Happy Valley Tianjin is a new park that soft-opened to guests on July 27th of this year. It is quite different to the other members of the family for two reasons; first, more than half of the rides have been constructed inside an enormous dome, presumably to allow operation in all weather conditions; second, the standard of theming is excellent, far better than what I'd expected. The easiest way to get there is via bus number 663, which leaves from a platform just outside Tianjinzhan Station, the terminal for the high speed train service to Beijing. The journey to the park takes around an hour for a cost of just 4 RMB (about $0.50). There are lots of visible road signs on the route to indicate the approximate distance remaining, and the park becomes visible on the left hand side of the road about a minute before the designated stop.
As of this writing the park is still unfinished, with a number of major rides that have yet to open to the public, including three of the four roller coasters, the Christmas Tower, and Whitewater Rafting. Be that as it may, all of those can be thought of as reasons to return in the future, and as a coaster counting enthusiast I'm reasonably confident that I'll be back in China at some point. The only significant ride that is available at present is Fjord Flying Dragon (#1963), a double out and back wood coaster designed by the Gravity Group, and a fantastic ride that is absolutely loaded with airtime. The layout does not have a mid course block brake, meaning that the frenetic pacing is maintained for just over a minute from the first drop to the end of the course.
Unfortunately, there was a wait time of almost two hours today that was due almost entirely to some of the most inefficient operating policies I've seen in my career; it takes a certain amount of invention to come up with a procedure where two trains are operated on a coaster and dispatches still only average once every ten minutes. Today the following basic steps were being used every time a train arrived in the station:
- Unlock the restraints and allow exiting passengers to disembark.
- Take photos of them sitting in the train if they ask.
- Wait for everyone to be clear of the exit platform.
- Allow just enough people into the station to fill each set of air gates.
- Listen to the clatter of the other train hitting the brake run.
- Check that each row has exactly two people in it.
- Call out for single riders if necessary.
- Open the air gates. Wait while guests load all loose objects into bins.
- Go around checking seat belts.
- Enable lap bars, then make separate pass to check those.
- Chat to other ride operators for a bit.
- Hit the dispatch button.
There was an enormous cattle grid under the station which was not in use today; if it had been, the wait time would have been measurable using a calendar. Rather than brave the queue a second time, I made my way to the Haunted Castle, a particularly good walkthrough that combined some extremely high quality scenery with fun house elements (collapsing walls, a rotating tunnel, et al) and several live actors.
One of the staples of the Happy Valley chain is the dark ride where one can shoot Santa Claus. The Tianjin park has a different but equally messed up target shooting ride named Bavaria Animal Rescue. The very first target inside the gate is a tiger inside a moving shopping trolley, and things get weirder from there. Some of the animatronic animals have targets attached directly to them, implying that rescue isn't necessarily on the agenda. There were also large projection screens with animations that could be shot at; in one, a cat climbed into a washing machine and the door shut, but if you hit the correct point you could destroy the glass in said door, at which point a very wet animal would rematerialise dripping wet, albeit without any obvious injuries from flying glass.