Chessington World of Adventures is strongly themed, almost like a type case for certain elements of Roller Coaster Tycoon games. Some of these themes are comically gentle, like the Pirates Cove. That had a neat little circular boat ride, the Seastorm, in which the boat cars occasionally swap around, so that you spend half the ride looking at your neighbor behind and half looking at your neighbor ahead. It's reminiscent of the Tilt-A-Whirl motion without being so unpredictable. That makes the ride less fun than a Tilt-A-Whirl, I suppose, but it's an unusual kind of motion anyway, and the boats are fun to see, and even christened with unique names, just the sort of thing a ride like that needs.
The Transylvania area's probably the best-developed. It's also where we got our real lunch, vegetarian burgers with fries and soda. It's really easy to eat vegetarian in Britain (and Europe generally, we've found). The hall was lovely with indoor trees and bats dangling from stuff, all the decor you need. I stopped on the way out to try answering their little ``Quick Survey'' on a mounted iPod, though the thing responded poorly. Possibly too many people with catsup on their fingers had been using it.
When we noticed there were areas called Wild Asia and then the Mystic East we started bracing for comically intended racist stuff. Is that itself a racist supposition on our parts? Perhaps, since all we had to go on for that is our sense that the English aren't quite sure yet why Ireland doesn't love them more. Also that one of the areas was called the Mystic East. It's, again, beautifully set up with all the stations and games and arcade and all that made to look like a little Chinatown. And then along the ride queue to the log flume --- not nearly as body-soaking as the Monkey Swinger, although moreso than the Scorpion Express --- were red signs with yellow text written in the Typeface Used For The Hours And Directions to Every Chinese Restaurant, with jokes of this order:
Man wearing polkadot not good at hide and seek --- he always spotted
Along the path the log flume takes you past buildings labelled as Mr Lee's Laundry and Chan's Cycles. Another building has a sign in that Chinese Restaurant Sign typeface, ``PEEK-ING TOM, [ Something ] Rickshaw Way''. (I can't make it out in my photo.) I don't think anyone's trying to be obnoxious here; it feels like the sort of thing that was an unexceptional joke on United States television up to about 1984 and that now we're embarrassed by.
The log flume's fun, though, and one of its major drops takes you right into a dragon's mouth. With the Rye Playland Dragon Coaster that makes two rides we've been on that send you into the belly of a dragon even though there's no way out that can be both tasteful and logical. Both sacrifice logic and you just end up outside again. We didn't get very wet from the log fluming, though there are water guns set up on the sidewalk outside the ride which passers-by can use for a pound. Fortunately we went through at a time nobody was shooting except one older woman who didn't seem to know how to aim. bunny_hugger didn't even know when we'd passed that dangerous spot.
Among the Mystic East attractions, over one of the ponds, is a Mer-lion statue. It's even accompanied by a plaque explaining the Mer-lion's position at Singapore harbor, and like the small one at Mer-lion park it shoots water out of its mouth. (The large one on Sentosa Island shoots lasers from its eyes.) Why it's there still seems mysterious. As far as I know park owners Merlin Entertainment don't have any Singapore or Singapore-area parks. They have also got a replica of a Giant Buddha of Kamakura, Japan. The placard explaining it doesn't ever quite specify that this is a replica, which probably results in some local kids being retroactively disappointed when they find out this small theme park outside London hasn't relocated a bronze statue dating to 1252 AD all the way from Japan.
I don't want to belabor the point but it is a beautiful place. The park may not be very large. And its thrill rides are fairly modest ones. The roller coaster Vampire is essentially equivalent to The Bat at Kings Island, or Iron Dragon at Cedar Point, roller coasters that people who're afraid of roller coasters aren't afraid to go on. They have got a Disk'O, called KOBRA, a snake-themed counterpart to the Pipe Scream at Cedar Point, Le Grand Tournoi at Parc Festyland, or the Cosmic Chaos at Kennywood that nauseated bunny_hugger that time. (That started the day down, but it would get back into operation before the park closed.) It's better-themed than those counterparts, though, except maybe Festyland's. It's very easy to picture this as someone's favorite park ever when a kid, and to think it's hopelessly tame as a teenager, but to come back and realize how thoroughly it's charming as an adult.
Trivia: Strontium was discovered in 1790 by a doctor working in a hospital lab in London's red-light district, not far from the location of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Source: The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean. (Wikipedia credits Wiliam Cruickshank and Adair Crawford jointly but notes confusion about the exact order of things; Kean doesn't think to specify who he wants to give credit.)
Currently Reading: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Giles MacDonogh.