Enjoying Dreamworld (Thailand): A theme park review

I’m a big fan of theme parks. I’m a sucker for experiencing the thrill of the rides, taking photos with mascots, watching special shows, absorbing the general feel of the environment and and imbibing the sense of magic that surrounds these places. Yup,I do love my theme parks and that was why the first thing on my itinerary for my Thailand visit was Dreamworld: The World of Happiness. The name actually sounds cheesy, as with the general theme of the park, which is fairy tales, but it had potential as many travelers have given the park favorable reviews. So my friend and I decided to check it out, even if it was a bit far off Bangkok.

Click to enlarge image.

Getting there: My friend and I took a cab (its a bit pricey), not knowing that there were buses from Victory Monument and Mo Chit that went to the area. (We only found this information from the Dreamworld guidemap when we got to the park). From Mo Chit (near Chatuchak), you can take Bus No. 188 (Mo Chit to Ratchamongkol). From Victory Monument, take Bus No. 538 (VM to Ratchamongkol) and Bus No. 559 (Rangsit-Suvarnabhumi Airport) also passes through the theme park. From the park, there are vans that take you to Victory Monument  for 35 baht. The journey back to the city takes roughly an hour because of the traffic. Entrance for foreigners is 550 baht for all rides. If you want  Snow Town to be included, pay 700 baht and if you want to try the Go Kart as well, it would cost you 120 baht extra.

THE PARK

The park itself is a huge area with 44 highlights including food stations, gardens, shops and rides. There is a Love Garden when you enter the park with pink benches, pink hearts, pink flamingos and a fountain which specifically caters to couples who visit the area. As a start, it was not very promising but as we trudged on, the park started to get better with cute little statues and funny characters dotting the grassy area where guests could take wacky photos of themselves.

It is also difficult to get lost because while most of every inch of the theme park is occupied, the locations for the attractions are quite straightforward, meaning you don’t have to stress yourself out trying to get to a certain at a certain time because you will get there eventually if you just follow the road. The park also has a cable car, a monorail and sightseeing train to get you around and familiarize you with the areas.

WHAT TO TRY

What’s great about Dreamworld is that there is a variety of rides to try, both for kids and thrill seeking adults. The best part is that most of the rides accommodate 30-40 passengers per round so there are hardly any lines anywhere. The time they allot for the rides are also ridiculously long compared to other theme parks where you get in line for 30 minutes and the ride lasts for only 20 seconds. When you get on a ride in Dreamworld, expect to be on it for 3 minutes minimum. And for the hard core rides, this translates to a major major rush. Adding to the enjoyment is the general school fair or community fair vibe because of the loud disco type sounds that each ride plays while the Thai operator commentates nonstop while spinning you like crazy.

These are the attractions that you ought not to miss when visiting the park:

ELEPHANT RIDE. This once in a lifetime experience costs only 50 baht per person. You get to ride a real live elephant who will walk you around a short section of the park for 5-10 minutes. For another 20 baht, get a bunch of bananas to feed the elephant for a job well done. The lady at the booth was also kind enough to document our ride with a lot of pictures using our cameras. It was loads of fun.

HURRICANE. While this ride seems inconspicuous, its a different story once riders get on. The bar spins the ride in a 360 degree angle while the chair rotates, at 90 and 360 degree angles, sometimes slowing down while the chair is upside down before the arm sharply drops and spins at a faster pace. Repeat for roughly 10 times. I was too chicken to try this but it seemed like a good ride, judging by the wobbly knees of those who got off and the shrieks of those still on.

SPIDER. Located just nest to the Hurricane, this ride is more manageable. The ride is a variation of the popular Octopus ride, once known as the badass of rides.


SKY COASTER.
Unlike the traditional roller coasters, riders get the same thrill with their chairs suspended on a bar and their feet dangling in the air, maximizing the coaster experience with a more open feel. I’ve tried similar rides in Star City (Philippines) and Universal (Singapore), but I liked this variation the best because of the complexity and length of the rails. The previous ones were too shortly lived while this one has timed the ride perfectly for rider to get the complete feel of the experience.

RAPTOR. A giant circle dish with built in seats that could accommodate 50 riders per ride, this was by far my favorite ride. The dish starts off slow, shakes and lulls the riders into a false sense of security then gradually gains momentum to swirl the dish like crazy, heaving, shaking, twisting and spinning alternatively. I was shrieking like mad because I was having so much fun, all while my innards were launching a revolt. Side effect: Legs turn to jelly after a ride while most brave souls become prone to throwing up.

MAGIC CARPET. The ride is quite simple. Set yourself on the long length of seats, strap yourself as the seat goes round and round at varying degrees of speed. The ascent and descent are equally fun but like I said, the Thais like to keep you on the ride for long so expect to be up there for a while. Not to be ridden around noon. Its scorching at the top.

ALIEN. A relatively new attraction, the ride makes use of old school robotics and rubber alien creatures and lots of neon lights at the beginning of the ride. Just when you think it was getting a bit funny and corny, they shut off the lights and turn on these creepy sounding alien effects while utilizing effects on the seats that make you think that the aliens are moving behind your chair or underneath your feet. The psychological effect of complete darkness makes this ride an effective creep show that turned up a pleasant surprise.

SNOW TOWN. Never played in the snow? This is your chance. Snow Town offers you the opportunity to visit a small Christmas village with plenty of photo opportunities with wooly mammoths, penguins and reindeers and then gives you a chance to slide down a snowy slope for as many times as you want, provided that you can withstand the cold. We only stayed for around 30 minutes because our hands and faces were growing numb but it was worth it.

Other rides to be tried are the Grand Canyon and Super Splash (for those who are brave enough to get really wet), Viking (similar to Enchanted Kingdom’s Anchors Away), the Antique Cars, and the 4D Adventure (closed when we got there).

SHOWS

HOLLYWOOD ACTION SHOW. This show was basically a demonstration of action stunts and effect used in major movies. I was expecting there to be a story for it to be called a show (like Universal’s Waterworld) but it was just a bunch of guys blowing things up and throwing punches although there were fake tanks and planes that lent to the bravado of the moment. After the show, audiences can take pictures with the cast but you have to “tip” them afterwards.

ANIMAL SHOW. The animal show is really nothing special although I do appreciate the efforts that the animals and that the trainers exerted to entertain the crowd. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. But you have to be like eight years old to fully appreciate it.

The downside is that the shows are presented in Thai so not all of the audiences ca relate to what’s going on.

There is also The Colors of the World Parade on the weekends but we went on a weekday so we weren’t able to catch it.

FOOD

Unlike other theme parks, they don’t charge ridiculously exorbitant prices for food inside the theme park, and they offer the non spicy variety as well which is good for me because I have a really low tolerance for hot and spicy food.

SHOPS.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for souvenirs from the park, there are very limited choices and the designs are not at par with other parks that I’ve been to that are very conscious with branding. The theme park may want to work on this to be competitive with parks in their Asian neighbors.

All in all, we had great fun at Dreamworld. It was well worth the journey but you have to spend the entire day there to appreciate all of the aspects of the park. If given the chance, I would gladly go back to this world of happiness. :)

An anticlimactic end to a five year wait

HongKong Ocean Park 2006, The Abyss

In 2006, during my first trip out of the country with my mom, we went to Hong Kong’s famous Ocean Park, along with another couple from our tour group. I was an adrenaline junkie back then (not so much now since I got into a go karting accident which banged me up pretty bad), and I wanted to try this really cool ride called The Abyss Turbo Drop, which takes you 20 floors above the ground for a massive drop, then brings you back up again so that it can drop you back down again for an even stronger impact. My mom explicitly discouraged me to go on it, (read — she’ll be more nervous than I), as did the couple from our tour. Outnumbered, I regretfully decided to leave the park without fulfilling this particular goal, always wanting to go back to complete my unfinished business.

Me, happy as a clam on my way up

So, fast forward to 2011, I learned that Enchanted Kingdom (in Sta. Rosa Laguna, Philippines)  recently launched this ride called EKstreme, which is pretty similar to The Abyss. Heart pumping, I braced myself for mind blowing excitement. I was pretty nervous at first (my mom was still with me but she was more mellow now so she had no qualms about me going on the ride this time), but when I saw that the ride was pretty short, I decided to go in. My dad, another adrenaline junkie, joined me for the ride. My brother, not a big fan of theme park rides, opted to stay on the ground as the photographer.

Ekstreme Tower at Enchanted Kingdom

I had high expectations for the EKstreme Tower. After all, it took me five years to finally get on a ride such as this one. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as exciting as it appeared. The ascent takes roughly 30 seconds to the top of the 150-foot tower. The drop only takes approximately seven seconds. You hardly feel it but you do feel the brake way before the thrilling part is over. And then, that’s it. The ride is over. It doesn’t take you back up, it doesn’t give the riders a chance to digest the rush before they are shepherded out of the ride area by the staff, and the next batch is ushered in.

I admit that ride had its moments, but its mostly psychological. While ascending (all of 30 seconds), riders will feel the lift and feel themselves growing farther and farther from the ground, their only solid connection the hydraulic safety bars attached to their seats. It’s pretty scary to dangle that high up with only open air surrounding you.But instead of allowing the riders to absorb the impact of dangling a couple of storeys from the ground and leaving a bit of drama for the drop, the ride was too quick to release the vessel leading to a very abrupt descent and an overanxious brake system that slows the ride down halfway down the tower. The ride could have benefited from a second ascent and a second drop, but that’s just my opinion. Compared to the Space Shuttle (which is the best roller coaster ride I’ve been on to date), which draws the carts upward and lingers for an extended amount of time before finally releasing them, the EKstreme ride was lacking in bravado and the element of suspense that would have made the ride way more exciting. It had the potential. Believe me, all it needs is a bit of tweaking to be at par with The Abyss.

me, somewhere in the middle of the ride

All in all, it was a relatively fun experience, even if it didn’t quite fulfill my expectations. I might really have to go back to Ocean Park one of these days to face off with my unchallenged nemesis.

But don’t let this review keep you from visiting Enchanted Kingdom. Rest assured that the park still has a lot to offer despite this dud. There’s still the Space Shuttle, with newer more secure carts, the giant Ferris Wheel, the Flying Fiesta, Anchor’s Away and Rialto, Log Jam, Rio Grande Rapids (where one cannot escape being drenched) and the 4D theater. After all, EK is still #2 on my list of Best Theme Parks in Asia next only to my happiest place on earth, Hong Kong Disneyland.