ENTERTAINMENT

10,000 flock to new Lai Yuen amusement park at Hong Kong's harbourfront

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 June, 2015, 2:53am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 June, 2015, 3:31pm

Around 10,000 people streamed into the new Lai Yuen amusement park in the first three hours after its doors were thrown open to the public at 6pm last night.

Fun-seekers had queued patiently by the Central harbourfront to get their first taste of the attraction - a reincarnation of the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park that shut down in 1997.

And the new park, recreated by Duncan Chiu, youngest son of the late owner, Deacon Chiu Te-ken, rekindled nostalgic memories of Hong Kong in another era.

One of the first visitors, May Po, 52, said: "I grew up with the old park. I was there countless times." But although she was looking forward to the park's games and rides, she feared that with people having more access to technology these days, attractions such as the haunted house might lose some of their magic.

"As soon as someone captures the experience with a cellphone, there won't be any sense of mystery any more," she said.

A plastic dinosaur, a moving robotic replica of a Burmese elephant, dodgems and other carnival games now stand in front of Central skyscrapers, next to the Ferris wheel.

Chiu, chairman of the company behind the new park, said it would not even try to compete with people's memories.

GALLERY: Before and After - Hong Kong's historic amusement park Lai Chi Kok reopens after 18 years

"It's impossible to bring back the ideal Lai Yuen of people's memories, because everyone has different memories, but we'll do our best to make everyone happy," he said.

Among the first visitors was Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who fed bananas to robotic elephant Tino.

"Reconstructing Lai Yuen in the middle of the Central business district proves the need for land development. Only with more land development can we build more family-friendly entertainment venues," Leung said at the opening ceremony.

Chak Chik-wai was born in 1949, the year the old park opened. "Visits to the old park were some of the happiest times of my life. I remember feeding the elephant and going on the dodgems. I would always buy some bananas for the elephant. It was very thin," Chak, 66, recalled.

For some early guests such as 45-year-old Andy Tsai, just seeing the new park and the cartoon robots of the late 1970s brought back happy memories.

"Seeing Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V and Robocon really takes me back to my childhood. I never see them nowadays, unless I go looking for them in vintage toy shops."

Tsai fondly remembered the thrills at the old park. "The attractions were very exciting, especially the rides and the haunted house," he said.

Lai Yuen Super Summer 2015 will be open until September, with free admission.