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China June 19' - Shanghai, Beijing & more

Coaster Hipster

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Writing you right from the airport in Paris Roissy. Consider me hyped!

Might as well copy and paste the script for a video I procrastinated too much on to complete. I don't claim to have an educated insight on travelling to China, as this is my first visit. But that's what I got from my searches:

LANGUAGE


One of the aspects of traveling to China I heard is the most difficult, and one I'm quite anxious about, is the language barrier. From what I gathered, many people in the largest cities – especially Shanghai – can speak English. Regardless, I took quite some precautions for my trip. I downloaded Google Translate data in Chinese so I could use the app offline. However Google isn't always accurate in Chinese – and it's also blocked by the goverment there – so I also use another app called Pleco. It's kind of Chinese Dictonary - it can translate words from English, but most amazingly, the app can recognize Chinese characters through several different methods. You can analyse a picture (Jungle Trailblazer), write character strokes with your finger tip, or even try to input the phonetic transcription and get results. Pretty amazing stuff!


By the way, I should mention I also started to seriously study Chinese last November. I didn't do it specifically for this trip. I'm just into languages and I figured out Mandarin would be very useful both in the coaster industry, and for work. After 7 months I'm still trying to learn the basics as you would expect, and lately I've mostly been trying to focus on practical sentences to help me around during my trips. Here are a few examples:

'Qing wen. You-le-yuan zen-me zou?' (Excuse-me, how can I go to the Amusement Park?)
'Wo bu chi la-fan' (I don't eat spicy food)
'Hua-zhuang-shi zai na-r?' (Where are the toilets?)

Chinese people however tend to speak crazy fast. That is why to help ensure I would understand people's replies, I also learnt to say:

'Qing ni mang-mang shuo' (Can you speak very slowly?)

So yeah, I'm trying hard to anticipate the language barrier but from my experience things never exactly go as planned. I could probably do a follow-up video about how things turned out actually.

TRANSPORTATION AND DIRECTIONS

Contrary to America, China has really good public transports. The country has the widest high-speed train network, and it seems domestic travel between the major chinese cities is relatively convenient and affordable. I booked all my train tickets on a website called Trip. Thankfully the platform has an easy-to-use interface in English, and all the reports I read indicate Ctrip is really reliable. Keep in mind you cannot book tickets earlier than a month in advance however, and you need to retrieve your actual ticket at the train station with your valid passport in hand.

Otherwise, you can also find subway transportation even in 'smaller' cities. (Insert: here smaller means over 2M people...) Based on that, I think getting to most parks without a car should be fairly easy, provided I know in advance wheres to go. To have a general idea of where I will be going, I downloaded the maps of each city's Metro network on my smartphone, and I also found an app called Metro Man which helps finding your way on each subway network. That app might be very useful considering how dense is Shanghai's metro for instance.

Having said that, most Metro systems close towards midnight, so I also downloaded the Didi application (which is the Chinese counterpart to Uber) as a back-up option. This is also how I plan to reach Joyland since this park doesn't seem to have easy public transports solutions.

As you would expect, Google Maps is blocked as well in China so I downloaded alternate apps like Baidu Map in case my VPN would not work. I also made snapshots of GPS locations I need to know together with their writing in Chinese.

But all of that means nothing if you don't have the money to pay for all these services. Something we'll discuss in...

MONEY

First of all I warned my bank in advance to ensure my credit card would not get blocked while I'm in China. I also ordered a specific subscription which will mitigate my fees when making cash withdrawals or card payments abroad.

Having said that, reportedly most people seem to use either cash, or mobile apps for payment. AliPay and WeChat Pay seem to be the two most popular apps for that purpose. Unfortunately both seem to require either a Chinese bank account or a local phone number. I've yet to figure out how can I set that up, and whether I can do that easily right at the airport. Which brings me to...

INTERNET AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS

Although Wi-Fi is reportedly widely available in urban areas, it appears most often a Chinese phone number is required to log in. @nadroJ may confirm. Doing a little research, China Unicorn looks like among the most practical Data Plans. According to this website, you have access to 10GB of data and 8 hours of outgoing domestic calls, plus unlimited text messages. In hindsight there is also the option of pre-paid cards, which I probably should have looked into before :s

To state the obvious, you may know access Facebook, Youtube, Wikipedia and most Western mainstream apps/sites is blocked in China. (I might also want to be politically correct even in my private communications there too...). I subscribed to NordVPN - you'll see some pics on the CoasterForce Facebook chat if that works out ;)


The script runs out here. Needless to say I'm very excited - lots and lots of *hipstergasms* incoming! I do expect some of the quirky/inefficient things Chinese amusement parks are known for, such as sluggish operations and unscheduled maintenance downtime (curious to see what will be my biggest spite...). But I understand that's part of the adventure!
 

gavin

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Just a hint regarding your train tickets: you can collect them ALL from the first station you use. This will save you time queuing every single time. They might charge you, but the cost is very low and totally worth it for the time saved.
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Just landed at Shanghai Pudong, yay! @Matt N I'd probably say Starry Sky Ripper. Looks very unusual for B&M - the 540° roll looks fab too!

Second in my bucket list is Extreme Rusher at Happy Valley Beijing. S&S launches have an awesome reputation, can't wait to try it out by myself!
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
So yeah, I'm trying hard to anticipate the language barrier but from my experience things never exactly go as planned. I could probably do a follow-up video about how things turned out actually.

Oh boy, that was an understatement. Things went horribly out of control, but I managed to probably figure things out. So, this happened:

- NordVPN doesn't work in China, at least at the time I am writing this.
- I lost my wallet, including my credit card, shortly after arriving.
- Then I missed my train to Beijing (because booking a train scheduled for 7AM in a very bureaucratic and crowded country where you are likely to experience jet-lag was SUCH a good idea. I did this because I wanted to have more time to meet Candice and other people from Roller Coaster Dream China, but clearly I f*cked up)
- I tried to change my ticket to a later train, the booth employee gave me a new one WITH THE WRONG DATE. By the time I realised that, it was already too late and I was told it was impossible to change without expensive extra fees (but I lost my credit card, remember?)
- At this point, I got stuck in Shanghai ALONE with little money and no place to stay at, and with my communications widely restricted because of you know what.


Adding to this chaotic mess was indeed the language barrier. Despite my efforts to learn basics in Chinese and prepare back-up translations, many service people were quite unhelpful/couldn't help dealing with my situation. As you may know, I am of Asian descent. Probably because of that, people expected me to perfectly understand what they say in Chinese even after I said I was NOT Chinese (wo bu shi zhong-guo-ren, wo shi fa-guo-ren). Most often, I was met with indifference, misunderstanding, and reactions I interpret as scornful "you're Asian. Why don't you speak your racial language?!" (even though I am French with Vietnamese-born parents, Vietnamese being a much different and unintelligible language). This was definitely very frustrating for both sides.

A few people were exceptions though, and were really decisive to help me solve this mess - kudos to them. I still had access to WeChat, Outlook, a number of websites that aren't banned, and crucially, I was able to reach my Visa Premier credit card emergency service by phone. Also was able to reach out through WeChat to my friend Mathis (who left for Beijing following our initial plans) and Candice for help. I was able to book a decent hotel for three nights thanks to the emergency Euros banknotes I stored by lucky precaution. Buying a Chinese SIM card beforehand (and having a phone with double-SIM card storage for international calls) was very crucial to sort things out.

So a lot of money was wasted, there was definitely a lot of panicking and I'm missing 3 parks (Happy Valley Beijing, Dinosaur Park and Joyland), but thankfully I'm still alive and well now.

@Matt N Quick thoughts on Happy Valley Shanghai coming asap, but I can tell you it's a nice place with solid creds!
@nadroJ Does THAT tops off your chaotic Chinese trip drama? ?
 
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Matt N

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Oh dear @Coaster Hipster; does that mean you only got to visit Happy Valley Shanghai on your trip? Glad to hear you (seem to have) survived your experiences; that's the main priority!
 

Coaster Hipster

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Oh dear @Coaster Hipster; does that mean you only got to visit Happy Valley Shanghai on your trip? Glad to hear you (seem to have) survived your experiences; that's the main priority!

Thanks for the support mate :)
I am still in China trying to work out the situation. I should receive my emergency cash and replacement credit card from Visa Premier anytime soon now.

Depending on how soon this is solved, I may still attend some of IAAPA Expo Asia, as well as Shanghai Polar Ocean and Sunac Hefei. I could visit Shanghai Disneyland too as it was planned but screw that, I'm a Hipster snob and am way too tired for it.

A big hit since I missed my most sought out bucket list creds (Starry Sky Ripper, Dinoconda and Extreme Rusher), but I could still get noteworthy ones (Steel Dolphin and Soaring with Dragon, by coïncidence, both Intamins) and as said before, thankfully I'm still relatively unscathed from this clusterf*ck.

Anyway, quick thoughts on Happy Valley Shanghai:




Diving Coaster - Classic, predictable B&M and not that thrilling, yet spectacular and effective thanks to the good height, and a clever location which highlights very well the photogenic features of this Sheikra clone. 8/10




Mega-Lite - I was a bit disappointed with the first drop because it didn't deliver as much snap airtime as I expected (Maverick is miles better at this). However, the rest of the layout is brilliant, especially the s-hills section. Truly wicked moments of ejector there! Perhaps the sluggish operations, and the fact that you can't wear glasses onride even with secured athletic straps affected my enjoyment a bit; nevertheless, 9/10




Fireball - A bit too rattly for me, but certainly relentless and filled with airtime glory! The layout is brilliant imo, and classic PTC trains and lap-bars left me some fine space to enjoy the many, many moments of floater air. Would perhaps ranked it higher with re-rides later in the day, only rode it once in the morning. 8/10

Otherwise, the place looks a lot nicer than I thought. Expected some random generic Six Flags knock-off, but I saw some truly gorgeous scenery in places. As said before, the park really knows how to make their rides photogenic, especially Diving Coaster. As was expected the operations were lethargic (with the notable exception of Fireball who was, amazingly for China, running two trains!). Lots of faff around, and procedures that would seem unnecessary in Europe or America like guests being forbidden to leave the station before the ride ops finally allow them to do so.

Nevertheless, Happy Valley Shanghai exceeded my expectations. Very solid coaster line-up - I would only add a S&S launcher to round this up, really. And the place is pleasant to walk around :)
 

Ben

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We went to Happy Valley Shanghai just over a week ago, and it was ****ing **** - the dive machine and mega lite were both down, though thankfully I have them.

It seems you got super lucky there as a lot of reports are that stuff is constantly broken now.

Although the rest of your trip sounds like a disaster!
 

Rachel

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Oh man, sorry to hear your trip didn't get off to the best of starts, that sounds stressful ?.
Hope you manage to sort things out and have a good rest of the trip.
 

Hixee

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That's gotta be up there with one or the worst starts to a trip I've ever heard. Goodness me.

Glad to hear you're safe and well, and good luck with the next few days.
 

gavin

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Lots of faff around, and procedures that would seem unnecessary in Europe or America like guests being forbidden to leave the station before the ride ops finally allow them to do so.

That's one of the few faffs I don't mind in China. They do that to make sure everyone has picked up the right bag/nobody has stolen anything. China's pretty safe in that regard anyway, but I like not having to even consider whether I should leave stuff in the station or not.
 

HeartlineCoaster

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Damn, I was so impressed by your write-up of preparedness, thinking you had this down to an art, then it all fell apart so quick.
Language is so tricky over there once you're immersed in it, with weird accents going on and the speed at which they speak, then the dismissiveness with which some of them won't put up with any lack of understanding (particularly at the train ticket counters, they just don't have time for faff). I feel for you.
All the best for the rest of the trip, hope you manage to claw it all back (though you're already onto a winner by getting HVS done in a single attempt).
 

Ben

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I honestly feel like with the language it's better not to even bother trying... I'm not sure quite how that would work actually being Asian, because I imagine that comes with preconceptions, but I've never had a problem turning up being obviously white, making gestures to make it clear I have no clue what they're saying, and then pointing at a name of a park and demanding to be taken there.

Once you start to attempt it like you say, they expect it and just rattle off at you at a million miles an hour.
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Are you still in China @Coaster Hipster, as I notice that you've now reviewed Steel Dolphin on Captain Coaster?

Just got back and now am writing from my desk computer in Paris.

Boy that was tiring. Lots of hassle in the end, some of which by my own fault.

Managed to do Polar Ocean and Sunac Hefei + bonus exclusive rides on Falcon at Sunac Wuxi!
Gonna try to dump some pics and commentary soon.
 
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Hixee

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I look forward to it - I'm glad to hear you're back safe and sound and have some good memories to take home from it!
 

Matt N

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Just got back and now am writing from my desk computer in Paris.

Boy that was tiring. Lots of hassle in the end, some of which by my own fault.

Managed to do Polar Ocean and Sunac Hefei + bonus exclusive rides on Falcon at Sunac Wuxi!
Gonna try to dump some pics and commentary soon.
Wow! I didn't even think Wanda Wuxi was open yet!
EDIT: Whoops, meant Sunac Wuxi...
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park
June 12th





I definitely had anticipation for this particular moment of the trip. Not only it's exciting to ride a fresh Intamin multi-launch, but doing so during a lively IAAPA event made it truly special!




Basically, after the first exhibition day at IAAPA Expo Asia, attendees can take part in a private event at Haichang Ocean Park. We were treated to some shows, a delicious buffet, but most importantly, Steel Dolphin to ourselves ?






Onto the ride review then,

Steel Dolphin - Although this ride has its intensity targeted for a family audience, Steel Dolphin has some very exciting dynamics. I feel G-forces are calculated very cleverly, striking a fine balance of airtime, snappy rotations and sideway forces. The small hops deliver short, but surprisingly powerful ejector airtime! There are a couple of weaker moments, such as the very drawn-out hill over the canal which delivers little airtime. However, Steel Dolphin remains a thoroughly entertaining experience, and keeps getting better with re-rides. The gorgeous locales and scenery interactions also compliments very well my enjoyment of this achievement by Intamin! 9/10




Did some other stuff after my 8 rides on Steel Dolphin, most notably their 3D-glasses dark-ride, which was pretty decent I guess. Good duration, and eventful experience.

So yeah. I only experienced Haichang Ocean Park through the priviledged circumstances of night-time exclusive IAAPA joyness. Not sure how I would have liked the place on a regular, crowded day, but I was really impressed by the pretty scenery of the place. Having a cable gondola and the coaster drawn-out all across the park really created a lively, immersive atmosphere imo - especially with the vibrant lighting.


IAAPA Expo Asia
June 12th, 13th and 14th

I was very curious to discover IAAPA's main Asian event! I really enjoyed meeting and interviewing various professionals at Euro Attractions Show 17 and 18. The opportunity to do more of the same, but in Shanghai, looked like a good match for full-on Hipster satisfaction :p



Although the actual exhibition hall seemed slightly smaller than the ones I saw at previous EAS, everyone was pretty busy during all 3 days of the show - reflecting the strong momentum carrying the Asian amusement market. This solid article on blooloop shares more insight on the high attendance figures at the event.



Although Martin & Vleminckx also partakes in IAAPA Expos in Europe, the bulk of their highlight works have been done in Asia in the past decade. It was a genuine pleasure to see again their lead salesman, Chuck Bingham, and discuss about these developments in another video interview. The new distributorship deal with RMC is a fascinating prospect, and I'm very curious to see an Alan Schilke work of magic in China. (One that isn't an S&S launch for that matter.)

Chuck's been in the industry for 40+ years - working with Vekoma until the 00s - and it's really valuable to hear from such an experienced figure!

But beside meeting again familiar faces, I was eager to visit booths of companies absent in Europe...




Golden Horse is by far the most (in?)famous Chinese ride manufacturer. Obviously, they first made headlines with horrible imitations of Vekoma Suspended Looping Coasters - although their output often get confused with BSA and other Chinese knock-off companies in the mix. However in recent years Golden Horse truly stepped up their game, using a new track system and venturing into much more ambitious ride models. Spinning Coasters with inversion, Tilt Coasters...

David Jia, their Vice-President in charge of International Sales was very affable and welcoming, even suggesting we could visit their factory another time. He also told us the company employs no less than 1000 people, including 200 engineers. Based on my limited experience riding Golden Horse coasters, the output doesn't quite match the quality of western manufacturers. But it would be foolish to rule them out in the future, as their strategy relying on economies of scale to their advantage, and steadily improving is likely to pay off at some point. If they do manage decent smoothness and reliabilty standards, that could very well change the entire industry game...




To be straight honest, Intamin is still to this day my favourite coaster manufacturer. Despite Vekoma, Mack and especially RMC also building more and more thrilling rides, I have much sentimental attachment to the builder of Expedition GeForce, Goliath Walibi and more. Last year's Walibi Belgium/Astérix announcement was also a massive statement that Intamin will try hard to stay on top, and based on how much I enjoyed Steel Dolphin, I really think they have refined, and optimised even further their dynamic and very forceful designs!

This is now my third video itw with Sascha Czibulka. Despite his very high-ranking position as Intamin's Executive VP, he has always been very supportive and approchable to me - taking the time to share great insight on Intamin's range of work even with his busy schedule. I really learnt a lot about how the industry works, and how companies process to design and build rides in conversation with their customer parks.

@HeartlineCoaster No worries, Sascha managed to shoehorn a Djurs Sommerland reference during the interview ;p

In last year's ITW, Sascha was joined by Intamin's up and coming designer Camiel Bilsen. This time, I was fortunate to receive his boss, Daniel Schoppen, who is basically the head of engineering at the firm. Very passionate person, and eager to share the thought and creative process on Intamin's flashy work in Asia! Did you know Steel Dolphin was initially due to be a Mine Train?


Also took part in the local IAAPA Young Professionals event, which is always fitting for networking. All in all, this was quite a productive show! Most of the people are quite welcoming, and I really enjoy discovering the amusement world from a professional perspective :)
 
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