Last Monday, Joel’s college sponsored a staff day at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. This theme park, which just opened in January of this year, is located in southern Zhuhai. The Chimelong Group has indicated that they plan to turn the area into “the Orlando of China.” I’d say they’re well on their way towards that goal—for better or for worse. This park is ocean-themed and quite reminiscent of Sea World.
As in the U.S., it turns out that the last Monday before public schools close for the summer is a smart day to tour a theme park. I’d been warned to expect the crowds of Disney with the shoving of Chinese tourists, but the park was mostly empty, especially in the morning.
Joel’s not a fan of rides, so he kindly watched Simon as I took my turns on the park’s major offerings. Their star is a ride called Parrot Coaster, which is located in their Amazing Amazon. It’s a steel sing coaster. There’s a central cart attached to the track, but the riders sit on “wings” that jut out to the sides. So there’s nothing above you or below you as you ride along. I sat in the outer seat and was only connected via the seat next to me. It has a fantastic (gut-wrenching) first dive. The whole way up, I kept wondering about the safety and inspections of Chinese amusement park rides. Fortunately, the guy next to me was so scared that I spent the rest of my ride worried that he was hyperventilating. (He was OK by the end.)
We took Simon on one ride: the Octopus Carousel. As you can see, he wasn’t a fan. I had to pull him off the horse (er…turtle) before it was over.
I also tried out the Walrus Splash, after purchasing my 10-yuan poncho. Surprise feature: the car turns around backwards for the first drop. Nobody was expecting that!
What Shamu is to Sea World, the whale shark is to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. The aquarium is the heart of this park, and it holds multiple records. At 22.7 million liters, it’s the largest aquarium in the world. True to Chinese fashion, there’s a row of Guiness World Record plaques lining the entry, just to make sure you know.
And the whale sharks! I’d heard they weren’t on display everyday, so I didn’t have my hopes up. But there they were! Two juvenile females. Those are some big fish. And to think they’re only babies! I’d still love to see one in the wild someday, but this will hold me over ’til then.
In addition to the fish, Chimelong has some other animals on display. We spent some time in the penguin house because it was so cold–what a relief from the steamy air outside!
You can learn a lot about a culture by how they define their wildlife.
We caught the afternoon parade, which was full of freaky costumes.
Proof that I’ve been in China a while:
I was walking around looking for something to eat. I stopped at one kiosk and asked the lady what she was selling. She opened the lid to show me cups of fish. I shook my head and sauntered off. Only later, when I passed by again, did I realize they were meant to be fed to the sea lions.
In my defense, the nearby cafe was advertising two different specials: Korean roasted squid and a bowl of octopus tentacles. And those are intended for humans.
We ended up eating well, though. Our entry included dinner at the swanky hotel buffet. On the way to dinner we met the mascot, the Chimelong tiger.
After dinner, we roamed the hotel lobby and gift shops. It was a modest, understated facility.
Sadly, we went home with no merchandise at all, though I was sorely tempted by the hammerhead shark googly-eyed hat.