Our morning began with a three quarter hour journey on bus route 546 from Zhengzhou city centre to the local Fantawild resort that set us back just 3 RMB (~€0.39) per person. The terminus was adjacent to the park entrance, but on the wrong side of the road, and fencing along the median meant that the nearest crossing point was almost five hundred metres away. This special kind of genius resulted in a ten minute walk to the gate. We chose to walk, though an enterprising group of locals with Tuk-Tuks were shuttling guests back and forth for a nominal fee.
The resort features two parks located side by side, with another under construction. Today single park admission cost 240 RMB (~€31.15), with a park hopper ticket available for 320 RMB (~€41.53). We managed to do all the coasters and a selection of dark rides within the available time window, but excruciatingly slow operations and staggered openings caused us to miss a number of attractions that we'd have liked to try. Enthusiasts visiting after the third gate opens should seriously consider allocating a second day in their schedules; if the spare time turns out to be unnecessary then there are many other things to do in the vicinity.
We made our way inside Fantawild Dreamland and headed directly to the wood coaster, only to learn from a member of staff that it wasn't going to open until noon, some two and a half hours after the gate. Two engineers could be seen walking the track, and though it was good to see confirmation that the ride was being prepared for the day it was hard not to be at least slightly miffed at the fact that this hadn't been done hours before. I made my way across to the park's steel coaster to ascertain the lay of the land, and found a rope across the entrance, an empty station, and no staff members in sight. It was tempting to lapse into colourful metaphors, but I decided to take a deep breath and focus my efforts on photography.
Three quarters of an hour later the first coaster of the morning became Galaxy Express (#2618), one of six worldwide installations of the largest version of the Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster. As with our previous Fantawild park we found benches running along the entire cattle grid, which also had a roof to protect those in line from the elements. No trains dispatched over the ten minutes that we waited in line, but in due course a signal was given over the radio and an operator directed us towards the station. Bruno and Anita decided to go for the back row, and as such I headed for the front. The ride was excellent, and well worth the time; we swapped positions for a second lap after waiting another ten minutes in the empty cattle grid for no obvious reason.
There was plenty of time to kill before the wood coaster was due to open, and given that we set out to see what else might be available. In due course we wound up at Devil's Peak, where an operator turned us away due to a 180cm (5'9") height restriction. The ride is a tracked robot arm attraction (similar to Batman: Knight Flight and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) that tells the story of the Monkey King from the inside of an elaborately sculpted artificial volcano, and though enthusiast reviews have been fairly unenthusiastic it would have been interesting to see it for ourselves, especially since there appears to be no video footage online.
We had more luck at the Wizard Academy, an excellent dark ride that borrows heavily from the Tanya Grotter novels. The queue begins with a room full of talking paintings, including one featuring an oddly familiar teenaged hero with magic wand and robes. In the next room an elderly caucasian male with a long white beard gives sage advice (pun intended) to those passing. The route continues past a classroom that bears more than a passing resemblance to one found in a well-known theme park in Orlando and in certain recent movies. The ride itself uses Spider-Man vehicles and 3D glasses for a journey through a mix of physical sets and exceptionally sharp projections. Deciphering the plot is almost certainly impossible without conversational mandarin, but the general premise is of a castle full of magicians that is under attack from an enormous stone monster and an aligator/dinosaur hybrid.
Our next stop was at the Qin Dynasty Adventure, a jeep-based dark ride that is a very close relative of the Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. The sound system in our car kept cutting out, but apart from that minor technical issue the experience was very good indeed. We were going to follow this with the Dragon King's Tale dark ride, but decided to abort after fifteen minutes waiting as the queue hadn't moved at all.
After a brief break we made our way across to Jungle Trailblazer (#2619), a Gravity Group creation and one of three wooden coasters to open in China in 2015. Though the installations share the same name the designs are unique; the signature feature of this one is a pair of hills banked at ninety degrees, providing an interesting visual for those watching from the ground. It was supplied with two full length Timberliner trains, though perhaps unsurprisingly only one was in use. The restraints are the standard lap bars retrofitted with bonus seatbelts that lock to the center of the chassis, and while these do slow loading somewhat I can report that they have no effect on the overall experience.
The ride layout has a lot of potential, but sadly the comfort level wasn't where it should have been today. Directional changes were on the rough side of aggressive, and there were significant potholes at the base of the major drops. The station brakes were also having a bad day, causing the train to make a whole series of abrupt stops as it moved to its final parking position, similar to what I experienced a few years ago on Roar-O-Saurus. My first lap was in the back seat, and that was a tactical error, as I collected a whole series of souvenir bruises. It was tempting to sit out further rounds, but I decided it was worth giving the front a chance. The experience there was better, though still far from perfect, and a third lap in row two finished me; I decided to step away for a quick lunch break while Bruno and Anita went back for a fourth. I can only hope that the ride gets a comprehensive overhaul at some stage over the next few months, as it definitely needs it.