NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Some coasters didn’t become famous because of record-breaking statistics, but just because of uniqueness. The best example is the Vekoma Tilt Coaster, a type which has only been built one single time. Is there actually a roller coaster enthusiast who didn’t have the Tilt Coaster on his/her bucket list? I don’t think so. Yet, it’s not easy to ride that Vekoma Tilt Coaster, unless you’re travelling to Taiwan. And guess where I am today…
Exactly… Taiwan! A very good morning from Lihpao Land. This leisure resort is located approximately 15 kilometres north of Taichung, the 2nd largest city on the island. Lihpao Land features a huge shopping mall, a race track, a giant Ferris wheel, a water park, multiple escape rooms and the luxurious Fullon Hotel, where we stayed last night. The Fullon isn’t cheap by Taiwanese standards, but it’s worth the price. Our room had ballroom-like dimensions, the bed was extremely comfortable and the breakfast buffet was large enough to feed a medium-sized city. And oh… let me show you the view from our room.
I’m sure the race track, the water park and the shopping mall are okay, but we didn’t come here to race, swim or shop. We mainly came for Lihpao Land’s very own amusement park. That’s Discovery World, the home of Gravity Max. This is undoubtedly Taiwan’s most famous roller coaster and my coaster-loving heart skips a beat when I see its first test runs in the morning. At E-DA World, we unfortunately missed the park’s most legendary coaster, but luck is on our side today. However, it requires quite some patience to ride Gravity Max.
Let’s get straight to the point. Of course we head straight to Gravity Max after entering the park. After all, we don’t want to take any risks. Imagine this coaster being closed due to technical difficulties during the afternoon. That’s why we quickly join the queue, which looks very short. The large switchback queue is empty and I estimate that there are approximately 200 people standing in front of us. This doesn’t look too bad.
Unfortunately, we soon start to notice that the line moves slowly. Very slowly. An information sign in the queue explains why: Gravity Max is apparently such a complicated machine that it needs to cool down for 10 minutes after each ride. Admittedly… it’s hot today, but as a coaster enthusiast I consider this rule as pure nonsense. Apart from its tilt track, this is a fairly normal roller coaster and many coasters perform at full capacity in much warmer climates. Unfortunately, my thoughts don’t change the situation: no more than 5 trains are dispatched every hour. To make things even worse, one of the train’s carriages is out of order, which leaves room for 20 instead of 24 passengers.
Do the math… our actual wait time is 2 hours. Two hours! I once queued 90 minutes for Poseidon at Europa-Park, I’ve waited 80 minutes for Tonnerre De Zeus and I conquered a similar queue for Tokyo’s Toy Story Mania. Yet, Gravity Max breaks every queue record, which is solely caused by the park’s perplexing procedures. Luckily, Taiwanese amusement park visitors are very disciplined. Just like the Japanese, they’re calm and line-jumping doesn’t exist here. This means that our 2-hour wait causes little frustration, but I’m very relieved to finally board the train at 12.30 PM. Yes, I’m ready.
We’re assigned to the last coach and that makes me happy. A Tilt Coaster always seemed more interesting towards the back of the train and believe me… the ride doesn’t disappoint. Gravity Max isn’t the tallest, fastest or longest roller coaster on Earth, but it delivers great fun. The tilt track is one of the most exciting coaster elements I’ve ever experienced. It’s an unusual feeling to be tilted to a vertical position this way. It’s somewhat similar to the holding brake on a B&M Dive Machine, but Vekoma has transformed this (literal) cliffhanger to pure perfection. When the train finally starts its descent, we experience a great first drop, followed by an intense underground curve and a surprisingly forceful looping. The final helix is rather slow, but that doesn’t bother me.
A 2-hour queue for a 60-second thrill… normal people probably won’t understand why I chose this hobby. Yet, I don’t regret it: Gravity Max has definitely lived up to its name. It’s a spectacular ride that turned out to be surprisingly smooth and intense. Please don’t expect it to be the best coaster in the world, but I loved it a lot. And adding such an iconic credit to your counter, that’s an opportunity every coaster enthusiast should grab with both hands. Even when there’s a 120 minutes’ queue…
I’ve talked enough about Gravity Max, haven’t I? Although this is undoubtedly the most popular and famous attraction at Discovery World, the park has more things to offer. The northern half of the park is especially appealing for flat ride lovers. These twisting thrills are provided by Sonic Circle, Energy Storm and Galactic Spin. These are the names of the park’s Musik Express, the Top Spin and a nauseating Speed Flip built by Moser Rides. I already get dizzy by looking at these machines, so I definitely don’t want to ride them.
You may know this, but volcanoes are popular in the amusement park business. Movie Park Germany’s volcano houses some aliens, Gardaland’s version is the eye-catcher of a stunning rapid river and at Tokyo DisneySea, the volcano even acts as the park’s symbol. Discovery World features a volcano as well, but unfortunately it isn’t nearly as impressive as its cousin at DisneySea. Discovery World’s version is home to Volcano Adventures, a classic flume ride. The layout is clearly inspired by Wild West Falls Adventure Ride at Warner Bros Movie World in Australia. The first descent has the same airtime-filled surprise and the final drop feels similar. Theming is rather limited (I really missed some special effects inside the mountain) but all in all Volcano Adventures turns out to be an excellent water ride.
Volcano Adventures is a soaking ride. That’s not a problem with today’s hot weather, but there are times when you’d rather stay dry. Buying a poncho is an option, but you could also spend 20 Taiwanese dollars on a hair dryer at the exit. At European theme parks you often see huge drying cabins, but the Taiwanese seem to prefer this old-fashioned version.
Talking about old-fashioned… does anyone know what this steel construction is supposed to be? Nick and I really don’t know what it does and why it was given such a prominent location at Discovery World. Does anyone have more information or are there any conspiracy theories about this rusting sphere? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Later in the afternoon, we discover the other half of Discovery World. The southern half of the park is home to Popa Kingdom and Magic Forest, two family-friendly lands. Popa Kingdom seems a combination of Fantasyland and Mermaid Lagoon. Although it looks a little dated, I kind of liked this area. The rides aren’t that interesting for a 29-year old guy, though. A dinosaur carousel, a Dumbo knock-off and a childish car ride with colourful scenes; that’s about it.
Magic Forest has a similar fairy tale vibe. I’d describe it as some kind of cheap-looking Efteling, but that only applies to the decoration. Honestly, Magic Forest is great in terms of attractions. There are some splendid family flat rides, a Ferris wheel (World in the Circle is actually a rather original name for that) and this is also the place where I can complete my coaster bingo.
When it comes to roller coasters, Lihpao Resort doesn’t give an extreme boost to my counter. The park has only two credits: Gravity Max and a standard family roller coaster. I’m talking about Mine Express, a classic Vekoma Junior Coaster that opened in 2001. You may recognize this type from Cedar Point or Slagharen. Although these family-friendly coasters are smooth, they don’t provide the biggest thrills. Still, I’d like to praise Lihpao Land for the excellent theming they provided. Especially the queue is stunning and it even reminds me of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train… a bit.
Another Magic Forest must-do is Jungle Boating, a rapid river. I brought the poncho I purchased at E-DA World and I’m glad I did. Even the information sign at the ride’s entrance encourages us to wear some waterproof clothing, so we expect a soaking ride. And indeed… Jungle Boating seems to be a quite long and intense rapid river. It’s super fun and the location is beautiful: the raging river crosses several other attractions and it’s surrounded by lush vegetation. I actually realize that this is one of the nicest rapid rivers of all time. Thumbs up!
It’s not just the rapid river that looks amazing; Discovery World is a beautiful theme park. This isn’t just an amusement park. Designers clearly put a lot of effort in atmosphere and decoration. The park is built around a big lake which is surrounded by waterfalls and fountains. In addition, there’s a lot of greenery, the walkways are spotlessly clean and most park facilities look well-kept. I honestly didn’t expect this, but it was a pleasant surprise.
During yesterday’s visit to Janfusun Fancyworld, we were nearly alone. We get a similar feeling today. Despite the fact that we spent 2 hours in Gravity Max’ queue, Discovery World was almost empty. The atmosphere obviously would’ve been better if there were some extra people, but hey… can you imagine the length of Gravity Max’ queue during a busier day? So no thanks, I can get used to these uncrowded parks.
The Lihpao Resort is must-visit for amusement park fans travelling to Taiwan. This is largely due to the brightly coloured Gravity Max. It was an honour to finally ride this legendary roller coaster, but it wasn’t the only reason for our visit to Discovery World. Although I would appreciate the addition of an extra roller coaster or dark ride, the park is wonderful. Still, Discovery World isn’t the best theme park in Taiwan. In just a few days, we will be discovering that Leofoo Village Theme Park is the king of Taiwanese amusement parks. To be continued!