On Part 1 of my Ocean Park Travel Diary, Mike, Eric, Paula, and I visited the Grand Aquarium and checked out a couple of cool rides. The fun continues in Part 2 of our Ocean Park adventure!
Brrr! This ride is cool! Literally cool. This roller coaster ride in the Polar Adventure zone sends you twisting and turning amidst snow-capped rocks and mountains. The glaciers, the icy boulders, and the deep blue color of the rollercoaster cars, coupled with the chilly winds at The Summit, will really make you feel like you’re in the Arctic region. It’s a fun ride, but not as terrifying as the Hair Raiser or The Flash, so it’s something that the whole family can enjoy, without the adults getting bored and the children pissing themselves in fear.
South Pole Spectacular
Hands down, penguins are one of the cutest kinds of animals in the planet! They’re gentle, friendly, funny, and just really, really adorable. Penguins naturally live in the Southern Hemisphere, but thankfully, we don’t need to go all the way there just to get a dose of their cuteness. The South Pole Spectacular in Ocean Park houses penguins from three different species: the king penguins (penguins that are like deep sea divers especially when it comes to finding food), the Southern rockhopper penguins (very sociable and protective against intruders, but gentle with their partners and are often observed preening one another), and the Gentoo penguins (a unique kind of penguin because of their long stiff tail feathers that stick out while they walk, which help them balance on ice).
If you’re going inside the South Pole Spectacular, keep in mind that they keep the temperature at 8-10°C, to make the penguins feel as comfy and happy as possible. So if you’re entering their turf, make sure you bundle up! I wish I could sing “The cold never bothered me anyway!” just like Elsa from the movie ‘Frozen’ but the truth is, I was chilled to the bone! I should have worn pants. Or thermal underwear.
North Pole Encounter
Penguins aren’t the only animals that can make you go “aww!” At the North Pole Encounter, two docile and thick-bodied Pacific walruses, lovable spotted seals, playful sea lions, and beautiful snowy owls will win you over with their charms.
There are viewing windows and underwater tunnels where visitors can have a different perspective of the animals.
We passed through this tunnel which was right under where the North Pole animals were swimming, so it almost felt like we were under the water with them. This is one of the coolest features of the North Pole Encounter.
The room temperature at the North Pole Encounter is kept at a frosty 15-17°C, so the animals will feel like they are still in their natural habitat. Expect some teeth-chattering and goosebumps from the cold!
After warming up (despite the cold!) with the cuddly animals from the South Pole Spectacular and the North Pole Encounter, we then moved along to The Rainforest, and got wet and wild in a ride called The Rapids, a fun ride on a 9-seater boat raft along a 380-meter rolling river.
The ride started slow, and it was actually pretty relaxing, especially with the soothing sounds of the river. And then, all of a sudden, a rush of water cascaded from above us out of nowhere, leaving us looking like a bunch of wet kittens. Then, random people standing at the suspension bridges started to shoot water at us with their water guns! It was fun!
If you’re worried about your hair getting messed up, bring a raincoat or a hooded jacket because you are definitely going to get soaked!
From the Rainforest, we hopped on to the Ocean Theatre in the Marine World. We got to catch the show “Ocean Wonders,” where smart, frolicsome, and cute dolphins entertained us and taught us a thing or two about caring for and protecting the oceans and the animals that inhabit them. Here, a sea explorer realizes just how intelligent and kind dolphins are when they saved his life from danger.
Watching the dolphins execute their tricks flawlessly and synchronously made us wonder how they are trained. They move so well, and with one command or word of the trainer, or with the slightest change in the music, they immediately know their next move. Amazing! It made me appreciate them more, and this show reminded me that animals are just like us humans — they think and they feel. These dolphins really are “ocean wonders”!
Like I mentioned in Part 1 of my Ocean Park travel diary, Ocean Park is made up of two huge areas — the Waterfront and the Summit. Located on two different sides of a mountain, both grounds are too vast that you need to take a cable car to cross from one space to another. The Cable Car is undoubtedly the most perfect way to travel between the Waterfront and the Summit because you get fantastic views of the sea and the park as a whole, while enjoying the cool breeze above the mountains.
While we were at the very top, we had a little cable car crisis. I don’t know what happened exactly, but the cable car ride just stopped moving! We were at the highest point of the ride and for about 15 minutes or so, nothing was happening! To add to the panic, the wind was blowing really hard and our cable car kept rocking… gently, but it was still rocking. I think we were stuck there for a little while, and if it didn’t start moving again, we would not have known how the hell we would get back down! When it first stopped, we savored the sights and said, “This is nice.” But after what seemed like forever of not moving, that’s when we started to get a bit panicky. Apart from that slightly scary situation though, the ride was great! It was a wonderful feeling to be up in the air, while taking everything in.
The lines to the Cable Car can be really long, so be prepared to wait. Do not fall in line with an empty stomach because hunger + long lines = a very hot head (and possibly some swearing, which is not good because there are lots of kids nearby). There will also be people lining up behind you with absolutely no concept of personal space. Once you get your turn, though, you’ll see that the line was worth the wait. Besides, aside from the Ocean Express (which is awesome and fast, but less scenic), it’s really the only way to get from one area to another. It’s probably more advisable to take the Cable Car from the Waterfront to the Summit, though, since the lines seem shorter there, especially during the first half of the day. Going from the Summit to the Waterfront, it’s faster to take the Ocean Express instead.
The biggest mistake we made in this trip was not going to the Panda Village much earlier.
We went to all the other rides first and put off seeing the pandas because at that time, the boys wanted to go to the Grand Aquarium first and the line for the Panda Village was quite long. By the time we went back, which was already a little before 7:00 in the evening, the Panda Village was already closing! We literally just begged the guard to let us in for a few minutes, and he took pity on us sad tourists so he just let us in. However, when we went in, the place was already really, really dark, and the only panda we saw was already on his way to go to sleep and did not want to be bothered. Too bad we missed them! This is what we could have seen. (Photos taken from my Ocean Park trip in 2008)
If you read my blog post about our trip to the Goldfish Market, you must have read that the goldfish is a significant part of the Chinese culture. They symbolize wealth, good fortune, peace, and prosperity. It is a common practice for people in China to keep an aquarium with goldfish in their homes or workplace to attract good luck. Since the goldfish are an important part of the lives of the Chinese, it’s no surprise that Ocean Park made a special attraction especially for these fish! Goldfish Treasures is a pavilion within the Amazing Asian Animals zone which displays various kinds of goldfish. Here, guests can view unique breeds of goldfish kept in beautiful tanks and learn more about the significance of the goldfish in Chinese culture.
Even if you don’t like goldfish, you will find that the tanks alone are lovely to look at. These are not your usual rectangular tanks. The aquariums here vary in shape, size, and design, and they do not only serve the purpose of being the goldfish’s home. They are artworks in themselves, and they add a touch of elegance to the entire room.
Whether you are a goldfish aficionado or just someone who wants to take a break from the buzz in the park, the Goldfish Treasures is an ideal place to unwind. Quietly watching the fish swim around in placid waters can actually ease one’s stress (and this is scientifically proven!). There is something about gazing into a serene tank that relaxes you. Aside from that, the rich, earthy colors of the wooden walls and displays can give you a sense of calm. There is also a beautiful traditional Chinese garden in this area where you can find some peace and quiet for a little while.
Old Hong Kong
Old?! Who are you calling “old”?! Not me, I hope… even if I did just turn 30 the day I went to Ocean Park!
The last attraction we went to in Ocean Park was Old Hong Kong, an alley reminiscent of Hong Kong between the 1950s to the 1970s. Guests can have a taste of the history and culture of Hong Kong’s yesteryear as they sample over 70 kinds of local street food, play some classic booth games, hop aboard the Heritage Tram, and admire some colorful street art. As you go in this zone, you’ll feel as if you are no longer in Ocean Park, and are instead back in the good old days of Hong Kong.
Old Hong Kong was already closing up when we got there, but we still walked around anyway. It must be bustling with activity during the day. At night, it is a gorgeous place to take photos while reliving Hong Kong’s vivid past.
The grand finale of our Ocean Park visit had no less than fire, water, dancing fountains, fireworks, dragons, and an animated 360-degree water screen! At night time, The Lagoon in Aqua City transforms into the setting of Symbio!, the world’s first and only 360° water screen show where Yin and Yang, two 9m-tall dragons engage in a passionate battle royale. But all ends well, as eventually, they show everyone the symbiotic (hence, “symbio”) relationship between humans and the world we live in, and remind us how to care for our planet.
LCI, the developer of the 360-degree video water screen concept for Symbio supplied and installed the 360-degree jet screen, along with 5 15,000-lumen video projectors in custom waterproof enclosures, 12 fountain jets, 8 air powered water cannons, and 168 underwater LED lights. The technology used to create this one-of-a-kind extravaganza is a symbol of symbiosis in essence — every single element, including the music and colors, work together to produce one amazing show.
The combat between the two dragons is fierce. The Fire Dragon lashes out and casts fire (yes, real fire!) into the water, and even from afar, we could feel the heat coming from the lagoon. Meanwhile, the Water Dragon shows off his power by shooting out bursts of water. As the dragons fight it out, the uproar gets more exciting as each move intensifies with flashes of bright lights, mighty sounds, and phantasmal images, with a soundtrack created by an Oscar-winning composer, adding more drama to the show.
In the end, the two dragons make peace and join forces to make the world a better place. Yay!
Here’s a video I took of Symbio. It’s a little pixelated because I resized it. If you want to see just parts of it, just keep fast forwarding it. Otherwise, if you don’t mind watching the whole show on video, feel free to watch all of it! But nothing beats being there and feeling the fieriness of the fire and being splashed with a little water!
This action-packed multimedia marvel was definitely the most magnificent way to wrap up our Ocean Park trip!
And that ends our Ocean Park adventure! Fun, right?
Tips for Traveling to Ocean Park:
- There are no nearby MTR stations in Ocean Park, so the best way to get there is to take the Citybus 629 from Admiralty or Central MTR station. It goes directly to Ocean Park. I suggest that you buy a 2-way ticket so you don’t have to fall in line again later at the ticket booth. Travel time back to Admiralty will take about 20-30 minutes, and a one-way bus ticket costs HKD 10.6 (HKD 21.2 round trip
- Go there early, even as early as a few minutes before the park officially opens! Remember that it’s the biggest theme park in Asia, so you’ll want to maximize every single minute that you’re there. A day is not enough, especially if you have to fall in line for the rides.
- Ticket prices are at HKD 345 for adults (aged 12 or above) and HKD 173 for children aged 3-11 if you buy them in the park. But if your hotel offers them at a cheaper price, that will save you some cash. We got our tickets for only HKD 330.
- In case your hotel does not have any more tickets, you may also buy park tickets at any 7-11 store or the Admiralty (West) Bus Terminal. Do not buy in Ocean Park as the ticket queues can be long!
- Take a map, which is found at the entrance. It will help you decide on which rides to go on first, and which ones to skip (or at least, skip for later).
- There are lockers for rent at the right hand side of the entrance so you don’t need to worry about carrying your stuff (and getting them wet!)
- If you don’t like getting wet, bring a plastic raincoat or a jacket because there are rides that will get you wet! (But that’s the fun part!)
- Also don’t forget to bring a jacket if you’re planning to go inside the North Pole Encounter and South Pole Spectacular. The temperature in these rooms are crazy cold!
- Do not make the same mistake we did with the pandas. Go to the Panda Village early! If you go there too late, it will be too dark and the pandas could be sleeping already. How often do you get to see pandas up close?
- It might be better to go straight to The Summit first and enjoy the rides there because the lines could be shorter during the earlier time of the day. By the time the park is packed with tourists, you would already have finished getting on the rides. Then you can go back to the Waterfront, relax a little, and explore the rides there. (We failed to do this. Boo us!)
- Here’s one more thing we failed to do (are you disappointed in us yet?): ride the Cable Car from the Waterfront to the Summit, and take the Ocean Express train from the Summit going back to the Waterfront. The lines to the Cable Car are really long in the afternoon, so best to experience it earlier in the day when it’s less crowded.
- Symbio! 360° water screen show starts at 7PM. Go to the Lagoon area 15 minutes before the show to get good seats, although wherever you are seated, you are sure to get a good view. If you’re seated close to the Lagoon, you will feel the heat of the fire and may even get a bit wet from the water splashes. Just a bit, though, so nothing to worry about!
How to get to Ocean Park:
1. From Tsim Sha Tsui MRT, go to Admiralty Station and take Exit B.
2. Upon exit at Admiraly MTR, you’ll find the Admiralty (West) Bus Terminus. Take the express bus CTB no. 629 to Ocean Park
*Bus operation interval / frequency: every 10-15 minutes
*Operating hours: 9AM – 4PM
*Journey time: 20 minutes
*Last bus from Ocean Park to Admiralty: 9PM
1.From Tsim Sha Tsui MRT, go to Central Station (near Star Ferry) and take Exit A
2.There are special departures of service 629 from opposite Central Pier 6 (same bus stop as service 15 for The Peak) and also at Exchange Square Bus Station
*Bus operation interval / frequency: every 20-60 minutes
*Operating hours: 9:45 AM – 3:45 PM
*Journey time: 25 minutes
*Schedules: 9:45 AM, 10:05 AM, 10:25 AM, 11:45 AM, 12:45 PM, 1:45 PM, 2:45 PM, and 3:45 PM
Ocean Park Hong Kong
Address: Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Phone: (852) 3923 2323
Fax: (852) 2873 5584
E-mail (General Inquiries): firstname.lastname@example.org