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February 20, 2002
Navigating Ocean Park
Due to the exigencies of Hong Kong geography, Ocean Park was built over a headland and extends down into a lowland valley on Hong Kong Island's south shore adjacent to the old settlement of Aberdeen. There are at least four
distinctive levels in the park which had to be connected together. But how? Ocean Park's planners solved it with typical HK panache: use technology in any way possible.
There are two principal sections of the park: The Lowlands, where such exhibits as the Panda Enclosure and the Children's Park are located. The other section is some 200 meters higher up and drapes itself down the other side of the headland. The question, of course, is how to move hundreds of visitors from one section to another as efficently -- and comfortably -- as possible. This is no easy task given the distances and the climate, for Hong Kong can be very warm and humid.
We took a bus from Central to the Tai Shue Wan entrance to the park which deposited us in front of the Middle Kingdom,
a mock up of a 16th Century Chinese city. Once inside the actual entrance to the park, we checked out the Bird Park, but decided it was not as extensive as Jurong Bird Park in Singapore, so we opted to proceed on to the section
of the park on the Headland. On examination of a park map, we found a listing for the escalators, which turned out to be a bit of an attraction in themselves. A series of three, totalling a staggering 225 meters, carried us
up at least 150 meters above the Middle Kingdom and past a spectacularly-set roller coaster.
The Cable Car
Getting from the Headland attractions and on down into the Lowland sections would not be a simple task because of the distance and the altitude differences. The answer to the problem was to build a 1.5 km cable car system.
After spending some time in the marine exhibits of the Headland, we took this option. The trip turns out to be one of the highlights to any visit to the park. You find yourself skimming along the side of a forest cliff, which
is not all that far off the vertical, with views over the bay, some of Hong Kong's outer islands, and all the passing shipping, of which there is plenty. After the cliff experience, you come up over the top and then very swiftly
-- and steeply -- plunge down to the station on the other side. It's a very beautiful and exhilarating 8 or 10 minutes. There's an added bonus, too: the fare is included in the general admission fee to the park.
From journal Hong Kong, NYC on the South China Sea
February 8, 2002
New York, New York
July 6, 2001
Younger kids tend to gravitate towards the Dinosaur Discovery Trail, with lifelike replicas of dinosaurs, rides, playgrounds to entertain. They also like the pair of pandas An An and Jia Jia. Another highlight is the Marine Land, a wave cove with sea lions, penguins and an aquarium with lots of sharks.
The cable car ride is one of the highlights here. The bubble shaped cars go up a steep hill and then around the coastline to the other side of the hill. You are quite high up and the rocks below with the crashing waves are scary. But the view is incredible and the ride very peaceful. It takes about 8 minutes.
The biggest highlight is the Atoll Reef. This is huge, and bills itself to be one of the biggest in the world. There are four levels of viewing areas, which are really tunnels that weave through the aquarium. This is alot of fun and educational for both adults and children.
Of course, there are the thrill rides. The roller coaster is quite fun. Since you are perched on top of the hill, there are several instances when you feel you are thrown over the cliff and out to sea! However, the rides are quite standard and not really the main attraction here. In headland, there is also the Park Tower, which has a revolving platform at the top and has good views of nearby Aberdeen and the islands.
You can reach the Middle Kingdom by the long escalator down (these are very popular in Hong Kong and can also be found in the Mid-Levels going down to Central.) There is a recreation of an old Chinese Village with streets, temples, pagodas. Sometimes, there are street performances such as acrobats and magicians. The Exhibition Hall explains some history such as foot binding and the Great Wall as well as thousands of years of Chinese history.
If you only have a few days to spend in Hong Kong, then obviously you would not want to spend a day at Ocean Park. But if you are here for a longer visit or have kids who are sick and tired of sightseeing, come here for some entertainment. Beware that locals enjoy this place too and weekends and public holidays can be crowded.
Ocean Park can be reached by Citybus from Admiralty MTR or from Star Ferry (HK side) pier. Fares with round trip bus: HK$174, adults / HK$87, children
From journal Reminiscing Hong Kong
July 5, 2001
Instead of offering a blow by blow description of every ride, shop and restaurant they offer at Ocean Park I'll just jot down some of my impressions. The park is interesting in many ways. It's built on the steep slope of hillsides that hug the ocean coastline. They pipe in awful Asian pop instrumentals along the walkways which had me moving quickly from destination to destination. The food is not overpriced: McDonald’s costs the same amount here as in the city. All the rides' narratives are in Chinese, so you can't understand a word of what is being said by the cartoon characters. And the people here including the kids all scream politely.
One of the first rides I went on is the Skyride, thinking it would be a simple way to get to the roller coaster. In fact, it’s a necessity, as the larger half of Ocean Park is about a mile away over a mountain. The view on the Skyride is spectacular as it glides over a steep cliffside by the water. I was worried the pictures taken from inside the plastic confines of the carriage wouldn't do justice to the amazing views.
The Dragon is the major roller coaster at Ocean Park, but I managed to boeard the ride within five minutes. It's not that exciting of a coaster ride, but the views of the ocean below make it a great experience. At one point you look like you are just flying out over the ocean before banking around a curve. I know I’m getting old because the ride is pretty mild and I still felt sick afterwards.
There are a number of themed areas like the amusement parks back in the States. The Pacific Pier area features California sea lions and otters lazily drifting about, and an observation tower ride that really did offer spectacular views. The Middle Kingdom is an ancient Chinese themed area that was supposeduly a highlight of the park, but most of it was under construction when I visited. There is a popular shark aquarium and atoll reef exhibit, and some rather active panda bears. There are a number of other sights and attractions at Ocean Park, but the best reason to visit is that you'll get to see Chinese families interacting as they normally would, not as restauranteers and shopowners.
From journal China: Hong Kong