Sunday, 29 May 2011

Everland - Korea's Biggest Theme Park

Back on a warm, sunny day in April, we went to Everland with a couple of our friends. Everland is South Korea's biggest theme park located in Gyeongi province, not far from Gwangju-si where we live. After a comfortable ride on the good old 1113-1 express bus we made it to Everland and excitedly made a dash for the entrance. We all paid for our tickets separately which turned out to be a mistake as some credit/ debit cards give you a massive discount on the entrance fee and some don't make any difference at all. Our friend Jen paid a lot less for her ticket than the rest of us did so clearly paying with a Nong Hyup card like we did was a mistake. Not sure what card Jen used, maybe a KEB bank card, but if you ever go to Everland it would be worth checking out which cards give you a discount and which don't as it could save you a fair bit of cash. 

Just inside the entrance of Everland. 

Apparently, Everland is like a scaled down copy of Disneyland but I've never been to Disneyland so who knows.

The amusingly titled clothes shop, "Gothic Gifts", located just in the entrance with its decidedly cheery, middle class and not at all Gothic fashion ware just visible through the door.

As is often the case with Korea, there seemed to be about twice as many staff as were necessary at the entrance. We've noticed that at many kinds of public events and tourist attractions in Korea there are staff at the entrance and then more staff further along at a separate ticket gate and it was the same at Everland. Weird and a bit annoying as you end up queueing twice but I suppose it keeps the unemployment rate down! I think the staff at Everland really earn their salaries though as they all have to do this weird wave with both their hands in which they rotate their hands at the wrist rapidly from side to side. It makes a kind of circular motion and we tried doing it for a bit but it was bloody murder on the wrists after just 30 seconds or so. It was a pretty surreal sight when suddenly, without any warning, all the staff would suddenly stop what they were doing and start waving and smiling maniacally at us. 

I didn't see this staff member doing the special Everland wave but I loved his Star Wars Storm Trooper-esque uniform!

There happened to be a Tulip Festival going on when we went so there were loads of flowers and tacky Dutch windmill stuff knocking about of course (Koreans seem to have a bit of a thing for tacky Dutch regalia - see this post that included an account of the Dutch 'museum' we went to on Jeju island).

Tulips!

Tulip Festival mascots made out of flowers.

The bee band serenading the festival crowd.

There was a weird fusion of Ancient Greek style architecture and Dutch windmills at the Tulip Festival.

Tulip lights.

The cute little red train that we never got to ride because the queue for it was so huge. 

Everland is a pretty big park but there was a cool chair lift to help speed us around. The queue was pretty short and the staff were all dressed in blue and white overalls like Formula 1 racing mechanics. 

The staff in their funny uniforms. You had to be quick getting on and off the chair as they didn't hang around.

Some cheeky boys we met in the queue for the chair lift.

We got a good view of the park from up in the chair lifts.

In the background, you can just about make out the T-Express, Everland's biggest roller coaster.

We rode on all the usual rides including the Rolling-X Train, a standard but really fun roller coaster with a couple of corkscrew loops, the "Viking Ship" (not a scurvy sea dog to be seen but the same as a pirate ship really) and a col white water rapids ride on which our friend Stephanie managed to get more soaked than the rest of us put together - just lucky I guess! 

The white water rapids ride from above. I thought the cars looked a lot like Trivial Pursuit playing pieces.

This guy was great - the funniest Everland staff member by far. Not only did he have a ridiculous floral safari outfit but he also sang and danced insanely!

video
Some video we shot of the crazy water rapids staff doing their jig!

We also went on another rather bizarre ride called the Mystery Mansion which had a massive queue. It wasn't really worth the wait to be honest but it was quite a novel idea. Basically you got on a little car that took you around a ghost house but the twist  was that you got a laser gun which you used to shoot the "ghosts" as you travelled around the mansion. The "ghosts" were actually just infra red targets that would light up as you approached them and made spooky noises until you "killed" them - double death fun for all the family (as ghosts have presumably already died once)! 

The entrance to the Mystery Mansion - the real mystery was why we allowed ourselves to be sucked into bothering with this ride - I mean haunted house type things are never very good are they?

Of course the real reason was we wanted to shoot ghosts with lasers!

Wow, cool chimeric skull - so believable!

We also rode the truly terrifying T-Express. The T-Express is probably Everland's biggest, most popular ride and probably one of the scariest. Unsurprisingly, it had a long queue that wound around inside the giant wooden structure. The screams of the people already riding the coaster really helped to wrack up the nervous tension as we waited! Apparently, the T-Express is South Korea's highest, fastest, longest, steepest roller coaster. It was also South Korea's first wooden coaster. More importantly, it is also the world's steepest wooden roller coaster with a gravity defying 77 degree angle drop. From a distance I thought the drop didn't look that bad and was pretty nonchalant about it. Once we got in line and I got a closer look at it I was forced to change my mind - it looked bloody terrifying! And it was as intense as it looked and then some. It started up by taking us really high above the park for a nice view of Everland far below then straight into the terrifying drops. The steepest drop was so steep that I couldn't see the tracks at all. It felt just like falling. I was thrown forward hard against my shoulder restraints and I could really feel that it was only those restraints that prevented me from flying forward and out over the ride - yep, intense was the word! The rest of the ride was cool too, lots of swooping high speed turns and sudden drops. I've never heard Rowan swear so much in such a short space of time before! When we got off the ride I found that my legs had turned to jelly and I was really light headed - it was cool! I think it took at least 15 minutes before I felt completely normal again, before my legs stopped feeling weak and my heat slowed to a normal rate - it was definitely worth the long wait in line. Later on that day, once we were all back home having a few drinks in Gwangju, I noticed I had a massive bruise on the inside of my upper arm. I was confused as to how I'd got it but I eventually realised it must have been from gripping onto the side of the car on the T-Express. I must have been even more tense than I realised at the time! 

The T-Express is just visible in the background here.

The queue for the T-Express wound around inside the ride itself so we got to listen to the terrified screams of the people already enjoying the ride.

This was the big drop that earned the T-Express it's world record for steepness. (image from www.samsung.co.kr)

Here's my picture of the big drop on the T-Express. It was really high up, we got a great view of the park from up there.

Video off YouTube of the full T-Express ride experience. It's a pretty good clip but it still doesn't really show just how scary this ride was! 

As well as the heart pumping excitement of the T-Express we also tried out some quainter, quieter rides including a fun house that was actually pretty fun, some cool bumper cars and a beautiful carousel which we rode at night so it was all lit up. 

Bumper car action.

The fun house that really was pretty fun.


Unfortunately the twirly slides were purely ornamental.

Rowan bravely crossing the rope bridge on the front of the fun house.

Rowan bravely running through the slowly spinning tunnel watched by bemused children - yes we were the only adults in the fun house!

The carousel lit up at night.

The carousel again but less blurry!

Yay! I got a horsey that went up and down (some of them were fixed and didn't move).

And of course no visit to a theme park would be complete without a visit to the tacky gift shop. I invested in a giant furry paw and Jen picked up a boxing monkey puppet and some bizarre comedy eyewear - nice-uh! We also saw some really cute-uh animals in enclosures around park including giant furry rabbits, brightly coloured birds, camels being ridden by kids and my faves, the Fennec Foxes. Apparently, Fennec Foxes are the smallest foxes in the world and their oversized ears help them to hear their prey moving underground and lose excess heat in the desert where they live. 

Boxing animal puppets in the souvenir shop.

Beer goggles...

Camel rides and more silly staff costumes.

Awww, a really cute fox!

Another picture of a Fennec Fox just because they're so adorable.

Our great day at Everland ended with a fantastic firework show. It was one of the best displays I've seen in ages, loads of bangs and flashes. It was a great end to a brilliant day. I'm sure we'll go back to Everland at some point, but maybe next time I won't hold on quite so tight on the T-Express - that bruise took ages to vanish!  

The firework show at the end of the night was spectacular.

It was really beautiful.

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