China’s Orlando: Chime Long Ocean Kingdom
If you’re an expat with young kids, and you hear of a supposed “world-class, super large, integrated theme, tourist resort” opening merely two hours away, it is rude not to go. Right?
That is exactly how I felt when planning our family trip to Chime Long Ocean Kingdom in neighboring Zhuhai.
Honestly, travelling within China is never my first choice. Like many expats I know, every chance we get, we get out. So, despite the inviting images and promises of fun in its advertisements and official website, I was skeptical. My husband calls it “jaded,” but I call it “Living-in-China-for-too-long.”
It took us 2.5 hours to get there, during which we weathered a few tantrums and countless amounts of “How long till we get there?”
Fountains of walruses lined the entrance of the resort hotel, and when we arrived it was hard not to blurt out, “WOW.” The lobby centers around six dolphin pillars with lots, and I mean lots of gold with colored lights. Tacky, but so over the top, it works spectacularly.
The hotel room was nice, and the kids loved the pirate ship bunk bed. The room was not as cold as I would have liked it to be, and the refrigerator provided, is not much of one. I had brought cartons for my milk junkies, but had to throw them out because, despite my request to change the machine, the staff politely educated me on his position that it was cold.
The International Circus was exciting, with international performers—enchanting was the beautiful aerial dancer; heart-warming was the dog show; and captivating was the chimpanzee act, where chimps performed dangerous stunts on a giant Ferris wheel. Entertaining as it is, it’s eerily creepy how smart these chimps are. I was thinking they may suddenly pull a Planet of the Apes takeover.
So, despite the inviting images and promises of fun in its advertisements and official website, I was skeptical.
We decided to spend the entire next day at the Ocean Kingdom, affectionately called “The Orlando of China,” and the “World’s Largest Aquarium” (confirmed by Guinness Book of World Records).
At the entrance, we were greeted by a gigantic LCD roof canopy of swimming sea creatures. Officially opened in March 2014, the RMB 20-billion, 132-hectare theme park houses eight different zones. In a circular format, it was easy to navigate—even without a map.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I would say Ocean Kingdom has it down flat. The whole architecture and park plan, down to the benches, street lights and even merchandise, look very similar to Disneyland. However, they do not pale in comparison.
At Dolphin Cove, we came face to face with bottle-nose dolphins in their underwater enclosures. Gotta love dolphins, they look like they are always smiling.
Next stop, at Amazing Amazon, is the park’s scariest roller-coaster. At a height of 50 meters, it is the third tallest ride in the world. It’s also the world’s longest and fastest wing- coaster topping out at 108km/h. Riders are “hanged” from a giant parrot and whisked through the air. Of course, we all rode it. NOT. We were chicken.
The Ocean Wonders zone is majestic and record-breaking. Here lies the world’s largest aquarium. With 13 million gallons, the attraction holds another four new world records.
We took a kid-friendly Deep Sea Odyssey ride, which must be the highlight of every kid’s visit. This unique 2-seater capsule ride, or feast for the eyes, is like being in a submarine and going into the underwater world.
At Polar Adventure, though, we hung out with a few big boys. In the same enclosure beautiful snow white foxes and beluga whales co-existed.
With kids, unpredictability is normal. Due to timing, we only covered 60 percent of what the park had to offer. There were other performances by the beluga whales and polar bears, a large-scale water performance consisting of laser beams, “flying men over water,” fountains and visual effects, a parade and fireworks.
Ocean Kingdom definitely has charms of its own and, like every other theme park, it also has unique attractions and familiar rides that are superior to those found anywhere else. The park’s official language is Mandarin, and there are no English translations during the performances and rides. There are English translations, however, on signage in all the enclosures, and they are all very educational. Staff are well-trained, organized, and polite enough.
Overall, it was a good trip, and for parents like me, who are bored of Disney, Ocean Kingdom is a breath of fresh air. Be warned, everything is overpriced. But considering the limited options of enrichment we have locally, I say it is worth every cent.
Do exercise common-sense in avoiding going on weekends and public holidays. If not, be prepared to push, or be pushed. Oh well, when in Rome …