Saturday, June 18, 2011

[YONGIN] Everland!

Considered by many as Korea’s very own Disneyland, Everland offers a lot of thrills for both theme park enthusiast and plain wanderer alike. Located at the city of Yongin in the province of Gyeonggi, the park is just around an hour away by bus from Gangnam Metro Station. Another station in Southern Seoul where bus connections can be found is at Jamsil in Songpa, meaning you could combine your Lotte World and Everland tours for one day of jam-packed thrill, but I would suggest that you allot a day each for both. Inside the theme park are various gardens including a big rose garden, Mardi Gras inspired parades in the afternoon, an animal safari, various rides including a wooden roller coaster considered as the steepest in Asia and second worldwide, and lots more. Next door is a water park called Caribbean Bay, the entrance fee for which you have to pay for separately.

As usual, I woke up late and my plan to arrive at the theme park by 9 AM and be first in line in everything was foiled. Sleepyhead. It was my last day at the guest house and I was planning on just staying at Silloam again for my last two nights in Seoul, this night and the next. Thus, I had to bring my 7-kilo backpack with me to Everland, along with a laptop bag and a paper bag of souvenirs. I could have left them at the guest house since it was allowed but I didn't want to go out of the way and go back there just to retrieve them after an exhausting trip. Besides, there are lockers in Everland that will accept my things with open arms. Or open doors.

Ending? Well, I roamed the streets of Gangnam looking for the bus like a tourist kicked out of his guesthouse, bags and all. Still, I managed to drop by Dunkin Donuts to buy some breakfast in the form of Bavarian and strawberry-filled munchkins accompanied by a glass of iced choco. I immediately saw the 5002 bus headed to Everland after walking a few meters from the subway exit, but I just had to buy those munchkins. Of course the bus was gone when I came back. What am I, a VIP guest? I had to wait for the next one.

I was paranoid because I didn't know how to ride their buses. I know you lift one leg and step on the bus entrance before doing the same thing with the other leg. And then walk until you find a vacant seat. Thanks, genius. What I didn't know was how to pay. Seoulites have that card thingy they bring along with them that they use to pay for their fares. I didn't have one of those. It turns out you can just pay in cash. Put your bank note on the plastic container and the driver pushes some button for some coins to pop out. Grab the coins and go.

The route map inside the bus was confusing. It was an inverted long C and I could see two “Everland” stations facing each other. So, there are two Everlands? Or did they just run out of ink to close the inverted C into an oval so that the two Everlands actually met? But if that is the case, then there should just be one Everland written there! After almost getting a migraine, I just munched on a munchkin and slipped out of consciousness. After almost an hour, we reached a bus stop which had signboards clearly stating “Everland”. You then transfer to their shuttle which brings you uphill to where the theme park is located.

Everland and Enchanted Kingdom share one similarity: their location just an hour outside the capital. Put that aside and Everland beats EK in all other aspects. The mere existence of Caribbean Bay next to it is already a big advantage, although you'd think twice before swimming there. Because of the altitude, expect to feel very cold, not to mention it actually drizzled while I was there which contributed to my decision not to go swimming anymore. It is quite pricy too with both entrance fees amounting to almost 40,000 won each. Besides, if you are the type who just love to ride anything you can, one day wouldn't be enough for you. Moving on, no discounts for HSBC this time around! Boo that.

I started by depositing my things in one of the lockers. Be wary about lockers in Seoul. Your ignorance will surely cost you a few thousand won every time. I've been double charged many times for not knowing how to operate those things. Anyway, my bag was tailor fit inside the 2,000 won lockers with just enough space for the laptop bag and the paper bag. Done. Adventure, here I go!

I began my adventure with the rodeo ride which was simply a cowboy version of the flamboyantly gay spinning teacups in other theme parks. Not that thrilling, but could easily turn you into a vomit projectile machine if you have low tolerance for anything that spins. Next in line was their version of Anchor’s Away which had double the width and actually had a partner. Yes, there were two ships, but only one was operational. Fortunately, there were few people that day!

I then went to the Hurricane ride. Everland has many rides of the spinning and swinging kind. This one rotates wildly while swinging back and forth, meaning it was like a combination of the first two rides I had, as if I haven't had enough swinging and spinning already. Well, there was more to come, but I had to ride a roller coaster first. I went to the Fairy Park for a warm-up. There was a hare chasing a turtle, or the other way around, by the entrance. The roller coaster itself was not too bad although a bit boring. It was in the middle of Fairy Park. Of course it was boring, unless you are five and still pee in your pants.

Next in line was a rock music inspired ride shaped like a guitar, very much like Lotte World’s Waikiki Wave in terms of sitting capacity except that this one does not twist and twirl as if it had epilepsy. It just swings you around and ends with a flip. What is the catch? The seats themselves also flip, which means you are in for double flipping, and not always in the same direction. You might want to leave your loose items in one of the lockers in front. This, by the way, is one of the good things about Everland. The lockers are inside the area of the ride itself. Since no one would really risk having their heads or a limb chopped off while a ride is operating, we can say that your personal belongings are safe.

Another roller coaster came after that, this time with two loops. I do not like loops that much because they are anti-climactic. They are intimidating at first but the speed of the roller coaster just kills the excitement once you pass through them unless they are very high. I prefer high drops. The Rolling X Coaster settles for second after the T-Express in terms of the thrill factor. Next to it is the Let’s Twist ride which has around five seats in each row and revolves in an angle.

I rode the Sky Way cable car ride down to the main square where a parade was ongoing. The cast were mostly Caucasians. Perhaps they are foreign students doing part-time jobs? Anyway, the T-Express came next, the steepest wooden roller coaster in Asia with drops that are just wow. This is definitely THE ride in this theme park. I felt like my back was split in two afterwards but who cares! Adrenaline rush. Orthopedic visit.

I had early dinner at China Moon. The fried rice was not that good and I didn't like the sweet and sour viand. There are many restaurants and food stalls in the area offering different cuisines. Take your pick. Most of them are clustered around the rose garden area. Oh yes, the rose garden. Lots of roses! Perfect for camwhoring activities! Just do not pick them.

The line to get in the Safari took more time than the Safari tour itself. There you see lions, tigers, a liger (the product of the forbidden union of two promiscuous felines), an elephant, giraffes, bears who stand and look cute by the bus window, and some vultures near the exit. Or maybe not. They were big, black, and looked vicious. They looked at me like they wanted to tear my flesh and claw my eyes out of their sockets. No, I am quite sure that those were not just color deprived peacocks.

I thought the Amazon attraction would be similar in that it would feature live anacondas chasing Jennifer Lopez. It turned out to be just like that Rio Grande ride at Enchanted Kingdom but with giant plastic animals striking a pose in the background. Or was that fiber glass? Who cares! Prepare to get wet though, although the probability is lower because the seats have vinyl or nylon strap-on thingies that you can use to cover you up to your neck.

Everland is Lotte World for the big boys. Do I love Everland? Of course I love Everland! If I could live in one those fake houses in the Alpine Village area, I would, just to ride that roller coaster on a daily basis. The whole day spent here was well worth it and I wouldn't mind coming back in the future, perhaps with a side trip to Caribbean Bay by then.

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