A hair-raising rollercoaster at Ocean Park :b
Surrounded by water in which sharks swim! :o
Among the perks of being a Hong Kong Identity Card holder is your being able to go to Ocean Park for free on your birthday. And ever since I read about this some time back, I'd been meaning to take advantage of this offer -- and finally did so yesterday afternoon, the first time I've ever been to this Hong Kong theme park on my own (rather than along with family members or at least one friend, like had previously been the case)!
Thanks to the MTR's South Island Line which opened late last year, getting to Ocean Park is far more of a breeze now than before; with the Ocean Park MTR station being literally just a few minutes' walk away from the park's entrance. Indeed, it was a greater hassle to travel between the Lowland and Highland sections of Ocean Park since: my ride on the Ocean Express train from what's also known as the Waterfront to the Summit involved spending several minutes in a claustrophically loud and crowded space (full of seriously uncouth Mainland Chinese tourists); and my cable car ride from one side of Nam Long Shan (Brick Hill) to another was preceded by a 25 minute wait in line for the privilege.
On a previous visit to Ocean Park, I had discovered that roller coasters appear to be far less popular among Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese folks (the latter of whom make up by far the largest percentage of visitors to this Hong Kong amusement park) than among American and British amusement park patrons. Consequently, I made a beeline for the two Ocean Park roller coaster rides I had yet to go on and which turned out to be located close to each other.
The first of these -- the Arctic Blast (located in the Polar Adventure part of the park) -- proved to be the tamest of the four Ocean Park roller coasters I've now been on but acted as a good warm-up ride for that which is even wilder than the older The Dragon (which features a couple of 360 degree rotations) as well as the Mine Train (whose location on the edge of the hill adds to the thrills as well and stunning visuals) which I've ridden a few times before. Located on "Thrill Mountain", the Hair Raiser is Hong Kong's first floor-less rollercoaster and also its fastest (with speeds reaching 88 kilometers at hour at times) -- and capable of giving one quite the adrenaline rush!
At various points of the summer's day, I tried out different ways of cooling down. Visits to the South Pole Spectacular (where penguins galore can be found), Arctic Fox Den (whose denizens are really adorable looking) and North Pole Encounter (whose walruses and seals got me recalling the aquarium I visited in Tromso, Norway, a couple of years ago) proved pretty pleasant. Unfortunately, that could not be said of my experiences at The Rapids, where encounters with seriously ill-mannered Mainland Chinese tourists who seem to think it perfectly okay to push, shove, cut queues, etcetera, got me all hot and bothered.
As sad or bad as it may sound, I came away from my Ocean Park experience feeling far more positive about the Chinese pandas, Sichuan golden snubbed-nose monkeys, Chinese sturgeons and even the oceanic predators at Shark Mystique attraction than the Mainland Chinese visitors to the amusement park. In all honesty, if I had to deal with them regularly, I think I'd end up having a major meltdown at the very least, and a nervous breakdown that'd see me running amok at worst! And truly, I feel for those Ocean Park frontline staffers who have to do so.
More than incidentally: while I was on the Ocean Express, I saw the train driver having the kind of look on his face that left me filled with certainty that he wished he was far away from that noisy, enclosed space which he was in with hundreds of visitors, the vast majority of whom are on the boorish side and from north of the Hong Kong-Mainland China border. I wonder how long are the poor soul's shifts and have to think that he must surely be allowed a number of breaks. Otherwise, he and those other with his job surely can't last long in that post without going insane. And as it is, there seems little doubt that familiarity with their Mainland Chinese neighbors is bringing contempt, not understanding nor fellow feeling, in their case.