Tuesday, 30 July 2013


So, how do I rate this trip?

I managed to get 79 new rollercoasters to my count; which was pretty incredible, and a small number of those were ones that myself and Kat were the first to ride, which means more to me than the count these days.

I visited 54 parks in the 3 weeks I was out there, again some of them we were the first enthusiast group to visit.
I visited 5 of the 6 largest cities in the country. Doing that in any country is pretty special, even more so in one as big as China.
I travelled a ridiculous amount of the country from Hong Kong in the south, to Beijing in the north and back down to Zhangjiajie in the middle. 
I am especially proud for making Zhangjiajie happen. I've managed to move from saying "I'd love to go there" to actually doing it and this has encouraged me to do more of that in the future. As crazy as my hobby is I am starting to move away from just hunting down coasters.

I have lots of great memories of this trip, with the coaster highlight easily being the visit to Happy Valley Tianjin and the non-coaster highlight being the entire Zhangjiajie experience. I formed some new friendships on the trip but had to say goodbye to some others. I knew going into the trip that China would bring out the worst in me, but it seemed to do the same to others. C'est la vie!

I'm pleased that all my extra-curricular trip planning paid off, from the little extra parks we'd jump a taxi to, to the longer journeys between the cities. My one learning there would be to not trust train ticket companies, who let me down big time on this trip.

Thanks to the organising team in the ECC for putting the main trip together.
Thanks to Kat for being a superb travel buddy for the latter half of the trip.
Thanks to the guys at Martin and Vleminckx for arranging for us to get into Happy Valley Tianjin and to ride the wooden coaster there.

Binjian Forest Park

Our last morning in China gave me an opportunity to sneak in one final park for Kat as a little going away present. Binjian Forest Park was a coaster that I found in the weeks leading up to the trip, and was one I was going to share with the group until Shenzhen-gate made me change my mind.

Located in literally the middle of nothing it showed the extent that my ability of locating rides in the satellite imagery had gotten to (its to the right of the circular carousel if you can't see it). The ride was beyond the extent of the metro and in an area not served well by taxis so we decided on organising a taxi from the hotel and having them wait for us to visit the park, see if the ride was still there and then take us back. In all it would take a couple of hours.

After a very easy drive that took around 45 minutes we arrived at the park and whilst the taxi driver argued with the security guard that he was going to remain for us, we ran on into the park.

The park is a vast open in space close to the coast that the locals flock to for family barbecues and get-togethers.

and located at the back of the park was the coaster, which looked really new. Sweet!

After a brief sign-language chat with the staff we found out that the ride wasn't due to open until 1pm and we didn't have the time to wait around. A combination of explaining we had a plane to catch in an hour and having the money in our hand was enough to get them to open the ride. 

A relieved Kat and happy Malcolm get their final rides of the trip.

Tianmen Mountain

Our final mountains and valleys day saw us travelling to Tianmenshan, a huge mountain to the south of Zhengjiajie. To reach it would take a number of cable cars and a rather unique bus ride.

The cable car station is situated in the centre of the city and rises up and above it.

over the bus and train stations

That's the mountain off in the background and so yes, the cable car does go down into the valley before going back up. Whether its true or not they do make a big deal about it being "the biggest mountain cable car journey in the world" and at 7.5km it did go on, but the view was stunning.

That's just a small bit of the road that hairpins up the mountain. It has 99 bends and when I first saw this on the internet I uttered the "I'd love to go there" empty statement that people usually say. On this occasion however I actually said "I am going to go there" and I'm pleased that I've actually done it. 

I did actually ask the park if it would be possible to ride a bike down; the idea of me skidding around the hairpins like a teenager appealed. However the road is closed to the public and you can only access it on the prescribed park-run buses. In hindsight perhaps I should have approached Red Bull as they seem to have gotten away with pulling a stunt like this...

and they wouldn't let me ride a bike? Grrrr....

Having got to the top of the cable car we went off for a brief walk around the mountain top.

they've built a rather cool walkway around the mountain edge, and with a drop of 4,000ft over the side we were hoping they'd been made properly.

I can't get all of the drop into shot it's so large. That walkway is made of glass just in case being exposed so high up wasn't enough.

Protective footwear on we made our way along it. Actually it wasn't too bad at all. I think we were more preoccupied by the Korean coach parties that were shoving past. (Apparently the Chinese flock to the Forests and the Koreans to the mountains)

This was amazing though, can I use "awesome" again?

A rare shot of me in front of the camera.

You get some sort of scale of just high up we are here.

Having done the walkways we took the cable car back down to the mid-point station from where we'd catch one of the buses to the top of the main peak (the walkways are elsewhere). 

How cool are those hairpins?

So why is this mountain so special, after all there are loads of them here? Well the top of Tianmen has a hole in it and is deemed to be a gateway to heaven.

For the Red Bull guys its also a natural wingsuit challenge. These guys are insane!

The bus drive up was fine, clearly the drivers are so use to the hairpins that they were able to take them at speed and at no point did I think we'd go over the edge. I just wished I could have taken a bike down it.

Having made it up 99 bends to reach the top (actually you start at around 40) to get to the hole requires a further climb up 999 steps. I think the park missed a trick in not having an ice cream van selling Flake 99 ice creams whilst Jay Z' "99 problems" to milk the numerical symbolism a bit more. 

So having successfully ascended the Canton Tower, and made it to the top of World Joyland for the finale of the trip it made sense that I make the ascent to heaven, and leaving Kat and the guide waiting at the bottom I made my way up quickly realising that the higher you went the steeper the steps got. Pausing for a break halfway up I was elated to see Kat making her way up, obviously the regret from having not climbed up was too great to turn down.

So, what was at the top. Actually there was a temporary mine train rail system to help with the construction of a new cable way system. I took this to mean that heaven is just another coaster, although the idea of a zipline all the way down would be insane. 

There is a photo opportunity with the opportunity to leave a message of good luck for others. I did get a great sense of achievement from the climb and it was a great, if tiring, way to finish the trip.

The view from the top, just a shame it's over exposed.

Another breathtaking day and one the one where I felt my organising efforts most rewarded. This is what a great holiday all about; spectacular scenery and an overwhelming sense of achievement :)


Zhangjiajie City Park

Now why didn't we have skies like this when we were in the forest park? Ah well. The restaurant that we were at for lunch was across the road from the second park, so having eaten some weird beef broth I asked if I could pop over for a look.

Another couple making the most of the day, and you just know that he didn't choose that outfit!

At the back of the park I spotted a coaster. Woohoo! But there was no ride operator. Booo! Some local kids with a love of climbing had decided to do a track walk.

We weren't quite sure how this one worked it had to be powered to get around, there just wasn't enough energy to get over that hill on its own but there was no power rail.

Posing with the kids.

So we didn't get to ride it and couldn't quite figure out how it would work anyway but it was a nice find. I did promise that there would be no coasters on this leg of the trip and technically I'm still right, but I still had to do my research whilst I was here.