^ I'm not sure if I'm more disappointed to have missed Popeye's or the credits!
The funny thing is that I always forget there's a Popeye's a 10 minute walk from my house. I don't think I've been there in over a year.
Thanks for the consolation, though! I'd originally not even planned to bother with Children's Grand Park, but decided to add it, since it's right in the city and only one stop from the line to Jamsil for Lotte or Everland, and others had said I could easily fit that into a day with Seoul Land and Lotte World (even though I actually didn't.) And I'd only planned to stop in quickly to get the creidts and maybe see a few animals on the way. So, it wasn't any big loss. If I'd had to lose out on any solo park on my solo part of the trip, this would be have been one of the least painful losses. And surrounded by two amazing parks, it was hard to be too disappointed.
And I enjoyed Seoul enough -- especially Lotte World and Everland -- that I imagine I'll be back within the decade. So, I'll have the chance to go back at some point. The only question will be whether I'll bother to go back to Seoul Land to get the mouse credit, in case I forgot to ride it.
Day 11, part 2: Seoul, South Korea. Everland, day 1!
Now it was time for Everland, one of the highlights of the entire trip. Like Lotte World, which I visited, Everland is a world class amusement park. Over 6.5 million people visited it in 2010, which puts it at #13 in the world, behind only some Disney and Universal Parks, its neighbor Lotte World, and Ocean Park in Hong Kong. To give you some kind of scope, more than twice as many people visit Everland as Cedar Point, Kings Island or ANY Six Flags park. What’s amazing is that it does these kinds of numbers with only TWO adult coasters operating! But it’s still a pretty huge park. There’s a whole zoo section that I would have liked to have checked out, but simply didn’t have the time for. (I knew I should have gotten out of the hotel earlier!) And the park is spread out enough with a lot of hills, that they have BOTH a cable car and a chair lift inside the park to get you from section to section. While the coaster selection is pretty meager, they’ve got a lot of flat rides, dark rides and shows to keep people busy. And tons of theming, too. In fact, I didn’t actually even see half of the park on this day. Note that if you’re a foreigner visiting Everland, they will give you a discount of about the equivalent of $8 US dollars if you print a coupon from their website or show your passport.
To get to Everland, you can take the subway to either the Jamsil Station (home of Lotte World) or Gagnam Station (in the area of the city made famous in Psy’s Gagnam Style video!) Then take the bus from those stations to Lotte World. There’s also a third bus between a subway stop and Everland, but do NOT take it, because it takes a long winding route and stops a ton of time! I learned this the hard way on the way back on Friday night! It literally took 30-45 minutes longer than the other busses! The park is out in the mountains, and the bus actually drives quite a bit past the sign for the park before you actually get to the park itself. The park has its own bus area. From there, you walk over to the main parking lot and take a shuttle bus to the park itself.
At the bus waiting area, I had my first surprise of the night, when I saw signs for the park’s Halloween event, which would be starting THE NEXT NIGHT! Damn, that was bad timing! I’d normally look for this sort of thing, since I LOVE park Halloween events, especially haunted mazes, but I wasn’t expecting the park’s Halloween event to start the FIRST weekend in September! I hadn’t even gotten onto the shuttle bus to the park, and I was already thinking that maybe I’d have to come back one of the next nights, if I could squeeze it in!
As soon as I got to the entrance, I could see tons of Halloween theming, which was kind of weird when you consider that it was only Sept 6th! The main street area is already well themed and impressive, but there was a ton of Halloween theming on top of that. I headed straight to the kiddy section of the park to get the kiddy coaster out of the way first. Herky and Timmy’s Racing Coaster is themed to the race of the tortoise and the hare, which is odd since it’s only one coaster, not a racing pair, as you might expect. It’s a just a Vekoma custom junior coaster, which is actually better than most kiddy coasters, but still nothing particularly special. Luckily, there wasn’t much of a line, so I rode, took a bunch of pictures as I quickly walked around the kiddy section of the park, then headed back up to the main park for the next credit. Rolling X-Train is a fairly standard Arrow double loop, double corkscrew coaster, but for some reason, they’re replaced the original trains with new sideless ones from Vekoma. Needless to say, adding Vekoma trains didn’t make it any more smooth or rideable! In fact, the most interesting thing about riding it was that from the lift hill you could see a bit of the Eagle’s Fortress Arrow suspended coaster sticking out of the woods! Yes, it’s still there, but it’s not on the map, and you can’t see it from anywhere I was in the park, other than from the lift of this coaster. The park doesn’t even acknowledge that it’s there. Which is a shame, because everyone I know who’s ridden it has said it was amazing and easily the best suspended coaster ever!
The second most interesting thing about Rolling X-Train is that the queue goes up stairs to the elevated station, and those stairs are a good place to get some pictures of T-Express, which is the main reason to come to the park! On the way over towards T-Express, I passed the Zamperla Dragon powered “coaster”, but didn’t really have the time to ride it, and didn’t need to since I don’t count it as a coaster, and would be riding MANY of them on this trip! I did take the time to go through the Spooky Fun House walkthough, which was a lighthearted interactive walkthrough with fin features like ghosts mooning you! Unfortunately, the Mystery Mansion shooting dark ride was closed all day. I took a few pictures of some of the rides and the Madagascar Live show arena (with statues of the characters outside) and grabbed a piece of some sort of chicken in tasty sauce on a stick and headed over to the park's main attraction: T-Express.
With very few exceptions (Disney and Universal parks come to mind), theming and ride selection alone don’t make for a world-class park. A world-class park has to have world-class coasters! Or at least one. While Everland has lost its first world class coaster in the now closed Eagle’s Fortress, it’s gained a world-class wooden coaster in Intamin’s T-Express. T-Express is a wild coaster with a steep first drop, several spots of ejector airtime, some great laterals and a bunch of directional changes. Since it opened, it has never ranked below #3 on Mitch’s Internet woodie poll, and has hit #1 twice (once in a tie), and it’s #2 again this year. (That's an exclusive spoiler, kids! You read it here first!) It even managed to hit the top 40 the last two years on the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards, the ONLY coaster in Asia to manage that feat on either the wood or steel poll. (Well, since Aska in Japan closed, at least.) That’s an impressive accomplishment, given how few of the people on AT’s poll have been to Asia! Personally, I ranked it at #5 (or #4, if you don’t count Aska, which is never likely to operate again and may even be torn down by now.) It’s not quite as balls to the wall intense as my very top coasters, but it’s almost there. And #5 (or #4) in the world out of 156 woodies I’ve ridden is pretty damn impressive! Also, I rode it in September, so it may be even faster and more intense in the warmer summer months.
So, I headed over to T-Express, hoping for a bunch of rides on a world-class woodie, only to run into my second unplanned surprise for the day: T-Express closes its queue at 8 PM, two hours before the park closes! DAMN! I wish I’d know this, or I’d have gotten there much earlier and saved the crappy coasters on the way for later! They had a sign at the ride’s entrance, but not anywhere else that I know of in the park. Apparently, they close it early for safety because of the fireworks from the park’s night show at 9PM, which is understandable with a wooden coaster. But it still sucked! This is why I usually head right to any park’s signature coasters, as soon as I get to the park, but with T-Express WAY in the back of the park, and all of the other coasters in the front, it seemed to make sense to do the park the way I did. But now all I could do is get right in the line and try to get a few rides in before it closed.
And that was the hard part, thanks to all of the horrible line-jumping. Seriously, the line jumping for T-Express was some of the worst I’ve ever seen at parks. Not just because so many people were doing it, but because huge groups of people were doing it. One or two people would get in line. And over the next half hour another 10-20 people would push their way through the crowd to join them! Normally, I wouldn’t allow more than one or two people to ever cut me in line, but in another country where I don’t speak the language at all, I didn’t feel comfortable making a scene, even if I was in the right. But the queue was 30-45 minutes, and in that time enough people cut me to push me back at least a train or two. And T-Express was awesome, so I didn’t want to miss any rides, thanks to selfish line cutters! And with time running out before they closed the ride, on my second time in the queue, I simply put my hands out and didn’t let anyone pass – which resulted in a lot of people trying to argue with me in a language I didn’t understand! I was able to get the point across to the few who spoke a little English that it was they who were breaking the rules and trying to cheat me (and the rest of the people in the line), not this crazy foreigner somehow taking their rights. I even managed to get this nice couple who had also tried to cut me and who spoke English on my side, when they couldn’t argue with my point that if their friends weren’t willing to wait to ride with them, then why should I? They then explained my point to the others I was blocking! Before long, there were well over a dozen kids unhappily stuck behind me. Eventually, I let the nice couple actually go ahead, since they’d been nice about it. But my strategy worked, since I made it around for a third time in the queue just before they closed the line! In the park's defence, they actually do have signs up telling people to enter the queue with their entire group, but they can't really enforce it with the queue all within the structure and no one from the park in the whole queue area. On a plus note, there was some neat explorer type theming in the queue, and they even set up a standing open casket that people could take pictures in for Halloween.
Like all good coasters, it left me wanting more. By this point, I’d pretty much decided that I would HAVE to come back one of the next two nights to do the two haunted mazes and to get some more rides on T-Express! Later, I’d figure out the logistics of this at guest relations.
From T-Express, I caught a show at the Space Tour 4-D Theater. The show at Space Tour was exactly what you’d expect: a cutesy show featuring a bunch of animated Everland characters fighting some bad guy with crystals in a fantasy show that had absolutely nothing to do with space! OK. From there, I’d wanted to try to see the night show, but they had blocked the way, for safety. So I had to settle for seeing the fireworks above the stage from a distance, but not what was on the stage itself. Oh well. But I got on the chair lift back to the front of the park just before the SWARMS of people leaving the night show got there! From there I walked around and took a bunch of pictures and did some shopping.
I also went to guest relations to try to find out some details about the Halloween event. I also found out that the park's shooting dark ride (which had been closed today) would be open the next day. Another good reason to come back! Apparently, they had two haunted mazes back by T-Express, which you’d have to buy upcharge tickets for. The guest relations ladies strongly suggested that I get my tickets in the morning, since with the next day being the first day of the Halloween event, the mazes were likely to sell out. The only problem with this idea was that I’d be spending most of the day on a tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and would not be able to get to the park before 6-7 PM! The ladies very kindly offered to walk all the way back to the mazes to get me the tickets the next morning, if I gave them the money for them, which I was happy to do! (The tickets were only something like $5 each.) They asked what time I wanted my tickets for, but when I told them, I wasn’t sure when I could be at the park, they offered to call the mazes the next day to make sure they’d honor my tickets whenever I needed to use them! How’s THAT for customer service?!? Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty!
On that happy note, and with plans to return to this huge park the next day, if only for a few hours, I headed back to the bus area and took the bus back to Itaewon. Tonight’s very Korean dinner was KFC! I walked around the neighborhood checking out the scene, popping into a few bars and clubs along the way and talking to random people. One American guy walked around with me for quite some time, and made a point to tell me several times that he was straight. But somehow I had the feeling that he was hoping I’d make a more overt proposition to him, a feeling that was somewhat confirmed after he’d left to supposedly go to bed (perhaps hoping I’d ask to join him), and I later saw him back on the strip between the two hills following a tranny hooker into the back of the tranny bar! He was actually a good looking guy, but I didn’t want to be that kind of gay guy who randomly propositions supposedly straight guys on the street. At least not when I’m sober!
Amused, I decided it was time to call it a night! I had to get up early the next day to head to a nearby US military base. That’s not somewhere you might expect to find me, but I was taking a really neat tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which will be in the next update. And after that, I return to Everland for more!
The entrance to Everland. You can already see some Halloween theming! In early September!
Yes, Halloween starts very early at Everland!
The park's "Main Street"- type area called Global Fair.
This pretty "Magic Tree" will look even cooler at night!
Spooky! Oh, wait, that's the name of the ghost in the haunted walkthough "Spooky Fun House" I'd visit later.
Pororo is apparrently some famous cartoon in Korea. But no time for that now, with credits calling!
Let's eat at the Oriental Restaurant! In Asia.
Herky and Timmy's Racing Coaster. Which doesn't actually race anthing at all.
Some non-racing track.
Some nice theming in the kiddy section. The whole park is full of hills!
Now, that looks more interesting! Too bad it's actually a painful mess!
Rolling X-Train. One of the best features of the ride is that you can get some good pictures of T-Express from the stairs in the queue!
See? This is the coaster you WANT to be waiting for. Unforunately, you're actually waiting for a painful Arrow looping coasters with Vekoma trains!
I'm not even sure where this cable car actually goes. It's not even on the park map! The hotel in the back of the park, maybe?
Yay! I managed to catch a train!
I'm coming, T-Express! Let me just get this painful thing out of the way first so I never need to ride it again!
Do I REALLY want to ride this?
I have a feeling this is gonna hurt! The things we do for credits!
Just to give you some idea of how big the park is.
The chairlift can come in handy for getting across the park. But I wanted to see and do some things along the way. I did take it back, though. Just be sure to beat the crowd from the night show when it ends!
For the whores, the park has a powered Zamperla Dragon "coaster".
Can you tell that Spooky Fun House takes its scares VERY seriously?
See what I mean? Spooky's getting fresh!
I'm coming. I'm coming!
The Madagascar Live show theater is huge! You can also see this show at Gardaland in Italy this year.
Yeah, I fit right in with this bunch, don't I?
More Halloween theming. The two haunted mazes and the main Halloween area are actually near T-Express
I caught that train a little early!
T-Express' trains have some night LED lighting on them that look cool in the dark and make for some neat photo effects on crappy cameras like mine!
But first, let's get a snack! Or maybe not! Instead I got some chicken on a stick from another counter.
Not everything was open in the Horror Village yet, but the entrance to T-Express was inside.
See? Time to get in line and have dozens of kids line jump in front of me!
I love wooden coaster queues that are within the rides structure, with wood all around you!
The train races by while you wait to ride.
There's nothing like a big woodie to cheer you up after being line jumped!
Some theming in the Horror Village.
The fireworks from the park's nighttime show.
The Magic Tree gets scary at night!
That's it for Everland for tonight. But I'll be back tomorrow!
If I ever get to visit my customers in South Korea, this is going to be a must-see before I leave.
Everland sure does look like a great park, but could be even better if they could somehow refurb Eagle Fortress or at least throw in a couple more decent coasters. But I guess if it's already a heavily attended park, they don't need to worry about catering to us coaster dorks!
^^ Yeah, Everland really is a huge park. But the one thing it's lacking is more decent steel coasters. Just having Eagle's Fortress open again would dramatically change that. But supposedly that won't happen. If not, they really do need one or two solid steel coasters to round out the park. I'm still amazed that the park manages to bring in 6.5 million people with only two adult coasters, one of which sucks!
That said, if everything else in the park closed, and all that was left was T-Epress sitting there by itself, it would be totally worth going around the world to ride it! And there are LOTS of other things to do and see there.
I didn't even see and show half of the park on this day. And even with the next night, too, I still missed at least a quarter of the park. The zoo area is pretty big and houses several rides, too. But I didn't get the chance to get over there on either day. I'll show more of the European gardens section of the park in the day 2 update, after the DMZ tour update.
^ Yeah, Lotte World and Everland really are world class parks with world class coasters. Honestly, each of them needs one or two more great coasters to be real "don't miss" places to visit. But what they have is already better than most other parks have. But both have a lot more to offer than coasters.
The dark rides at both parks are pretty neat. And if you can mange to get to Everland for their Halloween event (which starts at the beginning of September), their mazes are really good, as I'll talk about more in the next Everland update (right after the DMZ one.)
From everything I've heard, Eagle's Fortress would be a real great candidate for a preservation effort, since it's actually a great coaster. Unfortunately, I think it's too late and the problems are considered too bad too fix. But they really need one solid steel coaster to cement the park's place among the world's best. But T-Express is already enough to make the park worth travelling around the world for!
^ If I had to guess, I'd say it's because the Intamin coasters are probably more expensive, and most parks that could afford one probably already have at least one wooden coaster already and may not be in the market for another. I honestly still think it was an odd choice for Six Flags Great Adventure, especially so soon after Kingda Ka. But I'm certainly glad that they did build it! And I'm hoping that the gamble paid off for them.
Remember, Everland gets TWICE the attendance of Cedar Point, Kings Island or ANY Six Flags park -- or any US park outside of Florida or California, for that matter. They can definitely afford one, and didn't already have a wooden coaster. In fact, it was probably even more of a draw because it became the ONLY wooden coaster in the entire country! And with Eagle's Fortress closing, they definitely needed another adult coaster.
I wish that more American parks would put in more wooden coasters, in general. And certainly some Intamin woodies. But I can see how the investors and owners and managers may not feel that it's a good investment right now in the US markets.
It will be interesting to see if the hybrids and particularly the looping woodies will change that dynamic significantly or not.
Look at how the wing coasters are taking off. Maybe we'll see the same thing happen with looping woodies?
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