Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Death in the Everland Family?


Went to Everland yesterday. It was my 7th time there, and this visit was among my best. I suppose nothing will quite top my first visit, in all of Everland's "Christmas Fantasy", splendor, or my second visit, in which an army of friends and co-workers descended upon the park for an entire day of fun and frivolity back in the late spring of 2008.

Still, since then, I've made it a habit to visit Korea's largest theme park on a fairly regular basis. Four visits last year lead me to believe that picking-up an annual pass this year would be a good idea. It was. Each visit - despite rain and ride closures has been worth the bus and subway rides south. Sometimes you just need a little or a lot of cheesy- theme-park fun. Everland is a good provider in this case. I'm lucky enough to have had more than a few friends here who are willing to give Everland a shot - most of whom are immortalized in a T-Express magnet photo on the back of my door.

My seventh visit to Everland was the second visit for the majority of the people I went with yesterday. When we had gone in the spring, the rain slowed us down, and cut our day short, so it was good to go with a 100% guarantee (according to BBC weather) that there would be NO precipitation. All in all, a good day - capped-off with a picnic on mats - placed front and center in the 4 Seasons Garden. Cheap beer in Everland mugs while the fireworks went off over our heads. A good end to the day, even if this year's living arrangement means a 2 hour bus/subway/taxi excursion to get home at the end of the night. It's worth it.

As an update for all those who know and love their Everland, there may have been a death in the family. While the T-Express still reigns majestically as the steepest wooden roller-coaster in the world over the European Adventure section of the park, the park's two other coasters: the relatively mediocre "Rolling X-Train", and my beloved "Eagle's Fortress" have been closed since at least April of this year.

While I don't really mind missing-out on the Rolling X-Train (it's pretty much a carbon copy of any 1 minute, double-looping, double corkscrewing coaster out there), the Eagle's Fortress is not only closed, I received news yesterday that it may never reopen.

For roller-coaster enthusiasts, this is really bad news. It was recently rated as the third best overall coaster in the world by a group of international traveling coaster critics at rollercoastercritic.com - quite the feat considering that it is 16 years old and there have been many much faster, bigger, and g-force creating coaster since then. Still, this one kicked a lot of ass. As coasterforce.com explains...

"Considered by many to be one of the best suspended coasters out there, Eagle Fortress is worth the trip and entrance fee to Everland alone. As well as being suspended, it's also a terrain coaster, which makes it a truly unique coaster experience. The coaster is built on the side of a mountain, and never reaches more than a few feet above ground level for most of the run. The lift hill takes the train up the side of the mountain, before it does a 180 degree turn and then plummets back town, then following a tight, twisting course through the trees, just skimming the ground. Although the top speed doesn't exceed 40mph, it feels so much faster due to the proximity of the trees and the ground. Also, the insane swinging of the cars, especially in the back of the train, makes for a pretty intense ride. While the location/trees are what makes this coaster great, getting photos is extremely difficult. In fact, most of the layout can't be seen at all from anywhere else in the park."

In short, this ride is grand. There are places in the ride where it nearly inverts. After having visited two times previously this year and having it closed both times, I inquired at guest services at to what the hold-up might be. The unofficial word is that they are planning for a new attraction in that area. Sadly, The Eagle's Fortress is not even on the handy park map that they give you as you come through the gates. It's gone, people. As far as I can tell, the structure is still there, but a lot of it is covered in scaffolding.

Knowing that both Universal Studios and Paramount have announced that they will be building theme parks in the Seoul vicinity (Starting with Universal's Scheduled opening of 2012), Everland has some big shoes to fill in more ways than one. I'm hoping that the scaffolding and tarps simply means a slight makeover and safety reinforcement of the Eagle's Fortress, and not a completely new attraction. I guess we shall see. In the meantime, The T-Express is single-handedly saving Everland's ass. Yes, the fireworks are cool, and Everland has charm to spare - especially at Christmas time, but once The Hulk Coaster, Spider-man, and Dueling Dragons opens-up near Incheon, I predict slow times at Everland, unless they bring their A-game. Come on, Samsung - let's see what you're made of. Let's hope the Eagle hasn't flown its last...

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