Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Happy Valley Shenzhen: China's own Fuji-Q?

Among China's big theme park brands, Happy Valley is most synonymous with big roller coasters. In fact, some of the leading Happy Valley parks have 7 or more roller coasters, and the variety is also quite impressive. As a mid-sized Happy Valley theme park, Happy Valley Shenzhen (深圳欢乐谷) nonetheless delivers a commendable roller coaster lineup and a variety of other attractions.

Happy Valley Shenzhen's entrance is marked by a small shopping and dining street that is home to popular brands like KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

About Happy Valley Shenzhen (深圳欢乐谷)

Before I begin, let me first say that my trip to this park was very rushed - about 3 hours, and I was stuck in the queue line of Bullet Coaster (the signature ride) for over an hour due to technical difficulties. As such, I was only able to experience a few of the attractions.

As a thrill centered theme park brand, Happy Valley places a lot of emphasis on its roller coasters. Happy Valley Shenzhen boasts 4 of them - 1 kids, 1 family, 1 thrilling and 1 outright insane, thus appealing to a broad range of demographics. There are also multiple dark rides, kids rides, flat rides and water rides divided into several themed areas. 

Opening hours are 0930hrs to 1800hrs (park still open till 10pm but most rides will be closed after 6pm), though on peak days it may open a little earlier. 

[tip] Different rides open at different times at Happy Valley Shenzhen. Generally, the big roller coasters open at about 10.30am.

Unlike other Happy Valley parks, Happy Valley Shenzhen is part of OCT resort in Shenzhen, China. The OCT resort also includes other attractions such as Window of the World and Splendid China. You can reach Happy Valley Shenzhen by Shenzhen Metro - simply take Line 1 or Line 2 to Window of the World station and take a 5 minute walk from exit A.

Now this is a sweet feature - a chart listing the opening hours of every single attraction in the park. An electronic version of this chart is also available at the ticketing counter.

The Happy Times (欢乐时光)

If you love thrilling flat rides, you love this area! The Happy Times section of Happy Valley Shenzhen is close to the entrance and features 4 thrilling flat rides. It is also home to about half of the parks' movie and 3D attractions. I really love the boardwalk carnival atmosphere, though I was quite disappointed that most of the rides in this area only open after 11am.

This is the second day in a row where I have to miss a disko as the ride was not open!

This one will really get you giddy!

It seems that double decked carousels are all the rage in China now.

Magical Castle (魔幻城堡)

I think this can be considered the kids area of Happy Valley Shenzhen. There are lot's of areas where the kids can climb, explore and run around. There are also several rides, such as a Santa themed indoor shooting dark ride and a baby roller coaster. However, the castle entrance is a bit too dark and intimidating and I think better lighting will make the area more kids friendly.

Good effort adding some winter theme to the map!

And even the toilet entrance is themed! FYI Happy Valley Shenzhen have no shortage of toilets, though all of the cubicles are squatting type toilets.

Another structure for the kids to climb and explore

This looks more like a haunted house entrance than a kids area entrance!

But once you get inside...

Baby Coaster is officially the most cheapo coaster I have seen so far! It reminds me of those portable roller coasters from the 1990s.

And let's not forget the arcade

Mount Adventure (冒险山)

This area is home just 1 ride: the big drop tower of Happy Valley Shenzhen - 太空梭 (Space Shot). What makes this ride really nice is that it is located at the top of a little hill, so the ride feels taller and more intimidating than it actually is. The gardens leading up to the ride are also quite colourful. 

The tower itself is just over 10 storeys high and you will be shot upwards first before dropping. The floating sensation at the top is actually more intense than some roller coaster airtime hills. From the top, you will have a clear view of the park's signature roller coaster, Bullet Coaster, which towers over the park.

Just FYI, this was my first full-sized drop tower. It is actually...not bad.

Looking up from the bottom of Mt Adventure!

Gold Mine Town (矿山镇)

Among all the themed lands of Happy Valley Shenzhen, I think the most immersive and beautiful has got to be Gold Mine Town. It is themed to towns of the American West during the early days of exploration and discovery. I particular like the many sculptures located all over the area, as well as little touches like the kids water play area and the "well camouflaged" restaurants and game stalls.

Happy Valley Shenzhen Gold Mine Town
The Water Play zone. Some adults innocently walked through this area only to get splashed :P. Not by me, though!

Gold Mine Town is also home to one of the Parks 3 main roller coasters - Mine Train (矿山车). Unfortunately, the ride was closed for servicing on the day I visited. It is basically a standard layout Vekoma mine train, and can be found at multiple Happy Valley theme parks. From the video POVs on Youtube it does look quite fast paced.

[tip] Visiting Chinese theme parks before school holidays will result in short queues, but it is also the time when roller coasters take turns to close for periodic maintenance.

So, is the sign trying to tell me that "Drifting Restaurant" is drifting away?

Such sculptures can be found all over Gold Mine Town and really adds a lot of depth to the area.

Shangri-La (香格里拉)

Located at the far back end of Happy Valley Shenzhen, Shangri-La is home to majestic man-made mountains and many signs and symbols of Nepalese culture. You know you have arrived at this magical realm when you see colourful flags swinging in the breeze, as if welcoming you into this magical place. Shangri La is also home to the 2 biggest roller coasters of Happy Valley Shenzhen - 雪山飞龙 (Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster) and 雪域雄鹰 (S&S Bullet Coaster).

Happy Valley Shenzhen Shangri La
These colourful Prayer Flags are used to bless the surrounding countryside in Nepalese culture.

I think the Chinese are getting quite proficient at adding waterfalls to theme parks

雪山飞龙 (Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster)

雪山飞龙 is a Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster (SLC). This means that your feet are actually dangling as the ride powers through the track. There are a total of 4 inversions - a vertical loop, cobra roll and zero-G roll, in order, and the trains sit 20 in 10 rows. Because of these exceptionally long trains, the loops feel quite strange if you sit on the front and back row because you will stop halfway up or down the loops.

Nonetheless, I think this ride is not bad. In spite of Vekoma SLCs having a bad reputation for bumpiness, the headbanging is not as pronounced as 10 Looping Roller Coaster at Chimelong Paradise or The Dragon at Ocean Park. The pace is quite good though the layout is a little too short. Just 2 interesting observations:

  1. The ride queue was undergoing reconstruction on the day I went, so we had to enter through a side entrance. Some guests cannot find the side entrance, but it is basically a narrow pathway just beside the ride entrance signboard.
  2. For some reason, Happy Valley Shenzhen wants us to do some exercises before getting on the big roller coasters. To me, all that it does is slow down the loading time.

雪域雄鹰 (S&S Bullet Coaster)

Now, this is the big one. A 20 storey high juggernaut that reaches over 135kph and features 5 monstrous hills. It can be seen from just about every area of the park minus the entrance area, and the noise it makes is utter intimidation. 

S&S Bullet Coaster Happy Valley Shenzhen
Look at the height of this thing!

The launch is unlike anything I have experienced before. It is not so much an acceleration, but a sudden punch over your entire body. In fact, for the first time in launched roller coasters I cannot even remember what happened during the launch itself, but let's just say it is extremely forceful - 0 to 135kph in 1.5 seconds. Then you fly up the massive 20 storey hill and drop the same height at an 85 degree angle. Man! Even the 3rd drop was larger and steeper than Battlestar Galactica's first!

This is almost like combining Dodonpa and Fujiyama of Fuji Q Highland into 1 single ride!

Unfortunately, this ride is quite temperamental. Many American guests have visited the park only to see it closed for technical difficulties. On the day I went, the ride was supposed to open at 11am, but due to some technical fault the ride could only open at 12.15pm. Some guest was even quarreling loudly with the staff about the delay.

[tip] It is worth waiting in line before the ride officially opens, because the loading time for this ride is quite slow.

Closed for technical difficulties, opening delayed to 11.30am. Notice that even the entrance gate is themed to the Nepalese architecture.

The view of Bullet Coaster from Gold Mine Town

Is this China's Fuji-Q?

I must say, yes and no. In some ways, Happy Valley Shenzhen exceeds Fuji Q Highland, especially in the movie based attractions, landscaping and number and variety of flat rides. However, the core element of Happy Valley's business philosophy is big, thrilling roller coasters, and I felt that the park lacks the number to become a true coaster capital. 

No doubt 雪域雄鹰 Bullet Coaster is really kick ass and probably one of the most intense rides in the world, but this park only has 4 roller coasters, and when one is closed for maintenance... Compare this to say, Happy Valley Shanghai, or even Fuji Q Highland itself, with 7 coasters. 

  • Roller Coasters: ☆☆☆☆
  • Thrill Rides: ☆☆☆☆
  • Shows: ☆☆
  • Family Rides: ☆☆☆
  • Theming: ☆☆☆
  • Operations: ☆☆
  • Overall: ☆☆☆
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