Now that that boring Myanmar trip report is over, featuring spectacular scenery in places that few people have been to or ever even heard of, it’s time to get back to sharing a crapload of pictures of some twisted bits of metal. This first part will be a looooooooooong one, but very photo heavy. My Chinese tourist visa is about to expire, so I wanted to get a quick weekend in before that since I’m probably not going to renew it until the summer. I can, stupidly, get a longer one if I apply in the UK and it will cost less than half what I’ve been paying here. Hefei hadn’t really been on the cards since there are no direct flights from Hong Kong. There are loads to Nanjing, a much more major city nearby, but by the time I’d get from Nanjing Airport to the train station to get to Hefei, and do the reverse to get back, a regular weekend wasn’t going to work. When I’d previously checked flights from Shenzhen, not many options had popped up. Either a lot more flights have been added since, or there was something going wrong with the website I’d used previously, since there are actually about 8 a day, which means it was possible to get a Friday night flight and fly back on Sunday night, giving me two full days. Obviously, it would be quicker and easier to get to and from Hong Kong Airport, but realistically it only takes an extra hour to get to Shenzhen Airport – a bit more faff admittedly – and since you’ve already done the border crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, you’re getting domestic flights, so no border control crap at the airport you’re flying into. Anyway, I got to the hotel around midnight and just crashed. No idea why I felt the need to tell you all that, but, you know, just in case you find yourself fancying a change from Blackpool and need to get between Hong Kong and Hefei… Hefei Wanda Theme Park This place was obviously the main reason to come here, having opened about six months ago. I’d done one other Wanda park, in Nanchang, and been pretty impressed, so this was high on my list of priorities. The park is in a completely new area of the city, with a lot of high-rises being thrown up around it, and has a stop on Hefei’s new metro. Only one line is running at the moment, having opened in December. My hotel wasn’t that close to a metro station (yet – line 2 will open soon), so my plan was to get a taxi to the metro and go from there. I ended up sacking that off and got a taxi straight to the park. Taxi prices are starting to creep up in China, but the 30-minute ride still only cost me about 6 quid. The park entrance is opposite a huge Wanda shopping mall. This seems to be what they’re doing with all of their new parks, basically building whole entertainment/retail complexes just outside city centres. Smart. I was there just before opening, quickly bought a ticket (from an English-speaking ticket bint!) and joined the queue to get in. It seemed slightly busy. I have never understood the mentality of tour groups of pensioners in a theme park, following a flag-waving tour guide around, but it’s weirdly common in China. I think this lot were all Wanda employees. There were around 100 of them, but I didn’t see them once I got inside the park. My first thought was to head to the biggest coaster, an Intamin launch thing which was right across at the other end of the park. On the way, I saw this testing: I was sure, based on a lot of Chinese park bulls**t, that they’d only run one side of this, but they were testing both sides. More on that one later. The Intamin then, Soaring with Dragon. It was opening at 11, and it was only around 10:15 at this point, so I had a quick wander for a bit, going back on myself to grab a crappy Golden Horse spinner – which I don’t seem to have uploaded any pictures of, but it was the same as all the others – and nabbing a kiddy cred. The kiddy area was cute. The dueling tilt coasters, Battle of Jungle King, were also opening at 11. They were still testing both sides, but something was a little off. I’ve got no idea if it was deliberate or not. Both sides run independently, so I’m guessing that during testing, it’s not really important to set them both off at the same time. The theming for this was fab as well, a castle siege. Well, the façade of it at least; the coaster itself had no theming once you got through the entrance. I ended up going back to Soaring with Dragon at around 10 minutes before it was due to open. Quick view back across the lake: And a quick view from a urinal: There was nobody else waiting, but then a staff member came out front and they started testing it, so a queue quickly built up. I was on the first train of the day and headed straight for the back row. I’ve mentioned before that people in China always seem to fill up trains from the front, even when not told to, so it’s usually very easy to nab a back row ride. I really liked this coaster a lot. The launches have a bit of vibration which seem common in other Intamin shuttle launches, but it was too small of an issue to be a problem. The second, backwards, launch up the spike and the final launch over the inverted loop feel quite strong. The loop is fab, really disorientating and obviously massively high (the world’s tallest). The following inversion and airtime hill are also really good, and it finishes with some intense/snappy turns. All-in-all, an excellent ride. I went straight back round for another go, but ended up waiting half an hour since it broke down for about 15 minutes. As far as I could tell, this was the only issue it had all day though. From there, I went back to Battle of Jungle King. They were only running one side. Bollocks. The sign outside said it was a 90-minute wait, but I decided to just suck it up. In reality, it was only around 40 minutes. They were running the “Tiger” side. F**k me, it was horrible. The tilt and drop are actually fab. Again, I went straight for the back row for the bigger drop, but the second half of the layout, after the loop, was atrocious. It’s not even that fast, but it seriously smacks your head around in a couple of places. Right as I got to the front, they started testing (though not dueling) the other train, and by the time I got off, they were running (and dueling) both sides, with a queue time posted out front of 5 minutes, so that was wonderful f**king timing on my part. Despite, or because of, the brain hemorrhage I was no doubt suffering, I headed straight back in to get the other side, “Dragon”. Although it had one more inversion than the Tiger side, it didn’t seem as rough. I rode in the middle this time though, so maybe that had something to do with it. Tiger has a basic corkscrew, while Dragon has a weird helix into a half corkscrew thing, followed by the same in reverse. It means that the trains duel in that section. I took that picture before my first ride, before they opened the Dragon side, but you can get an idea of what they do. A quick note. You don’t actually get to choose your side. There’s just one queue right until the end, where a ride op counts people in either to the Dragon side, which is closest, or over a bridge to the Tiger side. I’m sure you could probably ask to wait to get on the side you wanted, but I didn’t need to as I ended up on the Dragon side anyway. Although the line was short, I had no intention of reriding either side of this. I find it utterly bizarre that they managed something as complex as double tilt tracks and well-timed dueling, but so badly f**ked up the section which is, essentially, just an old-school looper. Oh, I forgot to mention as well that they have maximum height and weight limits. I can’t remember the height limit now (maybe 190cm?) but the weight limit was 90kg. I only saw this on the sign out front though, so no idea if this is checked or enforced. I didn’t do the rapids. As is usual for a Chinese park, they had a bunch of water cannons all along the course getting people drenched. Instead, I went back to Soaring with Dragon and had a few more rides on that, bagging a front row on one of them, but usually heading for the back. They were only running one train, but the queue, advertised as 30 minutes, was a steady 15 minutes for each ride. The train is fab, but kind of obstructs the view in the front row. I’m pretty tall as well, so I can’t imagine it’s great if you don’t have my statuesque physique. There was also a height limit on this, but it was something not worth worrying about, like 198cm or something. Someone on Facebook asked if they still had an 80kg weight limit. Apparently a group of them had issues riding this and the 90kg limit tilt coasters. I’m saying nothing… I saw no sign of this restriction anywhere on the Intamin, but I didn’t really look closely. However, I think if they had this, I would have been checked. I’m fairly tall and 76kg, so although I would’ve been fine, I would’ve thought somebody might have queried it, but nobody did on any of the rides I had throughout the day. This simulator thing wasn’t too bad. It was 3D and clearly going for the “Star Tours” style, though with an underwater theme. While it all synched well with the screen, the whole mechanism was quite noisy really. Didn’t do: I did the ferris wheel for some pictures. Ah, there’s the spinner looking quite closed. No idea if it was by that point since I never went back to it. It seems I haven’t uploaded many flat ride photos. If anyone’s bothered I can dig some out, but they were very generic. They had a shot tower, disco, a splash battle and a Twist and Splash, one of those unicoaster things (closed), chair swings, a top spin, a star flyer, a power surge and a huge gyroswing. I didn’t ride it, so not sure if it’s an Intamin or Huss, but I’m sure it’s one of the two. The park was closing at 6pm, but a lot of rides, including the major coasters, started closing at 4:30. There was a show starting at 4, so I popped into that and called it a day. It was pretty epic and large scale, but ultimately a bit boring and repetitive to be honest. It was linked to the theme of the tilt coasters (in the same area) in that it was basically an attack on some castle. This is the main entrance area. I hadn’t taken any pictures on the way in since I rushed over to the Intamin first. The Wanda parks are based around Chinese culture, so any theming around the place reflects that. This actually did feel like a traditional Chinese street, but it was a bit bland because it was too accurate. I had a quite walk around to a bus station area to get a couple of pictures of the tilt coasters from the other side. Then a quick look in the shopping mall, which was huge, but I didn’t hang around. There was an indoor water park, and, opposite, a Wanda Movie Park. They had one of these in the mall next to the Nanchang park as well, but I don’t really see the point of them. They’re a bit empty feeling and nobody seems to bother with them. This one had a flying theatre and dark ride shooter, neither of which I bothered with. I decided to get the metro back into the city centre and walk a bit to the hotel to see a bit of the city. Meh. Very generic from what I saw of it, but nothing wrong with the place. The actual centre is surrounded by a moat/river which is lined with small parks, so it was a nice walk back. It was getting dark, so it looks a bit gloomy, but it had been a really nice day. Don’t worry, that’s it for any semblance of culture in this report. Thoughts on Wanda then. I liked it, but not as much as the Nanchang park. The Intamin was excellent, and totally worth the effort, but the tilt coasters, while very cool to look it, were pretty vile and there’s nothing else there of any real note. I’m saying that as a park whore though, who’s done all those flat rides, water rides etc. to death, so will happily not bother. For a casual park goer, there’s actually a lot to do and it’s mostly decent quality stuff. There’s also nothing that comes close to a high-quality park in Hefei, or even nearby Nanjing for that matter, so this is a great addition. In terms of operations, the two parks I’ve been to have been pretty good, but could be better. Both of them have run their coasters on one train, despite having more. The Intamin had 3 trains, and could have done with running a second really, while the tilt coasters had two on each side. However, despite initial impressions, it wasn’t too busy, so one-train operations weren’t an issue like they were at Nanchang, where the queues for the two big coasters hit two hours in the afternoon with no second train in sight. Having said that, even though they run single trains, they run those pretty efficiently. As soon as people are taking their seats, they’re filling the air gates for the next batch. At Fantawild and some Happy Valley parks, they hold people outside the station until the previous trainload has completely cleared the platform, then bring people to stand in front of the gates – and an empty train – while they go through safety bulls**t and/or ridiculous warming up exercises. I’ve only done two parks out of the current three (with another 5 under construction), but for a new chain they seem to be mostly getting things right. They’re not running the places as well as Chimelong – the only Chinese company that comes close to excellent operations – but are better than most Happy Valley parks and leagues ahead of the s**tshow that is Fantawild. Next up: cred whoring.