Cool down this hot season with a trip to water parks
THAILAND’S HOT, hot summer is less than a month away heralding the arrival of the Songkran Festival during which Thais cannot resist giving each other a good soaking. Much of the country is however suffering a prolonged drought so perhaps a better way of cooling down and drenching friends this year is to head to somewhere that has plenty of water all year round – the ubiquitous water parks.
Water parks have mushroomed all over the country in recent years, most of them boasting world-class water slides and other features built to international standards.
The newest kid on the block is Scenical World Khao Yai, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, which is billing itself as a one-stop holiday destination and is home to an amusement park, water park, shopping mall, two resorts and a convention centre.
It’s the latest business venture of Thawsirit Sivakom, who has been involved in the resort business in Khao Yai for more than a decade. To date he’s spent more than Bt1 billion developing 79-rai of prime land, which is now home to the Greenery Park Mall, the Splash World water park and the Life Park.
“I started with a small resort 10 years ago and have slowly added a range of fun activities including an ATV trail, a mini theme park and water attractions. The feedback from guests has been so positive that I decided to go all out and develop the Scenical World project,” says Thawsirit, who is managing director of The Scenical Group.
“I know Khao Yai well and firmly believe it has the potential to be a world-class tourist destination. I’m aware that I’m a latecomer to this business but I’ve been thinking about Scenical World for five years now so it’s hardly a new idea. However, it is a mega project so it was necessary to find the funds to realise it.”
With the mountains as the backdrop and large trees all around, the outdoor Greenery Park Mall has been designed with a nod to the California Gold Rush, and is home to several renowned restaurant chains and fashion outlets including Oakley, Paul Frank, Exact and 71 Export.
“Lifestyles have changed. People like to hang out at a cafe or bar after a meal. The Greenery Park Mall will be the centre of nightlife for everyone in this area. It’s almost completed and should be fully open in the next few months. We’ll celebrate by offering a colourful fountain show every night.” Thawsirit adds.
A wristband scan is all that’s needed to enter Splash World and enjoy the 15 thrilling loops and slides. Highlights include the 180-metre-long Splash Coaster that climbs, twists and turns before making a tummy-turning plunge and the Tantrum Alley, a water tornado and drops you through an elevated chute, down banked turns, through radical twists and dips before dunking you in the pool.
Standing as high as a four-storey building, the Space Bowl takes you on a ride of high-speed twists and turns in a gravitational roller coaster while the Boomerango hurtles you downwards towards a massive splashdown. The gigantic Wave Pool is mild in comparison and the perfect place to ride the waves.
“I think of water parks as the golf courses for young people. Like golf courses, they all have different challenges and that makes them interesting. At the heart of any water park business is attention to good service, safety and cleanliness. If visitors feel happy, they’ll come back,” Thawsirit says.
“When my business becomes a success, everyone will be happy. If it fails, then Khao Yai will become a case study and no new projects will be initiated for the next decade.”
If Life Park’s popularity is any indication, the project should indeed be a success. Designed to appeal to the whole family, the adventure park has just undergone a complete upgrade, and now features 20 extreme attractions. They include the Super Pendulum that allows you to test the theory of gravity, the adrenaline-pumping Sky Diver free fall ride and the X Max slingshot that catapults you 60 metres into the air.
The kids’ playground has an old-fashioned Carousel where the little ones ride on fairy tale-inspired animals, the Jelly Fish that spins them round as they explore the Ocean and the Everslide, a sled ride down a miniature hillock.
“I want to offer several activities in my properties so as to cater to everyone’s lifestyle. Stay here and you really will enjoy your holidays, I promise,” Thawsirit says.
Those preferring sea and sand to mountains can instead head to Pattaya, home to Cartoon Network Amazone and such well-loved characters as Ben Ten and the Powerpuff Girls. The first Cartoon Network theme park in the world, it’s operated by Thailand-based developer Amazon Fall.
The water park is spread over 35 rai of prime coastal land and features more than 150-tailored water slides, designed by leading Turkish manufacturer Polin Waterparks.
“My boss is Canadian and has lived in Thailand for decades. He wants to draw tourists back to Pattaya and promote it as a family destination,” Amazon Fall's deputy chief operating officer Kingkaew Puengjesada told The Sunday Nation shortly after its opening.
“The water park is perfect for family outings thanks to the wide range of entertainment on offer. Our water attractions have been built by a leading supplier and meet international safety standards. Our design is top class too and we were recently recognised with the Edge Design Award from Las Vegas. Our staff are thoroughly professional and on hand all over the park to take care of visitors.”
Cartoon Network Amazone is divided into 10 zones. The most popular rides include the Omniverse, as high as an eight-storey building and home to six of the fastest and steepest water roller coasters, and the gravity-defying Goop Loop roller coaster where you clamber into an enclosed capsule to drop into a 12-metre free-fall that generates maximum G-force. The XLR8TOR is the park’s tallest and steepest, drawing its inspiration from Ben 10’s lightning-quick reflexes and ability to reach speeds in excess of 300mph.
On the other side of the Gulf of Thailand and also about two hours from Bangkok is the Vana Nava Hua Hin, a water park with an Adventure Zone and a Water Jungle.
“Vana Nava has the largest, longest and most thrilling rides in Thailand. It should also be considered as the safest water park, as we have 160 lifeguards and a general manager with more than 27 years of experience in water and amusement operations,” says Proudputh Liptapanlop, managing director of Proud Real Estate.
“It’s also the most high-tech, with RFID [radio-frequency identification] wristbands distributed to all visitors. And it’s eco-friendly too, with 200,000 plants and trees, a top-quality water management system and the highest water quality. We have rope course harnesses to guarantee safety and our team will guide visitors both on the walls and on body boards and surf boards.”
The Adventure attractions include a 13.4-metre-high rope course, a 13-metre climbing wall and a double-flow attraction while the Water Jungle is home to 19 thrilling water slides and roller coasters, including the 18-metre-high Free Fall slide that creates a stomach-bouncing 80-degree drop at a speed of 50 kilometres per hour and the Aqualoop vertical looping slide with speeds of up to 60km.
The Abyss offers four or five near-vertical spins before plummeting into a huge funnel at a terrifying speed and the Wave Pool and Coconut Beach evoke a holiday mood with real sand.
And Thailand isn’t yet finished with water parks. Scheduled to open at the end of March, just in time for Songkran, is the brand new Ramayana Water Park in Jomtien.
WHALE OF A TIME
>>Scenical World Khao Yai is on Thanarat Road, Nakhon Ratchasima and open daily from 9am to 6pm.
>>Tickets range from Bt680 to Bt890 for Splash World and Bt200 to Bt1,250 for Life Park.
>>Call (02) 661 2999 or visit the Scenical World Khao Yai page on Facebook.
>>Cartoon Network Amazone is in Bang Saray to the south of Pattaya. It’s open daily from 10am to 6pm.
>>Admission is Bt890 for children, students and seniors, Bt1,290 for Thai citizens and residents, including expatriates with work permits or student visas, Bt1,590 for foreign adults and Bt1,190 for foreign children.
>>Call (038) 237 797 or visit www.CartoonNetworkAmazone.com
>>Vana Nava Hua Hin is five minutes from the city centre. The Water Jungle Zone is open daily from 10am to 6pm and the Adventure Zone until 9pm.
>>Tickets cost Bt1,000 for adults, Bt600 for children and Bt2,600 for a family of two adults and two children.
>>For more information, visit www.VanaNavaHuaHin.com.