Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chime Long Paradise – Panyu (Guangzhou)

I have been living in Guangzhou for almost a year now (on and off) and I had never even heard of Chime Long Paradise till last weekend. I latched on with a group of friends last Sunday as we drove up to Panyu, which is about a 45 minute drive away, to check out Chime Long Paradise. We heard there was an amusement park and safari zoo there. The drive there was really pleasant and there was no traffic even though it was a Sunday. Even when we reached the area there was ample parking available, though it was a bit of a walk to the front gate. I have not been around the city in a private car much as I usually rely on taxi’s here. I must say it was a lot more pleasant than driving out of the city in Jakarta on a weekend where you would most certainly face off with brutal traffic.

Chime Long Paradise is made of an International Circus, an Amusement Park, an Animal Safari (I think its called Xiangjiang Safari), and soon to come a Water Park. They have a night Safari there as well. With so many options available we chose the one that was smack in front of us, the Amusement Park and Circus package. I think we paid about RBM 220 ($25) for an all day pass to all the rides, events, and 1 show of the circus.

The lines at the front of the park were not too long and we were within the boundaries of the park within minutes. At this point I had only consumed 2 beers over brunch and was hoping to spend the rest of the day putting a few more back as we cruised through the park. I was almost disappointed to find out they sell no alcoholic beverages in the park (unlike Dunia Fantasi in Jakarta where Bintang Beer is abundant) but it is hard to be sour when you are hanging out with a bunch of over 25 year olds who are as joyful as school children in a candy factory.

A large map of the amusement park is posted at various locations around the park and there are also flyers available at the entrance. And the text is printed in both English and Chinese which is very convenient. The maps show the rides are located within park, restaurants, restrooms, taxi stop, bus stop, and the metro station, amongst other facilities. There are numerous ways to find your way to the complex from the city if you do not have a private car and they drop you off right at the doorstep. I could tell you all what busses to take and where to get off on the metro but… I can’t be fucked to look that stuff up.

We did not go on every ride in the park but they sure did have ample variety. The first ride we went for was the 10 Inversion Rollercoaster. That’s right, TEN! Now I do not know how true this is but many websites and people state that this is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the rollercoaster with the most inversions in the world!!! And it is right here in Guangzhou! The Chinese love stuff like that. There are so many signs that say ‘the first’ or ‘the largest’. The line was relatively long but the area was very clean and the line moved fast.

People were pleasant, it was not too hot, and no one was pushing or cutting. There are some pretty cool angles you can photograph the rollercoaster from and it was in very good condition. Part of the line you have to go through passes directly under the tracks. If you are one of those people frightened of rollercoaster’s, I can imagine this line would really get your adrenaline pumping. The best angle for pictures however was from a spot I found on the outside. It looks straight through the 4 loop spiral. I was being rushed along but given time I think this would be a great place to shoot pictures of people’s expressions as they pass through the tunnel. I would not mind heading back to the park just to spend more time on that spot. I think rollercoaster’s can bring out a unique combination of emotions for riders. It could be an interesting series to capture.

The is not the most ideal video of the ride in action but you can catch quite a few loops and see what good condition the machine is in. I was very impressed. More than the thrills of loops and twists in a ride I am amazed by how a structure of this form holds together. And when I feel fear riding these beasts it is not from the aerodynamics, I love the thrills, but I am freaked out by the integrity of the structures. And I would go as far as to say that this is the best roller coaster I have personally seen or ridden on in Asia.

The next ride we went on was the Motorbike Launch Coaster. This is allegedly another record wielding fixture in Chime Long Park. There is a row of bikes lined up on the track. Passengers are strapped on to the bike in straddle position as it is launched at super speed over twisting and turning tracks. At first glance the ride did not seem that interesting to me. The line was really long and my balls were aching from the last ride. The rollercoaster seats were really snug and if you have ever met me you would know that I am a pretty big guy, larger than your everyday Chinese bloke. I was strapped in tight to the fiberglass seats that had a separator between the leg holes. I did not adjust my package before getting into the seat so I spent the whole ride having my left nut crushed every time the rollercoaster hit a turn. It was even more uncomfortable than it sounds. In any case we went for it.

I have a video of this ride in action that is actually quite fun to watch but for some reason it is not holding up on You Tube. I was worried I would be too large for this ride but I fit in nicely. After mounting the bike, a fixture came over my thighs holding my legs in place then I leaned over a cushion where my stomach was and grasped the handles. The awkward moment was when the attendant pressed down the second security feature, a cushion behind me that pushed me down securely into the cushion in front of me. This was a proper doggy style position I was left in showing ass cleavage to the people behind me!!! Not cool. The bikes then roll up slowly to a starting line and stop there for a few seconds. They are then hurtled forward at an astonishing speed! The mechanism looked something like the ones I have seen on aircraft carriers. It was pretty cool shooting over a hill around a few turns and back into the docking station. Yes, the ride lasted as long as it took you to read this paragraph.

There were more rides, and a whole lot more fun. We hit the Flying Frisbee which was freaky as hell. We went on the water raft where we had to buy raincoats for 5 RMB each, that was great fun and if you ever do try that ride, buy the raincoat. You are guaranteed to get drenched if you don’t. There are other rides we did not try that looked like great fun as well but I think we all had enough of being tossed around like rag dolls.

There are some restaurants within the park but I can not testify to how good or bad the food is. But there is the Chime Long Hotel right next door which has a bar and a few restaurants if you really want to sit down and have a full on meal. They have a couple of cages with flamingos and white tigers too. I guess it would be an ideal place to stay if you wanted to spend the weekend touring the parks. The prices in the hotel were pretty steep though for food, but I do not know about the room rates. There are snack vendors around the park that serve up drinks, icecream, and snacks at much more reasonable prices. Still no beer.

The mutton kebabs were not too bad. The sausages looked great too but they never serve them up with bread here, it is always on a stick. Why can’t they start serving up sausages on buns with tomato sauce and mustard? I pass a vendor on the way home from work everyday and his hotdogs look so good but I don’t like them without bread. I am gonna start carrying my own buns around. I mean, bread makes it a meal I think. Damn, I could do with one right about now.

Apart from the rides Chime Long also offers Universal Studio type thrills all inclusive on the all day pass. In Dunia Fantasi in Jakarta you can buy an all day pass but certain ‘fancy rides’ still require an extra charge. I was really impressed with the show Chime Long had set up. I believe it is operated and performed by stunt professionals from Easter Europe. They have built an arena similar to the set of ‘Water World’ (the Kevin Costner film) and professionals act out a whole show with explosions, jet skis, flying foxes, and even people catching fire. I did not catch the actual show but the excerpts looked spectacular. I did catch the less exiting show where a bunch of white people were dressed as Canadian loggers and they cut some pieces of wood with chainsaws and hack saws, and threw some axes . They really interacted well with the audiences though and the kids loved it.

Of the theatrical features included in our all day pass we managed to catch only the International Circus in its entirety. I have not been to a circus since I was a kid and this was AWESOME! Once again the show appeared to be dominated and organized by Easter Europeans but it did feature people of diverse origins, from Africa, China, and even South America. There were clowns, acrobats, and animals. People seem to love watching animals act like people but I do not really feel that. I feel kind of sorry when I see a bear in people’s clothes riding a bicycle or monkeys being the man. The clowns were fantastic, they interacted will with the kids in audience, throwing out gifts and such. The hall was huge and the lighting spectacular. At certain points I felt like I was at a rave with the thumping techno music playing at full blast and neon glow sticks being waved around. The transitions between the segments went off as smooth as butter and the shows were of the hook. We watched trapeze artists, animal trainers, jesters, daredevils, gymnasts and even high divers that plunged into a moat surrounding the stage from high above the audience’s heads.

Like I said, it has probably been at least 15 years since I went to a full fledged circus and it was amazing. My favorite part was watching the gymnast and the hot Russian girls riding the horses. That was RAW talent on display right there. I am committed to finding out where these girls hang out on the weekends.

I took loads of pictures at the park and had a blast myself. Just days before I went there I was commenting to a friend how living in the city was getting on my nerves. It had been a while since I experienced anything new in GZ and life was getting monotonous. Between going to work, cooking dinner, and going to sleep, I had nothing to look forward to. I got to thank Mr. Tony for hitting me up on Sunday morning and marking a plan to hit Panyu. It was an amazing day spent out in the sun and once again I can proudly say that I am blown away by Guangzhou once again. Now I am looking forward to the opening of the Water Park and visiting the night safari. Uncle Bush gotta come through for us again! Oh, and we missed you Wong and Lu. Hope you can make it with us next time.

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