Thrills, chills and fun at a mobile carnivalINCHEON ― Carnival. The word conjures up images of Ferris wheels, cotton candy, exciting rides, street clowns and fortunetellers in dark tents ― in short, all things wondrous and fun.
Europe’s largest “mobile amusement park,” the World Carnival, has come to Korea for the first time on its tour to provide thrills and entertainment to the public. Like a moving circus that’s come to town, an entire amusement park has been brought from Europe in sections and reassembled here.
Situated in Songdo’s international district in the Incheon Bay area, the World Carnival includes 38 rides and numerous amusement venues in an area of nearly 100,000 square meters (25 acres).
As one enters the World Carnival, one can’t help being amazed at the sheer size of the two large Ferris wheels, situated on the far left and right sides of the park area.
To think that these are actually assembled rides, having traveled across the world in super-sized ship containers, is mind-boggling. But have no fear, carnival officials say: Despite being reassembed, the rides are entirely safe. “We make sure that our safety standards are flawless because if there were to be any accidents, we would be out of business,” said Anna Kim, public relations officer with the World Carnival.
There are 250 technicians and engineers from Europe who came to assemble the rides, as well as 700 local staff.
The “Top Buzz” ride, which spins 17 meters (56 feet) above the ground, is one of only four such existing rides in the world. The “Reverse Bungee” ride enables people to be tossed as high as 60 meters up in the air before plummeting to earth in a free fall. The “Formula 1 Slide” is the world’s largest assembled slide at 56 meters long.
As I was trying out the “Euro Coaster” ride ― which was made in the Netherlands ― I asked the man who buckled me into my seat if this was going to be a scary experience. He replied, “I am Polish. I can speak Polish, German and Italian, but no English!”
And then I was off, spinning around on the high roller coaster, screaming at the top of my lungs in Korean. Opening my eyes between the downhill and uphill segments of the ride, which came at dizzying speed, I could see the body of water surrounding the port of Incheon. It was thrilling for a second, before I went down again amid screams to catch a glimpse of the sea while speeding down the tracks.
The “Giant Wheel,” a 56-meter-radius Ferris wheel, is an enclosed, air-conditioned gondola that moves quickly, where riders can get a bird’s eye view of the entire park as well as the Incheon Bay area.
On this particular weekday, a few groups of families, consisting of mothers and their children, as well as groups of male and female friends were wandering around the park grounds. There were no long lines at the rides. On the weekends, more than 20,000 people come to the carnival, but only about 800 visit on weekdays, Ms. Kim said.
As a group of young female friends emerged from the “G-Force” ride, which spins 360 degrees, Lee Jeong-mi, 31, was crying and trembling. “I just went through heaven and hell,” Ms. Lee said. Her friends were laughing and also shaking, saying it was scary and electrifying at the same time. “I’m just glad I’m alive,” said her friend, Lim Hae-min, who added that Ms. Lee had been praying the whole time during the ride.
In addition to these rides, there is a haunted mansion and other light, “kiddie” rides for children of all ages.
Another sight to behold is the sheer number of life-size toys on display as prizes at the countless game stalls on the carnival grounds. These toys, all brought from Europe, range from giant teddy bears to licensed Warner Brothers and Disney cartoon characters.
There are coin flipping, rope pulling, darts, bowling and ball tossing stalls, among many others, all tended by an international staff. Kim Seong-ryeol, 24, a stall worker, shouted to the crowd, “Come and try the games, folks, you’re bound to be a winner! Choose your prize.”
If all the excitement makes you hungry, there are a number of food stands, offering Western dishes, Korean dishes such as bibimbap, and snacks such as ice cream and pastries. There also are fast food places such as KFC.
Nighttime is a particularly good time to take in the carnival, which remains open until 11 p.m., since the lighting on the rides is as dazzling as the rides themselves.
“It’s great to bring the kids here,” said a visitor from Incheon who identified herself only as Mrs. Kim. She came with her son and her sister’s family as the children had a day off from school.
The rides are exhilarating and fun, but they seemed to end too quickly for me. The prizes at the game stalls seemed so alluring that I spent much more money buying tokens for the games than on the rides. It’s so tempting to try just one more time to make that coin land in the winning spot!
To play the games or take a spin on the rides, one must pay a certain amount in tokens, each of which costs 1,000 won ($1).
The carnival is owned by U.K Funfairs Ltd, a family-run company that has been in the business for six generations. The Stevenson family’s founding ancestors are said to have provided donkey rides and other attractions to children during town festivities in 19th-century Britain.
Today, World Carnival is the largest touring carnival in the world. It has come to Korea at this time because May is regarded as “Family Month,” with its Children’s Day, Parents’ Day and Teachers’ Day holidays, and the carnival thus expected to attract a larger audience.
After its visit to Incheon, the World Carnival will move on to Beijing, China.
by Choi Jie-ho
The World Carnival operates daily from noon to 11 p.m. until June 19. Admission is 5,000 won for adults, 4,000 won for teenagers (ages 13 to 19) and 3,000 won for children (ages 3 to 12). Discounts are available for certain cardholders and for groups. For more information, call (032) 832-8338 or visit www.world-carnival.co.kr.