Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Monday, March 13: Ocean Park (Liz)

The sun finally came out today! And it was perfect timing for heading to the non-Disney theme park of Hong Kong, Ocean Park. A new rail line opened in December which drops you off pretty much right at the entrance to the park so that was a nice bonus. Ocean Park contains a combination of sea life, other animals, and amusement park rides. The park is situated on a large hill and is divided into an upper section and a lower section. We began by taking the gondola (my first gondola ride) to the upper level of the park. It afforded spectacular views of the sea and was a much longer ride than I anticipated, at least 10 minutes. The upper part of the park didn't have too many people in it which allowed us to go on rides at record speeds, never longer than a 5 minute wait. Believe it or not the bumper cars had the longest wait time so we decided to skip those. The most thrilling roller coaster was called the Hair Raiser and had the most terrifying entrance I have ever seen, where you enter through the mouth of a deranged clown. Another ride was Space Needle-esque where you enter from the bottom and sit facing outward in a circle looking out the windows and it slowly takes you up to the top of the needle and rotates you around so you can get 360 degree views of the park and surrounding areas. Not thrilling at all but it provided the best views of the area and we were lucky enough to not be surrounded by clouds like all past days! We also rode on a couple water rides and were able to dry off fairly quickly afterward due to the nice weather.

Gondola selfie 
Making our way to the upper level of the park

The park included two varieties of panda: Red (pictured here) and giant.

The upper level of the park also had many marine exhibits. One aquarium was dedicated to sharks. It was by far the largest number of sharks I have ever seen at one time. Some looked friendly and others looked absolutely vicious. Another aquarium housed various seals and sea lions, and another had Chinese sturgeons, and yet another had more seals and walruses. We didn't go to any of the shows presented that day, but we did make a stop at the marine life breeding center where the trainers work and care for dolphins. We had the best view of dolphins I've ever had aside from our dolphin encounter in Cabo, and there were only a couple other people in the room too! Unfortunately the penguin exhibit was closed but there were so many other things to see that we didn't mind.

This shark was just asking me to take his photo.

After exhausting the upper level of Ocean Park we headed back down to the bottom via the Ocean Express themed train. Mark described it as the most steam punk train he's ever been on. The lower level of the park was definitely busier than the upper level but there were hardly any rides aside from the children's area. We started at the panda exhibit. Ocean Park has 4 pandas which were all gifted from mainland China. Only one of the pandas was visible but he was active and pretty cute, the first time I have seen a panda. There were also some red pandas in a separate display. Upon leaving the panda area you come to an exhibit of goldfish. Sounds pretty boring but these were by far the craziest looking goldfish I've ever seen. Due to extensive goldfish breeding, some looked incredibly bloated while others had weird sac-like features in unusual places.

Our next stop was the Australia exhibit. I was very excited about this one because they had advertised koalas in the exhibit. Koalas are very sensitive to noise, so they only let about twenty people go inside at a time in order to more easily maintain a quiet atmosphere. Some tour bus style tourists came up behind us in line and tried to push past me, oblivious to the fact that they were required to wait to enter the exhibit. I had actually read a warning about this online so I firmly held my ground and they were impatient and decided not to wait in line. Once we got in we saw several wallabies roaming the ground and two koalas in trees. One of the koalas was curled up asleep and you couldn't see its face, but a keeper was working with the other one to give it fresh eucalyptus and help it eat. the koalas were about twice as large as I had imagined they would be but just as cute as I thought they would be!

Our final stop was the main aquarium. We had to wait 10-12 minutes to get inside. Now, I don't think there is anything that frustrates me more than tour bus groups. The leaders waving their flags around, the tourist themselves in large clumps that are difficult to maneuver around, and the obsession so great with taking photos that I don't think these tourists even take the time to observe or take in the sights or exhibits in question. Well, we were squashed in line in the middle of several Asian tour groups. I think the tour groups must have received a large discount for entering the park after a certain hour.They were loud. They were rude. And they had way too many selfie sticks. There were several ladies ahead of us in line "sneakily" taking selfies which included Dale and his beard since they found it so fascinating. Inside the aquarium, they would push in front of us to be able to get a better photo of a certain fish and take selfies with just about every different tank. Most of the tanks had images (not words, so it should be understood universally) indicating no flash but these people completely ignored it. I'm surprised they don't understand that flash makes for a horrible photo in an aquarium anyway. At one point a middle-aged woman came up to me speaking in a language I didn't understand and gesturing at me and at her camera. I assumed she wanted me to take a photo for her. I agreed and she somewhat forcefully linked arms with me and led me to her group of friends. Come to find out, she wanted to take a photo with me. I'm not sure if I was the first westerner she'd ever seen or if she was amused by my sunburn, but I humored her and we took a photo together acting like besties. The finale of the aquarium was a very large tank including large stingrays and hammerhead sharks. Dale really liked the hammerhead sharks. Maybe even more than I liked the koalas. But honestly it was a relief to get out of the aquarium and out of Ocean Park by the time we were done. Overall it was a very fun adventure!

Giant tank of only milkfish

Giant spider crabs. Very giant.
After arriving back near our AirBnb, we looked for dinner. Dale spotted a Malaysian Chinese restaurant and we decided to check it out. It ended up being an excellent find, probably the best dinner we've had. Dale and I both had the Special Malaysia Meal, which included curry soup for me, a sour & chili soup for Dale, beef and pork satay, a mixture of shrimp and veggies in a sweet and sour style sauce called sambal shrimp, and then chicken curry with hard boiled egg. Everything was delicious and incredibly flavorful! I also ordered a passionfruit smoothie because it was on the menu and PASSIONFRUIT. Mark ordered laksa, which I thought resembled Skyline chili without the cheese which he also enjoyed. Seriously if you're ever in Hong Kong you need to go to this restaurant called Malaysian Chinese Restaurant on Jordan Rd.

Such a feast!

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