This is the final instalment in a 4-part series about my travels around Asia earlier this year, and some of the decidedly different Parks I encountered whilst I was there:
- SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand
- Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand
Of all the Theme Parks I visited during my Asia Adventure, the one most traditionally "themed" was undoubtedly Thailand's Dream World.
Part 4: Dream World
Not to be confused with the famous Park of the same name in Queensland, Australia, Thailand's Dream World is billed by much tourist paraphernalia as being the country's version of Disney World, Orlando. But whilst you can certainly see how the Park has been influenced by its American counterpart, the end result is a little different.
As with Siam Park City, getting to Dream World is only really possible via car, especially given that the Park actually sits outside the city of Bangkok itself, in the Pathum Thani province. Getting there involves inevitably sitting in a henious Bangkok traffic jam, although my hour-long trip from my hotel (27 miles) clearly pales into significance compared to other horror stories: "...two or three weeks ago, travelling from Pathum Thani to central Bangkok, it took four and a half hours...".
From the start it was clear that Dream World was the most developed of all the Asian Parks I had visited - the drive to the Park involves crossing a pink Dream-World-branded bridge with castles / turrets / flags aplenty on the way in. And it was also packed - clearly a popular choice for a day out for both locals and tourists alike (unlike the other Parks I visited, there was a noticeable tourist contingent in Dream World's customer base).
The entrance to the Park is pretty impressive, with a colourful castle and bold signage standing amongst pretty and well maintained foliage. So far, so good!
Surprisingly, given the clear increase in quality on offer, Dream World was not the most expensive Asian Theme Park I'd visited, at just 800 Baht (£15.58) for a "tourist" ticket, including all the rides and entry to the Snow Town (more on that later!).
For comparison, Siam Park City had come in at 900 Baht (£17.25), although this also included entry to the waterpark as well. As with Siam Park City, the Park operates a two-tier entry policy, with locals paying significantly reduced rates vs. tourists...
Entering the Park is a surreal but fun experience, with some of the most randomly placed themeing I've seen for a while.
And the cutesy-Asian theme continued as you walk down the very pretty promenade to the large lake at the centre of the Park. I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be a cat / mouse / Pikachu?
Once at the lake, a variety of mascots were there for photo opportunities including the Park's main mascot, a rotund red animal of some description, sporting a Dream World hat.
Note the seriously impressive horticultural effort put into the Park, which far surpassed any of the other Asian Parks I had visited.
Mr. Bean is reportedly one of the UK's biggest foreign entertainment exports, having been sold to nearly 200 TV territories worldwide, so it really should have been no surprise to find him at Dream World, complete with comedy wet umbrella. Reminded me at little of the Les Parapluies de Cherbourg umbrella effect in Walt Disney Studios at DLRP...!
So the Park had made a very favourable impression on me so far, but what of the rides?
Well, as with Siam Park City, Dream World had a pretty solid roster of original Western-made attractions, rather than anything cheaper / less reliable / less comfortable...! And the headline attraction was a rather rare Vekoma Swinging Turns ride by the name of Sky Coaster.
Originally opened at World Expo Park in Queensland, Australia in 1988, and moved to Dream World in 1994, the ride is only one of three Vekoma Swinging Turns attractions ever made. I had ridden one of the other two at Bobbejaanland, Belgium, and the third is located in Mitsui Greenland, Japan. As with Dream Catcher at Bobbejaanland, this version of the ride had been retro-fitted with new Vekoma floorless swinging trains, rather than the original enclosed version - much like Vekoma did for Arrow's Vampire trains at Chessington.
It also sported a fab dragon / Loch Ness Monster(?) topiary...
As with Bobbejaanland's version, the ride was good fun, although more on the side of "pleasant" rather than "thrilling". Only towards the end of the ride and in the tighter helices did the train pick up enough speed to deliver any pops of real excitement.
The experience was very smooth though and was a clear hit with the crowds - the ride had the longest queues I saw all day, at points reaching an hour! The ride also had an on-ride photography booth situated at the exit - the first I'd seen on my Asian travels.
Alas the station wasn't particularly well themed, unless the theme was supposed to be "tin shed"...
Next up, more Vekoma goodness in the form of Space Mountain. Now if ever the Park were inviting comparisons to Disney, they certainly were here...!
Space Mountain was - as with Sky Coaster - relocated from World Expo Park in 1994, and uses Vekoma's MK-900 guage track, much like the overly-long Temple of the Night Hawk at Phantasialand and the shorter/sweeter Vogel Rok at Efteling.
The ride was very well presented though, with solid space-based themeing throughout. And it, like Sky Coaster, was very popular with the crowds.
As such, the queue was especially uncomfortable to wait in, given the large volume of people, fairly slow operations, and the fact it was still baking hot. Have I mentioned in this series of Trip Reports that Thailand in April is really quite hot?! It really is.
Hallelujah for the queueline fans / misters!
How many dark rides do you know where the track layout is stuck up on the wall by the entrance? No surprises about what was in store for us on Space Mountain then...
Overall I liked Space Mountain - a good length family ride with some exciting turns and drops, largely because the entire ride is in pitch darkness, so riders have no idea what's coming. Alas some trademark Vekoma-roughness was present, but overall it was a lot of fun.
Looking in the direction of the supporting attractions in the Park, visitors find a good set of Western-made flats and flumes, all presented in a very colourful way.
Hurricane, the Park's Huss Top Spin for example, has to sport the most vibrant paint job that I've ever seen...!
New for 2014 was Tornado, which stood resplendent in orange and yellow, and came sponsored by a famous Asian Green Tea company. I've not ridden many Technical Park (Italy) flat rides before, but this provided some impressive ejector airtime at the top of each swing. Strong Gs as well, which when combined with the heat, made me quite light headed indeed.
The ride also had an on-ride photo offer - although the photos were taken manually, by a Park employee with a DSLR...!
Dream World also boasts a Shoot the Chutes flume made by Hopkins, called Super Splash. This version was shorter (16m) than Tidal Wave at Thorpe (26m), although the splash just as drenching. But who's complaining in this weather?!
Also welcome in the Bangkok heat: Snow Town. The attraction is very popular with the locals (Snow! In a tropical city!), and as such carries an extra charge on top of the usual entrance ticket. Happily, it is included as part of the tourist ticket, so I gave it a go.
Temperatures inside Snow Town are around -5°C, a good 40°C difference between the temperatures outside Snow Town - so the Park gave out free puffa jackets and wellington boots to all those entering, in much the same way that Đầm Sen did for their Ice Palace attraction, Bằng Băng.
Snow Town was a surreal experience, with one half of the building a heavily themed snow dome...
...and the other an icy speed slide! This was a lot of fun, but felt pretty precarious - lean too far backwards/forwards/sideways on the inflatable sleds and you'll topple out onto the hard, bumpy ice underneath. Thankfully I kept it together, but the runway at the bottom wasn't long enough, so I ended up careering headlong into the side of the building.
I suspect the Park are aware of the potential for accidents here, choosing to station a good 4-5 employees at the bottom of the run to catch / comfort those who overshoot / have fallen out of their sled...
If Snow Town wasn't a surreal enough experience, it's worth showing some of the other oddities in Dream World, which make the Park somewhat unique.
For example, navigating the Park was more entertaining than usual, thanks to this guy.
And the Park's toilets were often decked out with a statue of some sort, in this case of a grown man in a bath wearing a nappy...
...and in this case of a constipated baby on a potty.
And this guy seems to just have that sinking feeling...!
Anyway - back to the rides. And the last coaster of the day was Speedy Mouse, a Cavazza Diego kiddie model opened in 2006, in replacement of the Park's previous ride, Speedy Mouse! The original was a standard Big Apple ride, which ran from 2003 - 2005, but thankfully the replacement was not a like-for-like swap, but a new ride / layout altogether.
The second Speedy Mouse, as seen below, was bought from a Family Entertainment Centre in Bangkok.
The ride was surprisingly good, with a good whip-around during the first drop, and a tight helix towards the end - its bark was definitely weaker than its bite!
Vastly superior to the previous Big Apple incarnation, I have no doubt.
Other supporting rides at the Park included the Vikings pirate ship (background) and Bump Boat (foreground) - both pretty self explanatory.
Disney-parallels abound once again with the Haunted Mansion walkthrough attraction, which featured multiple levels and all kinds of zombies / mummies / deceased people popping up / out at you.
The Park also had a Cable Car transportation system, which seemed to require a lot of manual effort to move the cars around when in the stations...
Alien was a similar ride in many ways to Alien Encounter: Extra Terrorestrial at, erm, Disney World (now replaced by Stitch). Clearly a newer ride at the Park, after a video-based pre-show, riders sit and watch an anamatronic alien sequence, which then turns more sinister as the attraction is plunged into complete darkness, and the "aliens" wreak havoc with riders seats etc.
Pretty well done to be honest (if not a complete rip off of the Mouse), but not really my cup of tea.
There was also a 4D Adventure attraction, but given that my knowledge of Thai is poor at best, I gave the screening a miss.
And finally, one of the most weird and wonderful attractions at Dream World is Giant House, which is a short walk through a - you guessed it - Giant's House. Think of Honey I Shrunk the Audience, but "real"!
This was really nicely done, with a bedroom, lounge and kitchen area for guests to walk through and investigate. Quite bizarre!
And one final parting shot of Dream World: this was the entrance to the Fantasy Land area, where a lot of the kiddie rides were located. Great to see so much attention has gone into the presentation of this Park, with areas like this almost approaching the standards of major Western Parks.
Dream World, then, is a great day out, and I can recommend it to anyone holidaying in Bangkok. What it lacks in thrill rides and coasters (see Siam Park City for those), it more than makes up for in presentation and theme. And it's pretty big too - there are many rides and attractions not shown in this Trip Report, including Grand Canyon rapids, Hollywood Stunt Show, and kids Water Fun play area.
The Park's investment in appearance and focus on the family market is clearly paying off, as Dream World had the largest crowds of all of the Parks I visited on my Asia Adventure. The Disney model, it seems, is not a bad one to follow. And with one or two more "headline" attractions, I think the place would be a real winner.
That's the end of my Asia Adventure Trip Reports - I hope you enjoyed the tours! Comments? Please post below!