In 2006, during my first trip out of the country with my mom, we went to Hong Kong’s famous Ocean Park, along with another couple from our tour group. I was an adrenaline junkie back then (not so much now since I got into a go karting accident which banged me up pretty bad), and I wanted to try this really cool ride called The Abyss Turbo Drop, which takes you 20 floors above the ground for a massive drop, then brings you back up again so that it can drop you back down again for an even stronger impact. My mom explicitly discouraged me to go on it, (read — she’ll be more nervous than I), as did the couple from our tour. Outnumbered, I regretfully decided to leave the park without fulfilling this particular goal, always wanting to go back to complete my unfinished business.
So, fast forward to 2011, I learned that Enchanted Kingdom (in Sta. Rosa Laguna, Philippines) recently launched this ride called EKstreme, which is pretty similar to The Abyss. Heart pumping, I braced myself for mind blowing excitement. I was pretty nervous at first (my mom was still with me but she was more mellow now so she had no qualms about me going on the ride this time), but when I saw that the ride was pretty short, I decided to go in. My dad, another adrenaline junkie, joined me for the ride. My brother, not a big fan of theme park rides, opted to stay on the ground as the photographer.
I had high expectations for the EKstreme Tower. After all, it took me five years to finally get on a ride such as this one. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as exciting as it appeared. The ascent takes roughly 30 seconds to the top of the 150-foot tower. The drop only takes approximately seven seconds. You hardly feel it but you do feel the brake way before the thrilling part is over. And then, that’s it. The ride is over. It doesn’t take you back up, it doesn’t give the riders a chance to digest the rush before they are shepherded out of the ride area by the staff, and the next batch is ushered in.
I admit that ride had its moments, but its mostly psychological. While ascending (all of 30 seconds), riders will feel the lift and feel themselves growing farther and farther from the ground, their only solid connection the hydraulic safety bars attached to their seats. It’s pretty scary to dangle that high up with only open air surrounding you.But instead of allowing the riders to absorb the impact of dangling a couple of storeys from the ground and leaving a bit of drama for the drop, the ride was too quick to release the vessel leading to a very abrupt descent and an overanxious brake system that slows the ride down halfway down the tower. The ride could have benefited from a second ascent and a second drop, but that’s just my opinion. Compared to the Space Shuttle (which is the best roller coaster ride I’ve been on to date), which draws the carts upward and lingers for an extended amount of time before finally releasing them, the EKstreme ride was lacking in bravado and the element of suspense that would have made the ride way more exciting. It had the potential. Believe me, all it needs is a bit of tweaking to be at par with The Abyss.
All in all, it was a relatively fun experience, even if it didn’t quite fulfill my expectations. I might really have to go back to Ocean Park one of these days to face off with my unchallenged nemesis.
But don’t let this review keep you from visiting Enchanted Kingdom. Rest assured that the park still has a lot to offer despite this dud. There’s still the Space Shuttle, with newer more secure carts, the giant Ferris Wheel, the Flying Fiesta, Anchor’s Away and Rialto, Log Jam, Rio Grande Rapids (where one cannot escape being drenched) and the 4D theater. After all, EK is still #2 on my list of Best Theme Parks in Asia next only to my happiest place on earth, Hong Kong Disneyland.