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pluk

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  1. Like
    pluk reacted to Celia Mae for a blog entry, End of Off-Season   
    Sup nerds,
    Before last August I'd been to a theme park a maximum of probably 10 times.
    Then in August I'm dragged on Stealth for the first time.
    December I'm taken to Winter Wonderland.
    January I get bought a Merlin Annual Pass for my birthday (thanks SCB!)
    February I go to Thorpe Park's early opening.
    And this month I dash to the proper opening day of Thorpe Park after college, narrowly missed out on a spur-of-the-moment jaunt on the London Eye, and go to Chessington' Annual Pass Preview day.
    Oh and did I mention in the rest of this month I'm going to TPM's Thorpe opening meet, the opening of the I'm a Celebrity maze, and am dashing to Thorpe Park on the morning of the 31st for a last-minute go on Colossus before going up to Alton Towers for the first time for a three day break. And next month I'm going to the TPM Chessington meet.
    Busy month, isn't it?
    Winter Wonderland was great (expensive but great). MY impressions of travelling rides were something along the lines of Carter's Steam Fair, nothing particularly big, and NOTHING on the scale of a theme park.
    Yes okay so I've never been to a travelling funfair in Europe.
    Obviously what I saw completely spat on my expectations, and even though ice skating was cancelled and refunded instead I got to see my first proper circus (awesome by the way!)
    Thorpe's opening in February was a bit meh. Six rides open was a bit anti-climatic but the queues were short enough to make up for it. Me and SCB managed to get a ride on every row on Stealth, and more than half of the forward-facing Swarm rows. Oh and two dodgems battles as well.
    That was only half of my Valentines Day. As well as the added bonus of not having to listen to SCB going on about his withdrawal symptoms and the peak times of off-season.
    Proper opening was better but there was still a lot closed. Arrived at half two, left at five, got five rides on Colossus and a few on Nemesis and some others, including one or two on X. I forgot how much I had an absolute LOVE of thumping dance music... Nah it's not that bad.
    Got close to going on the London Eye during a trip to London for an important interview, until I realised I'd left my wallet (and pass) at home. Anyway the evening ended up with me and SCB walking down the Merlin South Bank at half seven in the evening, wondering where the new Shrek thingy was going and looking at all the attractions there that I hadn't yet been to. This is going to be a busy summer.
    As for Chessington... Where do I start. I hadn't been for years so couldn't remember what I'd been on before and what I hadn't out of all the rides that existed last time I was there. It was a bit sad seeing how so many familiar pieces of theming I remembered had been taken down, leaving some areas looking like some of the unis I visited last year. Industrial. Not being much of a Chessington geek yet I don't know what's expected to go soon or stay a while, or what new is being bought in. So (on this occasion practically being an ordinary punter) I was left a little disappointed. Also with so many rides closed for it's supposed 'opening' and with Dragon's Fury running just as if it was open but with no people on it, it was slightly as if the park was teasing me. As were the ride boards, with several rides that were closed listed as having queues of 5 minutes. I'm not going to go on about it. People do enough of that on here.
    On a more positive note, I'm so excited about Alton Towers. It's one of those parks I always wanted to visit as a child, but not having parents who had a particular interest in theme parks there wasn't really a possibility until I became old enough to get myself more mobile and go without them. Now it's actually happening I'm so excited XD
    I guess I'll write again about Towers and how it goes.
    Later nerds! See you at the next meet!
  2. Like
    pluk reacted to Liam T for a blog entry, Merlin Rollercoastermatic Universe (MRC) - Part Two   
    Welcome to part two of a bored, slightly humorous random blog post on a Sunday Evening!
    *PRE-WARNING, THIS IS ALL A-BIT OF FUN, PLEASE READ THIS LIGHT HEARTED*
    Last week, I introduced you to The Merlin Rollercoastermatic Universe, (which is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just less Iron Man and more disappointment).
    There's been two main phases since Merlin's take over in (2007/08), the first one is named, hype, and you can read about it here!
    The second phase is called, unoriginal;
    The Unoriginal Phase (2012-2015)
    The Swarm^ (B&M, Built in 2012) -
    The Swarm started off well, the plans showed us that the UK is getting it's first B&M in 9 years and the theming looked incredible, but unfortunately, Merlin had to step in and create an USP for The Swarm, something all new rollercoaster's had to have now, apparently. Thus the tagline 'The Europe's tallest/UK’s first winged rollercoaster' was created.
    The Swarm was received well, but didn't bring the guest in, was it because the GP didn't know what a 'winged rollercoaster' is, or maybe The Olympic's being in the same year? No one really knows the answer, but a year later, to try and give this already unoriginal layout and theme another lease of life, they turned two rows of seats backwards and re-marketed it as the new attraction for 2013...
    The Smiler* (Gerstlauer, Built in 2013) -
    Let's be very honest here... The Smiler's whole planning, construction, and opening was more messy than me after 5 rounds of Tequila. The opening was delayed, not once, not twice but THREE TIMES. The groundwork being so poor, it feels like you've visited the Alton Towers Waterpark, not The Smiler, and that theme song that just haunts you for the next two weeks.
    The Smiler USP was very clever, 14 inversions, with most of them being hidden during planning, just a shame 8 of them try to paralyse you. Whats unoriginal about it you say? If I wanted a poorly built ride to disable me, I'd ride Saw The Ride.
    Flug der Dämonen^ (B&M, Built in 2014) -
    Flug der Dämonen didn't have a USP, that is because it really was The Swarm 2, the ride cars are identical, the theme is identical, most of the ride elements are identical... apart from that cool looking inversion!
    It wasn't a world's first, or Europe's first... it was just, a really good rollercoaster, that happens to have ugly white coloured track.
    Oblivion: The Black Hole (B&M, Built in 2015) -
    Talking of ugly white track, finishing our wonderful unoriginal phase, is the most unoriginal rollercoaster of them all!
    Heide Park got a dive coaster, then a winged rollercoaster... Gardaland got a winged rollercoaster... now it's getting a dive rollercoaster, did they get them buy one get one free or something?!
    The layout looks fun though! Just a shame the marketing and name of this rollercoaster, is literally two rides from X-Sector, and Oblivion 2.0.
    So that brings us to the present day, Oblivion: The Black Hole hasn't opened yet so we're unsure how the story will unfold, so expect an update in April time, but that is our two phases!
    What is the next phase? I hear you say...
    Well unlike Marvel who have released phase 3, we're really unsure what Merlin is going to do.
    2016 is going to be Thorpe Park's & Merlin's next big investment, which we all thought was going to be a rollercoaster, but turns out, to be a dark ride... Alton Towers has rumours flying here, there and everywhere about Wooden Valley Coaster, and our lovely European parks might get a flying coaster called, Air - The Blade.
    Who knows?
    Thank you all for reading.
    Trolley Dolly (Liam T)
    Key:
    * - World's First
    ^ - Taller than 100ft
    USP - Unique Selling Point
  3. Like
    pluk reacted to Mer for a blog entry, A Very Happy Christmas Trip To London 20/12/14   
    WARNING: High Liam content.
    Well, what an amazing day this was! It was a joy to see everyone again and to meet some new faces
    (Btw, I got the xmas smilies by googling them, started typing this during xmas, was gonna remove them since but meh, it's a Christmas meet )
    After being greeted with hugs and smiles at Waterloo station, it was off to The Eye (and that wonderful 4D experience). It was a clear day so we got some great views, could even see Stealth! Liam was such a tourist (actually, he was for the whole day) and came out with a great response to The Shard: "It doesn't look real! It looks like it's been painted on!"
    Seflie time!

    Next up was The Dungeons, which were a great laugh as usual, and with it being Liam's first time, we were provided with much entertainment in the form of his vocalizations. Such as: jumping on the boat ride; screaming in the plague doctors scene when the leeches crawl under your bum, and just general camp reactions. The highlight was, of course, when he got picked in the torture device scene Just...perfect! Shame we couldn't take any photos! Although...
    Our ORP from Drop Dead with Luke (and some random lady) was quite something...

    Luke's face!
    We skipped SeaLife and headed straight to Nandos, about an hour before our booking We managed to lose Peaj on the underground, whilst gaining Mark9 and Dan9...but were eventually reuinited in Nandos. Secret Santa was fun as always (but did we actually finish it?!), I think Liam was most impressed with his sexy fireman calendar
    At this point, I had intended on going around and handing all my Christmas cards out...not really sure what happened! So instead, I just went to people individually throughout the rest of the day and gave them their cards. But because of this, there were some people who I didn't get round to giving their cards to, so major apologies!
    BUT I did bring loads of candy canes And I tried to make sure everyone got one lol!
    After this cheeky dessert of candy canes, it was off to Madame Tussauds for most of us while the rest headed to the pub. A few bits (and groping of!) from Tussauds:

    Santa Banter!
    (In full HD 60fps, as are all my videos)


    http://youtu.be/FWs9qD1OAro

    I also added some silly/amusing annotations And it appears that our meet organiser was clearly still in shock after becoming seperated from us on the underground, and couldn't even catch a giant box
    A few stills from that footage:


    W're royal, ya know

    Erm, I still have no words...

    Aww I do love this photo!

    Soon, it was time for The Spirit of London!
    Here's some stills from my on-ride footage ...Because the detail in this ride is just brilliant.
    Luke popped his head round to tell us something important...

    (Watch the video that I have included further down to find out what, I didn't upload them for nothing )
    Rebuilding London and St Paul's



    #Lad

    Hmm, this reminds me of a particular coaster...

    Only just realised when watching the footage back that this helter skelter is also Big Ben!

    Where did everyone go?!

    Plot twist: they were taken by the creepy fireman!

    I think it's partly the fact that his right eye just stares straight ahead which makes him creepy (ish).
    I thoroughy enjoyed the ride as always, as did Liam!

    Why not see (and hear!) for yourself?
    http://youtu.be/boytOANK8_E


    I was a bit sheepish about being too obvious filming it, hence why the view seems quite low down at points. But it's the things that are said/the reactions (again, mainly from Liam) that are the highlights of the video, really! "WHO'S THAT?!" "Oh my god we're going down...OOOH!" "We're going oop...WE'RE GOING OOP!"
    Winter Wonderland
    Well, once we'd eventually got inside and shuffled painfully to the Carousel Bar, we could enjoy ourselves (as much as humanely possible). Myself and some others did Wild Maus XXL, which was even more insane, hardly seemed to trim! There's a particular corner which is ridiculously fast - you can actually see people being thrown to the side when watching!
    Then while some others did Barrel of Laughs, we did XXL. It was definitely worth it! Far more than just a giant Freakout or better version of Vortex It was fast, pretty intense, had both great force and great airtime, and when I thought we'd reached full height, it still went higher! Pretty sure I shouted "What the f**k?!" a few times!

    Winter Wonderland off-ride footage
    http://youtu.be/E3htSa9TRvU


    At 14-15 seconds in, watch the corner just above the blue sign - that's the corner I just mentioned, you'll see how fast the car flies through! You also get to hear the wonderful operator on XXL, who kept repeating the same things over and over again. OH and watch (and listen) out for my little edit at the end
    It was eventually time to say goodbye It really was lovely to see people again, especially people like Liam who I haven't seen in a long time and live bloomin' miles away! Actually had to hold back from crying when hugging goodbye
    Although, it was nice to go to the pub after with some peeps and just chill, was a nice way to finish such a good day!
    Here is the album with all my photos in for any who want to see the rest of them: Christmas London Trip 2014
    Oh and any photos with people in are set to private (the above link is a guest pass, so only those who I share the link to can see the private photos)
    So thank you to everyone for making it such a great meet, and of course to Peaj! Last year's meet unfortunately ended up on a very sad day for me and my family, so I don't have great memories from it. And for various reasons, 2014, up until around late October/November, was a pretty awful year for me personally. BUT (cue happy/triumphant music), since November-time I've finally been on the mend, and for the first time in a very long time (a few years perhaps!) I feel back to my old self - if not, better than that! Something must have shone through as I was often the one the actors spoke to at The Dungeons Seriously though, I feel so alive and more chatty, and I was eager to see how I'd be at a meet (especially with so many people), and I'm very pleased to say that I felt amazing!
    So here's to 2015 Happy new year! x

  4. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Arabian Adventure: Ferrari World & Friends   
    Arabian Adventure
     
    It's winter: the nights are drawing in, the days are getting shorter, and it's altogether a bit chilly. So what better excuse than to have a quick break away to the UAE; land of sand, sun, Sheiks... and coasters! Thanks to a bargain return BA flight booked relatively last minute, I enjoyed 4 pleasantly warm (28°C) days at the end of November in the Emirates, seeing the sights, enjoying the food, and riding the rides. Read on for the highlights, and lowlights, of my Arabian Adventure.
     
    This trip report covers all of the Parks I visited:
     
    Sparky's FEC, Dubai Wonderland, Dubai Sega Republic, Dubai Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi  
    I was based in Dubai for my visit, and all of the Dubai Parks were within easy reach of the Metro. Like most of the buildings & infrastructure in Dubai, the Metro is very new, with the first line having been opened only in 2009, and a second one following in 2011. The city's tram is so new, it was only 2 weeks old when I visited! Dubai is also very easy to get around via the relatively cheap taxis, which are ubiquitous.
     
    Yas Island, which houses both Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World, is located in Abu Dhabi, and the only means of getting there is via car. Given that the UAE has a less than impressive road safety record (supposedly you are 7x more likely to have a road accident vs. in the UK), for these Parks I opted to avoid driving myself and got a taxi, which took just under an hour each way.
     

     
    So, on with the report. Hold on tight - it's a long one. And the first (mini) Park I visited was Sparky's:
     
    Sparky's Family Entertainment Centre, Dubai

    Sparky's FEC is a very new addition to the Dubai amusement scene, having only officially opened in March 2014. Owned by Saudi Arabia's Al Hokair Group (who run 55 indoor recreation centres in Saudi and the UAE), the complex is based on the top floor of the Al Ghurair Centre - one of the more modest Malls in Dubai, but still comparatively large compared to anything in the UK. The site houses an ice rink, 5D cinema, dark ride, go karts, soft play area, many arcade games... and a coaster!
     
    Entrance is free, and rides and arcade games are on a pay-as-you-go basis. The minimum top-up on the Sparky's card was 50 AED (£8.77), which got me 2 rides on the coaster and 1 go on the 5D cinema (which incidentally was very well done, if quite jumpy... damn zombies).
     

     
    The coaster was simply called Roller Coaster, and stood seemingly deserted when I walked up to the entrance gates: I had to ask an attendee tending to another ride to come over and open it up for me! Truth be told, the FEC wasn't busy, so I suspect it makes sound business sense to employ fewer "roaming" ride operators than have more of them all fixed on certain rides for the day.
     

     
    Roller Coaster is an I.E. Park Spinning Coaster - indeed, is one of I.E. Park's very first Spinning Coasters. Riders sit back to back on Maurer-style spinning cars, with a simple lap bar to hold them in. Squarely aimed at the family market, the ride features 2 lift hills and weaves its way around the top of the FEC.
     

     
    And perhaps surprisingly, the ride was good fun from start to finish. I wasn't expecting much to start with, but Roller Coaster had a good amount of spinning, a few airtime-inducing drops (when sat at the back) and was altogether a very comfortable ride. Not half bad for a new model, so I.E. Park should be commended. It looks pretty good too (pictured here above the ice rink)!
     

     
    Sparky's won't take up any more than an hour or so of your time due to the small choice of attractions and even smaller crowds, but I'd nonetheless recommend paying it a visit if you're in the area. Roller Coaster is a decent attraction, and the supporting rides make for a more entertaining visit to a shopping mall than normal!
     

     
    Wonderland, Dubai

    Wonderland is situated to the north of Dubai city, only 10 mins drive from the airport. Before venturing off to find it, I questioned whether it would even be worth a visit: it was a little out of the way, looked as if it had only one operational coaster (a Vekoma Roller Skater), and the reviews on Trip Advisor were not even slightly encouraging (11% approval at time of writing). But not wanting to judge the place before I'd seen it myself, I took the Metro to the nearest stop, Dubai Healthcare City, and walked up to the Park entrance.
    And this is what I found:
     

     
    And this is what the car park looked like:
     

     
    And there was no activity going on at this Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Spinning Coaster:
     

     
    And this contraption looked like it would kill anyone who tried to ride it:
     

     
    Undeterred, I walked up to the very-far right booth at the entrance to speak to the attendant, and asked if I could buy a ticket. He was a local Emirati guy in traditional dress, but was a man of few words.
     
    "Park is closed today", he said - even though their website stated it was open from 10am to 12am. When I asked why, he said that there was a "big new attraction coming", and they had to close the whole Park to construct it. "What sort of ride?", I asked, somewhat surprised. "A big one which spirals around a lot", he said, gesturing with his hands. I couldn't see any construction going on.
     
    "When are you opening again?", I asked. He shrugged.
     
    I then asked if I could have a look around the deserted Park to take some photos, but unsurprisingly he declined. The only snap I got was of the view into the Park from the entrance gates (below).
     
    "Water park is open today", he said, pointing over to the left. And then he sat back down again.
     

     
    But I had a good look at the water park, and it didn't look very open to me. Cutting my losses, I left Wonderland feeling more than a little frustrated.
     

     
    Sega Republic, Dubai

    Sega Republic is a relatively new FEC located on the top floor of the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Mall is the "world's largest shopping mall", with over 1,200 (count them) stores, including all the luxury brands you could want, along with a Debenhams, M&S, and Hamleys. Annually it hosts more visitors than New York City . So there's more than enough demand for an indoor Theme Park and Sega Republic stepped up to the mark, opening in 2009.
     
    Much like Sparky's, Sega Republic operate on both a pay-as-you-go basis, where rides range in price from 15 AED to 30 AED (£2.63 - £5.25), and a pay-once basis, where a "Power Pass" for all rides is available at 175 AED (£30.65). Payment is handled via a Sega-bespoke smart card system, where ride entrances have only Sega-card readers and don't accept cash: Sega-cards must be topped up at designated payment booths prior to riding.
     

     
    It's a pretty big FEC at 76,000 sq ft, and sprawls across 2 floors. As standard, the Park opens from 10am to 1am (11pm at off-peak times), so there's lots of opportunity to visit. And the Park's headline attraction is the rather good Gerstlauer custom spinner, Spin Gear.
     

     
    As with the rest of the Park, Spin Gear is themed around Sonic and friends, and features an enclosed dark section in the second half of the ride that is not visible from the outside. It's a good length, smooth family spinner - the local riders opposite us in our car certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.
     

     
    The standard of presentation is really rather good, with Doctor Eggman goading Sonic / presenting safety information in the queueline videos.
     

     
    And the cars are very comfortable too, with a snug lap bar restraint to hold you in. So in all, Spin Gear can be recommended: it's a solid attraction that's much larger than first appears, and produces some good lateral forces. Well worth giving a go.
     

     
    A side note on Sega Republic: prior to boarding any ride, riders are forced to stand and read a laminated sheet of paper with detailed instructions / safety information / rider restrictions printed on it. Ride attendants present this laminate to every rider about to board, which was fine given the relatively low crowds, but would be a throughput nightmare if there was any sort of queue.
     
    I've never seen a Park do this before - highly conservative, and probably highly unnecessary.
     

     
    Sega Republic had a good selection of flats to support the main 'coaster, include Xyclone, a gyro-swing-esq ride, which goes a full 360° and inverts riders over the top. Good fun, although a little painful being slammed back onto your restraint every time the carriage comes down having gone over the top.
     

     
    My favourite flat was the innovative Halfpipe Canyon, which rode a little like a standing-up-pirate-ship. Huge amounts of fun, the ride puts 4 riders in 2 teams of 2, who compete against each other on their respective green or orange skateboard. Once the ride begins, the skateboards start to swing much like a pirate ship. Once the boards have reached their highest swings, they also rotate 360° for added disorientation. Teams gain points for stamping left-right-left-right on the plates underneath them at the points where the skateboards reach the top of the halfpipes - the most points wins.
     
    Halfpipe Canyon: huge re-rideability - some people were running around for second / third / tenth goes - and very entertaining. If you ever see one of these, hand over your money!
     

     
    Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi
     
    And now onto the Parks in Abu Dhabi, both based on Yas Island. Yas Island is - much like the Palm in Dubai - an artificial block of land, located just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It's still half completed, but the stats are staggering: the idea for the island was conceived only in 2006, but was built and opened for business just a few years later. The F1 circuit is the main draw, but the island has just opened a large Mall, and is home to both Yas Waterworld, and more famously Ferarri World. Total investment in the project is estimated at US$40 billion - that's 9 zeros - $40,000,000,000 . We opted for Yas Waterworld first.

    Yas Waterworld opened only last year in January 2013, and has already been named the second best waterpark in the world, behind Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. Pretty impressive, and it's easy to see why - for me the Park is right up there with any of its American counterparts in terms of number, quality and variety of flumes & rides, and the standard of presentation across the whole Park is top notch.
     

     
    For example, I don't think I've ever seen such a glorious mess of flumes as this (below) in any water park I've been to! These snake flumes were all provided by WhiteWater - the company behind our own revered Storm Surge. I think they've innovated a little since the advent of their Spinning Rapids Ride: these 6 slides include both cool new Rattler sections and a SuperBowl.
     
    WhiteWater actually provided 12 out of the 14 attractions for Yas, and the Park is great advert for their products. One of the star attractions is the Liwa Loop AquaLoop, which I'm happy to confirm is one of the most heart-in-mouth water slides I've ever ridden. That moment when you're standing atop a trap door, knowing there's a freefall drop of several tens of feet below you and then a loop, hearing a calm female voice counting down "3...2...1..."? Scary bananas. WhiteWater also supplied a Freefall Speed Slide and a 6-lane Whizzard racer, which were both a whole lot of fun.
     

     
    Judging by queue length alone though, it was ProSlide who won the popularity contest at Yas with their ginormous HydroMagnetic Mammoth Water Coaster installations that went by the names of Dawwama and Falcon's Falaj. Both slides use LIMs to propel the 6-person rafts up, as well as using gravity to push them down again into features such as this massive 20m funnel.
     
    And you can't even blame low capacity for that queue - ProSlide claims a throughput of up to 1,080 per hour on their 6-person Water Coasters!
     

     
    Hugely wet, hugely fast, hugely fun. And the uphill LIMs are a big improvement on e.g. Alton's Master Blaster water-propelled method.
     

     
    But the real reason for visiting Yas Waterworld was to have a go on their Vekoma Splash Party coaster, Bandit Bomber.
     

     
    It's a pretty bold decision by the Park to install a water-based steel coaster in a wet environment, especially given that previous attempts by other manufacturers (notably Setpoint) can hardly be deemed a success - Carowinds and Hersheypark can tell you more. The track layout sprawls across the Park affording riders a good view of the slides below, and the real fun comes when the 4-person trains roll through the "splash zone". In this area, riders on Bandit Bomber can choose to press a "trigger" button attached to the seats to dump a load of water on the queueing guests below. Guests below can retaliate thanks to ground-based water guns pointing up at the track.
     

     
    It's a great idea, although unfortunately marred by the fact that on some of the trains, the hardware wasn't working (meaning no water was dumped, even if the triggers were pressed at the right time by riders), and that many of the riders seemingly had no idea that they had a trigger at their disposal, choosing instead to completely ignore the splash zone interactivity.
     
    Whilst this was a shame, for those riders who did know what they were doing, and had been lucky enough to get a working train, Bandit Bomber was a lot of fun - anyone who's used the pay-per-use water guns located to the sides of Storm Surge or Tidal Wave will know how gratifying spraying a complete stranger with water can be.
     

     
    And for everyone else, Bandit Bomber was still a solid family ride, with a decent twisty layout that afforded some good negative-G-inducing drops and swoops. Extra points to Vekoma for producing a really smooth ride, too - their latest steelies are so much improved vs. their back catalogue (their 2013 suspended family coaster Orkanen is one of the best family rides out there). Guests were running around back to the ride entrance to try it again; a thumbs up from me.
     

     
    Yas Waterworld, then, is an excellent Park with only a few flaws (location is a bit in the middle of nowhere, and it's not cheap at 240 AED - £42), so I'd encourage anyone in Abu Dhabi, or even in Dubai, to make the trip over to Yas Island to spend a day there. The themeing and attention to detail is superb, and for my money the range of attractions and quality of the environment makes this a notch above more established local rivals such as Wild Wadi or Aquaventure.
     

     
    Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

    Last but not least - Ferrari World. This had been by far my most anticipated Park due to its scale ("world's largest indoor Theme Park") and its speed machine ("world's fastest roller coaster"). As we had only a day on Yas Island, we didn't get over to Ferrari World until 4pm, having spent the morning and a fair amount of the afternoon in Yas Waterworld! Doing both Parks in one day does however have the advantage of being able to use the Yas Park Pass - a snip(?) at 365 AED (£63.87) - which bought us entry into both attractions.
     

     
    The first thing to say is that the huge red structure which houses this Park is really, well, huge. It is so huge, in fact, that it's almost too big for the number of attractions that Ferrari World offers - around 15 if everything is operational. Walking from one side of the place to the other takes a considerable amount of time, but it wouldn't be difficult to polish the Park off in just half a day - as we did!
     
    It's clear however that the Park are aware of this and are still investing. The 200ft drop tower that sits in the middle of the structure is currently under scaffolding (although it was unclear whether this was for renovation or to dismantle it), and the flume ride was boarded up with large "Coming Soon" signs plastered all over it. Local news suggests that the Park plans to install 7 new rides over the next 3 years, with the general manager claiming that some of these will be "iconic". Gringotts coaster, anyone?
     

     
    But let's get straight to business - and the reason most of you probably came to read this trip report in the first place.
     
    Formula Rossa is a breathtaking, pant-wetting rocket of a ride, and gave me the biggest adrenaline rush I've had from a 'coaster in a good long time; maybe even ever.
     

     
    Made by Intamin, the coaster somewhat trumps sister hydraulic launch rides Stealth and Rita by boasting a launch of 0 to 149mph in ~4 seconds. That's basically Stealth's launch, and then Stealth's launch again. What follows is a 171ft hill, and then one of the longest layouts in the world (6th longest at the time of writing - Lightwater's Ultimate comes in at 2nd), mostly consisting of high hills and wide turns.
     
    Although Ferrari World is an indoor Park, their star attraction of course launches off into the desert outside. And the Park provides a great viewing platform for potential riders to assess what they're letting themselves in for...
     

     
    Two things happen in the station to keep the ride safe and operational. One: the train wheels and chassis are sprayed with water via automatic misters to cool it down in between launches. With temperatures in the summer averaging over 38°C, Intamin have had to adapt to the local climate. And two: riders are presented with red glasses, to keep any windy desert sand away from delicate eyes when moving at 149mph. All riders are required to wear these.
     

     
    This ride is - unsurprisingly - all about the speed. The layout is fun, but with the transitions so wide and the hills relatively tall, not especially forceful. It's just fast. Bloody fast.
     
    I rode Formula Rossa twice; once in the 3rd car (of 4), and once in the front row. In the 3rd car, the speed was palpable, with facial features distinctly wobbling and riders' screams literally taken from mouths.
     
    On the front row, the ride morphs into an even more intense beast. Words cannot describe the sheer thrill of the launch: it really pushes the limits of human endurance on a Theme Park ride. My face turned into a rubbery mess, my arms - which were over-confidently in the air until about halfway down the launch track - were pinned back down into my lap bar, and my eyes streamed from the speed (even though I had the glasses on). In many ways, I am thankful for the trims on the hill after the launch - if the train continued to career around the track at the launch speed, it would have been a very uncomfortable experience indeed.
     
    For me, the rush was comparable only to the huge adrenaline shot I experienced when skydiving over Salisbury Plain a few years ago - with a vertical terminal velocity of about 120mph. I have never experienced a Theme Park ride like it.
     

     
    The riders' expressions say it all.
     

     
    The Park's supporting attractions are the Fiorano GT Challenge racing coasters, from Maurer Söhne. Located on the other side of the Park, these dualing car-themed coasters use LSM technology to launch riders at a more family-friendly 59mph.
     

     
    The trains are themed to Ferrari F430 Spiders, and feature comfy lapbars common to their spinner rides (a la Sonic Spinball). With a launch straight after the station, 3 further launches around the 1km track, and a handful of stop-start magnetic brake sections, the ride was both thrilling and a lot of fun. The ride layouts weaved in and out of each other, with red, yellow and green lights situated to the side of the tracks to inducate the (green) launches, (yellow) hairpin turns and (red) braking sections.
     
    The ride ops didn't mind re-riding here, so we had a good 10 goes on Fiorano GT Challenge, on both the left (black) and right (red) sides - the left proved the favourite.
     

     
    Other attractions at Ferrari World included the Scuderia Challenge simulators, Speed of Magic 4D dark ride, Viaggio in Italia Soarin-style attraction, newly-installed Tyre Twist teacups ride, and Karting Academy go-karts, which operated on a time-slot basis (we asked for a slot at 4:30pm, but were told the next available slot was at 7:30pm, so gave it a miss).
     
    One of the largest-footprint rides inside the giant Ferrari building is Bell'Italia, a tour around a mini-Italy in a tracked Ferrari 250 California car. This ride proved to be a little embarassing, as the majority of "mini-Italy" had either been removed, or was in a state of disrepair. We were just driving around a load of empty green banking; Verona was little more than a sign saying "under renovation". Really quite poor.
     
    Unfortunately, the Bell'Italia experience was somewhat reflective of Ferrari World as a whole; the two major 'coasters notwithstanding, the Park is a little in a state of disrepair at the moment. It is badly missing supporting attractions, with the closure of the drop tower and water ride not helping matters. The main Ferarri building is vast and needs more inside it to justify a gate price of 250 AED (£43.75). Although Formula Rossa and the Go Karts had queues, crowds were low (much lower than Yas Waterworld), which did little to lift the atmosphere - it was all a bit empty and flat.
     
    I have hope for Ferrari World, though. Its coasters are both of real quality, and they have the infrastructure to build upon and grow. Yas Island is not even finished yet and Abu Dhabi has great potential to capitalise on tourism in the same way that Dubai has done. Fingers crossed the owners can keep the venture afloat and the Park doesn't go the same way as other expensive IP-led ventures such as ill-fated Hard Rock Park.
     

     
    Burj Khalifa, Dubai
     

     
    OK, so this is clearly not a Theme Park... but you, esteemed reader, may still be interested. This is the Burj Khalifa, and I was lucky to get in a visit to "At The Top" during my trip. Much in the spirit of all things UEA, you may not be surprised to hear that this is the "tallest building in the world". Tom Cruise famously sat on top of it. To put some numbers around it, the Burj Khalifa is 828m tall. That's insanely tall. If Nemesis Inferno's track was stretched out vertically from start to end, it still wouldn't be as tall as the Burj. London's The Shard could be stretched 2.5 times its height, and it wouldn't be as tall as the Burj.
     
    In person, it's really quite impressive. It towers above Dubai's already screamingly tall skyline. The building houses 30,000 people, in both office and residental space. And for 165 AED (£28.87), tourists can take the (ear-poppingly fast) elevator up to floor 124 for a simply stunning view of the Emirate.
     
    I picked my time slot to visit a couple of weeks before I arrived in Dubai ("At The Top" sells out weeks in advance), so I was primed for a good sunset at around 5pm. It didn't disappoint.
     

     
    Watching the sun set over the city, desert and sea, from nearly a kilometer up in the sky, was a very cool moment. And as you might expect Dubai just lights up at night, yielding awesome views such as the below. Magnificent.
     

     
    ~
     
    So, there is a wealth of Theme Park fun to be had out in the UAE, with clear highlights of my trip being Formula Rossa, Sega Republic and Yas Waterworld. The region is growing so rapidly that in many areas you can almost smell the investment being pumped into the place. That's not to say it's been an easy ride, however - the recession in 2008/2009 hit the sector hard, with projects like Universal Studios Dubailand barely making it off the drawing board. Indeed, when I was travelling down to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, I could see from my taxi the entrance arch to the proposed Universal Studios standing alone in the vast desert around it - very bizarre.
     
    One large reason to be excited for UAE's Theme Park future is the development of Dubai Parks and Resort, a massive £1.7bn entertainment complex located towards the south of Dubai city centre, slated to open in 2016. Parques Reunidos - operators of Parque Warner Madrid and Mirabilandia - have been appointed to run two of the three Theme Parks due to open at the resort: Motiongate Dubai (a 4 million sq. foot Hollywood-inspired Park, with studios such as Dreamworks already on board) and Bollywood Parks Dubai (a 3-million sq. foot Bollywood-inspired Park, with major Mumbai studios on board).
     
    The third Park in the complex is from a more familiar operator: Merlin Entertainments. Legoland Dubai, a proposed 7th Legoland Park, promises more than 40 attractions upon opening over an area of 3 million sq. foot. Construction boards have already gone up and are again visible from the E11 road to Abu Dhabi, so if all goes to plan, I can see many reasons for a return trip in a few years' time. And I haven't even mentioned the near-future opening of IMG Worlds of Adventure, featuring a Mack launched coaster...
     
    Thanks for reading!
  5. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  6. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, JoshC.'s Review of the Thorpe Season - 2014   
    2014 is almost over, which can only mean one thing...it's time for my review of Thorpe's season! In a way, it kind of feels silly to do a 'season' review on behalf, since I've "only" made 8 visits this year (by far my smallest Thorpe tally in memory!), so there's a few gaps here and there, and my views may not be fully representative of the season. However, I hope this review will end up giving a nice roundup of the season, and my views on what's gone down. If anyone wants to see my reviews of previous seasons, they can all be found HERE (once again, apologises about the pictures no longer working - darn Facebook!). And with all that out of the way, let's "get ready to go...looking good...3 2 1..."
    New for 2014 - Angry Birds Land
    Rewind a year ago, and I said that for 2014, "There's been talks of a new 4D film, the return of the Canada Creek Railway, the movement of Vengeance to the park and ...at least one of those things should happen." Fortunately, one of those things did happen.
    I don't quite know how ABL has been received by the public, but enthusiast opinion is certainly more on the negative side. However, I must admit, I side with the side that, on the whole, it's an okay investment for the park. The 'land' is very small - it seems almost silly to call it an area of a theme park given how small it is. The 4D cinema, whilst a bit over the top with the effects, is a nice break from the bombardment of rides and is certainly a vast improvement on Time Voyagers (though that's not saying much, mind!). The Dodgems are good fun and, whilst nothing special, a nice filler ride for everyone to enjoy. Personally, I think that Detonator is the biggest waste in the area; new audio was needed, and a bit more of a feel around the ride was required. But instead we end up with a new name and cheap logo plus a random bird plonked nearby - still feels out of place unfortunately.
    So yeah, all in all, I don't think ABL is a bad investment. I think it will work in the long run (Angry Birds will no doubt continue to be popular, and with a major film set for 2016, I can see a second wind for it coming up), and brought life into what was a lifeless area. Many say that it's destroyed Amity Cove - but let's face it, there's a huge difference between Stealth-side Amity (Amity Speedway) and Tidal Wave-side Amity (the Amity Cove). A divide is necessary really, and this gives a chance to divide the sides further, which would be a good thing. For the future, I'd like to see the Teacups given an Angry Birds theme, since it feels a bit out of place at the moment, and the well-known Angry Birds tune be made more prominent throughout the area - it's something I was looking forward to hearing if I'm honest!

    Detonator - needs more work...


    These metal plate theming bits are...okay. Not my first choice thematic feature for the area though!

    King Pig's Wild Hog Dodgems - a bit bare, but good fun.
    New for 2014 - Other Stuff
    Though a quiet year on the rides and attractions front, there were a few new and improved things around the park...
    The Shark Hotel replaced the Crash Pad, and is Thorpe's own attempt at a shipping container hotel. Indeed, the shark idea was my favourite of the three concepts (the other two being the Pier and crashed ship). I do quite like the look of the shark - it's quirky and different, and likely a nice talking point for people visiting. My only criticism of it is that, on the inside, you can see all the framework - a bit of a shame in all honesty, but I guess there's got to be limitations to everything. Maybe not the most spectacular thing ever, but I have a fond spot for it if I'm being honest.

    Bite me.
    Then there's the improved entrance. It must surely be a short-term solution, as the whole ticket and entrance plaza needs a big rework in my opinion. Baring that in mind, I think it's an okay solution - the video loops they play do a nice job of showing off the park, and presumably do help build a bit of atmosphere and anticipation for guests. Also great to hear the original Thorpe entrance music being played once again!

    Hard to get a decent image of the screen, so here's the best I've got..
    The few other touch ups around the park (Stealth Diner and shop, Mexican Cantina extension, etc.) are also welcome additions, now giving more indoor seating, and improved chippy on park - I never really liked the old Fish and Chip place for some reason; maybe the old look of the place just put me off? - and meaning every major attraction has their own sort of shop to some degree. The small things ey!

    Stealth shop looks quite nice really.
    The Coasters
    The Swarm remains top dog for another year. For me, it just had everything I want, and it's just a beautiful roller coaster to me. After being able to climb its lift hill this year and do a couple of behind the scenes bits and bobs, I have no doubt that Swarm will have a place in my heart for years to come... With it looking very likely that I'll be breaking into Europe next year, I somewhat doubt this will be my favourite coaster next year, but hey, I'll let it bask in its glory till then.

    Looking up

    A pretty sweet alternative view of the ride in general

    Pretty helicopter.

    Standard picture.
    X also saw some changes, with new audio and a new lighting set up. I think the reason why I like it so much is because it's so different to anything else the park offers - it's a bit of fun and a laugh. It doesn't try to do anything special and it's not a serious ride. Something that the park needs more of in my eyes!
    Inferno was as solid as ever, and it was nice to see the mist and lights working for the majority of my visits. Also interesting to see the workshop area as part of the John Wardley meet too; geeky moments I guess! I still have a soft spot for Saw, even if it does leave many with a soft spot on their head after riding. Again, got to do a nice backstage tour of it, which was great fun and really interesting. Colossus remained as uncomfortable as ever. Stealth was alright too I guess; I'm not too fussed about it though to be honest.. .

    Dear Thorpe, all I want for this closed season is this sign cleaned / replaced. Lots of love, JoshC.

    Arty-farty Saw photo.


    Put my camera through its paces by taking photos of Saw from the Loggers queue line. Funny results followed.
    The Other Rides
    Won't really put any specific focus on any other rides now because: 1) too much effort, 2) I haven't visited enough to say that much and 3) I don't want to put you to sleep any quicker.
    So yeah, in short... Slammer didn't open with the rest of the park, but managed to remain consistently open (more or less) when it eventually did open. Big thumbs up to all those involved with getting the thing to live again, and to actually stay alive. Personally, I think the ride just needs binning - I don't find it exciting and it just seems to be a waste of resources in my opinion. It seems Thorpe/Merlin think otherwise - as do many enthusiasts - so let's hope for their sakes their faith in the ride lasts for a few years before it eventually conks out. When that day comes, I'll happily be the first to volunteer to take some explosives to the ride.
    Rush, Samurai, Loggers, Zodiac and the like all did well during the season, and I think they're all good rides that add to the line up. On the other hand, I've been disappointed by the likes of Vortex, which is showing its ages, Rumba Rapids and Depth, rides which I do enjoy, but really need some TLC to make them look nice again.

    A working Slammer - a slightly less rare sight than usual.
    "What about Storm Surge?" you might be asking yourselves. I didn't ride Storm Surge this year, and this picture sums up my views on the ride nicely...

    I'd much rather look at a building.
    The Big Easter
    I unfortunately didn't attend this season's Easter event, due to revising for exams. However, by the sounds of it, it was a great event for the park and their new direction. All the reviews of the Brainiac show were great, so I'm glad to hear that's returning for the February Half Term event. I look forward to seeing what Thorpe come up with for next Easter (and fingers crossed I'm actually able to make it!).
    Summer Nights
    Summer Nights returned for a second season, which is great news. This event is just a brilliant idea from the park and works a treat. I know some say that opening till 10 should be standard for the park during Summer, and maybe that should be the case one day. But right now, I don't think the park would be busy enough to warrant it - making it a separate identity is the best thing for now. The event has definitely gained popularity, and I'd be curious to see if they'd consider adding two trains to the coasters if the event become much more popular.

    Teacups are still an addition for Summer Nights - good thing too, since it's relatively popular during the day..
    Summer Event - Huh?
    Last year, I said: "Despite Sun Scream obviously being popular enough to last many seasons, I think it's time to think of something a little different now". However, when I said "a little different", I did mean they should at least do something! Unless I completely missed it, there was no specific summer event this season that filled the role Sun Scream had done for the seasons beforehand.
    The park seemed popular enough from marketing alone and such, but it seems like a wasted opportunity, especially with the family market. Hopefully it's just a one-off, and next season gives us some decent event for the summer. It would certainly help encourage the crowds to visit during what is one of the busiest periods of the season for the park, and a chance to stand out from the crowd a little bit.
    On the other end of the scale, I guess they could partner up with MoS for another event. Mash Up seemed good during Easter 2012 and 2013, so why not bring back that back? Speaking of MoS, still haven't been to a MoS night - they're just not my thing! - however, I'm glad to see that they're still proving popular and successful.
    Fright Nights
    The biggest change for this season's Fright Nights was, of course, the farewell of The Asylum, and the introduction of Studio 13: The Motel. It's been said a hundred times already, but I may as well say it again - last year's controversy over Asylum was NOT the cause of its removal. The park were planning on getting rid of it even for last season's event - let's hope that that myth doesn't become fact to many.
    Another thing which has been said a hundred times already is that I wasn't really a fan of The Asylum. It was a maze of strobe lights which gives you a headache, with no apparent story line other than 'you're locked in with scary people' and very repetitive. So I was glad to see the back end of it. Studio 13's premise sounded exciting and very promising, and it was great to see the park come up with a non-IP maze which still fitted in perfectly with the park's overall theme (which I still love by the way).
    Personally, I loved the maze. Great nods to the past, good theming, a story which followed through the maze and overall a good idea. In fact, out of all the mazes I've done, it's the maze where I've felt most apart of the story. It's such a simple idea (you tour through a studio where a horror film is being filmed, then all of a sudden, you're IN the film), which makes it easy to execute, yes, but it was executed so well that it just a beautiful maze.
    As for the returning mazes, Blair Witch went from zero to hero, which was great. I hope this gives the park more confidence with scare zones and outdoor attractions. Cabin and Saw remained good attractions, though I think Saw needs a bit of an update, as it feels kind of tame compared to the rest. My Bloody Valentine was yet again the worst; no real scares or anything - just dark, cramped spaces all the way. It will scare many, yes, but you can't just simply rely on that! It will be interesting to see what happens to the maze next season now the arena is in use - will it just move elsewhere, move out of the containers and into someplace else, or what?
    I also did Face it Alone again this year. I can't sing the praises of this experience enough - if you like scare attractions, it is well worth giving it a try! I'm so glad the park have continued to look into other scare ideas than your bog-standard conga line maze, and here's hoping that things like Face it Alone, the Overnight Experiences and original maze ideas continue for many years to come.

    Fright Nights proved to yet again been the most popular time of season.

    Me with The Director.
    Reserve n Ride
    The second season we've seen RnR now and I remain in the minority who like the idea. I'll keep my views here short and sweet since I've argued them to death throughout the year in the appropriate topics - the idea is a nice one and has a lot of potential. The system itself seems to work now; they've slowly managed to iron out technical issues. What the park need to do now is try the system as it was intended - with no standby queues. That way, they see how viable an option this actually is. Make sure there's enough non-ride stuff to do too; that'll help (and, in fact, is a good idea in general!).
    Food and Merchandise
    As mentioned above, I've gotten into a bad habit of falling in love with the new Fish and Chip place, nice and unhealthy. My lunch of choice usually varies between that, the Mexican Cantina or Bar 360. For the most part though, all of the Merlin-owned food places are good quality and value at Thorpe, which is good. I'll no doubt try the punnily-named Peckish and the new Pizza-Pasta joint in the new season though, because why not ey?
    As ever, the merchandise at Thorpe helped empty my wallet. The new resins were all great, and the Swarm billboard is my personal favourite of all the Merlin resins. Then there's the brilliant new clothing items which give some geeky nods (ride opening years and such), which I just love! The new Angry Birds merch is good to see too, even if a bit overpriced in my opinion. Then again, on the whole, merchandise is reasonably priced I think, so I'm not really complaining. Would like to see more bears at Thorpe though - please?
    I guess the VIP packages fit into merchandise sort of, so just a quick mention of them. Whilst the main ones are a bit too pricey in my opinion, the lift hill walks and backstage tour are okay, especially if you can get a deal on them (and they do indeed do deals on them at points in the year). Again, really glad to see the park doing cool things likes this!

    The Inferno shop has a makeover too. At least I was spending time in shops, and not just money...
    Chief Ranger's Carousel - RIP
    Whilst no official note has been made, it seems that CRC has left us after 20 years of service. It's sad to see a ride so rich in Thorpe's history leave. However, in all honesty, it's surprising it stayed as long as it did, especially during the years when families were just not in the park's target market. It's not like the ride has a specific appeal the 99% of visitors anyway - time to let go and move along in my opinion!

    A Carouselfie.
    A Look Ahead
    2015 brings us...well, we don't know. Potentially nothing of note. We have gathered that Pizza Hut is being replaced by Pizza Pasta, and that building is getting an extension. I have no doubts that we'll see some touch ups around the place (Canada Creek still has a lot of the old branding about, some rides are in desperate need of TLC and I expect Thorpe know that), and there'll be a few little things to keep us happy. However, it seems like 2015 could be the first season since 1997 where Thorpe don't bring us any new attractions. Then again, Angry Birds Land didn't have plans submitted till January, so who knows?
    Of course, we'll all be able to gawp at the construction site for 2016's exciting new development - maybe that in itself will be enough to keep us happy next season?
    That's it for me; another season well and truly done with. Thanks if you read it all (and sorry for the length)! As ever, any comments / thoughts / criticisms are welcome!
  7. Like
    pluk reacted to Mitchada04 for a blog entry, Spiderman: The 4D Adventure that was ahead of its time   
    Earlier this year I sarcastically explained why Nemesis is king of coasters. This time round I'm going to explain (in a serious-ish way) why Spiderman is my favourite dark ride of all time. (As always these are my opinions, if you do comment at the bottom explaining why you disagree I will hunt you down and get revenge oh and there might be some spoilers on the ride experience, you've been warned)
    Islands of Adventure, the park that made Disney have an E-ticket attraction ready to be deployed at each of their parks in case of its success. Okay, this didn't happen in 1999, IoA didn't pull in the guests it was expected too. But it was still a huge leap in the theme park industry with some excellent attractions (especially for 1999). Most notably, Spiderman.

    Hidden behind a façade is a ride building that brought to light a new style of dark ride. Simulators were a thing, pyrotechnics were a thing, 3D screens were a thing, but no one had combined these together in one show building until 1999. 3 years of development, a range of companies working together to create a masterpiece. Spiderman was born. A ride of this calibre is still thought of as an amazing technological design today. Just last year I rode Transformers for the first time and thought "wow!" the 4K screens, perfect 3D animation and flow is just flawless. So to have a ride like this 15 years ago shows just how advanced it was and still is. Maybe I'll never be able to change my opinion because of the fact it has been that awesome for so many years. I was only 2 when this ride was built, the industry hadn't even built a 10 looping roller coaster. But Forbidden Journey is a masterpiece is many ways, a huge dark ride that is technologically amazing and immersive. What is it that Spiderman has over the new boy on the block?
    Maybe it's because I was a huge Spiderman fan as a kid. I first rode it when I was 5. I thought I was in the action, it was actually happening! It instantly became the ride I wanted to ride again and again, work out how it works, it sparked my interest in rides. Every time I've been to Florida since I've learnt more about how the ride works, the technology, what to expect etc. but it still delivers. When I went to Florida last year I gave Transformers and Forbidden Journey the chance. I knew the basics of the ride system, that Transformers was like Spiderman and FJ was just pure awesome, but nothing more. I went on those two rides like I did with Spiderman many years before, curious as to what was inside. Both of them are great rides, but neither of them had the same affect as Spiderman. I rate FJ second only to Spiderman and Transformers 4th, just not 1st. Spiderman sits their firmly and is unlikely to ever be toppled. Some people would say I never want Spiderman to be beaten. Nope, if a ride can beat the enjoyment and thrill I get from Spiderman everytime I ride it then it will go first.
    Let's move onto the ride itself. The queue, it's the Daily Bugle! You're in the offices!!! (see this is my Spiderman love as a kid coming through). So naturally I geek out in it. But, FJ's queue is much more impressive. It's filled with technology, it's a tour of Hogwarts in a queue that never stops moving! Transformer's queue is a walk through the N.E.S.T facility, buttons to press and stuff. I'll admit, the Spiderman queue needs modernising (or at least some painting!) They updated the whole ride to include 4K screens and update the animation, it was closed for 2/3 months so the fact they didn't do anything with the queue is annoying. So nowadays I take a point from Spiderman because of this, but the ride claws it back fantastically!
    Anyone who has been on Spiderman and Transformers will know they both use the same system from Oceaneering with Dynamic working on the switch tracks. Both use the Universal patented "squinching" technique for the 3D. But they both offer different ride experiences. Transformers is stunning, somewhere in that ride you go up a lift to the second floor and then back down. I didn't know this before I rode it and still can't quite work out where it happens it's that well done. The action seems more fast paced, the simulated speed in that ride is sublime! This is where it loses to Spiderman though. The story is very fast in Transformers, action packed and disorientating. It relies so heavily on screens that the transition between screens is essentially another screen. There are not external effects, transitions without screens are just simple tunnels or something. This is where Spiderman triumphs!
    Spiderman is a ride heavily relying upon screens. No doubt about it. Some people dislike this in a ride but I think Spiderman does balance it quite well. Transition between screens adds to the story, you see the Statue of Liberty head that all the bad guys have stolen, you have a truck flash it's lights at you (with Stan Lee in the driving seat). Since the 4K update, in some of the scenes it's difficult to work out where the screen begins and ends. Electro's lab is the best at this. When you enter you see his lab panel at the back which at first looks so realistic like a set. the transition between scenes also utilises the "scoop" vehicles abilities brilliantly. One part you spin through a tunnel (because Oceaneering made awesome vehicles that can spin 360 degrees, vibrate, tilt, do basically anything). It's just a wonderful experience, with fire. One lovely fireball. Must go off every 20 seconds or so but Universal aren't worried about the gas bill. I think the finale scene on this ride is my favourite from any ride as well, the falling. It's unbelievable!!! Seriously feels like you're falling 400ft (actually it's only 6ft but this just shows how great the vehicles work with the screens to enhance their capabilities).
    I think the difference is, Spiderman is a fun action packed adventure. It gives you time to absorb the story whilst continuously developing it. Transformers is non stop, but it is so fast I lost track of who had the allspark at some points! So Spiderman, a ride of pure fun, adventure, excitement, thrill, just brilliant! I want a ride to beat it for the pure fact I want their to be another ride out their that provides (for me) the same enjoyment I get from riding Spiderman many times. Oh, it is also the one dark ride I will ride when it's dark outside (even with a walk on Hulk just metres away and I adore Hulk as a ride).
    If Thorpe create even a smaller scale version of a ride like Spiderman that uses screens, excellent transitions, effects and a storyline that can incorporate many characters and the sense of elevation change and just. Actually, no. Only do that if you're going to go all out on it.

    Oh, it's also very pretty at night. And to put it in perspective, I put this ride above any coasters I've ridden as well (because dark rides can be more thrilling than coasters).
    Any comments are welcome and I'm happy to discuss opinions Thanks for reading a very wordy, quite serious report (it's okay I'm going to WW soon, a classic me style report will be on its way...)
  8. Like
    pluk reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, 2014:- A Mark9 love affair.   
    So another year passes and it only seems right to look back on 12 months of fun, thrills and excitement, in a way that only Mark9 can. So where do we start?
    January 2014 - Disneyland Paris
    Ok, sure, this trip only featured one new ride (Peter Pans Flight fact fans) but it also marked the occasion where I somehow managed 42 hours of consciousness, the trip where I took a nap during cinemagique and where Jamie fell asleep eating food in Hyperion. Yes there was fatigue and short tempers but it was a fantastic way to start a brand new year. From what looked like a flooded ferry to getting more rides on Tower of Terror.


    February 2014
    And now the season takes a slight down turn. This month featured my only trip to the Towers and this kind of epitomised Merlins year for me. Whilst Nemesis was running well (albeit on one train) and things like Spinball had minimal queues, there was no atmosphere in the park whatsoever. Usually during February there's excitement for the upcoming full season but not this time around. This year marks the first season since 2003 that I did not ride Oblivion and the first since opening that I didn't ride Rita, The Smiler or Thirteen. And part of me didn't even care. If it wasn't for Dan9's company this trip would have been completely forgettable.
    March 2014
    And then it was Thorpe's turn. Despite multiple rides on Inferno and The Swarm there was little to no energy in the park. The same old problems were occurring such as Slammer and Samurai closed or reliable issues up and down the place. Thank god for the company of the rest of TPM or I would have really despised my day out. And luckily with this month out of the way, the season really began...
    April 2014
    I had last visited Chessington in 2012, before Tomb Blaster had its queue line incident so had reasonably high expectations. And frankly, this was the star UK park for me. The park somehow looks rejuvenated in places and run down to hell in others. Unlike others, I like Scorpion Express and do think it has breathed life into a ride that was well beyond its sell by date when it closed in 2012. Zufari was rubbish even before I compare to Kilimanjaro but getting on rides like Fury and Vampire sent me into rose tinted glasses land. I do like Chessington in spite of its many, many faults.

    May 2014
    New Rollercoasters:-
    179. Medusa - Discovery Kingdom
    180. Kong - Discovery Kingdom
    181. Cobra - Discovery Kingdom
    182. V2: Vertical Velocity - Discovery Kingdom
    183. Superman - Ultimate Flight - Discovery Kingdom
    184. Roar - Discovery Kingdom
    185. Boomerang: Coast to Coaster - Discovery Kingdom
    186. Roadrunner Express - Discovery Kingdom
    187. Tatsu - Magic Mountain
    188. Apocalypse - Magic Mountain
    189. Superman: Escape from Kryptonite - Magic Mountain
    190. Goldrusher - Magic Mountain
    191. Riddlers Revenge - Magic Mountain
    192. Green Lantern - Magic Mountain
    193. Batman: The Ride (backwards) - Magic Mountain
    194. Scream - Magic Mountain
    195. Colossus - Magic Mountain
    196. Goliath - Magic Mountain
    197. Viper - Magic Mountain
    198. Ninja - Magic Mountain
    199. Full Throttle - Magic Mountain
    200. Big Thunder Mountain - Disneyland
    201. Matterhorn Bobsled B - Disneyland
    202. Space Mountain - Disneyland
    203. California Screamin’ - California Adventure
    204. Goofys Sky School - California Adventure
    205. Gadget Go Coaster - Disneyland
    206. Silver Bullet - Knotts Berry Farm
    207. Xcelerator - Knotts Berry Farm
    208. Coast Rider - Knotts Berry Farm
    209. Boomerang - Knotts Berry Farm
    210. Pony Express - Knotts Berry Farm
    211. Montezoomas Revenge - Knotts Berry Farm
    212. Jaguar - Knotts Berry Farm
    213. Sierra Sidewinder - Knotts Berry Farm
    214. West Coaster - Pacific Pier
    215. Matterhorn Bobsled A - Disneyland
    This of course was the flagship trip of the year, a visit that was two years in the making and had a lot too live up to. I can say for sure it lived up to the hype and features some of my favourite rides ever. Starting with the city of San Francisco, everyone should make as much effort as possible to this historic, cultural, awesome city. No one can fail to be disappointed by the Golden Gate Bridge or where history was made in the Castro. To the sealions down at Pier 39 or Alcatraz this place is amazing.

    The long, long, LONG drive to Magic Mountain is worth the distance. I know its reputation is low but it has a lot of original, decent rides including my favourite flyer, my favourite suspended and my favourite stand up. With strong support rides like Apocalypse, Goliath and Scream it should be on anyones radar to visit.

    Despite my negative comments in my trip report, I really did love Disneyland and California Adventure. From California Screamin' to Haunted Mansion it's really a place filled with such variety and within a stones throw of Los Angeles. Speaking of Los Angeles, despite not spending as much time as I had wished, walking up to the Hollywood sign will be something I always remember. That view is spectacular.

    And finally 24 hour day at Disneyland which was some feat. World of Color at 3:30 in the morning. Magical.

    A classic Liner

    An event in its own right

    One too many drinks in the Castro
    June 2014
    So June didn't see any theme park visits. Instead I decided to be cultural and visit the wonders of Amsterdam. I'm sure if you use your imagination you can just guess what I got up too. From the Red Light District too a club that features people that don't fit into gender brackets. It was a most enlightening trip.


    A cultural gin museum
    July and August 2014
    Ok, so I didn't go anywhere but I did get a mortgage and move into a new flat in the old Olympic village in Stratford.

    September 2014
    216. Helix - Liseberg
    217. Kanonen - Liseberg
    218. Balder - Liseberg
    219. Lisebergbanan - Liseberg
    Set hype levels to stun. This was the month of Helix, Mack's latest and greatest roller coaster. I've always heard a lot about Liseberg and suffice to say I was very happy with my trip. Excellent rides and roller coasters and a great time was had in Gothenburg nearby where I went into a scary submarine.


    October 2014
    Rather hastily, a trip to Phantasialand was booked, paid for and done just like that. I forgot how much I adored this place and was very glad to be back. I will not be leaving eight years in-between visits next time.

    November 2014
    And finally, to bookend the trips was Disneyland Paris to come and ride Ratatouille (and to finally get on Orbitron and Autopia) In a few years time, Ratatouille will be recognised as the fantastic ride that it truly is. This is Pixars greatest work since Toy Story 3 screen wise. Go and visit and see for yourself.
    And with that, my year in a nutshell. So what is the most notable rides of 2014?
    Best Water Ride:- Chiapas
    Best Dark Ride:- Ratatouille
    Best Rollercoaster:- Tatsu
    Biggest Surprise:- California Screamin'
    Best Park:- California Adventure
    And finally, the best new ride of 2014 goes too....
    ....
    ....

    None other then the utterly sublime Radiator Spring Racers. In my mind it will take a hell of a lot to top this in 2015. But then Europa Park is just around the corner..
    Thanks for reading, in fact thanks if you even made it this far down the page. Please feel free too leave comments below.
  9. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: Dream World   
    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!
  10. Like
    pluk reacted to paige for a blog entry, Blackpool Pleasure Beach- An Accidental Trip Report   
    It's been a while as I've been preoccupied with a number of other things and a small write-up on BPB was at the very back of my mind, but it's finally time for a super in-depth* review or BPB. (This turned out longer than I thought because I'm bad so I have converted it into a poor blog TR, read at your peril).
    Before I start I better just throw out there that I was going on rides with my cousin, who is 9, and a huge wimp- we had to convince him Valhalla was just a little water ride in a warehouse!
    First ride of the day was the Big Dipper which I'm going to say was my first proper woodie (I did ride Colossus at Terra Mitica but disappointment is stopping me from counting that). The ride is filled with airtime and really lifts you off of your seat, when I went on for a second time I stood up twice and decided it really would be wise to hold onto the bars as it's advised, it's pretty insane backrow in particular! But I wouldn't recommend it if you suffer with back problems, the padded seats do help though, kind of.
    We then headed over to Steeplechase which was fun but the braking at the end really launches you forward and can hurt! It threw you round a surprising amount though and I had to continually tighten up my seatbelt.
    After this, I (somewhat reluctantly) headed over the Nickelodeon Land which, for what it is, is pretty good I must say. We only went on Nickelodeon Streak as that was the only ride which I wouldn't look ridiculous in or that wouldn't cripple me or make me faint *cough* Airbender *cough* and it's basically a smoother Big Dipper clone which I actually quite enjoyed in all fairness, but the fact that it is basically a bright orange (why!?!?!?!) Big Dipper clone had me scratching my head.
    I then went on to Avalanche which I enjoyed mostly due to the fact it reminded me of my trips to Germany in which I would always pay a visit to the Hassenhorn Coaster and Steinwasen Park which contained a toboggan run. Not sure whether I enjoyed the ride or the nostalgia brought with it, but it was pretty great in it's own rights, not really something I would head straight for though.
    We now enter the interlude in which my cousin and I were moaning at one another as he wouldn't go on any 'proper' rides (Revollution, PMBO, Infusion etc.) whilst I was refusing to re-ride things like Nickelodeon Streak or Steeplechase when there was much, much more to do. This cut a good 20 minutes out of our day (stubbornness is clearly a family trait) and my cousin went to re-ride Steeplechase alone.
    We then dragged ourselves to have some lunch at Coasters. I must say I was disappointed. I liked the fact that you could see the Big Dipper station and Infusion if you sat at the right place, but the food seemed a bit extortionate for what it was. I ordered a chicken burger, expecting salad etc. within the burger- it was literally a well done breaded chicken fillet in a roll! It was okay though, the wedges were nice atleast. Trying to get a sachet of sauce with no cash on you after you have gotten your food is always fun.
    I then actually went on Infusion with my Aunt's friend who kindly bought tickets so she could go on with me (she's petrified of heights so PMBO was a no-go). I started fangirling over the scale model of the ride but we kind of ended up sitting third from the back so I'll leave it at that.
    Next up was Grand National which is probably one of my favourite rides now. We got to sit at the back and it was great! I'd heard you get thrown around a lot but you really do and it is so much fun! I was actually laughing the whole way round. But I think this is the ride in which I lost my phone, lol.
    We then finally headed to Valhalla, now with all of the hype I'd heard and seen about this ride I was expecting to be underwhelmed as themed experiences- as much as I enjoy them and appreciate it- have never really made me think 'wow' so far... Until this ride! It was just so immersive and I could see the story and I love to be able to see stories within rides. I remember Peaj and Cameron discussing it and Peaj telling me 'it has a bit of everything' and I was a bit sceptical of this. But it literally has water, ice, snow, FIRE, a massive hammer (I didn't appreciate it at the time though ) and you really do get soaked- and I was training home the same day! But it is probably my favourite ride experience so far, and it has re-rideability and I'm sure you'd discover new things everytime, it's brilliant!
    The park as a whole had so much ride interaction! Queue-wise I thought it was pretty good with the longest being probably half an hour for Avalanche which was at the entrance when we joined it (low throughput?) But I think I'd definitely visit again- to actually do PMBO and to ride Grand National and Valhalla again if anything. It'd be nice to spend a whole day there with those who actually like/share and interest in theme parks and the like, ha!
    tl;dr- I like BPB, the food seemed a bit of a rip off and I'm disappointed I couldn't get on much but Valhalla etc. is great.
    *this won't be 'super' or in-depth, I'll just be aimlessly rambling, probably a bit late to be telling you this now though, sorry.
  11. Like
    pluk reacted to Mitchada04 for a blog entry, End Of Season Finale!   
    Some people went to Thorpe. Some to Towers to watch some fireworks. Some to Blackpool to ride some things at a time rowdy youths should be in bed but are instead in Blackpool riding things (interpret that how you wish).
    Last year my season ended at the last night of FN (we'll ignore Florida as that never closes) and it has been that way for many seasons. This year I decided to do something different, Kempton Park Fireworks!

    A lot of other people did too.

    Just a sea of heads.

    But it had a different atmosphere to a theme park. Funfairs always do. It was lively, fun, just pure enjoyment!

    As we weren't scared of standing on the wet mud we got a lovely clear view!

    See.

    Flash

    Boom

    Fizzle

    Just look at them.







    TADAH! There were more but I was enjoying it too much to take loads of pictures. The display was good with the theme being superheroes so many superhero themes were played. It all worked well, only thing was the finale where no one actually knew it had finished as it just ended abruptly but the music still played. Other than that a great display!
    But... that wasn't all. Obviously there was a fun fair in place and many rides which I hate had to be done.

    Although I love these.

    I'm talking about the Ferris Wheel.

    OMG A DUCK. Oh and a KMG but meh.

    This was running really meh for normal people which was great for me as I hate Twisters

    Saving my Funhouse money for Alpen thanks.

    Extreme (Funfair people probably know the technical name, tristar maybe?)


    Much better than Vortex.

    Extreme again. It's like Time Machine but less quirky.


    Where'd all the people go?

    Oh Body Count must have taken them (again don't know the technical name, it's kinda like Dragons Claw)

    Fun.
    Now as the season draws to a close I leave you with the most amazing thing ever. Didn't ride it it was so awesome.

    FOGT!!!!!!!!
  12. Like
    pluk reacted to Coaster for a blog entry, Blackpool Pleasure Beach - October/November 2014 | Photo Trip Report   
    Wow, what a fantastic week! We spent 8 consecutive days in Blackpool Pleasure Beach, arriving at just after 10am and staying until park close every day. This equates to a total of 76 hours spent in the park! In fact, the only break we had from the park was one morning to visit the Tower and watch the Circus.
    Blackpool Pleasure Beach was nearly faultless all week, it was being run the best I have ever seen it with all coasters on maximum capacity every day (aside from Nash on two one day and Steeple having a bit of trouble with the yellow lane at some points). One thing that I always find amazing about the park is the sheer range of ages of the rides. There really is nothing that can match seeing 100 year old rides run next to newer rides, it's just brilliant!
    The park is maintaining it's clean image and I saw loads of cleaners around the park getting rid of any little bit of rubbish, it was brilliant to see them making an effort and I can't fault them at all with this, especially when you see rubbish strewn everywhere at many other parks.
    The coasters were running brilliantly, obviously they have their off times but by the evening they were going like the clappers! The Grand National in the rain at gone 8pm is one of the most insane experiences possible on a coaster! :twisted:
    Valhalla is in a much better state than it was at Easter in terms of effects (and it was good then), although some of the effects broke halfway through the week and were not fixed (or didn't stay fixed for long). However, the ride itself seems to be struggling as it was breaking down quite a lot - although I cannot fault the park's efforts at all as they had it back open again within 15 - 20 minutes every time. A plus point is that I got five breakdowns whilst on the ride so got to see most of it with the lights on which was fab! (Not for the staff though I bet!) No evacuation though
    However, on one particular day a certain water effect that usually misses the boat decided not to switch off, but more on that further down.
    It is still my favourite ride and I am yet to come across anything else like it.
    Leaving the park has never been easy, but it was more difficult for me than it ever has been in the past, possibly because it is the first time I have gone to Blackpool more than once in a year however we have ordered 2015 season passes - in our opinion it is unbeatable as the quality of rides, history & charm and ever improving operations of the park makes it the UK's number one.
    Highlights:
    - Park was looking great, very clean and fresh. Also a really great atmosphere!
    - Dark rides are looking great, it is clear that a lot of time has gone into maintaining them. Ghost Train has seen a lot of paint since April, River Caves looks really good and Wallace and Gromit was still all working (aside from one effect) and I noticed new smell effects in the bread scene.
    - Getting back on Valhalla
    - Getting back on all the coasters.
    - Capacity the best I have ever seen it.
    - BPB at night time.
    - Trevor on the PMBO has got to be the best staff member I have ever come across - so into his job and recognised us every time we went into the station, also joking about my brother's Smiler hoodie.
    - Seeing Valhalla with the lights on
    - The Big One nearly stopping midway around the course due to the ridiculous winds it was battling with. Seriously, it was great fun and the first time I have been scared on a coaster for a very long time.
    - Valhalla's waterfall in the skull mouth not switching off and drenching everyone! (This was NOT a highlight at the time!) It was leaving huge puddles in the bottom of every boat yet I had to tell the staff as they hadn't realised. My feet were nearly a foot deep in water!
    - A night ride on PMBO in torrential rain at gone 10:30pm, plus seeing the faces of the staff who had joined us afterwards!
    Lowlights:
    - Leaving!
    (There were a tiny number of annoyances but they were vastly outweighed by the positives, and unless being picky I can't really find anything to moan about!)
    RIDECOUNTS:
    We may have done a few more rides than this as I usually forget a few when I'm adding them up.
    Saturday 25th October 2014
    Valhalla x3
    The Big One x2
    Big Dipper x2
    Infusion x2
    Wild Mouse x1
    Grand National x1
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Avalanche x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    TOTAL: 14
    Sunday 26th October 2014
    (PMBO was closed from lunchtime onwards due to high winds, sadly we didn't go on it in the morning but to be honest I didn't miss it as I knew I would have a week to ride it).
    Valhalla x9
    Grand National x7
    Wild Mouse x6
    Big Dipper x3
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Revolution x1
    Avalanche x1
    Steeplechase x1
    Infusion x1
    Ice Blast x1
    Avatar Airbender x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    Ghost Train x1
    River Caves x1
    TOTAL: 35
    Monday 27th October 2014
    (We were only in the park for the afternoon as we went to the Tower and Circus in the morning.
    The Big One x2
    Horror Maze x2
    Valhalla x1
    Grand National x1
    Revolution x1
    Ice Blast x1
    Blue Flyer x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    TOTAL: 10
    Tuesday 28th September 2014
    The Big One x8
    Valhalla x3
    Ghost Train x3
    Wild Mouse x2
    Grand National x2
    Big Dipper x2
    River Caves x2
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Avalanche x1
    Steeplechase x1
    Infusion x1
    Alice in Wonderland x1
    TOTAL: 27
    Wednesday 29th September 2014
    (Park was packed, great to see it so busy! Also, they were coping really well with crowds).
    Valhalla x3
    Grand National x3
    Revolution x3
    The Big One x2
    Wild Mouse x1
    Big Dipper x1
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Avalanche x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    Ghost Train x1
    River Caves x1
    Pleasure Beach Express x1 (Had never been on this before!)
    Horror Maze x1
    Impossible x1
    TOTAL: 21
    Thursday 30th October 2014
    (Another busy day)
    Valhalla x3
    The Big One x3
    Infusion x2
    Wild Mouse x1
    Grand National x1
    Big Dipper x1
    Avalanche x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    Ghost Train x1
    Pleasure Beach Express x1
    Horror Maze x1
    TOTAL: 16
    Friday 31st October 2014 - VAMPIRE BEACH
    The Big One x5
    Valhalla x3
    Grand National x3
    Horror Maze x3 (Scaring people in this was fun!)
    Big Dipper x2
    Wallace and Gromit x2
    Wild Mouse x1
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Revolution x1
    Steeplechase x1
    Avatar Airbender x1
    Ghost Train x1
    River Caves x1
    TOTAL: 23
    Saturday 1st November 2014
    Valhalla x6 (Some of these were hilarious! Two were no poncho or waterproof as we were already soaked from the Skull mouth!)
    The Big One x4
    Grand National x3
    Wild Mouse x2
    Big Dipper x1
    Nickelodeon Streak x1
    Avalanche x1
    Revolution x1
    Blue Flyer x1
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1
    River Caves x1
    TOTAL: 21
    Overall Ride Count:
    Valhalla x31
    The Big One x26
    Grand National x21
    Wild Mouse x14
    Big Dipper x12
    Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x8
    Ghost Train x7
    Horror Maze x7 (Usually just before joining the PMBO queue)
    Nickelodeon Streak x6
    Revolution x6
    Avalanche x6
    Infusion x6
    River Caves x6
    Steeplechase x3
    Ice Blast x2
    Avatar Airbender x2
    Blue Flyer x2
    Pleasure Beach Express x2
    Alice in Wonderland x1
    Impossible x1
    OVERALL TOTAL: 169
    Photos (all taken by me).

    Valhalla;





    You WILL get soaked!

    91 years old and still standing proud;




    Headchopper!


    The Big One - still my favourite coaster.



    Where else can you find a 20 year old coaster and a 91 year old coaster running side by side?





    All lit up!

    Wild Mouse, one of the most intense coasters around;



    Grand National, yet another brilliant coaster;



    Nickelodeon Streak, in my opinion the best family coaster in the country.



    Imagine living in those houses!

    Avalanche;


    Revolution packs a huge punch considering how innocent it looks;



    Some general park shots:


    Strange orbs in this picture...

    Took it again without orbs but I prefer the angle of the first one.


    Easy question but does anyone know where you can find this in the park?



    Exciting times!

    VAMPIRE BEACH:

    BPB seems to be one of the only parks that still bothers with parkwide theming;



    Bring back Trauma! And Noah's Ark!


    Horror Maze;







    I must admit this one did make me laugh, possibly because it had moved every time we went through the maze!

    I'm sure these two were in the Ghost Train years ago;


    (These pictures were taken in the day, the maze was better in the dark and with actors).
    You cannot beat Blackpool Pleasure Beach at night!





    Thanks for reading/looking, comments welcome.
  13. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: Đầm Sen   
    This is the second 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  
    My second Asian Park after the wonderful SuốI Tiên was also located Ho Chi Minh City: Đầm Sen.
     
    Part 2: Đầm Sen
     

     
    Đầm Sen is located much more centrally in Ho Chi Minh City vs. SuốI Tiên, and could be reached in only 25 mins via taxi from my hotel next to the Sông SàI Gòn river. And unlike SuốI Tiên, it's much more of an Amusement Park than a Theme Park: there is comparatively little in the way of style and decoration vs. its extensive Buddhist-themed brother.
     

     
    That said, the Park is far from ugly, with lily pads and flower themeing being the order of the day. This is the entrance to the Park - the Towers Street equivalent, if you will:
     

     
    And there's a very good reason for all the flora themeing - Đầm Sen is a circular Park built around a large lake, filled with lily pads, lotus flowers and other plant life. All very pretty - and this view across the lake provides some perspective on scale. Connecting the small pagodas is a walkway across the lake.
     

     
    Đầm Sen operates a pay-one-price entry model, with tickets at 130,000 Dong (£3.79). As with much of Asia, it was all exceedingly cheap for a Western tourist. I came for the afternoon and whilst not quite as low as SuốI Tiên attendance levels, the Park was pretty empty the whole time I was there. How do these places survive financially on such low gate figures, with such low entrance prices...?!
     
    As you can see, there were very few people around to enjoy the topiaries:
     

     
    And now onto the rides: the biggest of them all being Tàu Lỏn Vông Siẻu Tồc / Roller Coaster. This coaster is tucked away in dense foliage in the top-left hand side of the Park, and is quite a walk from the main entrance - I suspect some visitors don't even find it...!
     

     
    It's certainly a bigger ride than any at SuốI Tiên, and until a larger version was later built at nearby ĐạI Nam with 4 inversions, Tàu Lỏn Vông Siẻu Tồc / Roller Coaster held the record for having the most inversions in Vietnam with 3 - vertical loop, corkscrew, corkscrew. The ĐạI Nam coaster - built 10 years (2008) after the Đầm Sen version (1998) - is near identical, save for a second vertical loop after the first.
     
    Merlin take note: black / brown / grey / white are not the only colours available when painting a roller coaster! This one had green rails, red tubular spine, blue supports and yellow supporting structure.
     

     
    If you hadn't already guessed, the ride is an Arrow clone - you can see the corkscrew inversions bearing more than a passing resemblance to the classic Arrow corkscrew designs, with yellow "arch" supports holding the inversions in place. The layout is near-identical to the actual Arrow-designed Corskcrew at Cedar Point; the offending manufacturer at Đầm Sen is likely to be Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment (although RCDB doesn't know), given that HZME built the later version at ĐạI Nam...
     

     
    So how did it ride? Early impressions were not encouraging, with a lengthy wait in the station for the train to completely fill up - the ride operators refused to send the train off without it being completely full. Health and safety or cost saving? I assumed the latter. The waiting time did give me a good 10 minutes to inspect my surroundings though, where I found that the screws holding the back of the seat in front of me in place were so loose and wobbly that they were close to coming out altogether. +1 for maintenance!
     
    The ride itself wasn't bad at all - quite intense in places (especially the vertical loop) and not so rough as to be unenjoyable; serious bracing helped a fair bit.
     
    I was sat next to a guy from Cambodia - who can't have been any older than 14 - who told me on the lift hill in broken English that this was his first ever roller coaster and he was very nervous to ride. He came off grinning from ear to ear!
     

     
    Đầm Sen is also home to Tàu Xoay Cao Tồc / Spinning Coaster, which continues in the great tradition of Asian-clones by emulating the classic Maurer Söhne spinner. I am a big fan of the Maurer spinners - the excellent Tarántula at Parque de Atracciones de Madrid is one of my favourites - so was interested to see how this one would ride.
     
    It was built by the almost-ubiquitous Chinese manufacturer Golden Horse, who appear in most Asian Parks with cheaper clones of classic Vekoma, Zamperla and Maurer rides. Alas for Golden Horse, in recent years the original manufacturers have been fighting back, with trademark infringement lawsuits aplenty.
     

     
    The ride itself is a pretty standard spinner layout - there are currently 77 standard Golden Horse ZXC-24A models in existence, 76 in Asia - with flat hairpin turns in the first half, and more drops and longer curves in the second half.
     

     
    The ride wasn't bad, with a decent amount of spinning and some good drops. However, it all felt a little bit more rattly and unsteady than the Maurer originals, and special mention must be given to the car design: almost identical, save for added seatbelts and the usual Maurer "loop" handle bar having been swapped with a t-bar handle bar, akin to those on a bicycle. When seated in the car, this t-bar sits at about knee-height for your average grown adult, and proved to be very painful indeed...
     
    If you've ever ridden Dragon's Fury or Spinball, you'll know that the end of the ride features a fairly brutal "kick" from a long horizontal bar just above track-height which steadies the car and straightens it up. Tàu Xoay Cao Tồc / Spinning Coaster does likewise, although if anything in a more brutal fashion and with little warning, which resulted in both of my knees smashing into the t-bar handle in the centre. I still had brusies days later. Top tip for future riders: do try to sit with your legs as far apart as possible - pinning your knees against the side of the car may help. One go was enough!
     

     
    And I've read a few ride restriction boards in my time, but never one that informs guests that "no gamboling... is allowed while riding". Which is a shame, because I was quite keen on starting up a game of blackjack whilst on the hairpin bends.
     

     
    Walk further around the lake and you'll find Trò ChơI Rồng Bay / Flying Dragon - a standard Dragon ride much like the indoor Bí Mật Rừng Phù Thủy / Secret of Sorcerer Forest I encountered in SuốI Tiên. However, approaching the station I couldn't find an operator anywhere nearby; not wholly surprising, given the gate figure.
     
    After a minute or so of looking around, I found a staff member relaxing a short way from the ride leaning against a tree. She motioned for me to get into the dragon car. Once I was sat down - her still leaning against the nearby tree - she started the ride off using a remote control in her hand! No bar checks or anything, just a press of a button on her remote to set the train in motion. Bizarre.
     

     
    The layout itself was a standard Dragon oval, but the train did pick up some decent speed and I got a few goes around the track - pretty fun in all!
     

     
    Now time for a bit of a tour around the rest of Đầm Sen. I should say at this point that the Amusement Park is only one half of the attraction: the other half is a Water Park, with a separate gate and separate entry fee. If taking a taxi to Đầm Sen, make sure your driver knows to drop you off at the right entrance...!
     
    Whilst I didn't venture into the Water Park, it did look good fun, complete with Kamikaze drop slides, lazy river and recently-installed Boomerang ring slide. It apparently gets very popular at the weekends!
     

     
    Other notable structures on Park included this large theatre, which could seat ~300 people. No activity here during my visit, though!
     

     
    Đầm Sen also features this colourful (knock-off) Magic Carpet ride - a travelling version permanently installed in the Park...
     

     
    ...as well as the world's least-scary-looking Haunted House: Lâu ĐàI Kinh Dị / Castle of Horror. Save for the gargoyles and iron gates at the front, this looked more like Cinderella's Castle than Haunted Mansion...!
     

     
    There was also a set of marine-themed dodgems: Chính Phục ĐạI Đường / Conquer the Ocean. Alas these were not operational...
     

     
    ...as was the case with the Park's log flume.
     

     
    Onto the last coaster of the day: Vòng Xoáy TuổI Thơ / Childhood Spiral, which was operational! Points go to Đầm Sen for giving the ride a slightly more inspiring name than Roller Coaster or Spinning Coaster.
     
    Yes, it's a Big Apple, but it's a Big Apple that shuns the typical, erm, apple - for a watermelon! It was actually quite fast and enjoyable, although fairly rough even though it was just a Big Apple. Further points go to Đầm Sen for letting the foliage around the ride grow to such an extent that the bushes hanging over the base of the lift hill attack even the smallest of riders. Great entertainment.
     

     
    Colourful large grasshopper themeing was also a highlight.
     

     
    Perhaps the biggest surprise - and highlight - of the whole trip though was Bằng Băng / All Ice, which was an unexpectedly large ice-sculpture house at the top of the lake. Standing / sweating in the humid 30°C Ho Chi Minh heat, even if the sculptures turned out to be unimpressive, I figured this was a very welcome installation indeed.
     
    Given that the building had to be kept under sub-zero temperatures, and that most visitors (especially tourists) would not be wearing a great deal, the Park had the sense to provide warm puffer-jacket-style overcoats for guests to put on before entering.
     

     
    The sculptures were very impressive indeed: really quite large, nicely lit, and very detailed. This section included a lighthouse and Titanic-style cruise liner. To give some context on size, I'd say the lighthouse was at least twice the height of me - 12ft+!
     

     
    Other sculptures included the Greek Parthenon, a Roman Centurion, and a Chinese temple.
     

     
    After 10 minutes in Bằng Băng my nose and ears had decided they'd had enough of being in a freezer, so I took the cue to leave and stepped out again into the close evening air. By this time the sun was quickly going down, and the Park showed itself to be very pretty at night, with light installations such as the one below dotted around many of the walkways.
     

     
    Only at Đầm Sen: a purple pathway to love...?!
     

     
    A quick shout out to the attractive Ferris Wheel sporting a jazzy lighting package...
     

     
    ...and a final parting shot of the lotus flowers I had passed on my way in - this time lit up like a Disney parade float!
     

     
    And with that, I left Đầm Sen and grabbed a taxi to the newly-opened first McDonalds in Vietnam a few km away. Incidentally, McDonalds was absolutely heaving with locals, such that an extensive cattlepen queue had been erected outside the entrance to the restaurant and marshals were struggling to take orders from the crowds over the noise. It seems as if communist Vietnam is slowly seeing Western (capitalist) brands creep into their culture...!
     
    As I chomped down on my regional McPork™ burger, I reflected on my time at Đầm Sen: a nice little Park, if a little quiet and under-developed. With some TLC and investment it could really thrive: it has the space to expand and growing affluence in Ho Chi Minh City could provide a customer base with increasing disposable income to tap into. It has been reported recently that some of the rides from the now-defunct Freestyle Music Park in South Carolina, USA, could be heading over to Vietnam: could Đầm Sen be the lucky recipient of the goods...?! That'd do nicely.
     
    ~
     
    Comments? Please post below! Next up: Siam Park City.
  14. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: SuốI Tiên   
    Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be travelling around Asia for a couple of months (a mini gap-yah, if you like), and took some small detours from the standard tourist path to visit some Parks. This is the first in a 4-part blog series about my Asia Adventure, which will cover the following Parks:
     
    SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand  
    Hopefully the series will highlight some slightly different - and definitely non-Merlin! - Theme Parks that are on offer just 6,000 miles away.
     
    Part 1: SuốI Tiên
     

     
    SuốI Tiên is located just outside of Ho Chi Minh City; a 45 minute taxi ride despite being only 16 miles from the centre of town. It's the biggest Theme Park near Ho Chi Minh City and city planners are clearly invested in the Park, given that Ho Chi Minh's first metro line is having a station built right outside the entrance of the Park (a $2.8BN project, estimated completion 2017). Despite this, and having been open since 1995, my taxi driver had no idea where it was I wanted to go... so thank goodness for Google Maps and Smartphones.
     

     
    SuốI Tiên is one of the most unusual Theme Parks you are likely to visit: it is a Buddhist-themed Park where the attractions and landscaping illustrate Vietnam's history and legends. So as well as Buddhist-themed rollercoasters and dark rides, there are also plenty of Buddhist temples and statues located within the Park walls. And as you'll see in the photos below, the attention to detail in the themeing is second to none. Just take a look at the entrance...
     

     
    Entry is 50,000 Dong (£1.47) and then each attraction is at an extra cost, from 5,000 Dong (15p) to 60,000 Dong (£1.75). For 2014 the Park trialled a one-price admission for entry + all attractions at 350,000 Dong (£10.26) - quite reasonable really, but I went for the pay-per-ride option nonetheless.
     
    Before we go any further, it's worth saying at this point that the Park was absolutely dead. I counted maybe 50 guests inside it throughout my whole day, and the Park is not that small - roughly half the size of Alton Towers' sprawling grounds. There were at least 5 times as many staff visible as there were guests in the Park - so either this was an "off" day and the Park recoups the cost from much busier days, or the Park is otherwise propped up by the state... anyway, the Park felt even more deserted than my visit to Lightwater Valley on a rainy April Sunday in 2012, and that's saying something.
     
    Onwards with the tour: once through the entrance gates, the elaborate themeing continues. Move over Mickey and Pluto: this Park's mascots are the dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix:
     

     
    It's a very pretty Park, with nods to Buddhist culture at every turn. Alas I never once saw this Ferris Wheel (CốI Xoay Của Thần Gió / Rotating Wind Spirit) move during the day - highly likely due to the lack of riders...
     

     
    This elaborate entrance leads not to any attraction, but rather a large Buddhist shrine (Long Hoa Thiên Bảo).
     

     
    And here's the temple itself, Long Hoa Thiên Bảo.
     

     
    This dragon looks like it could be the centrepiece to a flat ride or similar, but is actually just another elaborate themeing setpiece for the Park (Tứ Linh HộI Tụ / 4 Sacred Animals) that guests can walk around.
     

     
    SuốI Tiên also contains a saltwater waterpark (Biển Tiên Đồng / Fairy At Sea), which includes slides and a kids area. As you can see, it wasn't open...
     

     
    OK, enough with Park overview - onto the Trip Report. I started the day by doing the Vương Quốc Cá Sấu / Crocodile United Nations, which was unashamedly a lake filled with crocodiles with a walkway positioned slightly above it. Completely safe.
     

     
    The Park advertise this as the "territory of the swamp lord", with over 100 crocs in the water. Mostly they were escaping the 30°C heat by chilling out on the sides or submerging themselves underwater.
     

     
    And as it was a Vietnamese Park, for 20,000 Dong (59p) you could dangle a piece of chicken over at the crocodiles to feed/bait them as desired. I didn't do this, but did watch the only 2 other Western tourists in the Park have a go. Needless to say the crocodiles got a little fiesty.
     

     
    Having escaped the territory of the swamp lord, I decided it was time to give the Park's signature thrill ride a go - Tàu Lượn Siêu Tốc / High Speed Roller Coaster. This was a large sit-down coaster with a non-inverting track that shuttled around the Park's main lake. I'd only seen a train complete the circuit once in my time at the Park so far, and now understood why - the ride required at least 4 people to operate. I have no idea whether this was a commercial or safety-based decision by the Park, but it meant that I needed to find 3 others willing to get on with me in order to get the train dispatched.
     
    Alas, I couldn't find anyone. Honestly. I even offered to pay the ride operator (in my best Vietnamese) for 4 tickets (60,000 Dong / £1.76 each) myself, but she insisted that I needed 3 others. Thankfully at this point the 2 guys from the Crocodile United Nations were walking past the ride, and after a quick negotiation agreed to join me. We later found a fourth rider near the Dolphin Show / Cá Heo và Sư Tử Biển (which never put on a performance due to - you guessed it - a lack of audience) and we were set for a spin on Vietnam's longest roller coaster.
     

     
    The trains for the ride were a little odd - the seats looked like they'd been taken from a second hand car, and the restraints included both an over-shoulder seat belt and a silver OTSR. Only after the train had left the station and was ascending up the lift hill did I check the OTSR to find that it didn't lock - I could both fully lift the silver harness up and unbuckle the seat belt. Excellent.
     

     
    The lift hill itself took a good 2 minutes to climb, thanks to the tyre-powered mechanism trying its best to get the train to the top. It was clear that the tyres were so worn that the train wasn't being gripped tightly enough to pull it up quickly, resulting in a lot of slippage and a very slow ascent!
     

     
    The ride itself was good fun, although I spent most of it hugging my OTSR with both arms hoping that I wouldn't fall out. It was a relatively smooth affair though, and even included a fun shuttle through an artificial mountain.
     

     
    Having disembarked, I saw that the Park were making some pretty bold claims in their advertising for the ride - a 200kmph top speed! I'm no expert, but the ride didn't feel as if it were 50% faster than Thorpe's Stealth (80mph/130kmph)... I doubt if it topped 50mph to be honest...
     

     
    Onto coaster #2 - Bí Mật Rừng Phù Thủy / Secret of Sorcerer Forest. There are few hints that this building houses a coaster - it was only because I asked around that I came to find it. The beginning part of the attraction is a short walkthrough, which was actually quite unnerving as a solo traveller. To the right of the entrance below is a long pitch-black pathway, themed around a forest. Hidden sensors trigger various noisy animatronics, which seemingly light up out of nowhere. Further on in the walkthrough is a surprising shuddering floor effect, which in the darkness made me scream involuntarily. And once you get to the station of the ride itself, you see that after all of this buildup, it's actually just a basic powered Dragon ride. Talk about anti-climax!
     

     
    The ride itself was - as the rest of the Park - themed very impressively with trees, foliage and sorcerers, which more than made up for the fact that the track layout was a standard oval.
     

     
    Other attractions around the Park included this large aircraft-hangar filled with kiddie rides.
     

     
    And larger thrill rides are hidden next to the Rotating Wind Spirit Ferris Wheel, including a Disk'O which I'm fairly sure isn't a Zamperla original...
     

     
    This facade looks innocent from the outside, but houses Kim Lân Sơn Xuất Thế / Palace of Unicorns, which is a walkthrough attraction depicting the many stages of Buddhist Hell. The two crocodile-baiting Westerners from earlier told me that the attraction is immaculately themed but really quite violent and disturbing inside, using animatronics to portray gory Buddhist punishments for various offences, including drug addiction, gambling, and adultery. Think dismembered body parts and occasional jump-scares. I gave it a miss.
     

     
    And new for 2014 was - wait for it - Lâu ĐàI Phép Thuật Harry Potter / The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes, in the middle of Vietnam's authentically Buddhist Theme Park sits possibly the most incongruous new attraction they could have built. I think they just threw away the concept for this one and went for a crowd pleaser...
     

     
    Does Universal know that this exists? Do they care? Probably not. The attraction was hardly a competitor to the real Wizarding World, being just a glorified haunted house walkthrough with Daniel Radcliffe's face stuck on the front. And although the exterior was substantial, the inside was less impressive. I walked through 7 rooms in total, one for each of the books in the Harry Potter series, with standard ghost/witch/goblin statues popping out from all sides. There may have been an actor in there as well grabbing legs and shoulders as I walked past - who knows. Very little connection to the Harry Potter stories overall; the most startling moment came from a noisy dementor (possibly?) that flew overhead on a wire at great speed and nearly clocked me on the head.
     
    My overall feeling was that it was a shame that SuốI Tiên spent money on this, given how out-of-place it looks compared to the rest of the Park. Last time I checked Harry didn't have a whole lot to do with the Buddhist tradition. It may have yet saved itself if the quality was in line with the rest of the Park, but alas...
     

     
    Remember book 5? It's the Oder of the Pheonix!
     

     
    As you can see, just like the films...
     

     
    That said, it's good to see the Park continuing to invest - especially given that I have no idea where they're getting any money from. And it was clear that there was more to come both this year and next, with more construction happening by the indoor kiddie area. Notice that there is little to no protection of the public from the building work - I could just walk right on through!
     

     
    Also in the pipeline is Đĩa Bay Hành Tinh Lạ / Alien Flying Disk...
     

     
    ...and Phât Địa Mẫu / Buddha Model, another Buddhist themed set piece.
     

     
    And with that, it was nearing 6pm and the Park was shutting down for the day. I'd had a really unique experience here - nothing like any other Park I'd been to. Exquisitely themed (for the most part), strong religious themes running throughout and with some genuinely different attractions. It was just a shame there wasn't a higher gate figure; at times walking through the Park was a bit like touring an abandoned school - a bit creepy.
     

     
    So how to sum up SuốI Tiên? "Buddhist nirvana"? "Disney on acid"? "Plain strange"?
     
    SuốI Tiên is - at least in my experience - pretty incomparable as a concept. It's clearly taken a huge pot of cash to develop the Park in such an elaborate and large scale way, and I would encourage anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City to take a trip out to District 9 to have a look around, because it's just so different. You can't help but smile at the colourful bizarreness of the place!
     
    ~
     
    Comments? Please post below! Next up: Đầm Sen.
  15. Like
    pluk reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, Phantasialand in October   
    It's been a long 14 years since my first trip to Phantasialand and despite my love affair with the park when I visited in 2006, It hadn't been a park on my radar to revisit. All it took though was a read of Benin's August trip report, some willing volunteers with the cash and just like that, it was off to Germany. For those that have never been, getting to the park is as easy as pie and incredibly cheap. I heartedly recommend it, despite having to fly on Easyjet at 7:05 in the morning as the train/bus system in Germany gets you to the park in less then an hour from the airport.
    For less then £200 we got two nights in Hotel Matamba, two days on the park and two fastracks for each of us. One thing we concluded on the trip was that the park is amazing value. Sure, it is one of the more expensive parks in Europe to get into but for the quality of ride you get and the cheapness in the park itself (5 euros for on ride photos, meals at fast food resauraunts for less then 8 euros, even better cocktails in the bar were cheap for European standards).
    With us all checked into the stunning Matamba (it really is stunning) we were off to the park. Despite some of the quality attractions held within, there is an aspect to the park that is stuck within the eighties. The entrance for instance is quite basic for example and doesn't look like it's seen any changes since the park opened. Reminded us of Epcot. We decided for our first ride would be the 2006 inverter, Black Mamba. Back when it first opened I thought it was a fantastic piece of work with a fast, intense ride cacooned within some intricate, detailed and beautiful theming. I'm happy to report, time has been kind to this ride and we all thoroughly enjoyed our rides. I disagree deeply with Benin on his analysis of the ride however. This is no Silver Bullet or Inferno that peeters out heavily at the end, this is a ride that maintains its intensity, speed and enjoyment from start to finish. The four inversions are taken right at the start of the ride, almost to get them out of the way quickly. The ride then takes on three high speed helices which I found pretty intense as the ride was running so well. I was even surprised to find a nice pop of air time as the ride dips into the first helix. The general ambience of the ride is the greatest of any B&M out there with only Oz'Iris giving any real competition. The level of detail is franklyy stunning so even if you aren't a fan of the ride itself, the theming and feel of the ride more then makes up for it. My only criticism is the aggressive staff. One actually pushed me backwards causing me to hit my head on the top of the train. Completely unnecessary on a walk on, one train operated ride.




    With the Biting ride done, we headed to the new for 2013 but actually opened in 2014 ride, Chiapas. First and foremost, this is for me, is the most beautiful ride in Europe. Everything about it has been designed to the nth degree. From the surrounding pathways which afford great views of the ride, to the queueline and ride itself intertwined so perfectly into a neat little package, there is nothing else quite like it. Even the queue itself, with the batching lanes being divided into fastpass, single riders, groups of twos and everyone else shows that thought has been put into how this ride is operationally run. Well it's top level and shows effort unmatched by anywhere else. But what about the ride itself? I have never come across a water ride run in such a precise and technically perfect way anywhere. Intamin have worked magic here with the different ride systems running perfectly in sync so that the ride show never feels under threat by the ride mechanics. The backwards room in particular is a highlight as is the final drop that feels far steeper and longer then it looks. Everyone comes off of this ride with a smile because it's fun. I in general hate Log flumes, but this goes to the top of my class and is easily my favourite water ride.


    Talocan was our next ride. I've never done a floorless top spin before as the one at Knotts was closed on my visit. Suffice to say, the theming and ride show really helps to push Talocan as a top tier attraction because the ride itself isn't as grand as everything else around it. That being said, this was one of the better ride cycles I've done but I still can't rate this as high as other much more appropriate and interesting flat rides. The restrain in particular was slightly odd as the bottom has a nice sharp pointy bit that could cause a lot of men to be unable to have children in the future. You have been warned.


    Back in 2000, Colorado was the main attraction if you like. Now, with Mamba, Winjas and Chiapas to help lighten the load, Colorado Adventure takes president as the main family rollercoaster on site. And it truly is a wonderful Vekoma mine train. The only real problem for it though is the first part of the ride. With the removal of other attractions and the addition of Chiapas, half of the indoor area has been removed exposing the ride itself. The job is clearly half finished as well as corregated steel sticks out over pathways and the shed area is completely on show. Which is a true shame as it ruins the illusion that this is a western themed ride. Luckily the ride after the second lift hill is intact and what follows in the dark is hair-raising. Truly scary with the ride jerking you around back and forth and you have no idea where you are going. Part of Colorados charm is that it can go from sedate little mine train to throwing you back and forth with no warning. The final helix in particular is excellent. I felt like I was dying or about to. It's fantastic.

    On our travels we took on the omnimover which can be descibed as Chinese Haunted Mansion. It's main flaw was that it was way to light in there at one point the view is solely a fire exit, illuminated up all nicely for your pleasure. River Quest followed which is a terrifying experience for all involved and makes it the only rapids ride that I'm not a fan off. We next ventured onto Mystery Castle which was terrifying as a 12 year old, but completely underwhelming as an adult. I like the idea of all of us strapped to the castle walls but the ride itself isn't scary enough. Nice concept blown by a rather blase ride.

    With this side of the park done, we went over to the Berlin and Wuze Town. Our first port of call was Winjas, the Maurer spinners featuring trick track. I was suitably impressed with Fear in particular but this time I was a bit more warey. When it comes to spinning rides, I expect a little bit of spinning but these two don't spin too well. Fear I found was better at it but both have a severe lack of it. The other thing is the trick track of the see saw and moving track kind of threaten the flow of the ride, they break the pacing and the rhythm. Thankfully, Fear has a surprise immelman.

    With Phantasialand, there is a real drop on quality on this side of the park probably to do with its location near local housing. Temple of the Knight Hawk is a dismal attempt at a Space Mountain rip off. It doesn't impress and left 'Fred', Dan9 and Tom feeling ill. The problem is it just isn't interesting enough and just goes round and round almost bored of itself. A similar effect can be felt on the Hollywood Ride, a rather dismal attempt at evoking Hollywood glamour but just coming across as cheap and run down. Sad and terrible is the only words I can use to describe it as. We tried on other rides in the area such as the Splash Battle which features no splash battling and nothing to really aim at, no effects whatsoever. We also tried out the Race to Atlantis which might have been good back in the eighties but is no longer relevant. Pirates 4D was a nice kick back to Thorpe when it was an up and coming theme park in the 2000's and the final ride to really talk about is Maus de Chocolat. I don't like the shooting system really in the same way that I don't like Toy Story Manias shooting style. I just can't get the hang of it which means I always lose. Sad times. I love the theming around it even if it is just a Ratatouille film rip off.
    So thats the theme park. A wonderful place to visit with half the park being ahead of the game and the other half sadly lacking. Luckily, the awesomeness of Mamba, Chiapas and Colorado really stick in the mind. The management here know what they're doing and it's a joy to visit. I recommend staying at Matamba as well, with a true ambience and joy to it. I even tried Zebra in the hotel restauraunt.


    A yummy Black Mamba cocktail!
    Thanks foe reading.
  16. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 10 - Tripping Chimps   
    Our start to the day did not go well. On our way to Tripsdrill, there was bountiful traffic on our motorway exit, which delayed us by an hour, arriving at the park just after 10 when the thrill rides opened instead of the 9am arrival time hoped for.


    As a result, the first ride of the day was Karacho, Smiler’s German lapbar wearing cousin who’s actually still not finished at all (and won’t be fully completed till at least next year). So this was to be an interesting one anyway, as people are always seemingly up in arms over Smiler not having lapbars, would they have ‘saved’ the ride from being rough?
    I think the answer is no. The lapbars aren’t particularly comfy in the first place, and of course don’t limit the upper body movement, which would be fine if you weren’t riding a Gerstlauer full of tight transitions and inversions.
    As for Karacho, there was something about it that just didn’t click. I’m not sure to be quite honest what was wrong with it, but something was off about it. Perhaps it was the odd judder here or there, but the layout should be fine. Perhaps it was the unfinished nature of it that put me off. Either way, I was neither enamoured nor hateful towards the ride, perhaps after Smiler’s intensity levels a lack of it resulted in bland indifference towards it. A shame really, as it has the potential to be fantastic, but I would say Smiler will probably be done as the bigger success of the two in the future.






    Second on the list was Mammut, the Wooden coaster where the man roller-bladed on for some reason and the queue had loads of English paper clippings about it (including the Metro). Since I rode it last they’ve finished the cool pre-lift tunnel and added dispatch music. The tunnel was fairly similar to Blue Fire’s, only with a sawmill theme. It’s still a fun enough coaster; if a little bit slow around most of it compared to the sheer relentlessness of a GCI. Wonder if the price difference between the two speaks the volumes of why no-one else seems to have purchased one.



    The coaster trio finished with G’sengte Sau, which felt awfully familiar after visiting Klotten the other day. It’s probably the best themed Gerst Bobsled about it must be said, with the castle near misses adding a lot to the overall experience, and it’s still the fun layout you come to know and enjoy.





    Water ride time was next, with Badewannen-Fahrt zum Jungbrunnen and Waschzuber-Rafting both on the menu as the Log Flume and Rapids respectively. Badewannen is the infamous nude models dark ride section, and it also had a surprising (to me) backwards drop in it. It was alright. The Rapids were pretty dull after doing River Quest though, but I do love the random theme it was given.






    After a quick random veggie burger (language barrier issues), a Zierer Tivoli known as Rasender Tausendfüßler completed our cred count. It was just like every other Tivoli, but with some awesome landscaping, so it was ok in the end.


    One of Tripsdrill’s major selling points is the random attractions they have spawned to continue with their theme of normal life. Whilst the likes of Mammut, G’Sengte Sau and the Rapids push this point quite well, it’s in the ‘old’ part of the park where every ride fulfils this theming quality. The rides are immensely well themed as well, so we began our adventure on the Spinning Soup Pots. It was like an Onion Boat Ride but on a track and more spinning, it was weird.



    Continuing the weird ride trend were Flying Wash Baskets, a strange Enterprise style ride. The final piece of the spinning ride puzzle were the Spinning Wine Barrels, which were the same as the Soup Pots but on a longer track. They were also a lot more spinny to boot.





    We then found a random Model Walkthrough, which was typically creepy due to the designs of the models found within. This was followed by the epic slide that lives within the Old Mill, the park’s oldest attraction. Next was Doppelter Donnerbalken, the tilting drop tower, which was only running one side unfortunately but it was still the epic crap yourself moment that isn’t really repeated much.








    We entered the Goat Farm, where you could both feed and groom the goats, as per usual, when food was around, they went crazy, which is always entertaining. After I spotted it I really wanted to go on the StockCar Race, Tripsdrill’s answer to Autopia with a racing element to it. It was definitely weird as my car was seemingly really quick; I managed to go past the people who went off in front of us. Would be great fun in a group. Finally the Maypole Tower was ridden, which was another weird flat ride akin to those kiddie drop towers Lego love so much.









    After that, we were pretty much bored of the park, so we left.

    Around an hour later, we had arrived at park number 2 of the day, Schawben Park. In yet another weird location next door to a village in the middle of nowhere.

    The first thing you spot is of course the recently new Force 1 from Zierer. It does tower above the car park and indeed the rest of the park due to its location at the tippy top of the hill, which can only be considered a good thing for a family coaster. I definitely prefer those that don’t try and treat the younger riders with contempt and patronisation (I.e. Wacky Worms), and Force 1 really doesn’t disappoint actually, providing an intense (I greyed out) and fun ride with just a spot of airtime here and there. I hope these new-fangled Zierers are becoming a lot more common, because they’re fab.






    Walking down the hill we arrived at the next two creds; starting with Crazy Worm, a random contraption that was at least not a Wacky Worm. Second up was the Schwarzkopf Himalayabahn, complete with smoking ride ops and minimal safety standards. Love Germany. Neither ride are particularly worth discussing any further.






    Next door to the creds was a real shining star at the park, Bobkart. For those who have been to Oakwood and done the Bobsleigh there, imagine that but with an electrical circuit attached. This allows a more faster and forceful ride as a result if you go flat out on it, it was brilliant.


    We wandered past another Goat Farm which promptly produced some of the funniest antics of the entire trip. For we realised upon entering that a goat had managed to make it into the containment zone between the park and the yard. Some random girls were trying (and failing) to get the goat out so we helped by purchasing a tub of carrots for a Euro to lure him. This didn’t work of course, as all the other goats (and there were many) realised that there were carrots around and charged in, causing mass confusion and hysteria about. Eventually we did get the goat in the yard but then some stupid people left the gate open again and he once again made a break for it, assisted by another goat headbutting him.



    We decided to leave it as it wasn’t worth the time and we had a show to watch, but as we left a mum and her small child went in with another tub of carrots. The goats surrounded and attacked, promptly causing the little child to fall over and become engulfed in a swarm of goats, with the mum holding the tub of carrots in one hand trying to pull her child back up with the other. Absolutely hilarious.

    We headed into the Chimp Show which was as expected, a bit dodgy for the sake of ‘entertainment’. At least the trainers showed some love and attention to all the animals involved and weren’t too forceful when the chimps got scared. But still I can’t imagine it would sit well with the Blackfish bridage.


    It was then time for the manual rides again, with another Nautic Jet which got me surprisingly wet down the back and a Zip Wire, which wasn’t as good as the one in Schloss Beck. We also randomly did the new for 2014 Boat Carousel, because I’m a goon.







    It was re-ride time, and there were only two things we really wanted to do again, so another turn on the Bobkart at full speed was required before three goes on Force 1, which was certainly more than enough, so we headed for the hills.



    Overall, it was a weird day at two weird parks. Tripsdrill I feel is better in a big group, though it’s not helped by the rides being a bit below par, especially Karacho which was a bit of a disappointment it must be said. Schwaben on the other hand wasn’t as run-down as I was anticipating it to be, and the random zoo enclosures weren’t that bad either. It’s a family park first and foremost so there’s not a lot there, but Force 1 is actually really fab.
    Maybe Tripsdrill is just a marmite park; I just cannot put my finger on it why it doesn’t get along with me. Because it probably should as it’s weird and European. It will forever be a mystery.

  17. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Halloween Scream Nights - Twisted Attractions   
    Last year, a new, independent, scare company burst onto the scene - Twisted Attractions. Opening up in Birmingham in a disused nightclub, 'The Morgue: Live' caught the attention of many people, and got amazing reviews from the scare industry. Fastforward to May this year, and Twisted Attractions had moved to an old warehouse, bigger than the nightclub, with 'The Facility'. The reviews of The Morgue caught my attention, and upon hearing about The Facility, I really wanted to go try it out, but alas, I couldn't for a variety of reasons.
    After The Facility closed, it was announced that two new attractions would open in its place for Halloween - 'House of Insomnia' and 'Ward 78'. And, well, I just had to go try it out. And that's just what I did tonight, on the opening night! I arrived just before the 7pm opening and after a slight delay due to some actors being caught in traffic (to which they offered free tea or coffee whilst we waited), it was time for the scares to begin...
    NB: I'll give a review of both mazes in the order I did them - I'll do a non-spoiler review followed by a spoiler review (in spoiler tags).
    Ward 78
    Ward 78 is very different to most scare attractions, in that it's designed to be done either by yourself or in a group of two. Essentially, the maze involves you going through a Victorian hospital ward where, of course, not all is well. The website describes it as follows:

    After being told the instructions and signing a waiver, I was given my candle (one of the electronic torch-like ones, not a real one!) and ventured down the hospital corridor...
    Non-spoilers:
    The maze involves a lot of tight spaces, loud noises and disorientation. Being by yourself already leaves you on edge and the actors take advantage of it; they like to bully you! After a while, my candle was taken from me, leaving me seemingly without hope. This actually turned out to be near the end of the attraction, which involved some nice trickery and a lot of special effects.
    Spoilers:
    So, all in all, a fun scare attraction. It makes good use of scare tactics and special effects, but I think it was a bit on the short side and needed a bit more to it.

    The entrance/exit. Image from ScareTOUR.
    House of Insomnia
    House of Insomnia is more of a traditional maze; you go through in groups, though there's no need for hands-on-shoulders. The vague idea is about a pair of twins in lived in a house who essentially went crazy due to mistreatment from their parents, lack of sleep and whatnot (from what I understood) at least. Here's what the website says...

    Non-spoilers:
    The maze starts with an introduction to the story, telling you about the Demurrer Twins. Very nice idea and from what I heard, very cleverly done, however, there was noise bleed from inside the attraction, making it difficult to hear. After that, we ventured into the maze.
    The maze is quite possibly the best themed maze I've done - lots of details and consistent storytelling theming about. Each scene follows from the previous and usually builds upon it. The maze is again very claustrophobic and makes great use of a small space. The actors are very well placed and each add to the story line - there's no 'random' actors or anything. The ending isn't particular special and is something that has been done before (indeed, I don't think it's a spoiler to say what the end is, since it's rather obvious from outside, but alas, I shall not say here...). Nonetheless, still very good.
    Spoilers:
    Overall, House of Insomnia was a very good attraction, again making brilliant use of scare tactics, tight spaces, creating a great story and some top-notch theming. I think the fact that people quickly ended up holding onto one another, even though you weren't required to have your hands on shoulders, shows how unnerving the attraction can be. In fact, the girl being me was seemingly clinging onto my shirt for dear life!

    Entrance to House of Insomnia - taken from ScareTOUR.
    It's hard for me to compare these two attractions to their previous ones, but I personally think that the creating of two attractions may have been a bad thing. The Facility was one attraction in the same place as these two, and had a Face it Alone feature as well. Instead, they've created two separate attractions, a Face it Alone one which feels like it needs to be longer and have more substance, and an 'ordinary' attraction which should go on a bit longer. Maybe it just needs more time to settle; who knows? However, I guess I shouldn't really complain when I really enjoyed both attractions!
    For anyone interested, the cost of both the attractions was £12 (though it goes to £14 on peak days) and I definitely think it's worth every penny! The main issue is of course getting to it, but if you're near Birmingham at some point when Twisted Attractions are running a show, definitely give it a try (they're about a 10-15min walk from Birmingham New Street train station).
    A link to ScareTOUR's review, where I got the photos from - http://www.scaretouruk.com/review---halloween-scream-nights-by-twisted-attractions.html
    So yeah, all in all, some great scare attractions from an independent company who only have good things for their future!
  18. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Days 13&14 – Return of the Macks   
    Day 13 – Return of the Macks Part 1
    A bright and early morning led us down to a nice breakfast before the 8:30 ERT on Blue Fire.






    Afterwards we decided to hang around and wait for Arthur to open, however when we did get to the entrance it was having issues and was playing the closed game. As a result we went back to Austria and did Alpenexpress and the Wildwasserbahn for the Cave of fantastic smells before a quick whirl on the Chairswings







    Heading back and Arthur was open, so we joined the main queue which spends most of the time outside the building at the moment (although there were many unused cattle pens within). It’s quite an interesting ride to watch from the outside, especially when it stacks and a train just randomly stops on the final helix. The queue moved quickly inside to the locker area, which is a weird system, as you get batched into small groups into a coloured area, scan your park ticket and get given a locker before moving on to the station.
    The seats are comfy as per the norm and quickly we’ve off into the world of the Minimoys, through a cool enough transition but not hidden from view so you see it constantly prior to riding. The scenes are quite well done (although the second major scene didn’t work at all on our first ride), and have plenty to look at, loosely following the story of the first two films. Paradise Alley is clearly the best scene in the dark ride portion, before the Winjas inspired fly around the area (made better by the Inverted nature of the ride) and one last random scene before a quick flight back outside and into the farewell scene.
    From a coaster point of view, Arthur isn’t the best, but as a dark ride it’s pretty much the best one they have there. Which is of course not saying much, as Europa’s dark rides are pretty much the epitome of cheap rip-offs, especially Piraten in Batavia. But still, it’s a very enjoyable ride and the kids seemed to really love it, and that’s who it’s aimed that really, not us weird English people who didn’t like the film (because the English version is dire, the uncut European one has an actual storyline).










    We then did the other two rides in the area, Mul Mul Carousel, a mini Dumbo type ride and Poppy Tower, a kids drop tower that looks like it should have two of them rather than one. Perhaps the delays affected this as well? There are also a few slides and other things for kids to do around the area. We then used Arthur’s single rider queue which is quite effective, and doesn’t mean you have to leave your bag in a locker either. The second scene also worked that time, which was at least something, usually a broken scene would be broken all day over here.










    Up next we got some Crepes, and joined the Silver Star queue, which summed up Europa in a nutshell. All the extensions open, even outside, the queue is stretching up towards EuroSat, the total waiting time? 50 minutes. Considering the park did a 12 hour day that day as well, it’s an unbelievable testament to how Europa very often do things right.
    As for Silver Star, it’s still a decent enough coaster, after riding Shambhala it didn’t reach those heady heights, but I still think the s-bend finale is a brilliant finish to the ride.



    A quick hop on the EP Express to Spain led us to some shows. Firstly the Flamenco Show, which was actually really good, especially when the man and his balls on a string brought up a volunteer from the audience and proceeded to terrify her. Viva Ventura was next, which was relatively entertaining again, but I don’t think it was as good as the show I saw two years ago. Felt a bit more serious rather than the tongue-in-cheek shows of before.


    We caught some lunch and watched the parade go by before heading off to our next ride, Crazy Taxi, purely because we were walking past it and there wasn’t a queue. I do like the Demolition Derby rides though; just find them a good laugh.
    We continued onto EuroSat, which had a 30 minute queue but randomly stopped running for a short time. Not sure why, but the queue was still it’s fast paced self when running. The ride was also relentless and fast-paced, another ride I really enjoy, especially the lift hill rave times it provides. We then did Universe of Energy, because again I like it’s cheesy and crap dark ride existence, and it also didn’t have a queue.










    A dark ride which DID have a queue however was Abenteur Atlantis. Yep, the park was so busy that even this, a ride that has never seen a queue in many people’s visits had a queue coming out the door. This was a complete travesty really, as why should I be expected to wait 8 minutes for this? I also like Abenteur, one of the better interactive dark rides even if a lot of it is just 2D cut-outs, it suits the childish theme it has around it.



    Pegasus was next, the two train operation making the queue move really quickly, shame that idiotic families couldn’t do the same thing and have the entire group queue in one row. Idiots. EuroMir then happened for more lift hill raving times and that randomly intense helix from nowhere. We hopped on the train all around the park for an extended sit-down before popping into the rather fab Historama, so many filler rides so little time at Europa, and Historama is just fab because it’s the park saying how amazing they are, but with the evidence to back up such a claim.








    The final cheesy dark ride of the day was Piraten in Batavia, which had some new effects in a water curtain after the drop into the show building. It’s so crap, especially after experiencing Fata Morgana, but it also has this charm because it is so crap. Very weird indeed. We hopped onto the Island Monorail for a stop off at the Kaffee Hus because cake was required, before briefly watching the Dive Show. Then we beat the crowds onto Atlantica Supersplash, where the most interesting thing was that we saw them take the 5th boat off into storage because there was no need for 5 on the circuit anymore.






    It was slowly coming towards the end of the day so another spin on Blue Fire was required, before the last ride of the day was Wodan, which again was running spectacularly. Why can’t a UK park just build one of these already?



    And that was it, 12.5 hours spent at Europa Park, and what a day it was too. Well worth the tiredness at the end of it all, because the park just hits all the right notes. It was strange to see it so busy and packed out yet queues only topped over an hour on 3 of the coasters, Arthur, Blue Fire and Wodan, so it just goes to show what happens when your park considers throughputs and providing several other things to do for guests over the day.
    And we still had another day at the park to go.

    Day 14 – Return of the Macks Part 2
    Day 2 at Europa was planned to be a very easy day, with lots of chilling about after the long day beforehand and also that we had to head off early to catch the flight back home from Basel. So after another breakfast and checking out we headed off for another dose of ERT.
    We once again started on Blue Fire, with some added front row times to wake us up a bit, before waiting for Wodan for open and getting front row on that as well. There doesn’t seem to be that much difference between the relentlessness of it first and last thing either, which is good.





    A quick spin on EuroMir followed as it had no queue before we decided to do some attractions we’d never done before, starting with Silverstone, the random car ride which wasn’t suited to those with long legs. Before the Queens Diamonds laser maze, which had a disappointingly low amount of lasers for a ‘maze’.



    We wandered over to Arthur which hadn’t opened by this point, so we quickly popped into Die Quipse Show, which was some random cinema style show featuring baby versions of the Europa mascots. Was very strange since it shares the same building as the Brothers Grimm attraction. By the time we had exited Arthur eventually opened so we single ridered it twice.





    It was the time for the Ice Show which had some fab pre-show antics before some random ice-skating stuff that always happens in these shows. Then a man with some parrots came out and flew them around which was quite cool. Up next we did the Castle Balthasar 4D Show, which is clearly one of the best (and most original) 4D shows around.


    Silver Star was next before we sat down for another show, Euromaus in Brazil, which had lots of dancing and even had a guest appearance from Rustis (the Europa Park mascot band). A quick break for lunch and it was then time for Arthur 4D, which had an annoyingly large amount of leg tickler action and French people. URGH.



    Eurosat was then ridden before a bit of Abenteur Atlantis, followed by the infamous Bench the Ride. We then headed over to the Grimm Fairy Tales Show which I do enjoy as it’s an excellent attraction for the target audience and is generally a little hidden gem I feel.





    The day was running short it was time to single rider the main 3 coasters again, so Arthur, Blue Fire and a final run on Wodan finished off the day. The Blue Fire single rider queue didn’t go particularly well, as the batcher was really crap. So crap in fact that the other platformers insisted that a switcharound take place so the guy could be put on the exit where no harm could be done. Good work guys.










    And then that was it. We bid farewell to Europa and Germany as a whole as we headed to Basel to fly home. What a ridiculous trip this had been as well, with lots of driving each day, a park every day and very little time in between to rest, fortunately the parks weren’t always busy and the ones that were we had QBot/Express Passes for, and that really was only 3 of the parks that were truly busy and would have been hellish if not for the queue jumping.
    The stand-out park of the trip was Phantasialand, as I had forgotten how fantastic a park it actually is; filled to the brim with stuff to do and some of the best area theming in Europe, with some fantastic rides to boot. Some mentions have to go to Van Helsing’s Factory and Force 1 for being surprisingly good rides as well.
    Thanks for reading!

  19. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 12 – A Holiday on my holiday   
    Another park that’s changed a bit since my previous visit, what with Plopsa getting their hands on it recently, Holiday Park would serve as our penultimate park purely because it was easier to head down to Europa Park afterwards. We turned up to find it rather empty and a sign stating that the Spinning Barrels and Holly’s Autofahrt would both be spiting us. Was only when I returned I realised what had actually happened with the Barrel ride, grim.

    We dossed around in the Museum for a bit looking at the old stuff before the park opened and we headed for our first destination.





    Expedition GeForce is over-rated. It’s that simple really. And like most Intamin’s has a good first drop but everything else is just so meh. What doesn’t help is that the lapbars are really uncomfortable on the thighs, so of course what happens on every airtime hill? It digs into the leg. What does the ride have a lot of? Airtime hills. Sigh.
    It just isn’t the best thing ever, if it ever was in the first place.





    After that disappointment we headed over to the new for 2014 Sky Scream, a weird Premier contraption indeed. The exterior which is now finished looks fantastic, unfortunately inside the building the only piece of theming was a spider, which had moved in rather than actually been placed deliberately. Oh well.
    The restraints have a real burden to them as well, in the shin guards of WHY? Being a flat block of foam doesn’t particularly work well for shins, what with the curvature of the human body being as it is, so it’s another set of restraints that just did into you. 2 for 2 in the bad design choices.
    The ride itself is actually quite good fun I felt. Quite intense and a fair amount of hangtime throughout, but the shin-guards prevent it from being really enjoyable, and they became more noticeable the second time around. A shame really, and I hope they get around the theming the inside, cos it’s utter crap currently.







    Time for a rethemed ride next, and the first Plopsa themed ride in Wickie Splash, the Log Flume which was good fun, managing to do 3 reversing log flumes in 3 days was very weird though it must be said. We wandered past a random show on the way to the next ride Tabuluga Boat Ride, which was one of those slow boat rides with random scenes and no music in the boat. We put that down to the random unplugged component underneath the seat.












    We faffed about for a bit wondering what to do next, and ended up on the Carousel before hitting up Donnerfluss the Rapids of reasonable wetness.






    We had some food and decided as there weren’t many other rides we really wanted to do (due to a distinct lack of filler rides really at the park) we would watch the other shows. Starting off with the delightfully European Gooseparade, which is exactly what you imagine it to be, before the Festival der Tiere animal based stunt show. It was reasonably cute and involved a giant rabbit.




    Finally we watched the Talking Dead Show, a jet ski show randomly themed to zombies due to the addition of Sky Scream. It was rather entertaining, with lots of interactive bits and stunts and general silliness abound, including a Wrecking Ball moment right above the crowd. Shame the finale explosion was a bit poor, especially for a German show.


    We decided to ride the two coasters again, both being still rather meh before hitting up the House of Anubis Free Fall Tower, which clearly has the best queueline ever because you get to watch episodes of the show. It was a smaller version of Apocalypse (3 sides) and alright rather than spectactular.







    It was then time to head for Europa. Holiday Park was a bit disappointing really, whilst what Plopsa have added so far looks really good (Sky Scream interior aside), it just seems to lack a lot of things to generally do. Lots of dead space around certain points in the park and a lot of crap rides to boot doesn’t really add up to much, given that the two major coasters are both disappointing (but at least for those who like GeForce, it is back on two trains).
    Plopsa have a lot of work to do with the park I think.

    After a drive, we started seeing the signs that make many enthusiasts very happy.



    We parked up at the Bell Rock Hotel, ready to chill and get some dinner in the bar, but as we checked in the staff member said to us that because the park was open until 9pm, we could have some free entry for the final hour of operation. Of course the answer to this a resounding yes, so we dumped our bags in the room and headed to the Spirit of St Louis bar for a delicious Black Angus Burger before heading into the park.





    Choices were of course at a minimum, what with only an hour to play around with, so we headed to Blue Fire because it’s amazing. Whilst Helix has of course overtaken it because of being bigger and better, Blue Fire is still a fantastic ride, smooth as glass with the odd bit of airtime and intensity throughout it. It still resides in that top 10 of mine as a result.



    Up next was Wodan, which was its usual relentless self so late on in the day. I don’t rate it as highly as many others seem to do though, possibly because of experiences like the Beast at night being something that can very rarely be topped in the wooden coaster stakes. It’s still very good mind.





    We had some proper night-time Blue Fire before we headed to the Colosseo for the Imperio Show, which was ok I guess. I dunno, it just didn’t click with me for some reason, all a bit too random and lacking much in the way of a progressive story for such a show. Why was the scantily glad lady dancing in a champagne glass? I’ll never know.





    It was then time for bed, as the next day was going to be a long one.
  20. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 7 - PHANtastic!   
    Day 7 – Phantastic Part 1
    My last visit to Phantasialand was 6 years ago, which in some cases doesn’t tend to mean a whole lot has changed. However, here, pretty much every single area had something different about it, be it from an addition of some flat rides in Wuze Town, to replacing some tatty old Flumes, or in several cases, the rides simply don’t exist anymore. Lots of change, but would I still like the park?
    We parked in the China car park (due to limited space, there are several car parks, one for each area), purchased our two day ticket for the awful price of €75 (a day ticket is €45) and entered the park.


    Phantasialand have one of those weird staggered ride openings, with the park opening at 9, some rides opening at 9:30, then more at 10 before the remainder (water rides) open at 11. So the first ride of the day was some B&M goodness in Black Mamba.
    Totally forgotten one of the best things in Phantasialand are the queues (unless it’s Winjas’). Mamba’s goes on such an adventure with some decent ride based interaction, and the station is so well themed and beautiful. The ride itself starts fantastically but ends poorly, always has done to me, because I just don’t think the helixes are powerful enough to finish up the ride in a constant fashion. I partly think that they could’ve chucked in the final inversion at the end (a la Nemesis, the clear inspiration for the ride), rather than just turn after turn. Prevents it from being a real top tier B&M, but it’s still a fantastic ride.




    We headed over towards Wuze Town to wait until it opened, whilst I marvelled at the (new to me) entrance area. We were greeted by a dragon which proceeded to do silly things and even drop the rope to open the area. Great piece of interaction.



    So off we went to the Winjas coasters. Starting with Force and then Fear, I do enjoy these two a lot, with Fear clearly being the better of the two coasters. The interaction when both are running properly (which they weren’t unfortunately) is brilliant, and the trick track sections can be very surprising for first time riders. The queue has changed nowadays so not only can you take your bag with you, but also the queue splits on the stairs down into the station. Of course this does mean a massive waste of queue space nowadays, but oh well.




    After both were done, we quickly did the Tittle Tattle Tree, because it’s secretly fab.





    Next door is Temple of the Night Hawk, a Vekoma MK-200 which has had its entrance moved since my last visit, and it involves a steep hill. The ride itself is long, arduous and boring when there are no effects working on it, coupled with 3 slow lift hills. Give me Vogel Rok anyday.

    We then headed back towards the entrance and Maus au Chocolat, the immensely themed and fantastic Midway Mania rip-off. The theming right from the door is top standard, like most of Phantasialand’s stuff, but it just keeps getting better and better. I’ve never known a ride queue to make me so damn hungry just by queuing for it, probably helped by the wafts of chocolate scented through.
    Hadn’t done a Midway Mania ride till now, and I do like the concept quite well, especially when it’s as heavily detailed as this. A big bonus is the theming between scenes, which from POVs appears to be the biggest flaw of MM. Overall it’s a really good dark ride, and probably the best dark ride we did over the course of the holiday.






    A giant waffle happened.

    Now it was time for Chiapas, to which I was quite hyped up for. Chiapas looks to be the perfect modern variant on the Log Flume situation, and whilst the issues with the ride system were plentiful (year long delay for opening, because Intamin), would it provide an excellent experience?
    The answer is yes.
    Although the boats are pretty claustrophobic and small (combined with the lapbar), the ride system itself is intelligent and insanely fast at sorting things out. The drops are all good fun and provide a suitable level of wetness and of course the best part of the entire ride is the Backwards Disco scene. IMAScore’s music perfectly fits the adventure vibe the park were going for as well, especially as the music constantly changes note and style throughout the ride, and the catchy tune gets into EVERYONE’S head. Would love to see Towers look into this as a viable replacement for their Flume, it’s that good.









    It was then time for Talocan, which is still one of the more intense Top Spins around. Still fortunate to always get the front side of it as well, so no rubbish wall for me, always go for the water and the fire effects of awesome. It’s a shame really that the modern ones don’t seem to have taken off for Huss, perhaps because every park in the world already owned one of the originals? There might be a park in the UK that could do with one of these mind.



    It was show time, and we started with Seiben, which was a pretty awesome magic show with weird gothic plot and stuff. Magic is always in the showmanship I feel, and the guy was very showy with the work, and some of the tricks were pretty much “HOW?!” aside from the time when he knocked on the fake mirror in two places and they made two distinct sounds. Still fab.


    We then had lunch whilst watching the Chinese Acrobats, to which we’d kinda had our fill of already in the trip. Ah well, we learnt that Currywurst is actually fab, a far more interesting thing indeed.
    As the weather was reasonably rubbish, it made perfect sense to go on River Quest. Probably the most unique Rapids ride in that it just features special sections rather than anything resembling actual Rapids. It’s quite similar to Bagatelle’s rapids in a way, in that on an overall scale they are brilliant rapids rides, but on a water ride scale they’re both very good. Terrifyingly wet to boot as well, mainly due to the old cheese wedge boat design, allowing water to appear from pretty much wherever the hell it wants to.



    Drying out times required, a task which fell to Mystery Castle, one of the best drop towers around as well as one of the best themed queuelines. The bonus addition of random actors is also quite a cool thing, especially when they’re making full use of the fact that the ride was a walk-on. The ride is still great fun too, with the long climb and descent mid-way through the cycle being the real highlight of it all. Shame that there’s not too many of these ride types around as a result to be quite honest.



    The final dark ride was Feng Ju Palace, a Vekoma Madhouse that’s not very good. Whilst it removes the whole language barrier issue, the plot is very boring, the pre-show takes forever and the effects in the ride section aren’t very good. Big old meh.


    The final cred of the day was Colorado Adventure, a Vekoma Mine Train of many lifts and many sheds. It’s still good fun mind, though it’s weird that the first shed is very much in pieces due to the Silver Mine removal, so half of it is now in the light. The mountain drop by Black Mamba is excellent as well, probably only beaten by Paris’ BTM in the Mine Train stakes.





    Within Colorado’s final helix these days lies Tikal, a double bill of kiddie spinny drop towers which are always a good laugh. These ones also had an epic detail in their theming, as they are themed to water pumps and every time the ride drops, a water pipe is activated. Love details like that.


    We headed back to the Entrance Plaza, catching one of their mini street shows along the way, before it was time for Hotel Tartuff, a Fun House. It was amazing, the theming was generally fantastic throughout, lots of random stuff going on, random live actor and topped off with a giant slide (though it lost points for needing to take shoes off). So, so fab.









    Wellenflug, the Chairswings were next with their epic fountain related times before we watched another street show which was brilliant. Some random dog kept barking at one of the actors and they kept losing it as a result, I like shows that allow for a bit of added actions as opposed to always being the same.






    Some re-rides were called for, so we Chiapas as we’d just finally dried off from River Quest before heading back to Black Mamba. Whilst we were in the station boarding the ride however, someone decided that it was time for rain of the heaviest variety. Resulting in a very painful ride and a very busy exit pathway as a result. We eventually broke out to make it back to the Berlin earlier, watched the storm develop for a bit, before joining lots of people in Maus au Chocolat. By the time we’d exited the rain had fortunately let up.







    The day ended with Drakkarium, their major end of day show by the main entrance. It’s very weird it must be said, with several of the dragon characters turning up in massively epic designed floats/chariots with supporting costumed characters. Then it has random stunt people doing generic stuff. I cannot help but feel this is a really big missed opportunity overall, though I doubt it was helped by the rains descending upon us once more and forcing the show to finish early, so we took our leave and made a break for it ourselves.










    Phantasialand is fantastic. It has the theming; it has a solid ride line-up and it’s generally just fab. I’d really forgotten how good the park was originally, and the changes they’ve made over the past few years have been completely for the better. Hopefully they’ll keep pushing forwards with redevelopments (so excited for the Mystery area one) and replacing the older rides in addition to that expansion they’re aiming for.
    A top tier European park.

  21. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 6 - Express Pass Interest   
    Movie Park Germany was the park of the day, having been a stone’s throw from it the day before, so it was a bit weird to drive to it for a second day in a row.

    Upon arrival I grew frustrated by the park not opening up the turnstiles prior to the official opening, mostly due to the lack of space available to the large crowd building up outside and the low number of actual turnstiles available. Does annoy me greatly when they could instead let people into the park, get some early sales from a cold and miserable rainy day and reduce the crowd issues.
    Oh well, first port of call was a shop to pay an Express Pass. For €25 you could buy an unlimited one for all but two of the rides in the park (Jet Ski ride and the 4D Cinema), a ridiculous value that either the Germans don’t buy into because they don’t like the concept or they sell barely any of. Either way, judging by the early crowds, this was to be quite an intelligent investment.


    So to the rides and the first on the list was Van Helsing’s Factory, the indoor Gerst Bobsled which I had heard many good things about. We entered through the side door of the massive shed and quickly onto the ride, the station and ride cars are both nicely themed, and I do wish I had actually seen the queue line proper.
    The ride starts with some faff before the first lift hill, still quite well themed before the ride begins proper. The usual stuff really from this ride type, with swooping drops and turns, and naturally the wild mouse style turns in the dark (with no brakes) made an appearance before the second tyre lift hill. Some dodgy animatronics later we’re launched up into the rest of the ride, which I have no real recollection or knowledge of as it was all dark. Eventually you hit the brakes after defeating the evil vampire.
    This ride is good, very good. It’s fun, enjoyable and quite well themed throughout, with some decent effects to boot. Solid coaster to their line-up.



    Unfortunately, the horizon for coasters didn’t particularly look great, so we had a quick go on the Jet Ski Patrol because of the wish to delay the inevitable. It was time for MP Express, a Vekoma SLC.
    Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t very good. But the worst was still yet to come.





    The next coaster wasn’t open yet, so we decided to go on High Fall, an Intamin Stand-Up Gyro Drop Tower. Oh boy was that a mistake. Combining the tilting motion with the drop and the brakes and all of a sudden the entire ride is screaming in pain and agony. The most entertainment the ride presented was the subtle change in noise as the ride hit the brakes. Again, awful.

    Then it was time for Bandit, my second RCCA Wooden in the space of a month, and this was a clone of Coney Island’s Cyclone. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
    Turns out, everything.
    Bandit is by a far, far margin the single worst ride I have experienced. It’s that simple. Worse than Coaster Express, worse than Baco, worse than a Volare, worse than a Screaming Squirrel. It was violent on a constant basis, shook around at every corner, juddered about and for good measure did the odd slam into the side. It was at this moment exactly that the Express Pass value came into being, as I didn’t have to queue up for the worst coaster experience of my life. I wish I had been able to burn it down; it would certainly be worth the arsony racket.


    Another go on Van Helsing was needed to experience what a good coaster was, before we headed over to Nickelodeon Land to grab the kiddie creds. Starting with Backyardigans – Mission to Mars, a Vekoma Junior, Ghost Chasers, a Wild Mouse and the infamous in German Top Trumps Jimmy Neutron’s Atomic Flyer. They were all as to be expected, though Atomic Flyer was easily the best coaster of the three.







    Next up was Ice Age Adventure, an indoor dark-water ride combo. It followed the plot (loosely) of the first film, with some typical dodgy animatronics and theming throughout. The interesting part came with the drop, which essentially made it a cred. Was pleasantly surprised by it.

    Time for a random crappy flat ride in Splat-o-Sphere. Had never done an Aileron before, probably won’t ever again since it was pretty dull. We saw a couple of shows around this time which were all pretty standard theme park affair (at least, with those who care about shows, not UK park level). Then it was time for the Van Helsing Show.

    Impressive set aside, the show fell quite flat. Lots of dialogue, weird plot and a really bad werewolf costume mixed in with some rather poorly done fight scenes made it quite a disappointment. Points for trying/effort, but not much else positive.


    As we were walking past it would have been rude to not ride Van Helsing – The Cred again before heading back to the main entrance where (strangely) two big rides sit.
    First up, was new for this year The Lost Temple, to which I was very excited about, and it was probably my most anticipated ride of the entire trip. And whilst it is not a flawless dark ride, it is still entertaining, and above all well themed.
    I think the major flaw with it is the actual ride system. It lacks throughput and if you’re sat in the very front (like myself) then you lose quite a lot of what is actually going on around you. That being said, the theming within the queueline and pre-shows are brilliant, and it has an actual lift rather than a fake Sub Terra style one (indeed, the ride does share some similarities with Sub Terra in some aspects). Good addition to the park and hopefully more a sign of things to come from them.









    Next door was Alien Encounter, a quite randomly themed water ride with extended dark ride (and backwards) sections. It was quite cool it must be said, with an awesome Pepper’s Ghost effect, but it is also very dated at the same time.


    We caught the parade (which was generic) before having a go on Time Riders, featuring John Cleese speaking German. It had an obscene amount of pre-shows that ended in a random tiny simulator. I remarked at some point that it reminded me of the Batman simulator at Madrid, turns out it WAS one once upon a time. It found itself in a similar position to the Batman ride in Madrid, so crap it was actually funny. Though it felt so wrong hearing Mr Cleese speaking German.





    We rode Van Helsing again before seeing the Crazy Cops Stunt Show, which was alright and typical of your basic stunt show. The guys did well in the very wet conditions mind. Least there wasn’t any audience participation faff this time.

    Van Helsing was ridden again before some food and show times again. Afterwards we did Van Helsing again (a pattern emerged very early on in the day it must be said, not helped by the central location of said cred).
    We had a look towards Lost Temple again but unfortunately it was shut (it’s been having LOTS of problems this year), so Jimmy Neutron was ridden again (for some reason, I’m still not sure why) before we did the Fairy World Spin Teacups, which were generic as well. Van Helsing was ridden again before we rode the Crazy Surfer Disko Coaster (which had a lot of bounce to it) and the Santa Monica Pier Carousel, which was actually a Chairswing. The hope was to finish the day on Van Helsing but unfortunately they had seemingly closed it early. Sad face.





    We stopped off at the Happiness Station for epic ice cream before heading home.

    Movie Park is ok, just full of utter, utter crap for the most part. The layout doesn’t help it much, since half the park is pretty much dedicated to Nickelodeon (Ice Age and Mystery River aside), two major attractions at the entrance is also a weird design choice. The major issue is that only one of the coasters is actually good, with the two big draws being crap, some future choices would be served well into getting some good adult rides, as the park is pretty well served for families/kids. Removing Bandit, High Fall and MP Express would be an excellent start and getting some heavily themed coasters that are good could help put the park on the map a little bit more.

  22. Like
    pluk reacted to Mitchada04 for a blog entry, Paramount Park.   
    Me and Toofpikk thought we'd head down to Paramount Park last Friday. It STILL isn't ready, clearly didn't get ultimate planning fastrack, only standard. So we went on a random adventure through a £2 tunnel to some place. We had no idea where though.

    They had delicious milkshakes but that didn't help.

    This place was obsessed with pink and yellow.

    Like this Fireball thing.

    Look at the pink and yellow!

    We just couldn't think what theme park was obsessed with pink and yellow.

    They had an Elvis. Must be America

    And a BIG wheel. But that doesn't mean anything, loads of places have these.

    See. Pink and yellow.

    Back here again. Not sure where this was but we found it 9 times.

    Ohhhh. We were at Rage Southend On Sea. No that's not right.

    WHY IS THIS PLACE SO BADLY ADVERTISED

    All day we were confused. No idea where we were.

    Thorpe Park have dodgems. Maybe I was at Thorpe Park.

    No Thorpe Park doesn't have the only Archelon in the UK! But I don''t know which park does

    Railway. Useful that.

    Vortex. It would be so easy to brand this ride with the park it's at!

    This is a Gerstlauer. It says so on the seats.

    Why would I take a selfie with a bunny when I can't even check in on Facebook as I've no idea where I am!

    It's okay though, we found our answer.

    We were at a 5 star loo all day I feel so privileged!

    Bye bye 5 star loo! Was a great day out.
  23. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 4 - Serengetting Creds   
    Another day and this time it was off to the first random small park of the trip in Serengeti Park, which is Germany’s version of West Midlands Safari Park. But this one had two fantastic attractions which were worth the entrance fee alone.

    Unlike everyone else visiting, we weren’t doing the safari portion of the park, as a hire car and an animal safari would probably not combine well in my mind, so we walked into the ride area to find absolutely nothing open. Presumably because they assume that all the sensible people will be driving around looking at animals for hours first.

    As a result, we waited for the AquaSafari to open. This is one of those hoverboat things you tend to see in Florida, so it was an interesting concept for this random park in Germany to have. No seatbelts or lifejackets for the riders to boot (children needed lifejackets), classic H&S there.
    It starts off like Jungle Cruise, with dodgy animal animatronics doing dodgy actions, before an open lake reveals itself and the boat bombs around it a few times, before it leaves for one last random thing to happen and head back to the dock. It’s insanely weird but I really liked it because of the crappy Jungle Cruise rip-off aspect to begin with before the fun of darting around a lake.








    Next up we decided to head towards their other safari attraction, DschungleSafari, which can only be described as “This is what Chessington wanted Zufari to be, only tonnes better”. Two ways it does this from just boarding the vehicle are being able to see out the front of the vehicle, and having a driver that interacts with the riders.
    You begin with a quick dart out into the real safari area on an off-road track not accessible to normal visitors, passing the usual array of Savannah animals until you head back into the jungle/woodland. This is where things get REALLY interesting.
    Once in the woodland, you go on this long trek through them, encountering various scenes of more dodgy animatronics, a danger cave, trick track and many other things. It’s hilarity at its finest, with the stand-out moment being some talking ostriches about half-way through. You begin to think after every scene that it has to be over now, but another corner leads into another scene. Absolutely brilliant and this should make people want to visit.










    After that we wandered around the monkey zoo they have, was quite good actually, with some proper walkthroughs dotted around.










    It was time for the two creds on the park. Firstly there was a Zierer Tivoli, Froschflitzer, which was meh. This meh was followed up by more meh as we rode the Huss Condor. Finally we rode my first S&MCo coaster (actually the company title) Die! Wilde Maus, which was a mental kiddie coaster with lots of scary airtime.








    We had a dodgy burger for lunch and settled to watch some shows, including another Trampolining Show, then the show after that got cancelled, so we hopped on the train and did their Wanyama Village style area. The huts pictured are actually part of the on-site accommodation.










    More wandering happened and we visited another walkthrough before seeing a Dive and Acrobatics Show.




    Then we headed back to the hotel. Serengeti is actually quite a decent park considering that the safari park is the main aspect of it. Interestingly the land it’s on is also huge and there is plenty of space for future expansion, be it for more animal enclosures dotted around (there weren’t THAT many aside from all the monkeys), or for some actual ride expansion. I’d like to see both personally but I’m greedy like that.
    A nice surprise to have from a park with quite low expectations.

  24. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Germany Road(works) Trip - Day 2 - Hanseatic Gerstlauers   
    The first day proper of the trip led us to Hansa Park, a place which I really enjoyed on my previous visit 3 years ago. Unfortunately, not much has really changed to the park overall since my last visit aside from the entrance area being tarted up. But when you have one of the best Eurofighters around (potential damning with faint praise comments here), that sits in my top 10, of course a revisit was in order.


    Upon arrival a group of enthusiasts were spotted, evidenced by their gooniforms and badges. I didn’t even realise Hansa Park was big enough to have a full on fansite, but they do.

    Into the park and in a similar fashion to my visit 3 years ago, the first rides were once again Nessie and Rasender Roland. Both rides are starting to feel out of place in comparison to the more recent ride additions within the park, as they lack a real theme (Nessie has slightly more of one granted). However their interaction with each other is actually well done; and Nessie is still quite forceful and full of airtime. The ride on Roland involved Nessie going around the loop right above our heads, which was equally terrifying and brilliant.





    After riding those, it was time to join the queue for the main attraction at the park, Fluch von Novgorod. Those who know me know my love for this ride is pretty big, with a wonderful theme, it tells a story and the ride itself is very good fun. My main worry with it this time around was how bad it might have aged over the past 3 years, as most other Gerstlauer Eurofighters are well known for becoming rough as hell after a year or two in operation. Fortunately for Fluch, it hasn’t aged badly at all, with maybe one moment of roughness included in the layout. The launch and all indoor sections are still fab too. It’s just a shame that Gerstlauer’s other efforts seem to have had lots of problems and roughness issues over the years, as this is probably the best version of the ride type around.
    Depressingly however, the exit slide was not in operation. Booooooo.






    A quick second go on Fluch was had (hooray for no-one using the mid-queue single rider) before we went off into the rest of the park. Starting off with the apparent cred but not a cred El Paso Express. I didn’t do this last time around, and this weird contraption is very, very weird. It has constant back and forth motion within the track layout, and uses that mix of gravity and powered coaster. Weird but enjoyable. We also walked through the random Path of the Mayans interactive attraction, where you solve puzzles in order to progress past water features.



    As we walked to our next destination, we saw the Hansa Park Goons getting a tour of Karnan. At the time of our visit it was only dirt and a giant pit, so nothing too interesting to see, so we continued to Die Glocke. Again we missed out on this last time due to the horrid throughput it has (6 people per ride), but as it was still early went for it this time. It was good fun, very spinny and had FIRE. Next door was the still well themed El Dorado Storm Surge alike, minimal wetness ensued which was relatively welcomed in the hot weather.






    It was snack time!


    After the delicious snacks, we headed towards the (FREE) High Ropes Course of terror! It was pretty amazing tbh, with two options for each section, each more confusing and terrifying than the last. The height factor combined with some of the rather unsturdy aspects of it led to some issues, however I made it all the way around like a boss. Huzzah!



    Needing a rest after that, Schlange von Midgard was chosen as the next ride. As it was unfinished 3 years ago, I was intrigued to see what was new about it; it had some cool effects added into the lift hill, but not much else could really be done about it. I’m still confused as to why some batching rows weren’t added in the first place though, and the dragon thing wasn’t working either. Still a fun kids coaster though.




    Torre del Mar was next, because a Starflyer next to a construction site is ALWAYS a good idea. Then we went on Fluch again because it’s fab before breaking for some Steak-on-a-Stick, which was extremely nom.



    A random Variety Show was next, which included Trampolining people, dancing, and a man who flew a remote controlled plane around the auditorium, he was the fabbest of them all. Afterwards there was some investigation into where Karnan is going, and the weirdness of the layout needs to be confirmed, considering it’s seemingly going to go all the way down past half the park.






    Space Scooter was next, which were some Dodgems with lasers to shoot at random targets around the arena. It wasn’t fun because my gun seemingly didn’t work and people actually got annoyed with you if you bumped them. Extremely rubbish, but at least it exited into a play area.

    We left quickly to see the Parade go past before collecting some Crepes for some quick boost of energy, enjoyed the Magical Flower Boat Ride before another go on Fluch to finish off the day.






    I like Hansa, and the stuff they’ve been doing with the entrance refurb does make it have a fantastic entrance area. Hopefully they’ll continue refurbing the park whilst developing it with the likes of Karnan because a lot of it does look slightly worn and run-down in comparison to the actual themed areas (I.e. Nessie vs Wild West area). I’ll certainly have the park back in my sights in 2016 when Karnan is finished.

  25. Like
    pluk reacted to Benin for a blog entry, Helix - The Review   
    Helix, Liseberg and Mack’s 2014 project has been at the forefront of many an enthusiast’s mind during the past year or so. With Blue Fire being reasonably rated by the community, hopes were high for Helix when it was announced. Two launches, multiple inversions, a terrain based layout and the odd airtime hill meant that this ride was ticking all the right boxes for enthusiasts around the world.
    The real proof though, was in the pudding of actually riding it. And this is a more detailed review on the attraction, so spoilers beware.

    Helix lives at the top of Liseberg’s hill, sharing a building with Atmosfear, the Intamin Gyro Drop, and a few other bits and pieces. Indeed, it feels more that Helix is budging in on the pre-existing attractions in the building, as the Helix ‘side’ as it were is rather small and under-stated. Perhaps it was designed this way, but it is a slight shame that for all the rest of the ride’s majesty the entrance is literally a door in a wall.
    However, from entering the queue, such understatement is forgotten. The queue-line itself is reminiscent of Westminster’s Jubilee Line area, with Escher references and the odd Goon-Window for goons to pry into the mechanical workings of the ride. It’s also a great example of how to do a concrete themed queueline, with lighting and rockwork complementing the style of the ride, as opposed to a theme.



    There is also a Helix game app available on Apple and Android devices, which is actually a live competition amongst those in the queue. It’s a random set of mini-games with a loose theme to the ride itself, but great fun to play and watch others. Certainly an ingenious way to pass the time in the constantly moving queue.


    Like Blue Fire and Alpina Blitz, the seats are incredibly comfortable; however the stapling from the ride ops is unfortunate to say the least. A considered warning for those planning to go in the future.
    The understated dispatch of changing lights as the ride drops down with some considerable airtime in the back before the slow corkscrew to ease us into the ride before we turn a corner and into the first launch. Whilst not the most powerful or fastest launch ever, it fulfils the need of the ride’s mass market ability, and is still an incredibly fun launch anyway, as it whips you into the first zero-g of the ride.
    A quick turn and airtime hill lead us back down to the base of the hill, and into the Snorwegian Loop, which was blatantly better than Speed Monster’s, mainly due to the speed at which it was taken here. Diving under Lisbergbanen’s lift-hill, we rise back up into a fantastic airtime hill. I’d adored Alpina Blitz’s ones, and Helix certainly topped them off for the level of quality, they’re even better when instantly followed by a zero-g. The final part of the first half of the ride involves a sharp overbanked turn into a diving helix, which ended up being my favourite part of the ride it must be said, because it again combines a sharp bit of airtime and transitioning in a way that Intamin can only dream about (unless lap-bars are involved).





    The second launch which provides an extra boost of speed if nothing else into the inverted top hat, which featured some hangtime towards the front of the train. The best airtime hill of the ride follows, as the drop out of it seems to go on forever, before we turn out into the most terrain bit of the ride, the rising s-bends. Which are again fun for an element of a pure design to just enforce the train to lose speed. The typical Mack finish of the inline is just as good as Blue Fire’s, even without the near miss theming.





    And that’s it. Although my first ride was in the middle, I still found that Helix fulfilled the hype for me. It does lots of things, and whilst it may not do any of these things in an overtly ridiculous fashion (say like, how Intamin do great first drops but everything else is poor comparatively), everything is done well. The pacing is pretty seemless, even with the second launch as the train still has a fair amount of speed going into it. And the use of interaction with the terrain (as little as there might be in the final form) and other rides (Upswingett and Lisebergbanen) allow it to gain extra brownie points.
    Some people think it needs on-ride music, but I disagree, as I find on-ride music on anything but indoor coasters tend to get lost with the wind and general being outside times, however awesome the ride’s music is. The only true negative of the ride is that the merch is crap. I loved it from my first ride, and a front and back row ride afterwards pretty much confirmed it was top 10 for me.
    At night, it’s a different beast as well. The lighting package with head and sidelights produces a different experience both on and off-ride. It makes the ride look even more beautiful.





    Mack and Liseberg have truly struck gold with Helix. And I hope that more parks start to pick up this attraction (Towers can replace Rita with one going into the valley).

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