Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ian's Thoughts on Ocean Park

Ocean Park is the tenth most popular amusement park in the world. More than five million people go there each year. We visited it recently.

Probably to me, the most unusual thing about it was that instead of normal pavilions and signs, all the exhibits were in pagodas. It was a Cantonese theme. In one of the exhibits we saw all sorts of lizards and reptiles. Other than their inhabitants, the displays were comparatively empty. Most of these glass voids had one large chunk of wood and a drinking bowl as furniture for the lizards. It looked very uncomfortable. I'd hate to be a lizard in that amusement park. It felt like the government didn't give them much money to spend on unnecessary comforts.

Ocean Park also had a panda section. The panda habitat was much better. The red pandas were hyperactive. Swarms of the furry little creatures were scampering all over the place. The giant panda just lay on the rock. It was snoozing. Cameras were flashing in its sleepy eyes. Poor panda.

The scariest thing in the park was the rides. The people there were not very enthusiastic, though. They just sat there and relaxed. There was an eerie silence. It felt as if someone had just died or if something bad was about to happen. I was more afraid of the silence than the ride even though the ride was scary. Most people had glum expressions when they were standing in line. They were less excited than in the USA.

The whole time that we were at Ocean Park, headache-style music was playing. It was impossible to find cotton candy. Instead there were a few popcorn and ice cream stands, but a ton of dim sum stalls. Cooks fried up trays of fast-food dim sum. It was an unusual experience. It was very different than back in the USA.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ocean Park: A Silent Experience

When a theatre’s ornate chandeliers dim, the venerable elders throw wrinkled hands over their ears as the young rise in jubilant exhortation. A roar resounds from the lips of every quivering child as he throws up his hands in ignorant glee. The adrenaline of the moment is irrepressible. Then, after this brief explosion, a lengthy silence ensues as students realize that they have released their pent-up impatience several minutes too early. Such is the overzealous American throng.

In Hong Kong however, quite a different scene will present performers. Recently, my brother and I visited a bustling Cantonese amusement park known as Ocean Park. Here in the capacious amphitheatre, a lackluster crowd of tourists sat patiently for an hour, huddled in cramped seats in silent stupor, anticipating the coming performance. We observed that as the long-awaited marine show finally made it onto the stage, it was greeted by a smattering of applause and a sporadic yawn. Below us on the stands, a cluster of three teenagers whooped and yelled. But when greeted by an austere silence and angry stares, their bold cries died in their throats. If possible, Hong Kong's hordes, although boisterous in restaurants, seem to maintain a tranquil tradition within amusement parks.

It really was a huge contrast-walking into the clamor of the park’s ornately decorated dining hall, then clambering onto the eerily silent rollercoasters. Sometimes, it felt as if the food was the main draw to Ocean Park. As mobs of voracious locals swarm towards enticing dim sum stands, an impassive trickle of sightseers with the occasional enthusiastic Caucasian strolled slowly towards the thrill rides.

However, such an apathetic multitude can easily be explained by the scale of the rollercoasters. One of these, dubbed, "The Dragon" was hardly one fifth of the size of some Californian's, but was by far the most formidable in the park. This twist of steel cables has been widely lauded and revered as being one of the largest in the nation. Around this attraction can always be found a huddle of awed Indian ladies, swathed in blazing saris. At each critical moment in the ride, they released ejaculations such as, “Woah, that’s bad,” or, “Oh my heart!”

A nearby rollercoaster, known as "Raging River," plummets daring youth down a waterfall into a nearby lake. Here, crowds are so lethargic that the designer of the ride, anticipating a tranquil audience, utilized a technique that I call, "simulated screaming." As we entered a cavern right above the abyss, an ancient radio system above us crackled to life and blared a muffled cry, "Waaaaa!" Obviously, it was only a feeble attempt to frighten tourists. Previously observing the abyss from the bank, I beheld a cluster of serene faced tourists at the climax of the ride and beholding the plunge at their feet in utter silence. These then slid down agreeably and quietly. The only time that a vast volume of noise will burst forth from these tiny cars is when an eager American family leaps into their vehicle and hollers into the face of the fall.

At last, at the day's close, we stumbled into the line for the Crazy Galleon, a lulling boat ride. All around us were venerable matrons, jabbering of its prodigious terror. When the ride began and the ship had begun to sway gently, I turned around to behold rows of ladies, knuckles white, teeth clenched, eyes bulging, and scraggly hair flapping in the wind. Yet not a peep issued from their quivering lips.

Thus, the day wafted nonchalantly before my eyes like a silent film. Although our group of children and teens enjoyed ourselves immensley, it felt as if the rest of the visitors cared little about the park. Irrepressibly, during its entire duration, the roads were inundated with swarms of silent tourists, wending their way through dusty paths to the teeming dim sum stands. However, despite the languid atmosphere, Ocean Park was highly convenient-the queues for the attractions were so short that it rarely took more than twenty minutes of wait to ride. Such are the contrasts of Canton.