Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Let's Go Ocean Park

香港海洋公园 (Ocean Park Hong Kong)

Finally, I manage to steal some time out from my ever-busy working life to prepare this entry on Hong Kong Ocean Park. It is also an amounting pressure in me since I have promised to write up about this place for a friend who is travelling to HK this June. So, better prepare this entry or else I will get a "punch" on the face. Haha....

I guess Hong Kong Ocean Park is not an unfamiliar name for a lot of us in Malaysia who follow Hong Kong series since young. From TV, I always have the impression that it is a place packed with thrill and, a place synonymous to Disneyland in the west. So wonder what I think about this place? Read on...

Firstly, a little bit on the geography of the place. Check out those cool satellite images (from Google) of the park. In these photos I have marked out the entrance of the park, the tallest escalators in Asia and the cable track linking the main entrance to the headland. Ocean Park is situated on southern part of Hong Kong island and it has two entrances - Main Entrance (near the exit of Aberdeen Tunnel) and Tai Shue Wan Entrance (along Shum Wan Road). Ocean Park consists of two regions - Headland and Lowland Parks. Lowland park is right after Main Entrance and cablecars are the available way to commute to Headland Park. From Tai Shue Wan Entrance to Headland Park, there are the tallest escalators in Asia. Free shuttles between Main Entrance and Tai Shue Wan Entrance are provided too. In a while more I am going to give you tips on how to avoid congestion in the Park.... read on.. :)

Ocean Park is at southern part of Hong Kong Island

Left: Ocean Park has two entrances. Cable track between Main entrance and headland
Right: 4 escalators connecting Tai Shue Wan entrance to headland

Secondly, how to get there? The best way is to board on a double-decker Citybus from Admiralty Ocean Park bus stop. From the Admiralty subway station, follow the Ocean Park sign to go to bus station. Since the park opens daily at 10am, expect to have people start lining up as early as 9am. But, if you are planning to go to Ocean Park during weekday, I recommend 930am.

At the bus station, there are ocean park ticketing booths which are usually full of people. For the 10% discount coupon that we collected from airport (to know more where to get this coupon read my entry at http://elvinongbl.blogspot.com/2007/01/hong-kong-christmas-2006-part-1.html), we have to buy our tickets at the ocean park which turned out to be a good thing because we can go straight to the bus queue and there is no long queue in the ticketing booth at ocean park. Haha...

The Citybus brought us to the Tai Shue Wan Entrance in about 35min and we arrived at the park at about 11am. When I visited Ocean Park last 2006, Ocean Park set up special spots such as Eskimo Escapade, Santa's house, Christmas Tree Lighting, Sponge Cannon, Jumping Hamburger as Christmas was around. The highlight of 2006 Ocean Park Christmas extravanganza was the "Spellbound on Ice" show where great performances were put up by ice skaters, magicians and acrobats. I could still remember am awesome show where a strong man was fast spinning a roughly 3x3-meter pyramid-shape metal bars with one of his strong arms. On another instant, while the pyramid was fast spinning up on the air, he somersaulted himself and caught the pyramid later. By the time the show finished, it was about 12:30pm.

Left: Artificial Igloo Right: Wo hoooo.... Eskimoos

We have a quick lunch near the Santa's house before heading towards the Flamingo Pond. The lunch was so-so and pricy. I suggest food stall near the Atoll Reef though. Around the Tai Shue Wan entrance were a mini Flamingo Pond and aviary enclosed with a big canopy-like net. Frankly, only the pink-legged Flamingos were interesting.

Left: Cute duckling in Aviary Right: I am always amazed by Flamingos

We took the escalators to connect to the Headland Park. Raging Water Ride sign draws my brother's attention where he suggested a detour to try out the ride. The ride was relaxing in the beginning where the timber-shaped boat strolled along artificial, raging river. The finale of the ride is the sudden descent of ~10-meter down the abyss where water was splashed up and wet us when the boat hit the valley of the descent. It was short and sweet ride. Next to the raging river is the Space Wheel where it is not suitable chicken-hearted ones. Dare to try? Check out the following photos where space shuttles are revolving in high speed around the 70 degree tilted plane.

Left: Raging River Entrance Right: Timber-shaped boat

Super-duper Space Wheel

Left: 70 degree tilted Space Wheel.
Right: It is tiring standing and waiting to reach the other end of the tallest escalator. :P

After raging river ride, we continued our journey to Headland Park. At the end of second escalator is Mine Train ride. The queue was too long so we gave it a pass after all the priority is the Dolphine show. From the platform after the escalator, presenting in front of us is a superb view of southern Hong Kong Island where yatches were parked behind Ap Lei Chau. It was a perfect spot for photography as the miner train vroomed down the track on the left with great view of the island on the right. In fact, this ride is most challenging one because it sits on a hill with jungle underneath and sea just beside it. Add that with winter breeze, it makes the small chicken heart even smaller....

Left: Miner Train Right: Miner Train from Ocean Park Towel

Left: Ap Lei Chau Island
Right: Miner train track and scenic view of HK Island

We continued our journey up via two more escalators and soon we arrived at Pacific Pier. There is a mini watch-tower overseeing the East Lamma Channel. Sea lions and seals were the attraction in the pier. Unfortunately, the underwater gallery to see how the animals showing-off their swimming skills was under renovation.

Headland Theme Park from Pacific Pier

The Abys is the landmark challenge here..

Slightly down the hill from the pier along the broadwalk is the Ocean Park Tower. It is worth the wait to even though there is long queue and the tower does not look too appealing. It is a good chance for lots of photographs from the slow-revolving tower which offers bird-view angle of Ocean Park. From the tower, the Ocean Theathre where the intelligent and graceful dolphines and playful sea lions put up fun show daily

Marine Land
Marine Land consists of Atoll Reef, Shark Aquarium, Sea Jelly Aquarium and Ocean Theathre. Marine Land is my favorite and I totally let myself be mesmerized by the mysterious underwater world presented in these spots. Walking down the Broadway from Pacific Pier, the marine spots are located in following sequence: Ocean Theathre, Sea Jelly Aquarium at the cable car centre, Shark Aquarium, and Atoll Reef just at the entrance to theme park.

Atoll Reef
Atoll Reef centre has a huge 3-stories, cone-shaped seawater aquarium as the centre-stage of the building with walkway and staircases around the aquarium as you walk down each level. It is prohibited to use camera flash in this aquarium which makes taking quality photos very challenging. So, I let the expert (my bro) handles the shooting while I completely find fun busy finding nemo and checking out his other friends in the aquarium. Ke ke..

The cool thing visiting Atoll Reef during 2006 Christmas time was the opportunity to see Santa Clause swimming in the water together with the fishes feeding them from his goodie beg. Cool huh? The staff is creative!!!

Finding Nemo... so many of them. Which one?

Left: Hairy Sea Jelly.
Right: The open aquarium in Atoll Reef with
extensive collection of sea creatures

Ocean Theathre
Be aware of the Ocean Theathre schedule (Mon-Thur=3:30pm & 5:00pm Fri-Sun= 11:30am, 3:30pm & 5:00pm) and by all mean you should grab a nice seat 30 minutes before the 3:30pm show starts. Th crowds are out-of-control and competitive especially the 3:30pm show. So why then 3:30pm and not 5:00pm show?

Tip: This is important, to connect to Main Entrance, there are only cable cars and the park closes at 6:30pm. So, when the 5:00pm show finishes, there will be a long queue of people at the cable car station. You definitely want to avoid that by going to the 3:30pm show, then have fun ride from 4:00-5:15pm and still beat the crowds at the cable car before the 5:30pm. Got it? ;)

The show lasts for about 30 minutes. Before the speedy dolphines fly out from the surface of the water to greet the spectators, there is usually a band to warm the spectators up. If you have tripod, by all mean, set it up so that you can snap snap snap snap.... hahaha.... I will let the following pictures entice you ......

Left: Ocean Theathre from Tower Right: The Ocean Park Band

Left: Dolphines dancing on the water. Right: Flying dolphines

Left: Dolphines landing on the platform
Right: Sea Lion rescuing a drown life-guard

Left: Sea lion tapping the back to clear choke
Right: Let's give a thank you kiss for the hero

Sea Jelly Aquarium
Sea Jelly Aquarium is a rather small aquarium situated below cable car station. Despite its small size, it is worth a visit. The aquarium takes a slightly different concept from Atoll Reef. It is dark with colourful flourescent lights illumimating the gracefully dancing sea jelly fish of various size. The lighting simply works best with background music.

Enchanting sea jelly being illuminated with different colours

Small Japense Garden
Japenese Garden is located next to Shark Aquarium. It was a small garden with a small tea house and Japanese Koi pond. It is so-so only. So, a quick snap snap and continue with your journey. ;)

Left: Japanese Painiting
Right: My hungry brither can bite any food (even model)

Me pretending sampling some japanese soup

Headland Theme Park
Headland Theme Park presents 6 rides and only two are really challenging - The Dragon roller-coaster and The Abyss (20-storey twin-tower). Although the Dragon ride queue was long, the waiting time was about 15 mins. It was much more challenging compared to Corkscrew ride of Genting Highlight. The Abyss is like Solero Shot of Genting Highlight but it is much taller and two towers. :)

Something that I miss out in Ocean Park
As we couldn't get a seat in Ocean Theathre for 3:30pm, we have no choice but to go for the 5:00pm. When the show ended, the long queue at the cable car station prohibits us from accessing to Lowland. What a blow for us as we were coming from the Tai Shue Wan entrance. So, we have to backtrack from Headland to Tai Shue Wan entrance. :(

So, based on the map I gotten and some little research I have done on Ocean Park website, I would recommend the following spots in the Lowland if you enter the park from the main entrance:

Whiskers Theathre: Live performance of sea lions.
Giant Panda Habitat: Up-close experience with Panda.

Unless you are bringing small kids to Ocean Park, you would like to skip all the rides in Lowland because they are Kids' ride. :P

Recommended Itinerary and Route
10:00am - Enter from Tai Shue Wan entrance.
10:10am - Check out the Flamingos Pond and proceeds to escalators
10:20am - Stop over for Raging Water or Space Wheel ride
11:00am - Proceed to Mine Train ride
12:00am - Stop-over at Pacific Pier and then take Ocean Park Tower ride
12:30pm - visit Shark, Sea Jelly and Atoll Reef Aquariums and have lunch in front of Atoll Reef.
3:00pm - Ocean Theathre (grab seat 20-30min before 3:30pm show)
4:00pm - The Dragon or The Abyss ride
5:15pm - Take cable car to Lowland.
5:45pm - Giant Panda Habitat
6:00pm - Stroll around Lowland spots before exit.

Disclaimer: Show schedule may change over time. Always pick up park leaflet at the entrance and refer to it to plan out your journey in the park.

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