In the early part of this year, one of my work colleagues asked me if I'd be interested in spending a few weeks working on a customer site in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. It goes without saying that I accepted immediately. Though it wasn't my primary motivation, the opportunity gave me a number of weekend days in a foreign country that could be used to indulge my roller coaster habit. There were two basic options. The first was to return to the major parks and rides that I'd been able to enjoy as part of a group trip to the country six years ago. The second was to try to mop up some of the smaller credits that wouldn't be sufficiently interesting on their own to justify a dedicated trip. The choice was an obvious one for a coaster counter.
My planning began with the data on the smaller Korean parks listed in RCDB, which I combined with a list of potential locations gleaned from the Internet. Initial results left me with too many parks to comfortably fit into my three available weekends, but an office colleague fluent in Korean checked my notes, and was able to tell me that several had closed down or removed their coasters, making my task much simpler. After a number of iterations to fine tune, I was left with two weekend trips and one day trip, leaving me a spare day for some real tourism, a trip to the Korean DMZ.
For my first weekend, I decided to take the KTX train to Busan in the south-eastern corner of the country, and from there visit Geumgang Park, Me World, and Bugok Hawaii. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out a way to get to the latter by public transport, and in the end I decided to drop it rather than hire a car. This was definitely the right choice, as neither of the other locations had parking areas and there was no on-street parking to speak of. Reducing the day to two parks also allowed me to get up at a sensible time for a mid-morning train from Seoul to Busan, rather than something in the small hours.
15th June 2013
Geumgang Park is a city park on the side of a mountain that is currently home to a small number of amusement rides, though they do appear to be on borrowed time. For my visit there were a number of rides in pieces, including a wave swinger that was in the process of being disassembled. The only operational attractions today were an undistinguished spin ride, a pirate ship, and the Dragon, a not-entirely-accurate copy of the ubiquitous Zamperla powered coaster with a nameplate saying "Made by Orient Leisure".
The park has a ropeway leading to a scenic overlook which includes a number of cultural sights and museums, but it was closed today, and the temperature was far too hot for me to consider hiking up to the top independently. There being nothing else of interest at ground level, I decided to return to the city for a relaxing lunch.
To get to Geumgang Park, take the Busan Metro to Oncheonjang. Leave the station from exit one, turn left and follow the footpath with the tracks on your left hand side. At the first set of traffic lights turn right, and keep walking straight, through a five way junction, and eventually up a hill through a temple style gate. At the end of the road, turn right and the park will be fifty metres ahead on your left hand side. The walk takes about twenty minutes.
15th June 2013
Me World is a small amusement facility with almost twenty amusement rides. Most of these are located outside a somewhat dilapidated building, but the largest, including a Giant Wheel and two roller coasters, are accessed from its fourth floor. On my arrival, the escalators leading upstairs from the ground floor were blocked off with a sign in unreadable Hangeul that nevertheless made its intention quite clear. This wasn't something calculated to please an enthusiast who had travelled most of the way across the country to get there.
Closer inspection, however, revealed the existence of an elevator, which I stepped into, pressing the button for the fourth floor. The car promptly went down to the basement, where enough Chinese tourists got in to set off the weight alarm. Before I knew it, we were back at ground level again. On my second try, it took me to the right place, and to my relief, it was immediately obvious that both coasters were open. However, the ticket office on that level was closed, forcing me to go back to ground level again. On this occasion the elevator let me out on a deserted and obviously abandoned second floor, at which point I gave up and took the fire stairs.
Fifteen minutes later I'd made it back to the fourth floor with a unlimited ride ticket, having survived another encounter with a cackle of Chinese tourists and the elevator with a mind of its own. As there was no wait I decided to get Fiesta Express (#1917) out of the way quickly before heading for the Diving Coaster (#1918). It quickly became apparent that I was in for a long wait; though the ride was operating six cars, only one was being allowed on circuit at a time and the operator was not combining groups, meaning that most cars went out with at least two of the four possible seats empty. A quick calculation put the capacity at around fifty passengers per hour.
At the boarding platform, I noticed a sign advising that continuous or repeated use of this ride is not permitted due to the possibility of motion sickness. This sign is arguably necessary given the hideously low capacity of the ride, but the wording is dishonest and constitutes little more than a scam to sell individual ride tickets. Why wasn't this limitation published in English (as the ticket types were) at the ticket office? If motion sickness is really the concern, why are riders allowed to enjoy the Power Surge as many times as they like?
The limitation was all the more frustrating because Diving Coaster turned out to be an unexpected gem. Though I'd been expecting a Zamperla torture device, this ride felt very much like the custom Gerstlauer mice, such as G'sengte Sau and Drachenritt. Its location on the side of a hill allowed an excellent view of the Busan seafront and the Gwangan Bridge. I'd have loved to have used my unlimited wristband to ride a second time, but the operator marked it to indicate I'd used my lap. On the plus side, being denied a second lap prevented me reaching retirement age in the queue line.
I took a number of photographs from the Giant Wheel before heading downstairs to the Z-Force shot and drop. This was a fairly unpleasant experience, with a painful thump at ride launch and several equally uncomfortable (and loud) thumps as the car parked at ride end. The impacts were sufficiently violent that I couldn't help but wonder whether something had broken, and apparently something had, as the out of order sign was hung on the ride entrance as I disembarked.
There was nothing else at Me World that I wanted to ride, so I decided to walk down the seafront to investigate another small park I'd spotted from the Giant Wheel. This turned out to contain a total of four rides; an enormous pirate ship, a tagada, a top spin, and some bumper cars. Sadly there were no extra credits to be had, and worse yet, the area around the park positively reeked of fish. Given the lack of unique attractions, I'd recommend it only for the hard of smelling.
Me World closed its doors less than two weeks after my visit and has since been demolished.