Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My experience at South Korea's Everland

Hello, readers of 'Second Drop'. As someone who has recently been to South Korea's Everland, I have been asked to share my experience (as a guest publisher) with the readers of this blog. 

To briefly introduce the Everland Resort, to those who may not have heard of it, Everland is South Korea's largest theme park that was opened in 1976, and it is located in Yongin, a city in Gyeonggi-do province. In addition to its main attractions and rides, there is also a zoo and water park named Caribbean Bay; it is definitely a 3-in-1 experience should you ever visit it.

Like any theme parks, Everland has the typical roller coasters, water rides and etc that are exciting and fun, but what makes it different is the type and level of thrill that you get from experiencing the rides. You will feel different about every theme park that you have visited, but Everland is a place you won’t easily forget. I haven't quite enjoyed myself in a long while as much as I have there. The bright colours and fun music that you see and hear will lift your mood, and you'll be hyped to try out the various attractions that Everland has to offer.

The theme park is divided into 5 distinct areas, and to make this review easier, I will briefly talk about my experience at the theme park according to these 5 areas.

1. Global Fair

Each zone has a theme of its own, and as the name suggests, this is the ‘international’ zone. It is the first zone upon entering the theme park, and almost immediately, you'll find yourself immersed in the whole atmosphere of a theme park. I would say that it serves as a very fitting welcome to tourists from other parts of South Korea and from all around the world as well.

What you see upon entering Everland
The biggest attraction in the area is based off what South Korea is world-renowned for: K-pop. While I didn’t experience it for myself, what is interesting about this is that it is the first-ever hologram concert in the theme park! So if you’re a fan of YG idols (namely Big Bang, 2NE1 and PSY), you’re in luck. Head on to the gift shop after that and you can digitally take photos with your favourite idols, print them and bring them home with you. 

Unfortunately though, this zone does not have as many attractions as the others, but it is the place if you’re into shopping - food, cosmetics, gifts and more - and photo-taking.


2. American Adventure

An area themed after various moments in America’s history, American thrills and adventures are brought to you in this zone. You’ll get to experience what America was like back in the 50’s, complete with the view and music. You can also have lunch in true American-styled delis/burger restaurants, and I would say this is worth the experience because it's like being in old America without having to travel to America.

If you’re a fan of thrilling rides, then this is the place that you have to visit. There are many rides located in this areas designed just for the thrills. A must-try would be the ‘Rolling X-Train’, a super-fast roller coaster with two 360° loops, perfect for anyone who loves a good roller coaster ride. ‘Let’s Twist’ is also an exciting ride that people who love a thrilling experience will enjoy because it is turning in all different directions.

'Rolling X-Train'
[Image from the official Everland website]
'Let's Twist': A ride that turns 360° in any direction


3. Magic Land

This is the wonderland that is perfect for you if you’re visiting Everland with children. With that being said, teenagers and adults are welcome too! There is definitely no age limit when it comes to having fun, and I think Magic Land really conveys that idea well. In Aesop’s Village, the magic is brought to you, and you will find yourself in a place where characters, buildings and rides based off Aesop’s Fables. It is truly a magic land with rides and play areas inspired by fairytales and stories like Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz, and you'll find yourself reliving your childhood once more.

If you aren’t the daring type (like me), the rides here are perfect. They are thrilling enough for you to have fun and get your theme park experience, but not enough to give you a heart attack. 'Racing Coaster' would be a nice start if you're new to roller coaster rides, or if you're simply afraid of going on the big, fast and high ones. A personal favourite of mine in the zone is the ‘Magic Swing’. To me, I think it is the typical Viking ride, but with a slight twist because it doesn’t just stay and swing to and fro; it changes directions and there are sudden drops when it swings. If you’re there, you should really give it a try.


4. European Adventure

Much like ‘American Adventure’, European culture comes to life here with the European-themed restaurants (along with Korean, Chinese and many others) and European-styled buildings. In this section, you will find a lot of restaurants, so there is definitely a variety to choose from. There is one roller coaster that you will see no matter where you are in this zone (and maybe even from some other zones), and it is called ’T Express’, the first wooden roller coaster in South Korea and the world’s steepest wooden one. It is also ranked online as the world's best wooden roller coaster. If ‘Rolling X-Train’ isn’t thrilling enough for you, or if you think you want more, then you should give this a shot. It is one of the recommended attractions on the Everland website, so if you’re up for a challenge, don’t hesitate to go for it. After all, you don't always see a wooden roller coaster in theme parks.

What 'T Express' looks like from the Skyway ride
When I visited Everland, I was just in time for their ‘Rose Festival’, and I was able to see various beautiful displays of coloured roses (along with other flowers) in the Rose Garden. It is a really scenic place to take photographs, and I would say that it is something different. I believe that the 'Rose Festival' is held during the period of May to June, so if you're there then, you should check it out. Everland hosts different festivals during different period of the year, so you’ll never know what you might see.

I only really tried the jjajangmyeon at this place called ‘China Moon’ in the area, and while it’s not something I’m personally used to, I would say that it is still pretty delicious.


5. Zoo-Topia

I enjoyed this area the most because it was something different from the usual theme park attractions, and it is a little different from your typical zoo as well. It is like a mini zoo experience in a theme park, and they have many snack shops in the area if you’re not looking to have a proper meal just yet.

I went for ‘Safari World’, and in this attraction, you get to board a bus that will drive you around the natural living habitat of animals like lions, tigers, hyenas and bears, including the liger, a special breed between a male lion and a female tiger. The best part is that you get to see them up close through the glass windows of the bus, and this is not something you’ll get to experience often. There are no cages or barriers that separate you from the animals except for the glass windows, but it will feel like they don’t even exist because the animals are right there beside you/in front of you. Another attraction I would recommend, which is also recommended on the Everland website, is ‘Lost Valley’; it is similar to ‘Safari World’, but with a much bigger safari and more animals from all around the world! You won’t even have to walk around because you’ll be sitting in an amphibious car.

The current types and numbers of animals you'll see 

The liger - the only one left in Safari World

One of the few bears right outside the bus I was in

After personally experiencing what it was like there, I have decided to list some suggestions that I think will help anyone who wants to visit Everland in the future. Here are my 5 tips:

1. Travel light

You do not want to be carrying a big and heavy bag if you want to enjoy yourself there. I’d recommend travelling as light as you can; just bring a small bag (preferably a small bagpack because slingbags can get annoying) to keep your phone, wallet and camera. In other words, bring only the necessities. 

2. Dress comfortably

Everland is quite big and you'll be doing a lot of walking and playing on rides and attractions, so the most important thing is to dress comfortably. Don't worry too much about looking fancy or looking nice because you're there to have fun, so put on something that you'll walk and sit comfortably in, like jeans or shorts. Make sure you have suitable walking/running shoes because there are slopes up and down Everland, and the last thing you want to be wearing is heels/slippers.

3. Go there early (to avoid long queues)

I arrived a little after 9am on a Thursday, and while it wasn’t very crowded, to say that it was empty would be an understatement. Even though it was early and on a weekday, there are a lot of people already there, but it is still a manageable crowd, which is why I would recommend going early because the bulk of the crowd enters the theme park from noon onwards. Most of these people are from tour groups, and you want to avoid those because the waiting lines tend to get really long. If you are early, you avoid the crowd and spend less time waiting and more time enjoying the rides, and you’re effectively enjoying more attractions than those who come in later because you would probably have saved a lot of waiting time in the morning, and by the time they move to Ride B, you’ll probably already be at Ride G.

4. Plan your route beforehand

Like I said before, Everland is pretty big, and because it is divided into 5 zones, it would be wise to plan your itinerary so that you would have spent your time efficiently and experienced the most in the relatively short duration that you have (unless you dedicate an entire day to just having fun at Everland). If you happened to miss an attraction in a particular zone but have already left the place, it might take quite a while to travel back if you end up on the opposite end. If you go to the Everland website, you can find a soft copy of the theme park map. The website also provides you with information about the different attractions there, and there are even recommended routes for you; use these and plan your route first to maximise your time usage! Discover which are the rides that you want to go to. It will save you a lot of confusion when you get to Everland (and you won’t have to spend time looking around and trying to see which rides are fun).

5. Overcoming the language barrier

Language would no doubt be the biggest challenge when you’re overseas in a country that speaks a different tongue, but you don’t have to worry about that when you’re in Everland. With their enthusiasm, you wouldn’t even feel like language is an issue there. Even though most of the staff there speak Korean, you don’t need to know their language to communicate; basic English will suffice. They can more or less understand you, but even if they can’t, pointing and gesturing will always work. However, based on my experience there, speaking English will do. If you’re a Chinese and you’re lucky enough, there might be one or two employees (especially in restaurants) that can communicate to you in mandarin. Of course, if you’re there with a tour guide, then you will definitely not have too hard a time with a translator by your side. There are English brochures available, and there are signs in English as well, so you can safely navigate your way around. The price of items are usually stated really clearly, so you wouldn’t have to ask, but if you can, you should try to pick up basic/simple Korean (like greetings, phrases and numbers used for money) because that will help you a little.

To sum up my overall experience, this trip to Everland has been quite enjoyable. The people there have been nothing but pleasant, be it the staff or just some of the tourists, and they greet you with so much enthusiasm that you can't help but feel happy. Being in this theme park made me feel like a young child once again and the atmosphere really reminded me of what it is like to have a fun and relaxing holiday. I never fail to visit theme parks when I travel overseas, and my time at Everland has been unforgettable because I get to experience so many different cultures in one place, some of which you might not get in other theme parks. Without any hesitation, I'd say that I will come again if I can. It really doesn't matter how old you are; Everland is a place where both the old and the young will enjoy. I did and I know my family did too, and I would definitely recommend anyone, be it a single person, couples or families, who is planning a trip to South Korea to include a visit to Everland if you haven't already done so.