Sat, Aug 21, 2004 - Page 15 News List

Time for Speedos and bikinis

Taiwan has three first class water parks and, as summer fades, it's a final chance to enjoy the ride

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER


Few adults get excited about whizzing down a slide at a playground, but add water to the equation and suddenly people are pushing past the kids to queue up. Something about water slide parks makes them enjoyable for people of all ages -- and a recent trip to Formosa Fun Coast, in Bali near Danshui, confirmed this. A look around the park at closing time noted that a majority of the people left were well over 30.

The first of its kind in Taiwan, Formosa was constructed in Taipei County in 1989. Ten years later, Taichung and eventually Kaohsiung slid into action and opened international-class water parks of their own.

It was raining in Taipei but after a 30-minute drive out of the cloudy valley into Bali it was perfect sliding weather. Even on a Tuesday afternoon there were enough people out to cause a bit of wait at the more popular slides.

The longest queue, still less than 10 minutes, was at the rafting tube slides, with people splashing into one another like bumper cars on the way down. Next to the tube slides is the Jet Stream, which requires visitors to pass a swim test before going down the short slide that drops 20m into a deep pool of water.

The fastest slide and the one you "get the most air on," according to two young, waterslide veterans, is in the "Bermuda Triangle" area. It is a 300m slide with a freefalling drop, and on first go it's the thought of falling out that makes it exciting. After a few times, however, the fear subsides and mastering the skill of gaining speed, or air, becomes an obsession.

For a break from the slides, or for more family entertainment, there is a relaxing 20-minute tube ride, a water play area and a shallow pool area with water guns and other equipment suitable for young children.

The Caribbean-themed park has suffered some natural wear and tear over the past 15 years but apart from the dressing rooms, which could do with a refit, the rest of the park's 3.64 hectares is in great shape. Divided into different areas, the facility accommodates every need, from food, drinks, souvenirs, and first aid, in case someone did fall out of a slide, which to date hasn't happened. There are plenty of Western and Chinese style fast food outlets offering everything from hotdogs and French fries to chou doufu (臭豆腐) and barbecue. There is also a fair selection of ice cream and beverage stands.

Formosa sees approximately 500,000 visitors a year, most of whom turn out on the weekend. To avoid long queues, weekday or evening excursions are best. Evening sliding also provides for a good view of the coast and Bali skyline.

"It might be the oldest, but Formosa does its best to keep visitors coming back for more," said Chen Yu-cheng (陳玉城) a public relations officer with the park.

During its 15-year history, the park has added 10 new slides and six new facilities.

It took a few years but when Taichung got around to constructing its own water park they did so with vehemence. Part of the Yamay Resort, Mala Bay planners went all out contracting several foreign and Taiwan companies to build "the number one water park in Taiwan," according to Tsai Mei-ling (蔡美玲) a representative with Yamay Resort.

There are plenty of long, winding, fast slides, but the biggest attraction is Big Wave, which is Asia's largest wave pool with waves up to 2.4m in height, Tsai said. One advantage to a day spent at Mala Bay is E-band, a waterproof electronic device that allows people to put money into an account that can be debited throughout the day, thus eliminating the hassle of carrying around cash. It'ssomething every water park would benefit from.

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