121 - Ocean World

We went to Ocean World in Hong Kong, 20/7/13.

Our hotel, at which we have stayed most often when in HK, is in Prat Street in Kowloon. We have been in the habit of walking across town on the surface streets. Because the typhoon season means there are frequent showers (hot steamy streets, with raindrops falling from on high whatever the weather, thanks to high a/c pumping out waste water), so we were encouraged by circumstance to discover that there is a subterranean network of walkways, loosely connecting Tsun Tsui station with the upper streets. From our hotel, 150m was enough to reach N1/2 exit and exit L5 took us across the road from the target shopping Centre, Harbour something.

Until these underground walkways fill with shops, this is by far a faster way to cover the distance. Not that the surface route is not enjoyable—going through Kowloon Park is very pleasant. HK is not hot and steamy like Guangzhou, but pleasantly breezy. Only immediately after the rain is it steamy. Of course it is at similar temperatures at 23:00 and 11:00. We noted that much of the shopping area was way too cold for us, though making the wearing of a suit pleasant.

The trip to Ocean World required us to cross to HK Island, a single stop on the metro/subway for a relatively huge HK$9 each. Then a bus 629 for $11.60 whisked one (two) to Ocean World, where the entry fee is $250. At $1.2 = 1RMB, this may prove a good deal.

The train is clean, smooth, efficient; the bus is clean, well-driven double decked and smooth. The extra staff at each end are geared to moving large numbers of people to and from Admiralty side to the opposite shore where Ocean World is.

Our choice to do this lay between OW and Disney. Neither of us knew what to expect, so we were a little surprised at the size and scope of OW, a decent mountain covered from foot to top and all around, possibly 100 hectares. We arrive on one of six buses, so with a crowd of 4-500 in the first hour of opening for the day. Collecting a site map, we see that perhaps the right first move is to go to the peak, so we take the cable car - itself a 20-25 minute queue. Enjoying the views on the way up, we see that the peak is mainly thrill rides, so we join a queue and find, another 30-40 minutes later, ourselves sitting on a roundabout affair that circles rapidly with an undulating track. C's 50kg leaves a bruise where I'm pushed against the outside of the seat; I'd estimate 15m/s, no banking and a diameter of under 20m. Mechanics questions will follow.

So 40 mins queue for 90 secs ride; it came in two stints, thankfully, with a slower section allowing one to have double the thrill.

Having in a sense realised what we're in for, we go join a queue for another ride, this time a rollercoaster on a blue track. No charges made (good). Queue a similar length and the ride took 40 at once in a 4 minute cycle. This ride sat on bench seats in carriages and included vertical circles, sections at improbable angles and yet I'd say the g forces and speeds were low. The point that makes people scream is when suddenly dropping; the opposite compression is generally silent.

We went to find a water ride and after the obligatory 30-45 mins queue find ourselves sharing a six-seat circular raft that spins every time it catches contact with the channel sides. As the notices said, you will get wet; that is because there are jets of water pointed at the rafts to make sure this happens. The last little drop made us no wetter.

After this we joined a queue for a roller-coaster in yellow; seats in the open, no floor and we managed a front row seat each. C kept her eyes closed (what a waste of the plum seat) and shared with three girls, I went with three boys, who yelled and shrieked the whole 40 second trip. Was the queue worth it? Well, while in the queue, perhaps or not, but for the two-five minutes afterwards, definitely.  The wet steps caused me to slip and bang my upper hip around the belt line rather hard. Ow. We grabbed a lunch (one $30 expensive sausage in a roll, no extras, no drink) and stared at the map.

Heading for another water ride we find we'll nicely catch a show, [meaning we can spend the obligatory queuing time sat down) which turns out to be dolphins and seals (sea lions, etc). We saw something similar in Nanjing; this used four dolphins, the staff went in the water often and the trainers stayed with their animals. The guy with the huge sea lion  (almost walrus sized) had a great time. At two points in the programme they took girls out of the audience (the trainers picked likely candidates, emphasis dates); two girls met the seals on a platform really close to us (10m?) shook hands and kissed the seals - the girl kissing the male sea lion (sea dog?) found that it yawned instead, so the routine required the seal to act as if its breath smelt and it had a quick wash before trying again. Nicely done. The second session was at pool-side, more like 50m away, where two girls met the dolphins. The smaller of the two girls was very nervous at shaking hands, so the taller went first and petted it, held her ground when it came out of the water and generally had a wonderful time. the second girl needed more persuasion, so while the trainer tried to encourage her, the dolphin went back in the water and down the pool (50 m long, general kidney shape, maybe 5m deep). So she's watching the dolphin, not seeing the huge brown sea lion that slid up beside her. Fantastic leap of nerves when she turns to see this somehow cheerful monster, within a metre of her blind side. She is eventually persuaded to shake paws/flippers, but manages to fluff the second attempt and falls into the pool. She is rescued by a dolphin, of course. Great theatre.

So next we go find 'escalator' as the map says and work our way downhill in a crowd to our second rafting experience. A long long queue in a densely packed section of crowd; we end up an hour later sharing a 'log' for a good run of around three minutes, where the last swoop and splash is steep enough for me not to be on the seat.

The various rides are arranged so that one starts on one side of a platform and exits on the other. All the roller-coaster rides have each had a shelf or cupboard on the far side to leave bags, so one mounts by crossing the track, parking a bag, mounting the train and enjoying the experience while one’s bag is only available to the very few staff manning a ride. This is secure. The wet rides have no such assist, which is a shame since they're practically guaranteeing you will get wet, maybe soaked. The plastic bags offered as body protection are a larcenous $30, so fortunate indeed that we are already in the habit of keeping bags within our bags, so we can at least keep the contents dry. The blue ride had a rain shower not long before we mounted,adding perhaps to the excitement. The second wet ride complete, I'm all for something quiet, but we'll "just go have a look" at the next roller-coaster and again 30 minutes later there we are suspended on almost nothing weaving patterns in the air. Queues noticeably shorter, down to 30 minutes. Next we walk back up the hill, picking a road route to avoid the crowds - we walk almost twice as fast as most folk here, going back past the pool arena and go visit the polar feature. Starting with the South Pole we meet some 'plastic penguins' which are real enough, but kept in the dark (it is winter down there, I explain) and the very cold. And an arctic fox, that clearly wants to be left to sleep. Then to the North Pole exhibit, which is wondrous. Of course, there's no land at the Arctic (artic, to students, apparently), so this is a water exhibit of seals, spotted seals and an immense walrus. Some of this is seen through glass darkly from beneath, and extremely well done. The glass is very thick, maybe 800mm and curved so as to magnify what one is facing. It is getting dark outside, not just from rainclouds and we grab a McDonald's (reliable and reliably less expensive than all the observed alternatives) and then head to the rail head to train downhill to a part not yet visited on the map, but actually close to where we came in. The train was probably a funicular, going through the mountain on a 15-20 degree slope. Tv screens in the ceiling kept one amused—a nice touch.

Having returned to our start area, we now take advantage of the relatively light crowds to go around the Aquarium, which is very well done and a camera heaven. I am amazed yet again at the selfish idiots who still haven't found a way of suppressing the flash function (my iPhone takes fine shots without). The aquarium moves steadily from relatively static stuff such as starfish to lobsters eventually the big aquarium, which is huge. windows all over, including beneath and tremendously well presented.

Just to round of the day nicely we exit the aquarium with ten minutes to the eight o'clock pool show, a son et lumiere, which tells the story of the dragons of earth (fire) and water, mostly by projecting images onto the inside of a circular tower of fountains, mixed with water jests and flame jets out on the water. I didn't recognise the music (shame accepted), but the show was jolly good.

The return journey was exemplary of HK; we joined the crowds going off site, the queue for the buses was at least 300m long and held the odd thousand; the buses were sufficient, the staff practised and cheerful and effective at moving people, the tickets were easily purchased and, while we'd thought to use the ferry to cross back, the bus dropped us right at the Admiralty station, so we were actually back in our hotel within 20 minutes of leaving Ocean World.

So we go for a late supper. Eating is something you can do anywhere in Hong Kong and more easily at times the (UK) masses would call wrong.

What a day.

DJS 20130731

Written 20130731 but not posted until 20140105. Must have been working.....


© David Scoins 2017