Monday, September 17, 2012

[HUALIEN] Farglory Ocean Park and Your Dental Health

I've been to one glorified aquarium too many in this lifetime. Why go see another one? I have nothing to do today, okay. I was supposed to go to Taroko National Park and maybe collapse in the middle of a hiking trail and die unnoticed, except that I woke up at noon and a good head start is recommended unless you want to be stranded there and have a slumber party with the snakes, which are said to be plenty this season. Paragliding was the second option except that the ­feng is hen da. More or less they would not like their clients getting flown away too far and end up in Fiji or something because of that strong wind. Paragliding would have been fun, and a first. If only that stupid typhoon would leave before Friday!

And so I ended up at Farglory Ocean Park because it was the last resort, and it is a resort, sort of. Well, not really, but it qualifies as a theme park! I love amusement parks! How to get there? Take a bus from Hualien Train Station in front of the orange building. My spoken Mandarin skills have not improved one bit, which made it difficult to convey what I wanted to say. What's amusing is how my listening skills have improved in that what I hear is no longer gibberish. Most of the time, I can get the gist. I got a bus ticket for TWD 40 and endured a half-hour trip which was not really torture, thanks to that view of the Pacific coast.

The driver chastised me for not ringing the bell, which they normally do when you want to get off. I wanted to tell him that I prefer to shout "para" but then again my Mandarin skills are too poor to defend myself. It was no big deal, however, as the entrance wasn't that far. I even got to take a short video of the raging waves of the Pacific which sort of got me obsessed. Looking at that vast ocean and realizing that the whole of Taiwan is just a small island floating on it gives me the creeps. Imagination! I want to see some surfers ride those waves. Just for fun.

The good thing about this theme park is that it's not crowded, maybe because it is a weekday, or maybe because all the tourists are either in Taipei or Kaoshiung. Nonetheless, I still spotted some foreigners as well as locals. It wasn't totally empty but you don't have to line up to ride something. You have to wait, though, because there's a downtime for the rides given the poor tourist attendance for the day. Farglory is more Ocean Park than Disneyland but the thrill rides are nowhere to be found. They only have one roller coaster here. The Ferris wheel is high enough to grant a good view of the surrounding area. The Farglory sign a la Hollywood is too small that it just seems so far. The water log ride is probably the most thrilling but I had to pass because getting wet was not on my to-do list for the day.

They have good shows! There's a sea lion show, a dolphin show, and a theatrical presentation called Survoler le Ocean. I forgot what survoler means, but I remember that le and ocean are supposed to elide to form one word. Grammar Nazi. Anyway, for the sea lion show, I had to pass because I was busy pigging out at King Arthur’s Chicken. Given that I started my tour at around 1 PM and the park closes at 5 PM, it is already a good indication of how small it is. To add to that, I watched two shows that lasted almost two hours, combined. The attractions are set on cascading hills, which means some climbing if you have babies in strollers. For everyone else that count as lazy, escalators are readily available.

The dolphin show was the highlight of my day because I haven't seen one yet in this lifetime. If I had, then I already forgot about it, which meant it would've been boring. This one wasn't boring at all and those gay sharks are really well-trained. They do the hula with their nose better than Shakira with her hips that don't lie. They play football, probably better than the Azkals. They jump high and do somersaults. Talented mammals, I must say. I was really amused. Seeing them perform had me thinking about my job and what would be an interesting career shift to being a dolphin trainer.

By the way, people were invited to participate in the hula game and all of them got prizes. Okay, you have to hold your breath for this one as the prize was truly remarkable. What then, house and lot? One year membership? One night free at Farglory Hotel? No. Okay, drum roll please. Toothbrush. Yes, those small rectangular collection of bristles with a long handle intended to be used with toothpaste to battle plaque and bacteria. I do not co-manage this theme park so please do not ask me questions. All I know is that we should be thankful that Farglory Ocean Park is concerned about our oral health and hygiene. In fairness to the toothbrush, the carton that holds it has a dolphin shadow design. The show is held twice a day. I saw the afternoon show. Maybe they give away free toothpaste in the morning.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a photo of the theatrical show, not because I didn't feel like it, but because it was forbidden, and by forbidden, they really mean forbidden. Unlike in HK Disneyland where you can still take photos and even a video without getting caught during the Golden Mickeys show, here the guards are kind of strict. They let one of the gay sharks fin-slap you if caught. Lame joke. Apologies, I am sleepy. Yawn. At least they don't have a corny OMB commercial before the start of the show, and they actually implement their rules.

The show starts with a Caucasian girl who is obviously not ten years old, but supposed to be because she has pigtails and is wearing a pajama. She begins to play with various toys from an old trunk, life-size versions of which are played by actors in costumes in the background, which is obscured by a translucent curtain for dreamy effect. I love the theme, though. A series of Chinese characters are flashed once in a while to tell the story. I no longer bothered to try understanding them because my Hanzi recognition skills are poor, not to mention that I am in Taiwan after all and those characters are in traditional form. Triple language barrier! Long story short, the girl dreams about India, a jungle, the United States, and finally, Taiwan.

I thought I wouldn't like the India segment because Bollywood dancing freaks me out like a jack-in-a-box would do to an unsuspecting five-year old child. I mean no offense to the people of the Indian subcontinent. My aversion probably stems from the jerky head movements, the shrill voice of the background singer, or both. What I love about it, though, are the hand and finger gestures which seem so well-choreographed and difficult to do. It just goes to show that the cast is well-trained and dead serious about their chosen profession.

The jungle segment was enjoyable because of the trampoline, with some of the actors even falling on their backs and ending up back on that elevated platform, which was more or less twice or thrice their height. The USA part was cool because of the trapeze artists, both of whom seemed to be boneless. What ruined it were the two lip synching actors who were Caucasian but had the singing voices of Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. It's hard to fool a Disney kid like me, guys. The Taiwan segment was a bit rushed but the flying lady made to look as though she was wearing a three-story flowing gown saved the day.

As for the remainder of the park, I already mentioned that it's for kids. If you go here, are above 20 years old, and end up enjoying the rides, then there's probably something seriously wrong with you, unless you have a serious case of acrophobia. Half a day should suffice as there are other tourist sites awaiting at Fengbin. I spent half of my day sleeping in the morning, but then again I always operate like that when I'm out of the country. For those who aren't like me and would like to maximize their time, again, there are more to explore in Hualien. Refer to your tour guides for ideas.

[HUALIEN] Farglory Ocean Park and Your Dental Health

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