• Josh Garman

I had an entire theme park to myself

After spending some time exploring temples with my Russian friend Evgeniy I woke ready to explore somewhere new. I can’t even begin to explain how great it is to wake up everyday without a plan feeling like you can do anything. Nowhere to be, nothing productive to be achieved, just simply seeing what the day throws at you. Today I wanted to go somewhere a little unusual.

I had an entire theme park to myself
I had an entire theme park to myself

After staying in one place for a while you start getting a better sense of your surroundings and slowly suggestions or stories come your way from others. These small snippets from locals, when acted upon bring you to beautifully rich and unexplored locations. I’m a big fan of local spots and I’d heard about one I thought would make a great Youtube video. A Shanghai theme park plonked in the middle of an island close to the city. The chance to see what the islands round me had to offer felt tangible, the thought of taking a boat adding to the appeal. So without any further planning than waking up at 9am and finding the location on my Chinese maps app I headed straight out without even filling my water bottle.

This was my second time visiting Shanghai and it was starting to show. I had formed a new routine out here with my knowledge of the local area. Each morning I woke up, headed down the lift (which I’m still scared of) and popped into the shop next door to get my breakfast. Mornings in China usually consist of a wide variety of what we would consider dinner foods, some totally bizarre to us such a tea eggs. Which are eggs soaked in a pan of tea bags overnight. My breakfast however may have seemed a little strange to the Chinese as I would eat two mandarin cakes every morning. They just seemed to be the perfect combination of flavours for me and I loved them so much I have many poses of me taking photos with them across China. Seriously check them out and save yourself from the tea eggs…

With my cakes in hand I sped through the busy city streets towards the train station. Having once found the crowds overwhelming and unmanageable it was now completely normal to me. I weaved through them, mostly graceful but sometimes bumping head first into someone. All’s to play for in the city that never sleeps. I’d got up early expecting the journey to take me an hour and a half. It took 3. I wasn’t complaining though as I had an adventure heading out from the skyscrapers towards the ocean before grabbing a green tea ice cream from Mcdonalds and jumping on a small ferry to the island.

I had figured out navigating my way round China by now and got better at it but there was always a slight hurdle of confusion. As with all out of city trips gradually English signs peater off leaving you with nothing but Mandarin signs and your hand signals to show a boat or some waves.

Eventually you board a boat not really knowing if it’s the right one and that’s what makes it exciting. You could be headed over to Japan for all you know but I was prepared for that scenario. The ferry bounced along the way giving a satisfying rhythm to the cabin sending me off the sleep. A quick nap was well needed and as we came into the mooring a fellow passenger woke me on this otherwise empty boat. I headed straight out into the free air and got a cheap taxi to the entrance of this place. Being Winter the man was surprised I wanted to visit but I insisted I had heard good things.

Arriving at the entrance of the theme park there was no one in sight. Not a single person cueing. I walked my way through the rope barriers, starting to worm back and forth before getting bored and ducking under the rest. I came to the ticket desk where a Chinese man looked as if he was about to fall asleep. He grunted something in Mandarin to me before letting me in charging me next to nothing. I headed through the turnstiles and into my first Chinese theme park.

As I entered I joined onto a long walkway out into the centre of the park. Not a single person in sight. Tied above my head were colourful umbrellas, hundreds of them acting as a canopy above the walkway. Beneath them strange looking electric cars were parked up next to each other ready to tour guest around. I turned right and took a woodland walkway without knowing where it would head. More and more it began feeling like Jurassic park. The trees stretch overhead and it felt more rainforest than anything else. The cars at the entrance, the abandoned park. It was convincing myself more and more that the dinosaurs has escaped and eaten all the guests. The trail took me further into the forest and after half an hour I wondered if I’d see anything. Then from in the distance a sound began to grow.

Out in the forest I heard a song playing and thought it must be a sign of people. I stepped off the path which is what you should never do in movies. I headed through the undergrowth towards the sound. After a while I felt rather lost but managed to find the source of the sounds. Out in the middle of nowhere there was a clearing in the woods. There was nothing around except a squirrel with a speaker in it’s belly. It blasted a Chinese pop song and everything began feeling a little eerie. I pushed on without direction and eventually came to what I think was the main area of the park.

Every attraction had been closed down as if was abandoned. A dragon rollercoaster sat unused. The cart stuck to the tracks as it headed up a steep bend. Beside that were the dodgems scattered across a shiny floor. I wondered round and all the rides were the same. What I paid for to get in I’m not sure?

I came to a big lake which during the summer must have occupied many tourists from the city but now all the pedal boats had been dragged up onto the bank and left upside down. I carried on and found some men manning ride booths. They sat in there staring out of a thick plate of glass. Each one I tried and using google translate did my best to ask whether I could go on anything. They all shook their heads angrily and pushed me away.

The whole place was odd I couldn’t figure out whether it was running or not and it was business was definitely not good. The rain began to set in and I decided it was time to leave. Sticking to a path this time in hopes of getting out quick the rain got so heavy the path began flooding. I headed for shelter under one of the coasters putting my camera away to protect it. It was all too tempting not to do a little urban exploring so I weaved my way around the coaster and underneath the tracks to see how it all worked. I climbed up and peaked into the controls too before sitting in the cart and pretending I was a rich kid with his own theme park but no friends.

I was doing my best to leave at this point wandering along the path hoping for an interaction with someone. A horse and cart pulled along the footpath past me but that was the only meeting I had experienced all day. Two Chinese men nodded at me as they passed. It took me 3 hours to leave in the end, a total maze really. I’m still convinced that people that go to that place never find their way out. I added it to a list of some of the strangest places I’ve visited and grabbed the ferry back looking over my footage from the day. I was determined to make a video of my very uneventful day, I mostly had shots of me walking somewhere before shouting ‘I’m completely lost!’ but I’d make something work. I always do.

It was time for me to get out of Shanghai I needed to see some more of China! In my next blog I talk about my trip to Suzhou in search of Rainbow Toast. Don't forget to sign up in the top right hand corner to comment and receive updates!

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