The Taesongsan Funfair is the oldest of the three amusement parks in Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The entrance to the facility was decorated with an elaborate pictorial mosaic showing a big roller coaster, a ferris wheel, and some happy people. Unfortunately the depicted coaster was closed, and from what we could see it didn’t look like it had operated in some time. It was a very large ride, covering a substantial area near the entrance. Our guides were unable to shed any light on its status, though I gather from other sources that it was badly damaged in floods that struck this area some years ago, to the point that it was probably uneconomical to repair.
Inside the park however was the Kwansong Tancha (#1619) roller coaster, which was operating at full capacity with cars going out just as fast as the blocking system would allow – we noted as many as five cars on track simultaneously (are you listening, Six Flags?). There were Korean letters over the ride station, which we assumed showed the name of the ride, but our guides told us that it was in fact a motivational slogan, advising patrons to be fearless in their duties. It proved a surprisingly lively ride, with some particularly quick corners. We were told also guides were required to accompany their guests whether they wanted to or not, though judging by the picture I took at least one of them enjoyed the experience!
The funfair also had a small selection of other rides, including a ferris wheel, a carousel, a tilt-a-whirl, two sets of bumper cars, and a log flume; the latter was not operational today, though it is unlikely that we’d have gone on it anyway; the water level was quite high, suggesting that passengers would have been completely soaked. There was also a ball toss game with rather unusual theming; in this case the objective was to attack the enemy!
29th May 2011
The Kaeson Funfair was completely rebuilt in 2009, and the new park is of international standard, being spotlessly clean and filled with brightly coloured new rides. The vast majority of the attractions seemed to come from the Zamperla catalogue, and unlike the park earlier in the day the ride manufacturer branding was still clearly visible. We were told that the park attracts around four thousand visitors per day, and there could easily have been that many there for our visit; it was heaving with people. As such it was a relief to be given the full VIP treatment; rather than wait, we were escorted directly to the front of the line for anything we wanted to try. We were then given a bill in Euro that worked out at €3 per ride. I asked our guides whether the locals had to pay for visiting, and they confirmed that they did though they were clearly not charged at the same rate.
First stop was the Kwansong Tancha (#1620), a Zamperla Volare flying coaster that was surprisingly enjoyable; for the non-enthusiasts reading this, this particular model of ride is known for its uneven build quality that can sometimes be quite uncomfortable. There were no such problems here, even in an outside seat; the ride was fun, just as the designers intended. Enthusiasts may read the above paragraph with a raised eyebrow, but it’s actually true; this was by far the most enjoyable Volare I’ve been on (and not just because it was in the DPRK and tricky to visit).
From there we went to the tower ride, a shot and drop style attraction. We tried to get our guides to accompany us on this, but it was not to be; the man wouldn’t come with us, and the woman pointed out that skirts were not allowed on any of the park rides to avoid potential embarrassment. It was tempting to call this a convenient excuse, but a closer inspection revealed that she was the only woman in the entire place that wasn’t wearing trousers – go figure. The ride itself was as expected, with the fringe extra benefit of being a superb location for an overview photograph of the roller coaster. While on the tower we seemed to attract quite a bit attention from young Koreans, who were pointing up at us and waving. This experience tallies with what I’ve seen in other Asian countries, especially when you travel away from the usual tourist routes.
Our final ride of the night was on the Giant Frisbee, which looked like a Huss product to me albeit without any nameplate. Despite seating forty people this ride had a queue half way round the park, suggesting rather strongly that this one is a local favourite. One of our guides offered to take photos for us, but despite her valiant efforts nothing came out, proving for the uninitiated that there is in fact some skill required for amusement ride photography!