Houli District, Taiwan
“The home of the world’s only Vekoma Tilt Coaster”
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 been built only one 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 second 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. We decided to upgrade our trip to the resort with a stay at the Fullon Hotel and we were pleasantly surprised. The hotel boasts large rooms, friendly staff and an incredibly good breakfast.
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 skipped a beat when I saw its first test runs in the morning. Unfortunately, riding Gravity Max was a lot harder than it seemed. That’s because the train needed to cool down for 10 minutes after each ride. Admittedly… it was hot, but as a coaster enthusiast I considered 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 didn’t change the situation: no more than five trains were dispatched every hour. To make things even worse, one of the train’s carriages was out of order, which left room for 20 instead of 24 passengers. Despite low crowds and a fairly short-looking line, this resulted in a 2-hour queue. Ouch.
We were assigned to the last coach and this made me happy. A Tilt Coaster always seemed more interesting towards the back of the train and fortunately, the ride didn’t disappoint. Gravity Max isn’t the tallest, fastest or longest roller coaster on Earth, but it provides 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. The rest of the layout consists of a great first drop, an intense underground curve and a surprisingly forceful looping. The final helix is rather slow, though.
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 and 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 if there’s a 120-minute queue…
When it comes to credits, Lihpao Resort didn’t give an extreme boost to my counter. The park has only two coasters: Gravity Max and a standard family roller coaster. I’m talking about Mine Express, a classic Vekoma Junior Coaster that opened in 2001. Despite the fact that this family-friendly coaster was smooth, it didn’t provide the biggest thrill. Still, I’d like to praise Lihpao Land for the excellent theming. Especially the queue is stunning and it even reminded me of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train… a bit.
Taichung’s hot climate is ideal for water rides. The first one 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 encouraged us to wear some waterproof clothing, so we expected a soaking ride. And indeed… Jungle Boating turned out to be a quite long and intense rapid river. It was super fun and the location is beautiful: the raging river crosses several other attractions and it’s surrounded by lush vegetation. I actually think that this is one of the nicest rapid rivers of all time. Thumbs up!
Volcanoes are popular in the amusement park business. Movie Park’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 turned out to be an excellent water ride.
The southern half of the park is home to Popa Kingdom and Magic Forest, two family-friendly lands. Popa Kingdom looked like a combination of Fantasyland and Mermaid Lagoon. Although it felt a little dated, I kind of liked this area. The rides weren’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. It’s home to some splendid family flat rides, a Ferris wheel and a relaxing boat ride.
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 got dizzy by looking at these machines, so I definitely didn’t ride them.
WORTH A VISIT?
Discovery World is a beautiful theme park. Designers 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.
The Lihpao Resort is a must visit for amusement park fans travelling to Taiwan. Of course, this is largely due to Gravity Max. It was an honour to finally ride this legendary roller coaster, but it’s definitely not the only qualitative ride in the park. Although I would appreciate the addition of an extra roller coaster or dark ride, Discovery World has made an excellent impression.
Photo Gallery 2019
Is Discovery World on your bucket list? Do you think that Vekoma will ever build another Tilt Coaster? And what do you think about the theming level at Discovery World? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.