My father used to take me for carousel rides in New World Amusement Park (Sin Seh Kai) in Penang when I was a kid. I remember there was a cinema with an open wall enclosure next to it. So, every time the carousel horse lifted me up, I could see the cinema screen from afar. It was a unique experience to catch a glimpse into a Shaw Brothers movie this way!
In the good old days, cinemas were built adjacent or within the theme parks. There were a few famous theme parks in Penang, namely the Shaw Brothers’ New World Amusement Park and Great World Theme Park (Tua Seh Kai) in the 50s and 60s. Apart from the carousel and cinema, it was truly exciting to drive a two-seater bumper car powered by electricity with wide nettings. The cars were brakeless and could easily hit one another. But no worries, no one got hurt. Like all other kids, I also love the pink cotton candy and the “kacang putih” (peanuts) wrapped in a rolled newspaper cone.
Those old theme parks were more than just children entertainment but also a fun place for adults. Visitors would go on the stage to do their “ronggeng” dance as well as joget, cha cha and a-go-go. Hogging the limelight was Rose Chan, local striptease performer who wowed the audience with her snake wrestling act. Other amazing performers were the strong man “Mat Tarzan” and professional wrestler nicknamed “King Kong”. But soon, these old theme parks gradually lost its glitter. People prefer to watch home videos and go to karaoke outlets for entertainment.
New Theme Parks
Today, the new theme parks are more sophisticated and specific. Movie Animation Park Studio in Perak is the first of its kind in Asia dedicated to the animation world, from DreamWorks Animation to local animation like BoBoiBoy. For movie theme parks, check out the upcoming 20th Century Fox World Malaysia in Genting Highlands with more thrills and spills of Hollywood blockbusters like Planet of the Apes, Titanic and Ice Age.
Apart from this outdoor theme park, Genting Highlands also offer an indoor theme park and Vision City Video Games Park featuring over 400 types of entertainment from interactive games, skill-based games, kiddie rides and redemption games which give rewards to winners. Next, the multi-award winning Sunway Lagoon features the famous large water ride; Vuvuzela, Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, Wildlife Park, Scream Park, and Extreme Park.
With more mega shopping malls, mall operators want to provide an ideal place for the visitors to shop, dine and have fun. Indoor theme parks like the Berjaya Times Square Theme Park seem to provide the answer. Don’t be frightened by the screams from visitors as they take an exhilarating roller-coaster ride.
Another interesting theme park is Legoland Malaysia, the first theme park based on Lego figurines and blocks in Asia. You can even pamper yourself with a stay at Legoland Hotel. For extreme sport fans, brave up to try Escape Penang and defy gravity on high rope challenges and more.
All in all, theme parks have evolved and they are still popular today. My only regret is that I can no longer take a carousel ride.
Words & Photos by Francis Yip