Regarded as the most prestigious award within the amusement and theme park industry, the Applause Award honors a park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with foresight, originality and sound business development. As a member of the Applause Award Board of Governors, John Wood has been privileged to explore, appreciate, and judge a number of outstanding amusement parks over the years. This year was no exception. In June of 2014, John set out for China to visit one of the three nominees, Chimelong Paradise. Here is a recount of his trip. To kick things off, members of the Applause Award board met in the Chimelong Hotel lobby. Here's our rowdy group!
There's already plenty to see, without even leaving the hotel!
But, we're off to see more animals in Chimelong's Safari Park.
The park is home to a plethora of interesting animals, some that I have never seen before. This is a tapir.
Xiangjiang Safari Park is the first in China to adopt the mode of watching animals during self-drive trip. The self-drive area covers nearly 1 million square meters in total. It was built against mountains and with water inside, which forms a unique natural landscape.
The park is divided into two parts, the walking area and the driving area. If you want to drive yourself, the price is 150 Yuan. The drive is a very unique experience! Here a llama decides to cross our path - pretty "wild"!
It's feeding time!
And of course, the safari wouldn't be complete without white tigers!
In the walking area, you can watch animals and their performances for free. These two put on quite the performance!
Here's a picture of a monkey holding a monkey.
"Excuse me sir, just passing through."
As you can see, this was a very "hands on" experience. We even got to feed some panda bears!
The white tigers were fed too, but by professionals. These were some hungry cats!
Here's their newest addition, a baby panda.
While in the walking portion of the Safari Park, I had to go visit some old friends. These are two animatronic proboscis monkeys and a female rhino that Sally Corporation produced just this last year. They're still doing well and lookin' great!
After our animal encounters, it was time to see the gorgeous Chimelong Hengqin Bay Hotel, the largest ocean ecological theme hotel in China. The lobby is just exquisite!
Here is a view from the top.
The Chimelong Hengqin Bay Hotel opened in January and features 1,888 spacious guestrooms and suites. "8" is considered a lucky number in China.
Situated next to the hotel is their Ocean Kingdom Park. Here is fellow board member and former Ripley Entertainment president, Bob Masterson, walking into the magnificent Ocean Kingdom park entrance.
And another shot of Ocean Kingdom's grand entrance, with Liseberg Executive VP, Pelle Johannisson and his lovely wife.
There are eight themed areas inside the park, each representing a part of the ocean. Below you see the beautifully themed entrances to "Ocean Wonders" where the Whale Shark Exhibit Aquarium is located and "Polar Adventure" where they have their Penguin Habitat along with other attractions.
Their aquarium is really quite impressive!
After a long day of exploring all that Chimelong had to offer, I decided to make the short trip to "The Bird's Nest" where the opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games were held.
From there, (after a night's rest of course) I traveled to Beijing where the IAAPA Asia trade show was held. It was a great show for us and a fantastic year for AAE with record attendence of over 9,000 industry professionals.
"No Photography" .... Hey, at least our pirate was popular!
My trip to China was an eventful one, traveling to Guangzhou for wonderful tours of Chimelong's exquisite amusement parks and beautiful hotels, to Beijing for the 2014 AAE trade show, but no trip would be complete without one last "board meeting".