This is the Flag bearer of the OCT theme parks; all of the world’s main tourist attractions in one-third size packed into a single park.
We visit Windows on the slightest provocation. Of course you can go there just to see the attractions. Sometimes the Sydney Opera House looks a bit shabby but the 300 foot high Eiffel Tower is an attraction in its own right and there’s always a new Bavarian style streetscape or Japanese temple suddenly appearing as we go round a new corner.
But, as with so many of Shenzhen’s theme parks, you really haven’t seen Windows until you’ve joined crowds of Shenzheners to take in the variety shows on a hot summer’s night.
Officially, tickets are discounted $50 from 8.00pm but the queue for discounted tickets starts at about 7.30pm. The discount tickets are sold pretty quickly, so you can be inside at the performance by 7.50pm. The mega-show with grand music and large dancing troupes will keep you entertained until 9pm, when every night the programme concludes with a dramatic fireworks display.
We tried this recently. It was the Shenzhen International Beer festival. You knew it was a beer festival because, as you walked up the stairs to the ticket office, a Mannekin Pis had joined the statues of Hammurabi, Shiva and the ever-present Venus de Milo and David. Now we know beer festivals and we particularly know enough about mannekins pis to know that this one, at about four feet high on a ten foot high barrel, was a very disappointing example of its genre. Oh, yes! We went on several occasions to the justly famous Qingdao International Beer Festival. Tent after tent, hall after hall of rheumy-eyed red-faced barely capacitated men and occasionally women sprawled across tables and sometimes paths. A pervasive smell of stale beer with snatches of extremely dubious Chinese songs wafting through the air. And above it all, the daddy of all mannekins pis, thirty feet tall on a thirty foot high barrel and producing a true Niagara, most of which was contained within the barrel. And his Shenzhen brother couldn’t even produce a piddle.
So we wended our way, past the Eiffel tower and the Trevi Fountain into a large Bavarian style hall called depending on the entrance either Caesar’s Palace or Kaiser’s Palace.
Inside it was a bit like being locked up in a Harry Potter movie. High ceilings and long rows of benches. Being Shenzhen, the crowd was better behaved and more bourgeois than what we’d come to expect from Qingdao. Husbands, wives, lots and lots of kids and even the occasional granny. The women were drinking cider, which seemed to have just hit town. Having suffered serious consequences in past lives from drinking a couple of pints of cider, we decided to buy some delicious Taiwanese sausages, sit back and watch events unfold.
A puzzling element of the crowd was large groups of pubescent girls in uniforms announcing them as members of amateur dancing troupes. Performers, perhaps? But they were on the wrong side of the stage and their faces exhibited a curious mixture of boredom and expectancy.
Then things started to happen. Loud rock music, lots of smoke and a multi-screen display that announced that we were about to be entertained by Las Vegas Passionate Dancing. The girls were suddenly alert. Out onto the stage burst five European women clad in large feathers and three European men primping up the cat walk wearing flimsy shirts through which their very hirsute chests could be clearly seen.
The girls erupted into screams, tears and general displays of undifferentiated emotion. We now realised what the police at the front of the hall were for as they bodily removed the more overwrought members of the audience.
What do I do when I’m thinking of your love, the men sang. Loosen my shirt seemed to be the answer and several more young girls were carried swooning from the hall.
Goot Yeevenink said the MC, dressed in a yellow dinner jacket with a red bow tie.
Goot Yeevenink screamed the girls in reply. Something told us that they’d been here before.
He then proceeded to dance up the catwalk singing a Britney Spears song, you know, the one where she dresses up as a schoolgirl and sings Baby baby. The Slavic turn of the singer’s English had suddenly been replaced with the tones of New Orleans. The original beat had been transformed into an altogether more oompah oompah beat. As he went he threw flowers made from newspaper into the crowd to the screams of the remnant girls.
Meanwhile we noticed that the gait of the women who had been demurely sipping cider had started to get a little staggery and some had abandoned their propriety and were starting to join the girls in tearing bits of the performers already skimpy see-through shirts. The faces of the police had begun to show real dismay. There’s nothing scarier than a middle-aged Shenzhen woman in full flight. So we decided that discretion was really the better part of valour, and that we should make an exit.
We slipped past the struggling police, through the doors and out into the heat of the night. The Piazza Navona seemed quite inviting so we took a seat and a Kingway beer under the gates of Nineveh. Peace at last.
The sound of music started to waft through the Piazza and we could see laser lights shining above the silhouettes of the monumental gates so we decided to investigate. Through the Arc de Triomphe, past the pillars of Persepolis and under the gates of the Temple of Ra and a truly amazing sight greeted us.
We’d seen the amphitheatre before but it hadn’t actually occurred to us that it was anything more than a piece of architecture. But in the heat of an August night it had been transformed into modern version of a Greek theatrical performance. This amphitheatre is big. Several thousand people, family groups, some professional, some quite clearly peasants on an excursion to the big city, were gathered in noisy appreciation of the performance which was unfolding on the stage. When we say big, we mean big. The stage seemed to be several miles away, although inadequacies in vision were amply made up by the enormous video screens on either side of the performers, which clarified details not available to those of us who were right in the back row. Scale also applied to the performance itself. Low cost labour means that everything can be done with casts of literally thousands like hasn’t been seen in the west for decades. And it’s very good: professional, technically brilliant and with practised performers.
The performance we were watching was a balletic interpretation of the fall of Troy. We never counted less than fifty Trojan or Greek hoplites on the stage at any one time. The costumes were splendid and authentic, with great red plumes rising out of brilliantly shining armour. The Trojan horse rolled on and off the stage; fights broke out, very Chinese in style and execution and highly dramatic. Artificial smoke drifted across the stage and music boomed all around.
Then the Greek theme was replaced with Vedic costumes and an interpretation of the Ramayana as the mood became more lyrical.
At 8:45pm fireworks erupted from the Eiffel Tower, the lights went up and a parade of different nationalities on floats circulated for the grand finale.
Make sure you set aside one evening of your visit for the Windows show.
Windows on the World.
Address Shennan Ave OCT
Open 9 am 10 pm
Entry is $120 discounted to $50 after about 7.30 pm Metro: Shi Jie Zhi Chuang line 1, Exit I or J Buses 101,113,201,204,209,223,301