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


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Again some nice pictures!

 

Chengdu was a real nice, modern city, to bad it also had the worst weather. If I remember correctly, it has something to do with the fact the city is located in a valley?

 

As for the paper Martin needed to fill in, this is certainly not standard in china or for foreigners. I remember Holger needing some pills for his cold too. And I think we also got them in Chengdu, but he didn't need to fill in any paper.

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Maybe they thought that Martin looked particularly shady? It's understandable how they could think that!

 

Seriously, though, they had this sheet ready, with lots of names and info already filled out. It seemed a standard procedure at this pharmacy.

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Maybe they thought that Martin looked particularly shady? It's understandable how they could think that!

 

Seriously, though, they had this sheet ready, with lots of names and info already filled out. It seemed a standard procedure at this pharmacy.

 

Elissa did mention to everyone the first day that any foreigners appearing sick would be treated as suspect.

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Good point. I wonder if that was why.

 

The weird thing, though, was that I don't think they ever actually checked his ID or passport. So, he could have written anything on the sheet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 20: Happy Valley Chengdu

 

The main reason we visited Chengdu was for their Happy Valley park, our second of the trip. The weather wasn’t looking like it was going to cooperate, and it had already been drizzling. Luckily, it was mostly over by the time we left. But it wasn’t looking promising, so I brought my expensive raincoat, which I’d bought for the trip, and used for the first time on this day (20 days into an Asia trip during monsoon season!) And, of course, it cleared up, so I didn’t need it, and had to wear it tied around my waist for the rest of the day! But if I hadn’t brought it, you know it would have poured! So everyone else on the trip can thank me! The nice thing about the potential rain is that it kept away any crowds that may have come to the park!

 

Our first stops were filming sessions on the park’s two biggest coasters, which they strangely built right next to each other, while other parks try to spread their signature rides side by side. At least this let them use a giant old-fashioned plane prop as theming for both rides. We started on Fly Over Mediterranean, an Intamin Mega-Lite, basically a smaller, shorter (and cheaper) version of their mega-coasters, but high on thrills. It’s one of four in the world, three of which I’d be riding on this trip. Strangely enough, it was my favorite of the four, even though the restraints were a little tighter on my in this model. For some reason, it seemed somewhat more intense than any of the others to me. But the whole ride, particular that insane middle section was just a bit more intense on this model, for some reason. If it had gotten two more riders to quality, it would have ranked at #6 in the world on Mitch’s steel internet poll. Put TPR on an awesome Intamin coaster, and you’ve got a great start to a great day! After a bunch of rides, we moved over to the park’s Vekoma SLC, Dragon in Clouds for our obligatory one ride for the credit. After the knockoff SLC’s, we were actually grateful to be riding an actual Vekoma SLC. That says something! After our filming sessions, we split up to explore the park.

 

The first ride we headed to was a Sally shooting dark ride called North Pole Adventure, themed to Santa Claus and his elves. It was surreal shooting at Santa, elves, presents and little kids. Robb told us that the Sally people had once explained to him that, much like with the turkeys at Holiday World’s Gobbler Getaway where you’re not actually “shooting” the turkeys, but “calling” them, you’re not supposed to be actually shooting Santa and the rest, but he couldn’t remember what excuse they used for this ride. But you actually DID shoot at Santa and the rest with guns that looked just like guns, so whatever. Happy Valley bought several of these, which we’d ride at other of their parks.

 

After shooting up Santa’s workshop, we headed to the very elaborately themed Vekoma mine train, Dragon in Snowfield, although strangely enough, none of which actually involved snow. The coaster is largely built over water, with fortresses and waterfalls everywhere. The Vekoma mine trains are actually some of the best in the industry, providing mild but decent thrills with a solid coaster layout. Vekoma seems to really shine in their family coasters. All of the Vekoma mine trains at the Happy Valley parks are clones.

 

Next, we visited the park’s ice house (upgraded to an Ice World!), which was even more elaborate than the one at Floraland the previous day, with even more ice sculptures and a second smaller ice slide without cars that dropped you right into snow. Unfortunately, the Mad Rats spinning mouse coaster was down, but Robb had told us he’d keep an eye out for it to see if it would come up and text out everyone with a working cell phone if it did.

 

We walked around hitting various rides as we went, checking back on Mad Rats every now and then. I wanted to make sure to hit the park’s really good haunted walkthroughs, the Ghost House and the more modern (and 3D!) Ghost Castle. I probably should have ridden the rapids and shoot-the-chutes, since it was one of the only days I’d have my raincoat on in a park on the whole trip, but on the shoot-the-chutes, the spectators can pay to SOAK the riders with what are effectively hoses. I really wish I’d taken a ride on the park’s Flying Island (which was actually on a little almost island in the center of the park) just to get pictures, but there often wasn’t time for that on this trip, since we left most parks fairly early. The park also had duck boat tours, which is something I’ve seen in many cities, but not in any amusement parks before, but again, there wasn’t time for that.

 

In our travels, I saw what looked like a big raccoon on a leash held by a handler, who was selling the chance to take pictures with it. I took a few pictures, but didn’t stay long enough to find out that it was actually a red panda, and the pictures were a heck of a lot cheaper than holding a panda would be at the panda sanctuary. But many people on the trip did get pictures with it.

 

Eventually, we made our way back to the Mega-Lite, not only the park’s star attraction, but one of the best coasters in the world. We were expecting long lines, but were pleasantly surprised to find the line at maybe 20 minutes at most, even with the horribly slow loading procedures. In fact, we were amazed to find that the park actually made everyone waiting for the next train do calisthenics! Seriously! After everyone lined up in the queue rows, the main ride op on the microphone would tell everyone in Chinese that they had to stretch, and would count off one to eight at least 4 times. In the first two sets, the riders would have to stretch their necks forward, back and side to side. And on two sets, it was stretching the torso. We were amazed, taking pictures of the sight of a station full of people stretching before riding a coaster – with the empty train usually sitting in front of them! I have no idea what this was supposed to accomplish. I imagine someone somewhere thought that this would help people from getting hurt on the ride? I’d seen a sign to that affect earlier on the trip at Lotte World, but dismissed it as foolish, But here we were watching a park making a station full of people stretch! And why was it ONLY on the Mega-Lite? But we would run into the stretching again at other Happy Valley parks, on their other Mega-Lite, in fact. Maybe there was some sort of injury on one of them?

 

After a bunch of rides, it was almost time to meet up with the group again. On this trip, TPR had required meeting times at many of the parks. We would get together and vote on whether to stay or to move on. There had been a bunch of chatter towards the end of our time there, with people lobbying to get others to vote to stay longer. After all, there was an awesome world-class Mega-Lite with only a 10-20 minute wait! And we don’t have any in the US! Amazingly enough, the group voted for the first and I think only time on the whole trip to stay longer (an hour or two) at the park! Probably because we weren’t heading to any other parks that day, and there were no credits to get otherwise! Still, it shows the power of a great Intamin (with short lines) on a group of coaster enthusiasts!

 

We also got another bonus from our extended time at the park. Soon, word got around that Robb had sent text messages out saying that Mad Rats looked like it was about to open. So, almost all of us headed there, and sure enough, it opened! I’ve never seen anything done like this on any of the six other group coaster trips, and it was really cool! It would have sucked if it had come up and most of us had missed it! Unfortunately, a small handful of people had opted to leave the park to eat outside, and Happy Valley does not allow free reentry. So they had to choose between a credit and paying another $30 or so for the one credit!

 

I do want to point out one of my favorite pictures and moments from the trip, which happened at this park. We quickly discovered that the Chinese – especially outside of cities like Beijing and Shanghai, which get a lot of western tourists, are fascinated with seeing white people, and often ask to take their pictures with us. People with characteristics they see less in Hollywood films, like older people with grey hair or beards, redheads or fat or tall people, were in particular demand. Throughout the trip, various TPR people would be stopped by locals, particularly teenagers, to have their pictures taken with them. While we were shopping in one of the gift shops, a bunch of teenage girls asked to have their picture taken with my roommate Bill, an older gentleman. As he was getting ready, for some silly reason I handed him this small girls’ sequined red and black hat from the shop, which he put on for the pics. I really wonder what the Chinese girls made of this, since there aren’t a lot of openly gay or trans people in China! But it made for one of my favorite pictures on the trip! He looked absolutely precious!

 

In any case, with our last credit achieved and a bunch of extra rides on the Mega-Lite, it was soon time to leave Happy Valley, have dinner and head back to the hotel. Because tomorrow was time for PANDAS!

 

More pictures in the next post....

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The entry area for the park.

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Art the entrance of the park is a big shopping area, with stores and restaurants. Too bad you can't reenter the park without paying!

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Several of the Happy Valley parks were having some big magic festival, but we didn't see any evidence of it. Parhaps, it was just at night or on weekends?

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Me with one of Happy Valley's ant mascots.

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A study in contrasts. Intamin Mega-Lite goodness, next to a Vekoma SLC!

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Get excited guys. I know it's early, but you're on an Intamin Mega-Lite!

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That's better! Neil and Martin are getting into the spirit!

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When I think of Vekoma SLC's, I always think of dragons in clouds, don't you?

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At least it's a REAL Vekoma SLC, not a Chinese knockoff. Trust me: that's an exciting thing!

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Time to shoot Santa!

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Hit the elf!

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The only dragons in the Dragon's in Snowfield theming. Note the lask of snow!

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Still no snow. But otherwise, very nice!

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Vekoma's standard mine train cleverly puts both lift hills in the same structure. I'd imagine that saves some money.

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Not just an ice house. An Ice WORLD!

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Someone's gonna have wet pants!

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See!

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Again, the glasses and my camera got all fogged up.

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Still a little fogged up, but nice theming!

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You know what's next!

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SKLOOSH!

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Several of the Happy Valley Parks have circus themed areas. But the Chengdu park didn't have an old west themed area.

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I don't even remember what was in here!

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You can see how close the city is.

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Time for some more Intamin goodness!

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No, no no! I said Intamin goodness, not Vekoma head-banginess!

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Not everyone in this group seems to be getting into the stretching.

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You've got to love drunks as theming!

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You can buy BOOBS in the gift shop! I always thought they made good pillows!

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Outside the Ghost House.

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No, it's not a big raccoon. It's a red panda!

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Elissa wasn't a fan. She teased everyone who liked them, calling them the red-headed stepchildren of pandas!

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More pictures from Happy Valley in Chengdu....

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Mad Rats still isn't open.

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It looks so sad sitting there all alone!

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There's a good coaster hiding in there!

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Now everybody is getting into the stretching!

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It's not just a Ghost Castle. It's a 3D Ghost Castle!

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We'd see these guys again at several of the haunted attractions at various Happy Valley parks.

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One of my favorite pictures of the trip! Isn't he precious?!? (The hat is totally my doing!)

I still wonder what the friends of these girls think when they see this picture! I wonder if Bill became a viral star on the Chinese internet?

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Yea! They got Mad Rats working!

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Time for dinner!

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Our hotel when it's properly lit up.

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I actually have no idea where this was, but I imagine it was near our hotel. I don't think I roamed very far that night.

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You don't care about this stuff. You just want to see the PANDAS in the next update!

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Good to know that since I don't have a beard, don't have gray hair and am not fat I was not targetted for pictures. I felt insecure for never being asked, but feel much better now.

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Good to know that since I don't have a beard, don't have gray hair and am not fat I was not targetted for pictures. I felt insecure for never being asked, but feel much better now.

 

And we thought it as because you were ugly!

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Looks like this elf is making some kid's present "extra special."

 

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"Mommy, why is my present so soggy?"

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Good to know that since I don't have a beard, don't have gray hair and am not fat I was not targeted for pictures. I felt insecure for never being asked, but feel much better now.

 

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I think most of the time, the Chinese asked whoever they saw first for pictures, but sometimes they'd come up to a group of us and specifically ask for one or two people. This apparently happened on the recent ECC China trip a lot too. They made similar observations. But there were a few older guys with beards who were constantly asked for pictures. In the instance in the picture in question, there were several of us in the gift shop, but they definitely wanted a picture specifically with Bill, for whatever reason. I got asked a couple of times, which I'm assuming was because of my weight, along with my skin color.

 

"Hey, guys. Let's get a picture with the fat American!"

 

(I'm a very matter-of-fact person!)

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For me the best Happy Valley park. Despite not having a big signature coaster (no, the mega-lite isn't one in my eyes), it had the best theming and atmosphere. To bad the weather wasn't on our side.

 

David, that big glass building you can't remember what it is, that's actually the entrance/exit. Come on man, wake up!

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I agree, the park was one of the nicer ones of the whole trip. Of course, would we think this if it had been a busy day, and we'd been waiting in long lines all day? The weather and time of year of our visit certainly helped make our visit much better! But overall, the park was really nice, well themed and had a good variety of rides. And remember, for the GP, an SLC IS a big, signature coaster, as much as enthusiasts may disagree. It was also nice to see the Happy Valley chain changing up the theming a bit, since neither the of newer parks in Chengdu or Wuhan (coming up in two updates) had the western themed section that all the others had.

 

Ah yes, it makes sense that that was the entrance plaza. It was hard to tell from my pictures, since I took it while walking by it in the middle of the day.

 

Thanks for the translation, Kailisun. At least now I know what it was!

 

Frankly, I'm surprised I remember as much as I do. This was nearly a year ago! We visited 40 parks in China alone! Plus, I hit another 15 parks before China and 11 parks after, for a total of 66 parks in one trip! (Damn!) Add another 21 parks on my Europe trip this Summer. plus 3 parks in the US. Not to mention all of the cities i visited! With 90 parks in the past year, I'm amazed I remember any of it, even if much of it's a blur! (And yes, I know you're just teasing.)

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With 90 parks in the past year, I'm amazed I remember any of it, even if much of it's a blur! (And yes, I know you're just teasing.)

 

You like that, don't you !?

 

Wow, 90 parks is indeed a whole lot to digest.

Oh, forgot to mention this. You said you wanted to do the flying Island, well you had to be Lucky to actually ride it! For some reason it had a weird operating schedule. Me and Holger were passing by, we also went on it to take some pictures, but when we wanted to ride it again (there was no one waiting), they told us the ride would be closed for 30 minutes. We looked at it several times from throughout the park and apparently that's how they operated it all day. 1 ride, 30 minute wait. Why? We will never know...

I'll see if I have some free time this weekend and if I do, I will send you the pics I took.

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Why? Because it's Happy Valley! Did any part of their operations make any sense?

 

I mean, they made everyone stretch before they'd even load the train. Whatever reasoning they had for the stretching, fine. But instead of having people start stretching after the last train went out and once people were loaded into the row queues, they almost always waited until the next train was empty and ready to lead before starting the stretching -- in front of an empty train. Only once did I see them actually start the stretching early so that they could load the train soon after it arrived. There was a picture on the DVD that Robb sent us that someone took of the people waiting in the station, stretching in front of an empty train. That pretty much symbolized Happy Valley operations in one picture!

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Day 21: PANDAS!

 

Warning! This update contains absolutely no amusement parks or roller coasters. Instead, it’s full of furry, adorable pandas! And equally adorable (well, almost!) TPR people holding them! And a few black swans and fish.

 

Today was a day for a unique experience that you can only get in China. The Sichuan province (along with a few in two other Chinese provinces) is home to most of the world’s pandas. Since pandas are endangered, China has set up several panda sanctuaries to try to preserve them and also to breed them to keep the species alive. One of the largest such sanctuaries, the Woolong National Nature Reserve near Chengdu, was devastated by an earthquake in 2008, and is still rebuilding. Luckily, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – much closer to the downtown area we were visiting – is still open! This reserve is one of the most successful panda sanctuaries in the world. They started with six pandas from the wild, and now have built up their numbers thanks to successful breeding to around 100! (Most of the data online are over five years old!) More importantly for us, as far as I know, this sanctuary is one of the only places in the world where you can actually hold a giant panda – if you can afford it!

 

Since we’d be flying out that night, we checked out of the hotel and loaded the bus before heading to the sanctuary. It was going to be another rainy day, though luckily it wasn’t too bad for most of the day. And if it was going to rain for most of the day on any of the days of our trip, this was a good day for it, since it wouldn’t cost us any coasters!

 

The sanctuary was a lot bigger that I had expected, quite well wooded with lots of bamboo and other trees. It would be easy to get lost there. They even offered trams to get around the grounds. It’s apparently one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chengdu, which was evident from all of the people visiting – most of whom were white. We headed straight for the area where you could hold the pandas, but saw other pandas along the way.

 

First we saw a few of them sitting alone up in trees, away from the main walkway, and out came all of our cameras! Soon, we walked by an area where there were dozens of tourists gathered around taking pictures of eight young pandas sitting and eating bamboo. Well, lying lazily, rolling around and eating bamboo, more accurately! This is probably the most pandas you can see in one place, since in nature they’re solitary animals who only meet up with other pandas to mate. This was possibly the most adorable sight in the universe!

 

Eventually, we got to the area where you can hold the pandas. And we each had a decision to make. It was VERY expensive: about $220 to hold a young panda for maybe 2-3 minutes. But this was one of those once in a lifetime “bucket list” type of experiences. And with this trip already costing so much, I wasn’t going to skimp out on the chance to hold a panda. I knew I’d be sorry later if I did. The money supposedly went to the sanctuary to help preserve the pandas, so I didn’t feel like I was just throwing the money out, since it was a good cause. Close to 90% of the group opted to pay to hold the pandas, which gave the others a bit of free time to warder the sanctuary, since there was quite a long line. We paid our money, and filled out some forms and got a badge, and waited in line. Eventually, we put on full surgical gear, with gowns, gloves and even booties over our shoes. I’m not sure if this was more for the panda’s protection, or for that of us and our clothes! But before long, it was that time!

 

And I have to admit, it was awesome! The panda was way bigger than I expected. They use toddlers of various ages for this, but by 1 year old, they’re over 100 pounds! Ours was definitely on the bigger end of the spectrum. They’ve pretty much got the whole process down to a science. They send in groups of 5-6 people as the previous group is winding down. You give one guy your camera(s) when it’s your turn. Once the person in front of you is done, you sit next to him, and two guys lift the panda up and onto your lap. The panda practically takes no notice of you, too busy eating his bamboo. They hand him more bamboo periodically and snap a ton of pictures of you. And after about 3 minutes, the next person sits next to you, they move him onto his lap, and you get up and take off your surgical gear, and you’re done. (Although I forgot to take the booties off right away and got teased for it!) I felt bad for Brian, who came after me. After a couple of minutes, the panda got a little fussy, and the handlers immediately grabbed him up, one on each side, and quickly hauled him out, while the panda made a hideous shrieking sound! They quickly got a replacement in, and kept the procession going. At $220 every 3 minutes, they weren’t going to let a fussy panda spoil the money! After we held the panda, they gave everyone bags with a certificate thanking us for our donation, a DVD video of pandas, a “panda love” t-shirt (which I now can’t find!), and other assorted goodies.

 

Afterwards, we looked around the panda nursery, which had a handful of adorable baby pandas of various ages that were born on site, some of them still in incubators. When pandas are newborn, they’re pinkish-white, before they start to show the trademark black. We then went to explore more of the sanctuary, before our scheduled meeting time. We saw more pandas in the trees spread around.

 

The sanctuary also had a few red pandas, which are only distantly related to giant pandas (even though they were named pandas first, historically), and are a completely different genus and family. They look more like raccoon, and are related to weasels. Elissa wasn’t a fan, and teased those who liked them by calling them the red headed stepchildren of pandas!

 

After the meeting time, on the way back, we stopped by Swan Lake at the sanctuary, home of gorgeous black swans – and tons of koi! Missing my own fish, at home I had to feed them and the swans, causing a massive feeding frenzy! On the way out, we stopped at the sanctuary’s small panda museum, which had various displays of pandas and other local animals, their history, their lives, etc. Of course, there was a gift shop and even a post office where you could send panda-related mail from the panda sanctuary.

 

Then it was off to the airport, to fly to Wuhan. Again, everything went smoothly at the airport, and we had time to kill before flying on to Wuhan.

 

And that was it for Chengdu. Coaster enthusiasts visiting China might opt to skip Chengdu, since for coasters, it really only has a bunch of clones, even if one of them is an Intamin Mega-lite (which you can ride elsewhere in China.) But between the quirkiness of Floraland with its awesome Tagada and flat rides, the great theming of Happy Valley with what I thought was the best of the Mega-Lites, and the amazing once in a lifetime experience of holding a giant panda at the panda sanctuary, Chengdu turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip!

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Here we are!

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Even if it's miserable and rainy!

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Lots of bamboo for the pandas to eat!

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Oh, I spy with my little eye.... something beginning with "P"!

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The first panda of the day!

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These kids mainly only stay together because they're still young and not yet territorial!

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Is this too much cuteness in one place?

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Be warned, the next picture is possibly the cutest thing you'll ever see in your entire life.....

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You were warned! If you're not loudly going "awwww" right now, you're not human!

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Another cutie! ;-)

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This makes us offical panda handlers!

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Get those booties on, kids!

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TPR modeling their fashionable booties!

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Getting pictures of Holger holding the adorable panda/

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A trio of lovely ladies with adorable pandas!

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Isn't this why you came to TPR today? ;-)

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I got to hold his hand!

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I admit I was debating whether or not to spend the $220. But who could say no to this face?!?

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Brian! Don't scare the panda!

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They use HUMAN milk?!?

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Say it with me: aaaawwwwwwwww!

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But it gets ever better!

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AWWWWWWWWW!

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They must still be pretty young, or they wouldn't stay that close. Pandas are very territorial, except when they're mating. (Pandas haven't figured out sexting yet!)

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China's mighty proud of its pandas!

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The red panda. It's not even a bear.

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but it was actually called a panda before giant pandas were called it.

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Looks like a raccoon to me!

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See?

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Swan Lake.

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Pretty swans!

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Time to feed them!

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FEEDING FRENZY!

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In case you were wondering, how pandas do it, they explain it in the museum!

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Hopefully, this wans't one of the pandas in the sanctuary!

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Awwww. I wish we could have seen that live!

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The museum has more than just pandas. They talk about other animals from the region.

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And even more fish in the museum!

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Great, David! Finally to see some of those who paid that +#^%#* amount

to hold a panda for ...how many minutes? Not bitter, just observing...

 

(And I had fun in the rain, waiting for y'all to come out of there.)

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kailisun98, if you want to hold a panda, start saving up now. It's not cheap! (Plus, you'll probably need to get to Chendgu, or elsewhere in Sichuan.)

 

Bill, yeah, it was quite expensive, especially for so short a time. But with so many people lined up to hold the panda, I guess I can see why they kept the visits short. Otherwise, we'd have been waiting hours! (And who knows how long the pandas would remain calm. They switched one out right after my time.)

 

I was debating spending that much money for a while, even if I was pretty sure I would end up doing it. But it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that I could now cross off my bucket list, even if I'd not known until the trip that such a thing was possible. Before the experience, I asked on my Facebook page if people would spend the money for the experience themselves, and just about everyone said that they would.

 

The final deciding factor was the fact that the money wasn't just going to some huckster, overcharging for a tourist experience. It was a (mandatory) donation that was going to the panda sanctuary itself, to help keep the pandas safe, and help keep the species alive. So, I was both helping the pandas AND getting an awesome experience for myself.

 

So what the hell. You only live once, as SFMM likes to remind us! Yeah, it's a trite, overused phrase, but I think it applies here. As much as I enjoyed the experience and all of my time in Chendgu and am very glad I went, I'm not sure it's a city I'll ever visit again. So, the opportunity may never again present itself.

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Day 22, part 1: Happy Valley Wuhan.

 

We had one goal in Wuhan: to visit Happy Valley, mainly for their new Gravity Group high-five woodie. Anything else was a bonus. Technically, we were in Wuhan for three days and two nights, but effectively, it was only one day, since we arrived the previous night and left the following morning to give us the full day in Wuhan. Wuhan’s Happy Valley was at the time the chain’s newest park. (They’ve since opened one in Tianjin, near Beijing a little over a month ago.) Unfortunately, the park wasn’t yet complete, with 2 of its 6 coasters not yet open. We already knew this before going, so it wasn’t a surprise.

 

Luckily, however, the high five coasters had already opened! For those who don’t know, the high five coasters are actually called Dauling Dragons. Yes “Dauling” Dragons, as it’s misspelled on at least two different signs in the park, including the huge one by the ride’s entrance! You’d think the chain would pay someone to proofread their giant signs, at least, or even asked the manufacturers to take a look at the translation of the ride’s name. It’s gotten the moniker of “high five” because of a world premiere “high five” element, where both trains are racing side by side and turn 90 degrees on their sides facing each other so that the riders in opposite trains could almost high five each other, if the trains were just a little bit closer. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a hell of a gimmick! And it’s one that Gravity Group has promoted somewhat heavily. Unfortunately the park itself doesn’t seem aware of this feature of their rides – or at least doesn’t seem to care about it – because they almost never run both coasters at the same time, completely defeating the purpose of buying dueling coasters in the first place, as well as making the high five element pointless. It’s Happy Valley, after all. And I’ve already discussed several times in this report how poor their operations are at all of their parks. Never mind the fact that two of the major coasters at the park aren’t yet open. Let’s keep another one closed, too! The Chinese have a lot to learn about customer service and customer satisfaction, though to be fair, the operations at this park didn’t seem as bad as at their other parks.

 

That was why our filming session on the coasters was so crucial. We weren’t even sure if both coasters had EVER run together, except when Martin & Vleminckx was taking pictures back when it opened. But Robb was filming these coasters for Gravity Group and Martin & Vleminckx who very much wanted video of them DUELING (or is that “dauling”?), so that they could show off the high five and dueling elements to prospective buyers. Both Robb and the manufacturers had contacted the park to make sure that we would be able to film on (and ride!) both coasters while they dueled. We got to the park quite early to ensure that we would have plenty of time to film. This was, after all, one of the biggest highlights of the whole trip.

 

After waiting a while for the park to finish their maintenance, and watching them walk the track, we were finally given the go ahead to ride – ONE SIDE! AARGH! The park PR woman – who Robb had been talking to much of this time – seemed really confused that we actually wanted to ride both sides – as we’d repeatedly asked to! After discussing the matter with maintenance people, she told Robb that they wouldn’t be able to inspect and walk the track on the other side if the first side was running, so we might as well go ride one side now, because otherwise we would have to wait at least half an hour or more. Robb told her fine. We’ll wait. Huh? She was confused. You’ll wait? Yes. We want to ride and film on BOTH SIDES TOGETHER. Huh? Why don’t you just go ride one side now, since it’s ready? I swear, I don’t know how Robb managed to keep her cool with her and the park maintenance people!

 

So, we sat there while they inspected the other side, with us waiting around taking pictures of the coaster, the two smoking locomotive train cars in front of the ride, the inspectors, and some of the rest of nearby areas of the park. Eventually they got it ready for us, though it wasn’t quite as long as they said it would be. Robb set up his cameras and put the people where he wanted them for his filming, and we filled as much of the trains as we could with thirty-odd people (including two newcomers, who’d been to China previously and were joining us early for the second half of the trip, plus Wuhan for the new park) and two trains to fill. And we were off – for an extended riding/filming session, during which we all got many, many rides on both sides, switching seats often, and switching between the sides only once to save time and maximize our rides. We definitely got well over a dozen rides, which wouldn’t have really been possible without our filming time.

 

But how was it? Well, I thought it was awesome! The high five is definitely a gimmick – but it’s a hell of a gimmick! It just looks really cool while you’re riding or watching, if they get the timing right. And it was definitely fun reaching towards the other train, even if we’d never really come close to actually high fiving. One small problem, though: the design of the ride is slightly off so that if they get the timing of the high five just right, then the timing of the rest of the dueling moments is somewhat off, and vice versa. But I guess this isn’t a problem for the park, since they don’t generally duel them anyways! And we got enough rides to get both experiences, with either the high five or the rest of the dueling moments timed right.

 

They’re Gravity Group coasters. They’re crazy and violent and totally give that out of control feeling. Most of the airtime is in short, violent bursts, rather than in long sustained drops. I LOVE that in a coaster. Others don’t as much, and didn’t enjoy Dauling Dragons as much as I did. There were very differing opinions on which wide was better. I preferred the red left side a bit more, because it seemed just a bit crazier, but others preferred the right blue side as not quite as violent. Ultimately, I put them at #7 and #8 on my woodie list, just beating out Fireball as the best woodie in China, mainly due to the high five. Without it, I’d probably give Fireball the slight edge. Apparently, most people liked them, though, since they both ranked in the top 10 in Mitch’s poll.

 

As to the eternal enthusiast question: is it one coaster or two? I tend to count dueling coasters as two, but racing coasters as one, with some exceptions, based on how different the profiles are, but I take each pair on a case by case basis. (I count the Dueling Lightning Racer as one, for instance.) I’d say Dauling Dragons are a solid borderline case. I’m going slightly with two, mainly because the first third of the ride has a fairly different profile. Even the start is different, since the left side drops under the right side’s lift hill, while it hasn’t dropped yet.

 

The park let us extend our filming time into the regular park operating day (mainly due to their late start), which was great for us, but probably sucked for the general public. At this point, there was exactly one adult coaster in the park open, Hidden Anaconda, the Maurer Sohne Skyloop, and it had a pretty long line accordingly. Luckily, the park’s PR person got us onto the ride via the exit for a quick filming sesison, cutting the whole queue! You gotta love the VIP treatment!

 

From there, we went to Monte Carlo Racetrack, a nicely themed Golden Horse family coaster, but since there weren’t many people there, we didn’t need an exclusive filming session to get a bunch of rides. Again, the other two coasters (an S&S air-launched coaster and a Maurer Sohne launched X-car coaster) in the park were not open, though we took lots of pictures. That made zero for two with the Happy Valley S&S launched coasters on this trip so far, with only one more chance at the end of the trip in Shenzhen! One weird note: all three of the adult steel coasters in the park are painted red, which is kind of odd.

 

After that, we split up and explored the rest of the park. We decided to spend some time with the park’s flat rides, most of which were in the circus area of the park. I know we did the Disk-o, the adult Frog Hopper, the Top Scan, but I can’t remember which of the others we rode. We definitely did the park’s Haunted House, which was well done, but I don’t recall if we rode the “Magic Baby” shooting dark ride. Eventually, I split off to get a last ride on the Dauling Dragons before it was time to leave. Of course, one side was closed. It’s Happy Valley.

 

Before the meeting time, I checked out the merchandise for sale. But I was surprised to see that unlike any of the other Happy Valley parks that I’d been to, they actually had a bunch of HAPPY VALLEY merchandise, including several different t-shirts! Woo hoo! I wondered if other parks in the chain had started with them, and sold out, or if this was a mostly new addition. We’d see them again at their Shanghai park, which was their next newest park. But they really should get some more of their own chain’s merchandise at all of their parks.

 

At meeting time, I really wanted to stay a bit longer. After all, we had a world class Gravity Group woodie to ride, and I probably shouldn’t have spent so much time on the flat rides. But this was a group of true credit whores, and not one of them wanted to stay. To be honest, if anyone else at all had wanted to stay or if both sides of Dauling Dragons had been open, I’d definitely have stayed. Robb actually encouraged me to stay, and said he’d actually have more respect for me if I chose a woodie I loved over being a credit whore. And I seriously considered it, especially since our hotel wasn’t a very expensive cab ride away. (Cabs are cheap in China!) I’d have to find my own food for dinner, since I’d miss the group meal, but that wouldn’t be too hard in a big city. But ultimately, I didn’t want to be “that guy” who goes against the group on his own, and decided to stay with the group.

 

Ultimately, this Happy Valley park seemed incomplete, and not just because two of their coasters hadn’t yet opened. They needed another themed area, and at least a few more rides to really seem like a full theme park. Speaking of theming, it’s usually one of Happy Valley’s strongest points. But it didn’t seem like the theming here was quite on the same level as the other parks. It seemed closer to what you’d expect from a Six Flags or Cedar Fair Park that what we’d come to expect from Happy Valley. Maybe they’re cutting corners on their newer parks? Hopefully, this new Happy Valley park will improve over time. But ultimately, the Dauling Dragons are more than enough to be worth a visit to the park.

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The entry plaza. (These next few pics are actually from when we left the park, which is why we're walking away from the park, but they made more sense to put here, at the beginning to show what you'd see when you enter the park.)

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Another Happy Valley park doing their magic festival thingy, which we never saw any part of.

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On our way!

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There's some manmade lakes in this section to try to give it that wharf feeling.

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Yes, DAULING Dragon

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Let's see that up close....

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The steaming trains look impressive, and give us something to take pictures of while we're waiting for them to open the coasters for us.

69. ;-)

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Walking the track.

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The magic "high five" moment! Too bad I didn't get any good pictures of it in action! Luckily, Robb and Hanno got tons!

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Well, since we can't ride yet, we might as well take some pictures! You can see the not yet open Magic Express there in the background.

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And there's OCT Thrust SSC1000, also red. Also closed.

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Happy Valley's uniforms are very fashionable!

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From the station. And then, I put the camera away to actually RIDE these awesome coasters!

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Hidden Anaconda, kind of a funny name for a coaster that sticks straight up out of the midway, not at all hidden!

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It's red, but it's actually open!

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Artsy overhead shot.

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Time to try to get a few more pictures of the Dauling Dragons while they're still "dauling".

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AARGH! I had the perfect picture all set up and waiting for the trains to go through the high five. Then Brian put his hands up to take video RIGHT in my view JUST as the train was coming. This was moments after. With the slow Happy Valley operations and one train on each side, it would take forever to get the trains here again, and we had to leave the area to ride other things!

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The only actual "dauling" shot I managed to get!

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I'm not at all clear of what those white poles are supposed to be. Tent poles?

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Monte Carlo Racetrack. It's a weird mashup of theming. You've got paparazi taking pictures...

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palm trees and race car divers...

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odd-shaped race cars...

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A truck that's on fire. Or is it a fire truck?

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And a video game remote control. Or is that what a race car steering wheel is supposed to look like?!?

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That's a member of the Roller Coaster Dream coaster club of China riding with Neil.

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More of that coaster with the lovely name, OCT Thrust SSC1000.

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This is Magic Express. You can tell from the black supports. You can also see the adult frog hopper on the right.

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These guys should look familiar from yesterday's haunted house at a different Happy Valley!

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Put the theming on the hotel wall!

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It doesn't look very hidden to me! But that pier looks mighty auspicious!

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Back to the now non-Dauling Dragons. Note that there are only 4 coasters operating in the park (counting the Dragons as two), but one's already closed and the other dueler closes by 6 PM.

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Nope, no dauling.

Edited by David H
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All of the Happy Valley chains seem to do stupid stuff. They buy a great racing coaster with the world's first "high-five" element and it doesn't duel????? Also I totally agree with you that Happy Valley has horrible operations. I did a Happy Valley SHanghai Photo TR last year and as I mentioned, the diving coaster had a two hour line and yet they were only running one train. In fact every coaster runs only one train even if the lines are insane!!! Rant over. Great TR David! I am really enjoying reading this.

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I think the Chinese are still getting the hang of the whole "how to run a theme park" thing.

 

That, or they've taken the operations done by

Fuji-Q Highland park in Japan, as their 'standard'.

 

 

 

(kid-ding)

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