Hi everyone... I am sure this trip report should not be posted in the HKDL section but since some people swear (cough*hkdl*cough) this area is for unrelated reports regarding Ocean Park and Macau...and pretending there is no "Other Non-Disney Parks" section on MC... I will post this here, so you can all see what this Ocean Park thing is all about.
Against my better judgement, and braving a very hot and humid day.. I set out to go to Ocean Park.. going to Admiralty Station and taking the direct bus to the park from there, which is very convenient and cheap to do. I also bought my Ocean park admission ticket at the window next to the bus stop. Very convenient service.. The admission was HK$185, and the bus was just over HK$20.. that translates into about US$25 for a day admission and just under US$4 for the roundtrip on the bus.
Upon arriving there... the first thing I noticed is the huge dragon topiary and gondola ride up the side of the mountain. Of course... the setting into the main entrance is as basic a theme park can be. However, there is a lot of construction going on here as well... but will mention more on that later..
I really wasn't expecting much from Ocean Park and I was not disappointed in that regards. I was however shocked at some of the offerings there... go-carts and trampolines... that is so redneck. Therefore, my immediate impression of Ocean park can be summed up in one word: Ghetto. However, there is a section called Skyfair, which is colorful and adorned with balloons. It is here where patrons can take a balloon ride, which is totally similar to the PanoraMagique ride at DLP's Disney Village. They also have streemosphere and some clowns entertaining the crowd. Did you know I absolutely hate clowns? Well.. now you do. Here, I also rode the Whiskers Wild Ride simulator (think Jimmy Newtron at USF). It was OK and it did feature water and air sprayed onto you face.
I was not impressed much by the surroundings, but having paid my admission.. I took on the challenge.. and I wanted to ride the nice and intimidating gondola up the mountain. This is how I found out the park is set into 2 separate areas, Lowlands and Headlands...
The trip on the Gondola was definitely a highlight. The views it affords of nearby Repulse bay and the China Sea are simply spectacular. However.. after such a nice trip, you are deposited into what can be best described as a county fair quality amusement park, with a dash of old time Sea World thrown in for good measure. Again... the ambiance is quite ghetto to me. The buildings in this area are totally unimpressive and as bland as any run down condominium building in Kowloon. Simply not my cup of tea. Cleanliness here was precarious and the bathrooms were... to say the least, gross. (No wonder HKDL's guests rave about the restrooms as HKDL's best feature)
This Headland area on top and side of the mountain is littered with things like... arcade games, McDonald restaurant, carny rides...and worst, employees that seemed a bit overwhelmed (concidering it was a slow day to be there, I found that odd) by the few people in line for things like food and the like. I got the impression they are overworked as well... Example: the gal working a food stand near the Pacific sealion exhibit had to take orders, cook, collect money and then hand over food patrons just paid for (without washing her hands mind you) and she did it repeatedly. Add to that the lack of order that some of the chinese patrons seem to have... As I stood there and watched the circus unfold.. this gal had to take time to tell people as well they were coming into the line from the exit side, and the confused look on their faces was priceless. No wonder the most important philosopher in this culture was called "Confusious" or something like that. Oh well...
However... not all is lost in Ocean Park. I have to say I greatly enjoyed the Aquarium exhibits.. The atoll reef, sea jelly, and shark tank were most enjoyable, basic in presentation but fine, and I got to see many marine species I have never seen before. The Seajelly exhibit was really neat, and at times it felt like I was walking into rooms with giant lava lamps that changed colors.. I wonder if those jelly fish are annoyed at the ever-changing color lights reflecting over them... I also enjoyed seeing some very rare species of birds in the Aviary.
The rides were nothing to scream about (concidering most of them are standard scream machines) like the Dragon Coaster (a head banger), the Mine train (which featured no mine at all and has very small seats), and the Abyss freefall.. I did skip the Dolphin show and Bird show... as I figure, once you have seen these shows somewhere else, they all basically are the same stuff. Birds walking on thin wire... or dolphin jumping over rope... etc etc.
At least one restaurant did impress me... the Bayview. The decor was nice and elegant. I didn't get to eat there but the atmosphere is cool and the view of the China Sea is spectacular.
Well... with that note.. I have to conclude that Ocean Park, at this point in time offers nothing that I would concider a "do not miss" attraction. This park can be skipped. But then again... if you are into thrill rides and non-theming, then you may enjoy it. I further have to add, that if this is the type of park the chinese people enjoy visiting, over the more elaborate and unique (if sedated) experiences HKDL offers, then I am affraid the chinese have no taste. Sorry. I guess I do expect more from a park that has been in business for 30 years now, and one that has Disneyland as their competition.
Yet, I am sure the Ocean park people know they have a money making, sorry-looking park and this is probably why their plans for the future look spectacular, and I am here to tell you (based on what I saw in the preview exhibit of future development already underway at Ocean park), HKDL is up for a very big battle for theme park supremacy in this region. If all of the plans I saw on the preview video, drawings and small scale renderings come to reality, and Ocean Park pulls it off... I am quite convinced Ocean Park will become a major tourist attraction quite capable of stealing HKDL's candies. Think of this as IOA in relation to the other parks at WDW.... A great non-Disney theme park.
I am quite excited about the new Summit area, the Artic Area, the new entrance and lowlands, the nightime pyro and light show, and to add more fuel to the fire, three great looking hotels, with one being on the side of the mountain overlooking the sea. A proposed MTR station and even a high speed train thru the mountain will add to the excitement..and convenience. HKDL will need to get BUSY!!! Are you listening DisneyCo???
One word of advise... I found Ocean Park to be at times physically demanding to enjoy. Since it is on the side of a mountain, seemed to me you are constantly going up and down hills, or stairs and there is hardly a flat surface in the park. Add that to the heat and humidity and you will be quite tired and in need of water. Prepare for this, especially if you are slightly out of shape or over-weight.
Anyways... I am inviting you to see my photos from my visit and read the captions which provide a little more info on this park (and plenty of Disney related commentary and comparisons) and offers a glimps into the future of Ocean Park. have fun and enjoy the photos...