European tourists ready to be taken for a ride on China roller-coaster tour
Sixty roller-coaster fans are expecting plenty of twists and turns on their 17-day tour of China
A group of 60 thrill-seekers from Europe are flying to Hong Kong and the mainland to ride 100 different roller coasters in 17 days in the first tour of its kind.
The enthusiasts from the European Coaster Club will begin by visiting Disneyland and Ocean Park in Hong Kong before working their way to Shanghai via theme parks in Shenzhen, Wuhan, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Changzhou .
Members of the Britain-based club - whose tour party includes roller-coaster fans from England, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Denmark and France - said they were coming to China because of the theme park boom which has seen an explosion in spectacular rides.
"China has just overtaken the US as the country with the most roller coasters," said the club's founder Justin Garvanovic.
"We have got a thrilling two weeks ahead of us.
"There are now so many theme parks in China that it's going to take us a number of trips to visit them all. We'll have to come back in a couple of years to visit another part of the country."
Garvanovic said last night he was not at all unnerved by an incident on Friday on the roller coaster at the World Joyland park in Changzhou - one of the roller coasters his group will ride - which left 11 tourists hanging in the air for nearly five hours.
"A lot of roller coasters get stuck. I've been on a couple myself. It happens for a million different reasons and it's a safety feature," he said. "I guarantee you, somewhere in the world, a roller coaster is stuck as we speak. It doesn't put us off one bit."
The group - comprising mostly middle-aged professionals with a passion for roller coasters - starts its grand tour at Hong Kong Disneyland on July 1, where one of their members will reach the milestone of riding his 1,000th different roller coaster.
A highlight of the tour will be a visit to Guangzhou's Canton Tower, which is home to the world's tallest drop tower ride, which plummets a stomach-turning 484 metres. The ride opened last year and overtook the Stratosphere's Big Shot ride in Las Vegas, which drops 100 metres less.
Even the club's most experienced roller-coaster riders were nervous of the Canton Tower challenge, Garvanovic said, joking: "Anyone refusing to ride the drop tower will be banned from riding any more roller coasters on the trip."
The 17-day tour of Hong Kong and China will also see one longserving member of the club, which was founded in 1996 and has more than 1,500 members, ride his 1,200th different roller coaster.
Paul Burton, one of the club's organisers, said: "This is the first time we have been to China. Our members have wanted to go to China for several years now because of the number of rides being built and the sheer size of them.
"Our members are incredibly excited about this trip. They have got some amazing rides in China now. There has been a massive boom in the theme park market there."
Burton, who has ridden around 1,000 different roller coasters, said some members were prepared to fly across the world just to ride just one new roller coaster. "The fascination is what they are going to do with the technology next," he said. "We all work 24-7 these days and roller coasters give us a bit of escapism. It is the thrill of it, and you get an adrenaline buzz."
The group will visit up to three theme parks a day to complete its itinerary, which ends in Shanghai on July 16. Burton said Hong Kong Disneyland and Shenzhen's Happy Valley were two of the most eagerly anticipated parks among members.