After 18 months and many unsuccessful attempts to organise the Wahbiang Tour this June holidays, a small group of us managed to find time for a small gathering in Hong Kong last weekend. Juliana and Karen flew in with their boys and joined us for an arduous trip to the new Chimelong Ocean Kingdom at Zhuhai Hengqin (横琴长隆海洋王国).
This was quite an unusual and unique travel group combination. It was an interesting traveling experience with the company of four tough women and three very mischievous boys. I was the only man in the group. I know how chaotic it can be whenever you travel with a group of naughty kids and tiger-mums. Knowing we have to take multiple transports and cross 2 cities to the final destination, I was prepared for the worst travel experience but this group proved me wrong. Everything was very smooth. Everyone was on time and there was no delay. The pace was fantastic and it was pretty enjoyable! Best of all, I got to know the kids and mothers better!
How to go to Zhuhai Chimelong Ocean Kingdom from Hong Kong / Macau – Heading out to the new attraction can be challenging. There was no direct ferry connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai Hengqin Port (珠海横琴口岸). The most direct route would be taking a 75-min ferry (cost about HKD220/adult) from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal (港澳碼頭) to Zhuhai Jiuzhou Port (珠海九洲港). From Zhuhai Jiuzhou Port, take a 40-minute taxi (cost around RMB65-75) to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. Using this route, the total cost for each pax is about HKD300. The whole journey takes about 115 minute.
We took a cheaper and slightly shorter route. However, this route took us a total of 5 transfers, compared with only 2 transfers in the earlier option. First, we took a 60-minute ferry (cost about HKD185/adult) from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal to Macau. From there, we took a free 15-minute shuttle bus to Venetian Hotel where we transferred to another free 5-minute shuttle bus to Lotus Port (莲花口岸). There was no queue at all at this Macau-Zhuhai border. The distance between these two border-checkpoints is about 1km and we paid HKD3/pax for a 5-minute border shuttle bus. At Zhuhai Hengqin Port (珠海横琴口岸), we took a 7-minute hotel bus (free if you have the hotel vouchers or if not it will cost only RMB8/pax) to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom Hotel. There were taxis outside Zhuhai Hengqin Port and it cost RMB30/ride to the hotel. Using this route, the total cost for each pax is only HKD225. The whole journey takes about 100 minute.
At the Zhuhai Hengqin Bay Hotel (横琴湾酒店), China’s largest ocean ecological theme hotel lobby intrigued us with its gigantic spectacular dolphin pillars. Houses over 1,800 spacious and luxurious suites and 4 big swimming pools, the hotel is connected to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom by a 1,000m water canal. Visitors can take a private cruise from the hotel to the theme park.
Despite the grand interiors, services and hotel standard, in my opinion, was only so-so. Check-in queue was long and it took me over 30 minutes to get my room cards. Food charges were rather costly and the quality was satisfactory. There were a couple of convenient shops in the hotel but the prices were 200-300% more than usual. There was little signage around the premise to guide you to the key locations in the hotel but the hotel staffs were at every turn to guide you. Swimming pools closed at 8:30pm and it was quite a distance to our rooms. The only thing we liked was the hotel room. It was really spacious, clean and the beds were very comfortable.
We decided to watch the Hengqin Chimelong International Circus (横琴长隆国际大马戏) on Saturday evening and visit the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom on Sunday morning. During our free time, I brought the ladies and boys to Gongbei Port (拱北口岸地下商场) for lunch and shopping. We bought so many things! Both ladies and kids loved it!
Comparing with the Guangzhou’s Chimelong International Circus and Macau’s House of Dancing Water, the Hengqin Chimelong International Circus was appalling. Some of the acts were out-dated (even the kids were able to see through the magic shows), there were only 2-3 worthy acts. Judging from the overall applauds, only the Duo Golden Men Slow-Mo Act was astounding. There was no high point in the show, it was flat from the beginning to the end. It was not worth to pay RMB680/adult for the VIP seat. In fact, if you have watched any of the other 2 circus in Guangzhou or Macau, you can simple skip this and save some money. (Check the photos, I only captured those acts that were worthy.)
The next morning, it was pouring cats and dogs. We were at the theme park entrance 10 minutes after its opening hour at 930am. Despite the heavy downpour, there were thousands of visitors at the park!
At the entrance, we were greeted by a gigantic “Manta Ray” LCD roof canopy. It was massively impressive! Officially opened in March 2014, the RMB20-billion 132-hectare theme park houses 8 different zones. (Loop starting from the right: Ocean Main Street, Dolphin Cove, Amazing Amazon, Ocean Wonders, Polar Adventure, Colourful World, Mount Walrus and Hengqin Sea). Zoned in a circular format, it was very easy to navigate around the theme park – even without a map.
At Dolphin Cove, we came face to face with bottle-nose dolphins in its underwater enclosures.
Next stop at Amazing Amazon, Karen and Tracy took the park’s most scary roller-coaster ride, the Parrot Coaster. At a height of 50m, it is the third tallest ride in the world. Running at a distance of 1,278m, this is also the world’s longest and fastest “wing coaster” ride with a top speed of 108km/h. The girls didn’t know about all this fact before they queued up for it. All we knew was Tracy sprained her neck during the ride.
The Ocean Wonders is majestic and record-breaking! Here lies the world’s largest aquarium (yes, it topples the Singapore Sentosa’s record). Boasting a total water volume of 12.87 million gallons, the attraction holds another 4 new world records for “Largest Underwater Viewing Dome, Largest Aquarium Tank, Largest Aquarium Window and Largest Acrylic Panel”! Impressive marvels!
Here, we took a kid-friendly Deep Sea Odyssey ride. It is an unique 2-seater capsule ride that goes inside the aquarium and volcanic land.
At Polar Adventure, temperature was at 10-14 degree Celsius. We were soaking wet and cold from the rain and we didn’t stay long in this enclosure. Here, we saw the beautiful Beluga whales and the polar bears. At 11am, we went to the Polar Theatre to catch the talented Beluga performance! Like dolphins and orcas, the Beluga whales are very talented with an IQ of 6-year-old. After the show, most of us felt sad for these peaceful mammals as they should be freed and belong in the wild. While it is a good enclosure for the kids to learn more about these magnificent creatures, there should be more sustainable model to house and protect the animals.
Our last stop was at Mount Walrus (we skipped the Colourful World and Hengqin Sea). By then, the adults were fairly drenched and tired. We contemplated at the Walrus Ride and in the end, we all decided to give this a miss. At 3pm, we left the theme park and made our way back to Macau for dinner and a few rounds at the casino.
Like all Wahbiang gatherings, the trip with Karen and Juliana was an enjoyable one. After spending 2 solid days with the kids, I discovered new things about the kids. Zechariah isn’t a shy and gentle boy, he can be a very cheeky, active and adoring child. Alston and Elkan become good travel buddies and they share their toys and iPads. There weren’t any fighting among the kids, just the usual “catch and play” sessions. The ladies took turns to watch over the kids during the travel and shared parenting tips with one another. While the rest of the Wahbiang clan weren’t here, we talked a lot about them throughout the trip.
This trip opened my eyes on future Wahbiang trips. As long as the parents are able to manage their own children and be very discipline in the timing, it is highly feasible to plan a trip with kids and adults. While it might be difficult for every adults and kids to bond with everyone, it is still a wholesome get-together session for the clan – as long as we know how to manage ourselves and learn to divide and conquer.
Let’s plan for the next Wahbiang Trip soon. Looking back, the Perth trip is certainly ambitious but it is still possible. Let’s start with something small. Thanks Karen and Juliana (and kids) for the reunion and all the happy moments! Bet you ladies are well “China-trained” now!