There are seven official public holidays in mainland China, and in common with other Asian countries the authorities swap around weekdays and weekends in order to create a longer break period. This year Sunday April 28th and Sunday May 5th were officially designated as working days, thus enabling a four day celebration of Labour Day from May 1st to 4th.
We arrived at Xiaoyaojin Park just before 9:00am and found the place absolutely rammed with people. Fortunately it seemed that a large percentage of them were there for the landscaped gardens and party atmosphere, as the queues for the rides were generally short. We handed over 20 RMB (~€2.59) apiece for a lap on Spinning Coaster (#2652), our second Yaqiao Machine ride in less than a week. This version engaged its chain lift with a terrific thump, but was otherwise entirely typical of the genre.
Hefei Sunac Land
1st May 2019
At the turn of the millennium Vekoma Rides Manufacturing developed the Tilt Coaster, a ride with a track segment that could rotate from horizontal to vertical with a fully loaded train parked on it. The first sale was Gravity Max, which put a previously unknown park in Taiwan on the enthusiast map in spectacular fashion. Reviews from the few travellers to make it out there were overwhelmingly positive, but despite the plaudits no further models were ever sold. This writer chatted with a Vekoma representative at a European Coaster Club event in late 2012, and was told that the product line had been discontinued due to a lack of interest.
In 2015 plans for what was then known as Hefei Wanda Cultural Tourism City began to appear online, revealing a pair of duelling tilt coasters. Any hope that the installation might be from Vekoma was quickly dashed by the press release, which reported that the hardware had been procured from a domestic manufacturer, subsequently identified as Golden Horse. Mounted camera footage of the finished product looked more than a little sketchy, but despite that I knew that one day I'd have to get there to experience it for myself. Perhaps unsurprisingly the ride was my top priority today despite the presence of a highly rated Intamin launcher nearby.
In its first season Battle of Jungle King (#2653) operated with an eighty kilogram weight limit, a ridiculously low figure not calculated to please many western enthusiasts. The restriction has since been adjusted to ninety kilograms, though there is likely some flexibility in the actual number as the scale at the entrance was not being used today. Both tracks are accessed using the same queue, which heads to the left, up a floor, across a building, and back down to opposite the start point. Readers should be aware that there are a number of speakers in the line that play music augmented with operator commentary, and the volume level today was set well past the point of pain; those of a more sensitive disposition may want to bring earplugs. Bruno used a park map to dampen the worst of the cacophony while we were standing close by, a gesture that was appreciated by all.
Despite the national holiday the right hand "Tiger" track was closed for the first few hours of our visit, and as a result the queue moved quite slowly. On the positive side, this gave us plenty of time to capture photographs both of the layout and of the train in motion. It was hard not to be impressed by the general appearance of the hardware, which looked spectacular with duelling tilts, duelling loops, and (away from the midway) interlocking corkscrew inversions. In due course it was our turn to head up to the station. We were the first to arrive, and got our choice of seats; Bruno and Anita headed for the front, while I headed for the back. This proved to be a serious tactical error.
In retrospect the first hint that all might not be as it seemed came as I took my seat, which featured seatbelts for each shoulder that buckled together in the middle, coupled with a solid over the shoulder restraint with no padding whatsoever. I thought little of it as we clunked our way up the lift hill and made a slow turnaround towards the tilt mechanism, staring directly at what under ideal circumstances would have been a train on the opposite track. The train came to a halt at the appropriate point, and sat there for about fifteen seconds before the mechanism slowly began to tilt forward. In due course it locked in place at what I'd estimate to be sixty degrees off the horizontal.
After another long pause the mechanism released and we began to rapidly accelerate. A slight turn to the right was accompanied by a horrific jolt that slammed my head into the restraint, triggering the first colourful metaphor of the morning. The wide left turn that followed granted a brief reprieve before we entered a vertical loop that left me seeing stars, not due to strong forces but due to repeated impacts to my skull. Another turnaround and climbing helix prefixed what may very well have been the worst ten seconds of abuse I've ever received from a roller coaster, as the train crashed its way through a pair of corkscrews that were memorable for all the wrong reasons. The result was the worst ride of our trip by several orders of magnitude, and I was hugely relieved when we hit the brake run. My elation lasted for all of fifteen seconds as we rolled into the station to the sight of a team of operators starting up the second track.
Rather than return immediately we made our way across to Soaring with Dragon (#2654), the first (and at present the only) full circuit coaster from Intamin to launch passengers backwards and forwards using the same bank of Linear Synchronous Motors. The ride begins with the twenty passenger train making a right turn out of the station onto a launch track, where it stops for a few seconds to allow a switching mechanism behind to connect the rails to a sixty meter high vertical tower. The initial forward acceleration comes without any visual or audible warning, and there is almost no mechanical noise to drown rider screams. The reverse launch that follows makes a satisfyingly loud paaaaaaarp noise as it propels the train to the heights. Passengers then enjoy several seconds of weightless before a slight additional kick of speed propels the train into a fifty-seven metre high non-inverting loop, an inside top hat, an airtime hill, and a series of perfectly engineered turns, many of which are very close to the ground. The layout is not extreme, but it doesn't try to be, and the engineering is as close to perfection as I've experienced on any coaster in China. Over the course of our day I managed three back seat rides and four in the front, and I would gladly have done many more.
Bruno and Anita were quite surprised when I told them that the park's smaller coasters were of far more interest to me than the second tilt coaster. After some discussion it turned out that their front seat experience of "Dragon" had been much less obnoxious than what I'd had to ensure at the far end of the train, and hence they were not particularly concerned at the prospect of a repeat. Nevertheless after a brief discussion we decided that we'd walk past the Worm Coaster (#2655) on our way to the "Dragon" and ride it if the queue was short, as indeed it was, aided by the fact that each dispatch was for a single lap. The seats were very large in comparison to most Wacky Worms, with more than enough room for two adults in each row.
The queue for Battle of Jungle King had shortened considerably by the time we arrived back, reducing the wait time to less than fifteen minutes. We followed the same route from the cattle pen to the station, then took a footbridge across the platform to the "Tiger" track. As luck would have it we had a free choice of seats, so this time round I went to the front while my companions headed towards the back, a decision that they subsequently regretted. The comfort level in the lead car was certainly better than the back had been, and the near-miss aspects of the layout were absolutely great, but sadly the overall experience was miserable thanks to severe ear bashing. One can only hope that future installations of the type will be better; a second has since opened at Great Xingdong Tourist World, a third is scheduled for later this year at Suzhou Paradise Forest World, and one suspects that many more will follow.
The last coaster tick of the day became Crazy Jars (#2656), a spinning coaster from Golden Horse that (as usual) hardly spun at all. The ride has the curious distinction of being one of the last known examples of the not terribly venerable ZXC-24A, which saw a grand total of eighty-nine installations between 1997-2016. An upgraded model has been offered since 2017, though I wasn't able to spot any differences between old and new.
At this point Bruno and Anita made their way back to the Intamin for some extra laps, while I headed for the Giant Wheel for some overhead photographs. My vantage point revealed the presence of a partially enclosed splash ride that I'd somehow missed earlier, and though I didn't bother queuing for it I watched a few boats go past and giggled at the way that every single passenger was wearing a poncho. I also stopped at the Mysteries of Chaohu, a small screen motion base simulator that took me on a tour under the sea. The hardware was installed inside an elaborately themed building resembling a submarine, and the interior theming was very well done. That said, the experience was missable; the motions were very gentle, and the footage acutely trite.
I was rather more impressed with the Haunted House, a 30 RMB (~€3.83) up-charge located close to the park entrance. One room featured a burning corpse effect similar to that seen at Fantawild Adventure Shenyang, and another had a projected dragon showing on the wall inside what was evidently supposed to be a vandalised tomb. The most memorable moment came at the end however, when I walked into a room with a bright green swastika on the ceiling. It seems unlikely that the designers were aware of what that symbol generally means in the modern world.
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