smooth, considering that it's from Vekoma. Mine trains seem to be the one thing they can do well!

 

Once everyone rode it a few times, most of us split up into smaller groups to explore the rest of the park. On of the first rides we went on was the Energy Storm, which was run in crazy mode. There was a whole period where it just spun around upside down for at least a minute or two. The sounds of horror coming from Neil made it all worthwhile! Many TPR people opted to skip it! For some reason, we decided to ride the Giant Frisbee named the Apollo Wheel, which was one of the best themed flat rides I’ve seen. It’s built on a fake crumbling platform out on the water, with giant snakes coming out of the water all around it. It looked so impressive that most of the people in the park seemed to want to ride. The queue wrapped across a bridge and looked huge. And for some reason, it barely moved. As we advanced, we saw that it even wrapped into a whole underground section that they were only using part of. (Maybe they closed of a section, and that’s why the queue didn’t move much for 15+ minutes?) The queue would have been long enough with all the people who wanted to ride it, but the slow loading procedures made it even worse. We ended up waiting nearly an hour for it. By then the Haunted Grove walkthrough was open. It was long and impressive and had a suspension bridge.

 

From there, we mostly walked around taking pictures and popped on another ride or two. The park had a pretty large assortment of flat rides. We considered trying to ride Crystal Wings again, but the queue was way too long, and didn’t appear to be moving very much. We checked back on Harvest Time (and kept watching in the vain hope that we’d see Extreme Rusher running) several times with no luck. And soon, it was time to leave. One thing I really liked about the TPR trip was that we’d have mandatory meeting times at the larger parks. Then Robb and Elissa would ask us to vote on whether to stay a bit longer or to move on elsewhere. Most days we’d opt to move on, especially if there were credits in the offering.

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A random rainbow on the road on the way to the park

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Welcome to Happy Valley in Beijing. Technically all of their parks are just called Happy Valley.

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Such a tease! The first thing we saw inside was Extreme Rusher, which we couldn't ride!

And yes, that's actually blue sky. They apparently do have these in China, on occasion!

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Is that a pretzel loop I see?

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Now THAT is how you theme a flying coaster!

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Ready to ride, guys?

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You'd better be!

The back is always the best on all B&M inverting coasters!

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Could you imagine Six Flags doing theming like this?

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Even the water play area looks impressive!

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Such a pretty name for a coaster!

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Too bad it's a Vekoma SLC!

Just get it over with, ladies!

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This is one of the newer SLC models, with a cobra roll and one less inversion that the ones most of us are used to.

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The kiddie area is themes to ants.

Because kids just love ants. Or something.

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Hold! You shall not ride this coaster!

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Fine. Then in protest, I'm not taking any better pictures of your closed coaster.

Or I forgot. One of those.

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Nice big signs for the Flight of the Phoenix coaster. Too bad that's not supposed to be it's name. There's a smaller sign with the actual name of the coaster, Jungle Racing.

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Said phoenix.

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Again, very impressive theming, especially on the lift hill.

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Jungle Racing (or, if you prefer, Flight of the Phoenix) is Big Mike approved!

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Yes, there are trees at Happy Valley parks!

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The side-by-side double lift hill.

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Don't forget this!

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Finally, I managed to catch one of the elusive trains!

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Too bad there were no trains to cacth running on Extreme Rusher....

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Even the flat rides are well-themed!

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I think some TPR members are still having PTSD-induced nightmares about this Energy Storm and it's largely upside down cycle!

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I'm not sure why these snakes are attacking the Apollo Wheel Giant Frisbee, but they look impressive!

You can also see the SLC back in front of those funky buildings.

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Unfortunately, no picutres were allowed inside the excellent Haunted Grove.

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This is as good as you're getting!

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Tease!

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The Trojan Horse Top Spin is in the ancient Greek themed section of the park.

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As is the park's shoot-the-chutes.

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Skloosh!

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We ran into this Mayan dance show!

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A few last pictures on the way out.

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Day 17, part 2: Beijing National Olympic Stadium

 

But today after Happy Valley we were heading to the Beijing National Stadium – or back there in the case of a few of us who’d gone there the night before. When we got off the bus, we were immediately accosted by locals trying to sell us every kind of souvenir imaginable. I mean, they were surrounding the bus exit, making it hard to get off! Since the area was open in daytime, we walked the long walk over to the Bird’s Nest for some nice daytime photos. The whole area was full of other souvenir vendors. Kites were very popular and were flying everywhere. I thought that the Bird’s Nest looked even more impressive during the day, but the Water Cube looked better at night. In fact, I didn’t even bother walking all the way over to get a better daytime picture. After a short visit and lots of pictures, we headed off to dinner and back to the hotel – and packing, since we’d have a flight the following night. This would be the longest we’d spend at any hotel on the trip.

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This looks familiar!

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A good shot of the dragon-shaped hotel and office complex that we were standing next to the night before.

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Sexy!

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TPR at the Bird's Nest!

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With the millions of people who visit each year, you'd think they could keep the sign from falling apart!

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With limited time here, I didn't feel like walking all the way over there to get a picture of the water cube when it looked so much better at night anyways.

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Some cool buildings.

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Great photos and report David. I'm still having nightmares about that Energy Storm ride at HVB. It spent a good 90% of it's ride cycle time upsidedown without returning to the right way up for relief.

 

I have to say that the one thing it has going for it is the epic theming it had for a flat ride. Very well concealed and nicely done.

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^ Maybe not 90%, but certainly a lot of the time was upside down.

 

But theming is definitely the main thing that the Happy Valley parks, especially Beijing have going for them.

 

Their operations -- particularly in Beijing -- were a joke. The main reason that I didn't get more pictures of Crystal Wing with a train on it was because it was usually close to 10 minutes between trains. I just didn't have the time to stand there for that long doing nothing at a park I'm not likely to visit again soon just to get some pictures. And once I saw a train go by (always when the camera wasn't ready!), I knew it would be a long time before I'd see another one! That was the case constantly in China, but particularly at the Happy Valley parks.

 

I'm actually surprised that the chain can be that successful with such poor operations. The Chinese are not a patient people, unlike the Japanese, who will politely stand and wait for anything. They push and shove and cut in front of each other all over, especially on the roads. All it would have taken to help cut down the lines at the park would be to run a second train on the coasters, actually try to move a little quicker and to have all of the rides open.

 

Think about this. For most of the day, the park had a grand total of TWO coaster trains operating. With FIVE coasters in the park. Admittedly, two of them were broken down, but if anything, that should make the park want to get everything else running at capacity to help alleviate crowds. If they had opened the SLC, and put two train on each of the three operating coasters, that would have TRIPLED the capacity of their coasters, significantly lowering the waits for everything. Now imagine the park on a truly busy day. From what I've heard, they run exactly the same way.

 

I'm imagining that they get away with it for now because the Chinese don't really have many other major parks to compare operations to. That will start to change when Disney opens it Shanghai park. With two Disney parks open in the area, people will start to see a better way for parks to operate. Hopefully, they'll start to expect more from the other parks. Even if people can't get to the parks, people will start to talk about these issues on social media. The question is whether Happy Valley and the other parks in China will deliver.

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It actually wasn't too bad. But mainly because of Robb and Elissa's planning.

 

Going in September really helped. Most of the parks weren't that busy. And when they were, they were parks that would have still been much busier in the Summer.

 

But getting ERT on the two biggest and most popular rides in the park was a real life saver! I never saw the SLC operate, but I imagine that when it finally did open, the queue was horrible. We did check back on Crystal Wings, and the line was horrendously long. Given that they were only sending out the ONE train every 10 minutes or so, I can't imagine how long those people waited.

 

By getting into the park early and getting both major coasters in right away and then heading back to the last of them before the crowds got there, we avoided the worst of the lines. While everyone else was waiting for the coasters, we rode the flat rides. The only one with a truly horrible line was the Giant Frisbee. One bad line in a day is tolerable, I guess.

 

Our experience would have been very different if we'd gone in the summer and/or had not gone with TPR.

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Day 18, part 1: Victory Kingdom

 

This would be the most ambitious day of the trip so far. We’d be trying to hit three different parks before our flight to Chengdu! One of the parks was fairly big, but the other two were small. So it would hopefully be possible.

 

Victory Kingdom was originally announced to be Triumph Kingdom, but apparently changed its name at some point before opening.

It’s located about an hour southeast of Beijing in the city of Wuqing, part of the Tianjin Province, which will soon host the newest Happy Valley park. (Provinces in China are often named for their largest city.) It’s a new park that had just opened in July, two months before our trip. When the trip was being planned, we didn’t even know for sure if this park would be open. The good thing about the park being brand new was that it was nearly deserted. The bad thing was that some of the rides weren’t open yet, and some hadn’t even really started their construction yet! One of the rides still had the seats wrapped up!

 

The park was really big and spread out. The problem is that there was nothing but empty concrete for large section of the park, with rides randomly scattered around. Supposedly, there were themed areas, but frankly there wasn’t much theming to be had. Oddly, one of the themed areas was In Somalia – probably the oddest idea for a themed section of an amusement park I’ve ever encountered. Supposedly, the countries have good diplomatic ties. Maybe this is a way of rewarding those relations? After all, most amusement parks in China are at least partially, if not completely, owned and/or run by the government. Still the only ride there ride now was a knockoff Waikiki Wave, which doesn’t really scream “Somalia” to me! There was also something called the Pirate Training Camp in the park, which seemed to be something like Laser Tag, but I don’t recall whether it was in the Somalia section. But it would be a good place for a Pirate themed attraction with all of the real pirates in Somalia!

 

We arrived at Victory Kingdom, but the SLC wasn’t open yet. So, we headed over to Spinning Coaster, which also wasn’t running. Our tour guide got the park management, who said that the ride would not be open, even though the park had told the guide at the entrance that it was open! That’s two Golden Horse spinners in two days we wouldn’t ride. At least it wasn’t something unique – or even terribly good. Oh well. We checked out the area where the Intamin half-pipe coaster, but there was unfortunately no sign of it yet. Wouldn’t it figure that they’d wait to build the one GOOD coaster last, probably because it was cheaper than the knockoffs. Oh goodie, we’re 0 for 2 credits so far!

 

So, we headed back to Across Amazon what we thought was a Golden Horse knockoff of a Mack Supersplash coaster. It looked like the ride was a real soaker and I decided that I didn’t want to get wet. And it was one of those borderline track layouts that I probably wouldn’t have counted as a coaster anyways. Not counting it gave me a good excuse to skip it! As it turned out, there wasn’t actually any coaster track anyways, so it was just a shoot-the-chutes. That’s 0 for 3 in credits we’d hoped to get! A whole group of TPR people rode – and got soaked while the rest of us took pictures and laughed at them.

 

We headed back to the SLC, which was creatively named Suspended Looping Coaster, another Golden Horse knockoff, this time of the Vekoma model with the cobra roll. It was finally open. As expected, it was rough, but it wasn’t completely awful – at least not as awful as the amazingly bright yellow color of the track! A credit at last! But no one really needed a second ride!

 

We split up to wander the park, hitting up several of the knockoff flat rides. First our group rode the Giant Frisbee knockoff, which ran a surprisingly long and intense program. Neil was not amused, nor were several other TPR members. Then we went on a crazy contraption called the Crazy Circus, which I sadly neglected to get a picture of somehow. (But there are pictures in other PTR’s on TPR from others who were on the trip.) It looked absolutely crazy with an arm that went upside down and spun, but it actually wasn’t too bad. Finally, we went on the Waikiki Wave knockoff called Somalia Storm, which gave a decent program. Before we got there, these two Eastern European park workers had come up to the ride on their giant cartoon bike with balloons in the tires. One of them was riding, while the other waited and watched. Some Chinese kids tried to get on the bike, and the spectator guy ran over and freaked out and yelled at them! Then he sat on the ride to guard it until the other guy got off, at which point they rode away!

 

After the rides, we decided to eat. The restaurant we ate at had the appetizing name of “Stomach King.” I couldn’t even make that one up! The food we got looked much less appetizing than the pictures – and tasted even less appetizing. I think I got some kind of chicken burger.

 

We walked around a bit and took some more pictures and headed out, stopping in the gift shop on the way. I managed to find my first actual park souvenir here – a folding umbrella with the park’s name on it in English! But what was really odd was the collection of t-shirts they were selling, with some very odd English phrases poorly translated under the Chinese on them. Some were just odd or didn’t make sense. But others probably didn’t mean what they said. I’m not sure they really meant to put “Tearing young man” on a t-shirt. And I really, really hope that they didn’t mean it when they put “Rape me ok, rob money are not” on another!

 

Ok, so after originally writing this, I was just too curious about that last shirt, and messaged Candice Fu, the president of the Chinese Roller Coaster Dream club to find out what the shirt actually said in Chinese, and how she’d translate it. Her response: “OMG, the translation is very Chinglish and Chinese people will laugh at it! It is ‘If you want my money, I have none. If you wanna f*ck me, go ahead.’" Now I kind of wish I’d bought it! Also, she said that “Tearing young man” basically means that young men have a bad life.

 

Soon it was time to move on to some credit whoring!

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A sign of things to come inside: wide open paved spaces. However, we wouldn't see this much shade inside!

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We'd run into these guys again!

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Pegasus and a creepy guy in a costume.

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From outside, all you can see is YELLOW!

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Park map porn.

Wait, does that actually say...?

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Yep: In Somalia!

Oddest themed land ever!

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Main Street China.

With a Chinese cowboy.

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To Victory!

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It's never really THAT much of a disappointment when an SLC isn't running -- especially when it's a knockoff SLC!

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The park's newest ride is still under wraps -- LITERALLY!

That's a statue of a guitarist in the middle.

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How's that for a wide open space, filled with nothing?

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And another Golden Horse Spinning Mouse.

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This was as close as we'd get,

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I never did find out what they'd sell in a 4D market. Do they throw things at you while you shop?

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This definitely does NOT look like an Intamin Half-pipe!

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Sorry kids. It's not a credit!

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Here comes TPR! That's Big Mike with his hands up.

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Skloosh! Damn!

I'm glad I'm behind plastic!

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OK, Big Mike, you can put your hands down now!

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You know, I think most of us used to make fun of people who wore ponchos on wet rides, kind of defeating the purpose of them. But now, we all do it!

Well, all of us, except for Bjorn, who wants to show off his pecs!

Nope the three Chinese gals who weren't expecting to get wquite this soaked from a boat full of heavier westerners!

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Huh?

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This is gonna hurt, isn't it?

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SO yellow!

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This is a Chinese knockoff of the SLC model with the cobra roll.

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Twisty!

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Yay! It's almost over!

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The Waikiki Wave knockoff.

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STAY OFF MY BIG BIKE!

He's really mad!

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It's time for lunch at the...

STOMACH KING!

Yes, the food was about as bad as you'd expect form the name!

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Tearing young man?

As George Takei would say, "Oh myyyy!"

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Best. Chinglish. EVER!

Edited by David H
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It's good timing that I posted this. It's raining out, and I had to go to the post office. So, I pulled out my Victory Kingdom umbrella!

(It was only like $5 too!)

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