Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SHENZHEN: Not So Happy Valley


Or "Creepy Valley" as I would like to call it. It has been my first time to experience a dimly lit park late in the afternoon, with an ambiance prompting you to believe that some headless ghost or a deranged axe murderer would suddenly appear out of thin air and chase you around. We are not saying that the park is not popular. In fact, it is one of the most visited attractions in the area, most of the time in tandem with Window of the World. The sad reality is that people do not frequent the park on weekdays, hence, the creepy atmosphere.


What really disappointed me, though, was the discovery that the two roller coasters are only operational on weekends. Are you kidding me? Those two are what I came here for, and you are telling me that the only thing I could do is stare at them! Foul. You do not do that to me, dude. You do not do that to me. But you just did! Not so Happy Valley! It is because of this that I just opted for the night ticket. I am so not giving away RMB200 to have a stroll in a kiddie theme park.


The day started late because I had to transfer accommodations. After having a quick lunch at one of Shenzhen's busy shopping streets, I then went straight to the Metro for what seemed like a half hour ride to Window of the World station, which serves as the Shenzhen Metro stop not just for the said attraction, but also for Happy Valley.


Two birds with one stone. The plan was to see Window of the World first, but this changed when I found out that a way cheaper night ticket for that attraction existed. I could compare it to the Harbin Snow and Ice World, where looking at stuff and taking photos are the only good activities to be done.


I never found out if that assumption was true because I ended up not visiting the place later that evening. Explanations later! But I was able to take some photos when I arrived in the afternoon and loitered by the entrance. The angry sun made photography with a cheapo phone camera seem legit. I took advantage of that before heading to Happy Valley.


As already explained, the two roller coasters were not operational, and there was a night ticket selling for RMB80, a far cry from the RMB200 whole day ticket. Fine. I could wait two hours. I just went to the high-end mall nearby called Holiday Plaza, where my sense of vision was assaulted once again by one too many signature brands. I understand that I really do not belong to the mall's target market, but I wish shopping havens like this would have at least one bookstore for those who would only shop for the written word. It did not take long, though, to find another welcome distraction. They have an ice skating rink.


Again, I am not that open to ice skating when my own boots are not with me. Rental skates, aside from being worn by a hundred or so individuals with different notions of hygiene, also have baby toe picks, which do not really give you any favor when it comes to doing some tricks. Surprisingly though, their rental skates are actually fine black boots that look like Riedells. They are a bit worn out, yes, but the toe picks are good enough to merit at least a half flip. Yahoo, now I could kill time with pleasure.


But the boots hurt my ankle, and the ice was quite wet, so no. No tricks for now, lest I provoke an accident. I was already contented with shaving some ice and savoring the cool breeze inside the rink. After an hour or so, my feet were already quite sore, and so I called it quits and hit the nearest bakery to satisfy my sweet tooth's cravings. I was just in time for the night ticket admission when I arrived at Happy Valley. Good, let us finish this theme park obligation!


All I ended up riding were the rotating rides, some of which even flip you upside down. I was so nauseous after the third ride that I wanted to hurl projectile vomit at everyone. Since it was getting dark, I decided that it was just the right time to have an ocular of the place, just so I could capture something on camera that could be uploaded to YouTube later on. What did I see?


I somehow ended up at the kiddie section of the park with all the fairies and weird creatures and wooden structures that are supposed to make kids believe in another universe that is not real. This would have been okay under the sun, except that there was no sun. There were also less and less people as I turned from one corner to another. The several attendants left manning the stores and some of the rides were already beginning to close down their areas of responsibility and call it a day. Suddenly I found myself trapped in one phase of a theme park that is not meant for public consumption. And then I regretted not going here on a weekend, no matter how crowded it would have been.


Theme parks, for me, are supposed to be happy places. However, it seems clear to me now that not every theme park would be a Disneyland or Universal Studios swarming with tourists even after the sun has gone down. For less popular theme parks, it is simply not the case, and if you insist on being there at that moment, then at least be ready to witness a gloomy atmosphere that makes everything just so ironic. Theme parks are supposed to sparkle at night. I believe that is part of their allure. Well, Happy Valley was just consumed by the darkness, and for that I felt like I was in a set of an episode of Charmed, waiting for a warlock to blink in and stab me with a ceremonial dagger.


There is one portion of the park that at least had some activity that late in the evening and it was no other than the water park. I never really got to find out if admission there was included in the night ticket that I bought, but at least the people there seemed like a happy bunch. It was a bit difficult to take photos because of the steel bars enclosing it, but the brightness of the place was a welcome refuge from the darkness enveloping the rest of the theme park.


After getting lost for a while and scaring myself with fictional non-sense, I found a Genesis Tree. If you used to play Legends of Legaia back when PlayStation was popular then you would know what I mean. After that, I had to find my way back to the entrance and call it a day. This has got to be one of the loneliest theme parks I have been to. Perhaps I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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