Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy Valley Shanghai + Jin Jaing Action Park + Oriental Pearl Tower: Thrillography's Asian Persuasion Tour 2017 Trip Report - Part IV



Good Morning Thrillographers! 🌞

Time to change gears! We've had a lot of amazing times at easily the two most stunning Disney resorts in the world, but now it's time for the other side of the coin.


After an hour train ride, I find myself about a two mile walk from Happy Valley Shanghai.

Happy Valley Shanghai is west of Shanghai proper; located squarely between utter nothingness and a time-warp.

The seven-year-old park helped facilitate a small development bubble for the immediate area, but that bubble has already since popped. 

This must be the place!

Happy Valley Shanghai was a turning point in China's booming regional park development. On opening day it instantly became the largest theme park in China. 

The three Happy Valley parks before it (Shenzhen, 1998; Beijing, 2006; Sichuan, 2009) were each larger than the last, and with Disney already rumored for the area, the Shanghai park had to be even larger.

Opening a theme park with six coasters was unheard of, even during the noticeably momentous trend of the industry at the time.  

In August of 2009, Happy Valley Shanghai opened its gates to the world, and the world took notice.

Sadly, opening day was probably the most the enormous park ever had going for it. Things have largely gone downhill since.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Chinese mega-park was the country's first wooden coaster: A monster Gravity Group / Martin & Vleminckx coaster built without limitations. 

"Wooden Coaster - Fireball" anchors the exceedingly unsettling clown-themed area of Happy Valley.

Gotta love the woodie they used for the marquee! 🗽

Noted!

Dispatches for rides at traditional Chinese parks are dreadful. 

Happy Valley Shenzhen actually wasn't as bad as I'd expected; Happy Valley Shanghai was actually worse.

Ten-minute dispatches for Fireball gives riders plenty of time to digest the rider instructions.

The murals inside the tattered station explain the concept of a roller coaster made of wood to guests.

After about 40 minutes (4 dispatches x 10 minutes), it was FINALLY time to ride. 😪

Despite the ride's obvious need for track work, Fireball still gave an excellent, air-filled ride. A ride that can still run this well under these conditions is a real testament to the design/installation team.

Pasty creepy clown land is "Old Shanghai."

Didn't know that old Shanghai had a B&M Dive Machine, but I'm not mad about it.

Shout-out to my Busch Gardens Tampa! What you see before you is a near-clone of SheiKra.

I say near-clone because, unlike SheiKra, "Diving Coaster" seats 10-across.

So, aside from a few dimensional adjustments made to accommodate the wider trains, it's basically SheiKra.

Except without the nice atmosphere.

The only atmosphere Diving Coaster has is concrete and air pollution.

Well, it does have water. That counts for something.

Even with its industrial-dump setting, Diving Coaster is a fantastic ride. 

Aside from the 60-odd people milling around Wood Coaster - Fireball and a few dozen Diving Coaster riders, Happy Valley was a total ghost town.

The park's Intamin "Mega-Lite" anchors the Shangri-La area – or, at least, it would if it was open. Apparently it was down for quite some time waiting for a part.

In some places it was hard to believe the park was actually open.

OH MY GOD THERE'S A FIREBALL TRAIN TAKE A PICTURE TAKE A PICTURE!!

Infrastructurally, this place is stunning. The size and scope is certainly Disney-level, but the execution is obviously a shadow of what Shanghai Disney has accomplished. 

A newly redeveloped area of Happy Valley is "Happy Ocean".

Some rides, like "Crazy Elves", were here when the park opened.

But the new aquarium and ocean-themed family attractions came in 2014.

A rather notable coaster came with Happy Ocean.

Don't adjust your television set; your eyes do not deceive you. 

What you're seeing is the world's only miniature B&M inverted coaster.

The quaint invert certainly rounds out the area's variety of family rides, but it's all a far cry from the preemptive strike against Disney that it was intended to be.

And, in true Happy Valley fashion, the 2.5 year old ride is already showing significant signs of cosmetic wear. #sadvalley

Ride-wise, "Family Inverted Coaster" is more than just a rip-off of Vekoma's Kvasten / Freedom Flyer model; it really feels like a B&M invert. All of the forces are there, but just on a smaller scale – and it's glassy smooth. A surprise highlight of the trip, actually.

Happy Valley Shanghai really does have a lot going for it. It's a shame that now more than ever the park is floundering. 

It's plain to see that this place is dead today. Meanwhile, Shanghai Disney was having CRAZY crowds. The Chinese have gotten a taste of high quality / high capacity and now Happy Valley is a rough sell.

Other Happy Valleys probably have different narratives. Without a readily accessible Disney resort near by, other parks in China (Happy Valley and otherwise) are probably showing a lot more signs of life.

The astounding park boom that the Happy Valley parks help facilitate is still going strong; just about every sustainable metro region in China is getting its own mega-park.

Or existing parks are getting major multi-coaster upgrades to bring them up to mega park status. 

And then there's Happy Valley Shanghai: a pioneer of the market now crumbling beneath the weight of the country's first instance of competition.

Yes, this Intamin Mine Train was great. Cosmetically sad, but gives a great ride. Definitely the trend here.

Nighttime walk-thrus and water shows are the latest of Happy Valley's too-little-too-late offerings. 

If they were smart, they would amp up everything about what's good and different about this place. I'd say they're the Six Flags Magic Mountain of the region, but honestly that's an insult to Magic Mountain.

"ShooT the Chnte"

This is an exact clone of the "ShooT the Chnte" at Happy Valley Shenzhen.

Right down to the run-down mariner's village theming.

Although here the fire hose-esque water blasters are more like water guns.

So many flat rides, thematically inaccurate and/or shuttered. 

Happy Valley Shanghai's problem isn't a matter of trying; it's a matter of upkeep. In a few years, "large-Scale Nighttime SpectacuLar Lake of Illusions" will likely look like ten years of bad road. Meanwhile the next futile attempt at competing with Disney will no-doubt be debuting, starting the cycle over again.

Some things about Happy Valley are neither good nor bad – they're just weird. 

Honestly, an unironic clown-themed area is a bad idea even under the best of circumstances. 

After some solid re-rides on Fireball and Diving Coaster, I did one last loop around the park to see anything I might've missed. Here we have a closed river rapids ride.

And here's a Disk'O coaster themed to...a grizzly bear?

And then there's this.....fairytale-esque secluded walkway on the river's edge. A glimmer of magic on a canvas of filth.

Curios at the gift shops were varying degrees of random, useless, and/or racist. 

I hope the park is someday as nice as it appears in this picture. 🌉

Coaster-wise, this place is excellent. Mega-Lite may have been closed, but based on the Mega-Lite I have ridden (Piraten at Djurs Sommerland), this park has five very strong coasters.

The spinning mouse and the kiddie coaster (closed on my visit) aren't much to write home about, but I think this park's 5 best coasters could hold their own against a lot of parks' Top 5.

NoTeD

Closed kiddie: "Coastal Ant".

Womp-womp.

"What's that thing!?"

"Glad you asked! It's the counterweight for the "Flying Island" ride!"

🌄

Views from the Flying Island are stunning for reasons good and bad.

This park is really amazing on paper. When they were planning this place out, the ambition and the vision were clearly there.

Termite Mound: The Ride.

💜

Here's a visual list of the credits I didn't get today. 😂

I almost went into the aquarium, but then I remembered how depressing this place is. I can't imagine the animals being very happy. 

Flying Island's parking spot. 

It all looks so nice from far way! Tsk tsk. 

Between Family Inverted Coaster and  ShooT the Chnte is this very spartan-looking stadium. Not sure what it's currently used for, if anything.

I remember watching a POV of Fireball when it first opened and thinking "what a bizarre layout. They could have built anything, and they built that?" Turns out they knew exactly what they were doing. 

If you look closely enough maybe you'll see some termites milling around. 

Oh! Another difference between this and SheiKra: Diving Coaster has only one loading dock, compared to SheiKra's two. It's just as well, since on a day like today it takes about 15 minutes just to fill the train.

Welp! I'm ride-d out! Time to procure some food and go home. 

New-ish thing: VR ride pod experience thing..?

And here's a "Fresh" orange juice machine.

There's one thing about Happy Valley that really has no room for improvement: their Pizza Hut.

Time to head back!

I guess you could say the park looks pretty decent at night. 

G'night Crappy Valley. 

My last day of non-Disney parks was a whirlwind tour of the various offerings within Shanghai proper, starting with the exceedingly dumpy Jin Jaing Action Park.

I actually came here the morning of the day I went to Happy Valley, but EVERYTHING was closed so I rerouted. I was already half way to Happy Valley anyway.

After eagerly awaiting test runs of Jin Jaing's signature ride, A Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang, I waited until the first train of passengers to ride before buying my unlimited wristband. 

Joke's on me! The Giant Inverted Boomerang suffered a major breakdown after that one dispatch with people on it. Ended up being closed for the next several weeks. 

Frustrated to a degree (but also relieved to not be subjecting myself to a temperamental Chinese-operated Vekoma death machine), I sought what solace I could in the park's standard Zamperla Motorbike coaster. The ride operator looked at me cautiously and then gave me a safety spiel in perfect English. Surprises abound...

Also down for the count is this rough-looking old Chinese shuttle loop and swingy pendulum thing.

If you thought Happy Valley was bad, this place really takes the cake. (Ferris wheel = closed)

A handful of functioning rides and roller coasters are scattered around Jin Jaing, but the park itself is a cry for help.

Construction appeared to be going on over by the shuttle coaster, but to what end I cannot rightly say.

The other operating coaster is a Chinese knock-off spinning mouse that features a 3-point seatbelt in addition to a lap bar. ⚰

While Happy Valley has shown trace amounts of giving-a-sh** in its nearly 8 years of existence, the 30+ year old Jin Jaing Action Park seems to be gradually achieving higher levels of not-giving-a-sh** with each passing year.

The log flume was fun, if toxic.

There's really no guarantee with this sort of thing. Will you come back dry? Wet? Soaked? Dead? Who knows??

The park is situated in a charming metro-slum.

If only I could live in a place where the view from my bedroom was this diseased little park. 

For these "luxury" high-rise towers, this abandoned knock-off Zamperla Roto-Shake is their answer to the pink lawn flamingo. 

I went for a spin on this interesting Huss Top Spin/Zamperla Windshear-looking thing. I like how it made horrible noises and that the ride operator dispatches the ride using a handheld control connected to a power strip. 

Oh. What joys could await us here? 👀

Setting foot in this building looks totally safe and/or is a very good idea.

I walked in and there are people quietly sitting in the train. The ride operator seems befuddled to see a white person. She escorts me into the train and dispatches us into an indoor powered coaster dinosaur space mountain of nightmares. 


This is the kind of park that you'd see on a viral cell phone video of a ride casually throwing someone to their death.

One corner of the park looks fairly legit. 🐉

Their pretty but boring rapids ride is the park's only real success story, if a minor one. 

Whew. Ok. Glad to be away from nightmaretown.

Well actually, it looks like I just traded one nightmare for another.

Do you see this right now? Just watching them made me nauseous. I feel like this country is just trying to kill people in spectacular ways.

Now we're in a shopping mall. I guess death by shopping would be ok.

I came here to check out the new Sega Joypolis arcade/theme park.

Hey! Found it!

.....and the coaster is closed. ❌

Cool. Ok. Moving on.

I don't feel like I'm having very good luck today (although this country hasn't killed me yet, so I guess I should count my blessings). Maybe downtown Shanghai will help.

Look at this large ball! Legend has it there's a roller coaster inside!

So I buy my ticket to get into the Oriental Pearl Tower and I'm like "ok cool this is great" and then I SEE THIS ENORMOUS FREAKING LINE.

45 minutes later I have cleared all the switchbacks and the security checkpoint AND THE LINE WRAPS AROUND THE PLAZA OH MY GOD.

After about an hour and a half of waiting I finally get to take my escorted elevator ride to the top of the tower. 🌃

Every visit starts at the top observatory. Once you're up here, you can work your way back down the tower at your own pace.

And, for people like me, there are gift shops literally every step of the way. 💸

The views are great, but the glass is about as dirty as everything else in Shanghai would suggest.

Here we have bottle-opener and tall cone-ish thing.

The views actually improve later b/c some of the lower observation decks are outside. 

Ok here comes the nausea. 

I am now standing on the glass floor of a 1,000ft high observation deck.

I look like I'm having fun in these pictures but I'm actually crying inside and trying really hard not to throw up.

Oh look! There's a Disney store down there.

Here's how the Pearl Tower stacks up to other towers.

The tower's arcade features this Ferris Wheel game but no rideable Ferris Wheel.

The arcade actually looked pretty fun. Maybe an odd way to kill time on the Pearl Tower, but hey – I'm here for a roller coaster.

And here it is! 🎢

Formerly known as "Space Switchback", the Pearl Tower's "VR Roller Coaster" is among the first coasters to use VR in Asia. 

The ride itself is a custom Vekoma Rollerskater, but the VR is themed to a giant roller coaster in the clouds that flies through the skyscrapers of Shanghai!

The actual view from the station is pretty solid, too.

I really enjoyed this ride. The VR was clear, fun, and unique. The ride is a small upcharge, which keeps crowding down. It's ironic that in a country full of terrible operations, this VR coaster is actually extremely efficient compared to the VR coasters I've ridden in the U.S.

After your VR trip through the skyline, you get to have an outdoor look at the real deal.

I'm coming for you, Disney Store!

This right here is pretty much the beating heart of Shanghai.

It's a beautiful city, really.

You can catch a peak of VR Roller Coaster in action thanks to some strategically placed windows!

The black-light/glow-in-the-dark track is pretty neat. Not something you see often!

Back down stairs there are several gift shops. I think this place has even more retail space per sq/ft than Disneyland.

Look at all of you! Waiting in this horrible line! I WAS YOU ONCE!

It sure looks cool at night. Sometimes they shoot fireworks off of it. 🎇

Making my way around the city center!

Woohoo! MORE DISNEY!

Like Shanghai Disneyland, the downtown Shanghai Disney Store has a clock tower for a marquee.

The store is beautiful. It's probably only about as old as the resort. 

No corners were cut here! Makes sense if you're trying to attract people to the resort!

Hello from Hong Kong!

The store even has a 🏰!

Well I think it's time to wrap it up!

Oh, but first: China's first Taco Bell.

Goodnight Shanghai!

...AGAIN with the orange juice machines! Man this place is...interesting.


And so ends Thrillography's Asian Persuasion Tour 2017. I hope you had fun! We sure did. :}



What should I do now, guys?? I never thought I'd get to all six Disney resorts so quickly! What should I tackle next??

???

Maybe Mexico??? 🌮 Hmmm. Not a bad idea. :}



But first! Some thrills of the Great American Southwest! 

See you next time. :}

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