Get Soaked! A Look Into Dongguan’s Hottest Waterpark
Refusing to spend too much time outside, the repetition between running to work and running home is incredibly boring, but really the only way to avoid the summer heat. Want to get out and play in the sun? Come join us for a day out…
The kids are screaming, heavy sunlight is pouring down and nearby endless streams of water soak you if you aren’t vigilant for even a moment. Smack dab in the middle of Dongguan’s latest mass entertainment effort, you might be thanking your lucky stars that these three scenarios aren’t occurring in your living room.
Depending on where you’re from, you might have grown up spending lazy winter vacations—hiding from the bitter cold external—soaking up totally safe halogen rays and relaxing at plastic indoor beaches. For those poor landlocked persons with hot summers, outdoor environments were even better.
It also helps that her management company, who dramatically grabbed ahold of the reins of the Palm Valley location, just invested 26 million RMB to bring the part up to modern standards.
Waterparks around the globe have become quite an institution, and perhaps even a necessity to maintain sanity during the cold parts of the year and an exciting travel destination to cool off during hotter seasons.
Both ride designers and parks, alike, take the building of the latest attractions extremely seriously, even going so far as to describe their collective competition as an arms race. From seemingly suicidal drops to stomach churning loops, park owners make it their life goal to keep people coming back, constantly looking for that nearer-death feeling, while quietly assuring themselves it’s all totally safe.
Though Dongguan is free from the cold gloomy climate afflicting more northern territories, the routinely unbearable summer temperatures still force many to stay inside or simply melt. Maybe you’re tired of the indoors, but wonder how you can comfortably play outside? How about deep within a pool?
You wouldn’t think it in easy-going Dongguan, but the sweepstakes for the best local park has already begun with the recent renovation of Zonglügu Shuicheng, or Palm Valley Water Park, in Dongcheng.
For some time, you might have felt that the captains of the water industry simply forgot to give good ol’ Dongguan a proper place to swim and play. And you would have been right, until now.
The rebirth of a lonely oasis
A little more than 10 years ago, the groundbreaking for Dongguan’s first waterpark initiated what many believed to be a watershed moment that would bring countless other parks like it to the city. However, this excitement wouldn’t last long.
Just a few years after opening, Shui Ding Dang’s numbers had run flat and bankruptcy followed. It had violated the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) and tried to be more than just a waterpark by bringing in a spa element and operating year-round. Though it hadn’t been a long term success, we should still heavily appreciate the market influence. Just then, a competitor perhaps sensing a market ripe for the picking, began construction on their own slice of watery glory.
“The original location for the Palm Valley Park was built by the government and operated in cooperation with what used to be Sofitel. After some years of operation, a new managing company bought the estate, but made little investment to update and upgrade the park. This left many people disappointed with the quality of the park and it became less popular,” said Jessica Yang, Operating Director at Palm Valley.
Having worked in the amusement industry for a significant amount of time, Ms. Yang seems to have a boatload of ideas to turn the crumbling park around. It also helps that her management company, who dramatically grabbed ahold of the reins of the Palm Valley location, just invested 26 million RMB to bring the park up to modern standards. Still, there’s the age-old adage that throwing money at a problem doesn’t always fix it.
To her credit, Ms. Yang openly admits that it will be an uphill battle to win back the trust of guests who previously had bad experiences and haven’t quickly forgotten the reputation of the park.
“A lot of people used to complain about the service and equipment at the park before we took over. Now we have upgraded a lot of the little things that previously drew complaints, including nearly hiring double the amount of staff,” added Ms. Yang.
Going down the rabbit hole
Palm Valley itself is set in a fairly compact space when compared to other parks around China and the world, which may disappoint those used to sprawling territories. Indeed, this is perhaps another reason for its earlier struggles.
To combat the limited real estate, their designers have maximized every bit of available space combining slides with pools and setting slides upon slides, which sort of projects a feeling that the park is just one big ride. Fitted with various slides from the ominous sounding Gorge Slide to the friendlier Rainbow Slide, it’s not exactly a place to simply stand in a pool to cool off.
Unlike other parks that work a great deal to make their locations look tropical with concrete waterfalls and artificially growing vegetation, Palm Valley really is a palm valley.
Perhaps most exciting of the new works is a huge, open cylinder called The Typhoon, which aims to offer all of the excitement of the real storm, but none of the harmful destruction. After riders leave the landing, a fast drop quickly increases their speed where they suddenly enter a nearly enclosed pipe and climb high up the walls before falling back down and exiting out the bottom.
Unlike other parks that work a great deal to make their locations look tropical with concrete waterfalls and artificially growing vegetation, Palm Valley really is a palm valley. Thick jungle encapsulates the park and creates a pleasurable sense of isolation from the busy world lurking somewhere below. This will be great for anyone living in Dongguan, but those living in Dongcheng and Nancheng will especially appreciate the prime location, all just east of Qifeng Mountain.
Besides the rides, Palm Valley management envision a place that offers a lot more than wild children and their parents swimming and plowing down slides. A sizeable amount of effort and planning is being placed into what they call cultural events.
“Dongguan has too many spas and so the people aren’t as familiar with the concept of a high quality waterpark. We’re trying to give them something different,” said Ms. Yang. Over the course of their season (opening July 10 – early October), an interesting variety of events will include concerts, performances and most intriguing, jet shows, which are jet packs that—quite fittingly for a waterpark—use spraying water to fly.
Interestingly, while food will be offered at a Taiwanese snack bar towards the middle of the park, alcohol will not be sold. In part, it makes sense as you consider the poor coordination the last time you had a long night out, but for older people uninterested in sliding, it’s one less opportunity to support the bustling town of TsingTao.
Since the park does not strictly forbid bringing food in, go ahead and make a picnic out of the day, especially if you plan to spend a significant amount of time there (opening hours: 10 am – 10:30 pm).
Palm Valley isn’t the only place around, but currently it’s poised to be at least one of the best thanks to it’s attention to detail. The park will also be partnering with the Dongguan Tourism Bureau to offer special day trip packages, in addition to a convenient shuttle service to and from Hong Kong.
Tickets will start at 108 RMB/person on weekdays and 118 RMB/person on weekends. Special family ticket pricing will later become available. Season passes can also be purchased for unlimited visits at 299 RMB/person. Here’s a tip: if you plan to go more than a couple times throughout the summer, buy a season pass for maximum efficiency, and pleasure, of course.
Unlike the underwhelming bust roughly a decade ago, let’s hope this new excitement for waterparks around Dongguan is here to stay and gives rise to a hugely popular new way to spend spare summer moments. Here’s to hoping the lines aren’t too long!
Photos by Chidong Lee
MORE PARKS IN DONGGUAN
Jinzhu Bay Water Park
Tickets: 50 RMB/adult
Address: Inside Jianhui Farm, Sima Village, Changping
Lemin Water Park, Nancheng
Tickets: 60 RMB/adult
Address: Inside Shuilian Mountian Lemin Theme Park
Songshan Lake Dream Garden Water Park
Tickets: 60 RMB/child
Address: Dream Garden, Xincheng Ave, Songshan Lake
South China Mall Water Park
Tickets: 35 RMB/adult
Address: No. 10, Wanjiang Rd South, South China Mall, Wanjiang