Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ocean Park Fun

We are just back from another great trip to Ocean Park, our local amusement park (10 minute taxi ride from our apartment). Ocean Park is what Hong Kong had before they had Disneyland and it is pretty good albeit somewhat modest. Ocean Park is something like a very good state fair but a bit wackier. They have amusement rides divided into categories of toddler and young adult, but not much in between. They have got mascots like Professor the Turtle and Whiskers the Sea Lion, who walk around in full costume despite high heat and humidity. They have omnipresent souvenirs and snack food like fried squid legs, though sadly they also have a McDonald’s counter. Ocean Park also had full Halloween decorations up by late September and staff dressed as witches passing out candy. We got Halloween candy in September and we got Halloween candy in October and some little people in this house are hoping for more of the same next month.

In addition to all that, Ocean Park also has animal shows. On our first visit, we attended a wild Amazon bird show. The park staffer talks first in Mandarin and then in English, which seemed fine to me but put our kids at a disadvantage for raising their hands and being chosen to come on stage. All in all, with fears of bird flu floating around we decided not letting the huge parrots land on our children and take money out of their hands was okay. We have also hit the sea lion show a couple of times but have not yet made the dolphin shows. We did mistakenly wander into the dolphin tank area and watch the dolphins being feed. We were close enough to put fingers in the water, which some of us did to no reprimand whatsoever from the staff!

Ocean Park does seem to be aiming for an ecological conservation theme, perhaps to set it apart from their new big Disneyland competition. The conservation angle is new and somewhat odd. We came out of a good shark exhibit, where we could walk underneath the shark tank, to an area that admonishes us over and over not to eat shark fin soup! My kids unfortunately came away with the idea not to eat soup at all and just after we were okay with tomato soup.

The real surprise and treat of Ocean Park is the cable car ride which takes park goers from the lowland kids’ area to the so called highland adult area. It took me a couple visits to get up my nerve to attempt this, both in terms of the height and the corralling of kids. I don’t know how high but the ride is a high one with impressive views of the South China Sea. From your view up there you can see past the smaller “junk” fishing ships to the massive tankers moving slowly across the horizon. The cable car itself has no safety belts but it is an enclosed space. As I grasp onto my seat, the kids reassure me and even pat my leg. This last time, we stopped for five long minutes in the middle of the ride for unknown reasons. As we swayed hundreds of feet above a rocky beach and the sea, Tori quickly said “let’s sing a song…Miss Mary Mac Mac Mac, all dressed in black, black, black.” Oddly, it was such a funny role reversal that I actually did feel fine despite my well-known fear of heights.


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