The other OCT theme parks have claims to culture. Happy Valley is an unashamed Disneyland. And even without Mickey and Minnie it’s a good one.

Let’s put this in perspective. Its greatest proponents will tell you that Hong Kong Disneyland, at 35 odd acres is small, crowded and a bit hassled. Happy Valley is several times its size and has a full hand of rides and attractions all set in beautiful gardens.

To be frank, at our advanced years we’re a little ashamed at how much we enjoy fun parks like Happy Valley so we’ll draw an embarrassed veil over most of the attractions. However there are a couple that shouldn’t go unmentioned. The flume ride is a master of its type and generates the biggest splash that we’ve ever seen when it comes to ground at the ride’s end. This causes unwary observers to be soaked to the skin in a very satisfactory fashion. And we’re probably not giving away too many secrets if we tell you that you should be sure to wear the plastic raincoat that they issue you with. This is because if you manage to survive the ride relatively dry we challenge you, a kind gentleman at the end of the ride sprays you with a large hose.

There is also the Playa Maya. This is a water park kept slightly separate from the rest of the park, much the same as any other water park except for the wonderful Maya style carvings, which add a touch of the mysterious to the experience. It’s only open in summer.

There is also a 4D movie. We’d only ever seen one 4D movie before which was at Hong Kong Disneyland and we thought it was terrific. We loved the 3D effects, the sound, the rumbling seats, the whiffs of perfume and worse and the sprinkles of water. But this was so much better. We won’t spoil it by telling you the plot.

Other than that, the park is divided into sections in imitation of Disneyland. There’s a pirate section, a western mine section, the Playa Maya etc. And like the other OCT parks, there are shows, great shows leaning heavily on Chinese pop. After 7.30 at night you can get into the park at a discount to take in just the shows.

Address Qiaocheng W Rd OCT

Open 9 am 10 pm Entry is $150

Metro: Shi Jie Zhi Chuang line 1, Exit A, Qiao Cheng Bei line 2 Buses 101, 105, 113, 204,209,223,301


Strictly speaking this isn’t a theme park but it’s in the theme park area and under basically the same management. An area of mangrove swamp and fish ponds has been converted into an up-market entertainment and shopping area. The centrepiece is a large lake around which are ranged bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and even an artificial beach. Water is the theme; apart from the lakes, small watercourses snake through the park through lush vegetation and under traditional Chinese bridges. Kids run round just enjoying themselves and we love it. A favorite with everybody is one of the best computer controlled fountains we’ve ever seen it seems to go for miles and there are always kids jumping through it or just getting wet. It’s hard to think of a better place for just sitting out and having a drink.

We’ve already mentioned that the management of the OCT Group are eco-fans. We have a bit of trouble working out exactly what that means in the case of some of their properties, but here it’s abundantly clear. They have conserved 685,000 square metres of wetland including 40,000 square metres of mangroves, and set it aside as a migrating bird breeding centre. Bird watcher hides have been constructed in four places; one is a former coastal defence pillbox. Shenzhen is one of the world’s great migrating bird centres. In the high season, March, this should not be missed.

Address: Baishi Rd. OCT

Website: http://www.octbay.com/category.aspx?NodeID=177


This splendid building, known as the Spring Cocoon, was the centrepiece of the 2011 Universiade Games. These games are held every four years and in 2011 it was Shenzhen’s turn. Now you may think that a sports meeting, particularly a relatively minor one like the Universiade, is not a big deal. But in China events like this are highly political. Supporting holding events like this means supporting Reform and Openness, so an enormous amount of money and effort was expended. Apart from directly sports-related facilities, the whole city got a welcome facelift. One hundred miles of metro was finished, all the freeway pedestrian overpasses were redesigned, and thousands of acres of parks were built. If your apartment building was on a main road, you got a visit from the Potemkin Village brigade with a full can of paint.

We think that the Spring Cocoon is an architectural triumph. But its construction wasn’t without controversy. There were two basic concepts offered, a Chinese one, a confection of seashell shapes and the Japanese one of the cocoon which ultimately won the contract. The stadium is now used for sports events and particularly for rock concerts.

3001 Binhai Ave. Nanshan 3001


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