by Jill Morris
Window of the World
Kaifu, Changsha, Hunan, China
Window of the World is described by locals as the “old” park; in fact, the faculty member who drove me there told me it was probably “50 years old.” However, the park opened in 1997 so while it is certainly older than a lot of parks in China, it is still pretty new by American standards. Window of the World is themed to famous world landmarks. They generally are not integrated into the rides themselves, but instead are separate photo opportunities scattered around the park. Window of the World is located directly off of a major freeway that travels through Changsha, so if you are in the city you may very well see the park from the road. The other parks in the Changsha area are either outside the city or not visible from the road (featuring small rides).
We visited during the week and the park was virtually deserted. In general that is a good thing, but as some Chinese parks do, Window of the World has operators wait until trains are at least partially full until dispatching. Therefore, a coaster might look like a walk on but you still might be waiting a really long time for the actual dispatch. We waited longer for the coasters than for the flats, which seemed more popular with the locals (this might change when their new coaster opens sometime next year). This also makes it pretty impossible to marathon any of the rides in the park because you need to wait for other guests to show up.
The first coaster I rode here was a Zamperla Motocoaster called Speed Shuttle. This is actually quite a bit of fun, and was the coaster that I enjoyed most at this park. It is not terribly tall or fast, but anything going much taller or faster wouldn’t be very comfortable in these restraints anyway.
The park has a knockoff Gerstlauer Sky Roller, and though I went on it several times I do not believe it is possible to completely roll the seats over. Despite this, it’s a fun little ride that you shouldn’t miss, not least of all because the Chinese riders seem to try to keep their seats as steady as possible while foreign riders attempt to get the seats to tip as much as possible. The contrast is quite funny. (You will see this on teacup rides as well—Chinese guests tend to not spin them while foreign guests will.)
The spinning coaster was closed the day that I visited. I don’t honestly know if it would open later in the day or not (the map did not make this clear, nor were there signs; the cars were covered though, so we assumed that it would at least be awhile before it opened). Therefore, we went to ride the second coaster that was opened, the SLC knockoff called “Suspended Coaster.”
This one is manufactured by Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides manufacturing. I much prefer Golden Horse rides to these. Although the Beijing model had incredibly padded restraints, there will be major issues for most Americans who attempt to ride this particular coaster. When we tried to board we were immediately stopped by a ride operator who would not allow us to choose the front seat despite being the only people in line. She then pointed to me, said “fat” (along with a gesture and puffed up cheeks), looked to the student I was visiting with, said “tall,” and made us ride in the very back. He is a little over six feet tall and I wear a women’s size 12, for reference.
The ride operators were incredibly surprised that I could ride at all, apparently. The restraint locked just fine, but it seems to be procedure here that for most Chinese people the restraint locks in its smallest setting. They were all very surprised that it would lock further up or that the computer would clear it. The same was true for my student, who was apparently too tall for the restraints.
The seats (other than the back) all had booster seats installed so that the restraints would fit even tighter on average (very small) Chinese guests.
Despite fitting, this was incredibly uncomfortable. The padded restraints do help with the head shaking that is normally a problem on an SLC, but the bones in my hips were wider than the hard plastic seats (a problem that weight loss would not fix), so I was actually perched up on their edges. We had to wait a long time for the train to dispatch, and these plastic sides dug into my hip, butt, and leg bones throughout the ride. This is the only Chinese roller coaster that I have been on that I would never ride again. I had similar issues with the size of the seats on flats that were manufactured by the Beijing Jiuhua company as well (I always fit but it was not comfortable), so I would not recommend these rides for anyone my size or larger. Of course, you can always try if you want the credits, but I am not sure that some of these rides are worth the effort or potential embarrassment.
The park is in the process of building an S&S coaster. It was supposed to open this year, but was still sitting in a field with camouflage over it when I visited. Fortunately, since that time it has started being constructed and may open next year. It will be a very good addition for this park and should bring back a lot of business to it.
The theming here is not as good as at the newer parks, however, the park makes up for it with beautiful tree cover throughout. During the summer it is incredibly hot in Changsha, so having shade to walk under is fantastic. Although Chinese amusement parks don’t have many souvenirs in general, this one mostly sold some small toys (including some great My Little Pony knockoffs called “Little Horse”). The park does have some statues that are meant to be Disney-esque, as well as a castle.
The rides here all have cubbies for cameras and bags, and people use them (including with expensive items). Since only one train’s worth of guests will be allowed in the station, this is generally safe.
There are some excellent restaurants outside of the park (within walking distance), and it is easy to get a taxi out front as well. Have your destination written in Chinese and you should not have any trouble getting to or from Window of the World even though it is not yet on the subway system.
Up next: Shanghai Disneyland
by Jill Morris
Happy Valley Beijing
Chaoyang, Beijing, China
Happy Valley Beijing is available on the Beijing subway system. This makes it very easy to get to (it has its own stop, which has some fantastic art related to the park). The B&M flyer here might be a clone of Superman, but it goes around and through a mountain and feels completely different. Like Fantawild, Happy Valley is very well themed, but is more based in thrills and has a lot more coasters. Happy Valley is slightly more expensive than Fantawild (though this might be because it is in a bigger city), but offers a late-afternoon discount. Be aware, however, that many rides will close at 4 p.m., so do not think that it is possible to ride all the coasters on the afternoon ticket. It is cheaper because some rides will be shut down.
On the day we visited, it was thunderstorming when we arrived, but after a quick discussion with the gate agent (she really wanted me to understand that no rides would be open till the thunderstorm stopped), we went anyway. I was immediately struck by theming, again. Chinese companies invest a lot in these parks. They all feel very new and very well developed.
The rain stopped, there was a rainbow, and some of the rides reopened (only briefly, though, as some would be closing soon). I was surprised to find out that some of the indoor rides would not be open later even though everything outside was closed, so the ride opening and closing times here are much more strict than at Fantawild. (I was especially sad that the Air Race, one of my favorite flat rides, was closed despite being inside during the storm.) At Happy Valley, there are opening and closing times for all major rides on their website, and you should assume they will be followed. To ride everything, you should at least plan on spending the morning and early afternoon at the park. You won’t be able to visit in the late afternoon and ride everything, though you will be able to wander around, take photos, and experience the park.
The centerpiece of Happy Valley is Crystal Wings, a Superman clone that circles a mountain-side city. The coaster feels completely different thanks to the theming, and there are many good things to be said about how the park has themed and maintained all of their rides.
The park also has Extreme Rusher, an S&S launched coaster, which is in a section of the park themed to cars and speed. This had closed by the time the storm was over, so I can’t speak personally to how it rides. To get this credit it is best to go in the morning or early afternoon.
The Family Inverted Coaster is also a B&M, and it is one of only two family inverted coasters by them in the world (both in China). This is an excellent little ride, and I was initially more excited to ride it than Crystal Wings.
The park has two Vekomas. One is fairly standard SLC, but given that SLC-looking coasters are often knock-offs in China, I appreciate that they installed the real thing. It is also called Golden Wings in Snowfield, which is a beautiful name that reflects that it is painted white. The ride goes through some fairly thick trees, which also helps with the experience.
Their second Vekoma is a mine-train model called Jungle Racing (it is not a racing coaster, however). It also goes through the woods. I was almost crazily excited by this ride because you can ride in what is normally the “zero car” in mine train coasters actually shaped like a train. Regrettably, the pillars that hold up the roof on the train engine are metal and not padded and adult-sized humans will knock their elbows and head into them while riding. On Jungle Racing we were allowed to ride with our backpacks and other bags, which seemed strange, but we were not allowed to leave them on the platform. Other rides had cubbies or allowed bags to be left on the platform.
Like Fantawild, Happy Valley seemed to only let one train’s worth of guests into the station at once (though, given the low crowds, no rides were running two trains). As such, safety of personal items was not really a concern. (I have gotten comfortable leaving my DSLR places in China that I definitely would not in the US, but only in parks that are fairly empty with high security.)
I visited the park in 2018, and so the B&M hyper was currently under construction when we were there. One of the big differences between Chinese and American parks is how easy it is to walk into construction sites by accident, so if there is construction going on at a park be careful. (We walked onto the site for Flight of the Himalayan Eagle Music Roller Coaster completely by accident while looking for a path around to the front of the park that no longer existed. We quickly backed up and went around the long way.) Be careful. China expects its citizens to take care of themselves in these circumstances. In any case, this ride is now complete, stands 157.5 feet tall, and has a splash effect.
Happy Valley has a lot of flat rides that are well maintained and worth a ride, but be sure to not miss their Intamin Flying Island that is called Energy Collector. This platform is raised on an arm. You stand around on the platform without restraints, so when it changes direction or begins to go up and down it can actually be a little scary. It also provides fantastic views of the entire park. They are a rare enough ride that it shouldn’t be missed.
Happy Valley is accessible directly off of Line 7 from the Beijing subway and has its own stop, the Happy Valley Scenic Area station, which is right outside the front gate.
Up next: Window of the World