This article is written by Rajan Datar. Apart from travel Writing, Rajan is a broadcaster at BBC World News and a broadcaster/Journalist at BBC Television/Radio

When it comes to fun, Asia means business these days — big business. In 2010, six out of the 10 fastest growing theme parks were from that region. And South Korea is next in line to help Asia steal the mantle of theme park supremacy from the United States.

Executives predict that 2.8 million people a year will visit the 800, 000sqm Robotland theme park in Incheon, which is scheduled to open within two years. They also expect traditional competition to be blasted out of the water.

A two-hour drive from Seoul, the capital, Incheon is witnessing the creation of a technology-based metropolis, virtually from scratch, with high speed rail and road links to the ultramodern national airport. So it is only fitting that the futuristic robot magic kingdom will sit in the city’s hub, the Cheognan district. Landmark Entertainment, the company that worked on the Terminator and Jurassic Park attractions in California’s and Orlando’s Universal Studios theme parks, promises four thematic Robotland areas, the world’s first robot museum, a daily robot parade and a robot rollercoaster that stands 56m high. The themed areas will include a child-centred “Kidbot Village”, which looks at the history of robots, and Fun City, which promises well-known characters from film, comic books and video-games.

“If you take a normal industrial robotic arm that can twist and throw you around in 3D, it can provide so many more movements and sensations than a conventional rollercoaster, ” said Brendan Walker, a thrills engineer who has helped construct some of the most daring and scary rollercoasters in the world. “But then you start thinking about controlling our experience through artificial intelligence. It all become a bit darker and weirder. I can trust a ride operator but can I trust a robot? There’s an element of horror here. ”

The ambitious government-backed scheme is designed to showcase South Korea’s technological prowess. Education is very much at the heart of the big idea and the theme park will act as a honey-trap for kids interested in robotic engineering.

But South Koreans are not only banking on robots. Universal’s planned park outside of Seoul, a $3.6 billion project and the company’s third in Asia, is back on course for a 2014 opening, seemingly buoyed by the growing appetite in the Asian market.

Meanwhile, two existing giants of the Korean theme park industry, Everland and Lotte World, recorded double digit growth in customer visits and were featured in the top 10 fastest growing theme parks in the world.

Lotte World, the world’s largest indoor theme park, is a giant shopping, sports and activity complex, but its main attraction is the amusement centre, complete with rollercoaster, ice rink, monorail and a Magic Island with swimming pools and cinemas. Crowds of children on school trips from the suburbs of Seoul stream in through the ticket hall and leave several hours later, suitably enchanted by their visit.

Everland is an hour’s drive from Seoul in Yongin and has five themed areas, including a zoo, a Caribbean Bay waterpark and the world’s steepest wooden rollercoaster. Opened in 1976, it is the nations’ largest complex and ranks in the top 10 in the world for attendance figures. Not surprising considering  the project is a subsidiary of the technology giant, Samsung.

Across Asia, attendance to theme parks rose last year by 7.3%, compared to 1.8% in the United States. Attendance in the region is expected to rise to 290 million in 2012, from 249 million in 2007.

China has 20 theme parks faring well. The only blot on the landscape is the ban slapped on all new constructions because of concerns that property speculation is overheating at the moment.

Tokyo still has some of the biggest attractions at the moment thanks to the well -established brands of Disneyland and Universal. But bucking the upward trend across Asia, Disneyland and Disneysea have seen falling attendances in the first six months of this financial year.

In Europe and the United States, analysts say, actual numbers may not be falling but spending per trip is, provoking parks to take a leaf from the low-cost airline industry and charge for “unbundled” services, like locker facilities before being flung around on a ride or dryers after a soaking on the flumes. If the US wore the crown in the 20th century for its creation of the modern fantasy fairground, than Asia is on course to assume supremacy in the first half of the 21st century.

Rajan Datar

17 November 2011

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Firdaus in Thailand

“We haven’t even started packing yet”, I screamed on June 14th 2009. You see it was like this – my family and I were leaving for Thailand at midnight on the 15th of June 2009. Here we were on the 14th, and not a thing was packed. There was a note of extreme panic and urgency in my voice. My parents just replied, “None of our holidays have gone wrong till now, have they?”

Till now?


We Managed Finally

15th June 2009 11:31 – Tension, tension and more tension. I had been sick the whole day and had got a cavity and been taken to the dentist and had lost a tooth. I was shoving in stuffed toys and books into my bag busily. My mother was shoving in clothes, her own books and trying to lock the doors (unsuccessfully). My father was locking our bags, helping my mother to lose the house keys, putting all our bookings and tickets in a gray and black pouch, while I kept pestering him to unlock the bags so I could put in more books in it. (He refused once or twice then let me put in three books).

On the Plane

Finally, when the taxi reached the airport we all heaved a sigh of relief. The whole way the cab’s speedometer hadnt dipped below 105. We got a luggage trolley and put stuff on it and disaster! I was wheeling the trolley, and to my credit I bumped into people only seven or eight times. We got into the airport and checked in our luggage and then we went to the airport stores which were open at past midnight. Some night bazaar, huh, totally bizarre. I bought nothing but smarties and chocolates. Finally at 3:00 a.m. our plane arrived – Cathay Pacific. It left at 3:30. Our seats were A38, A39, and A40. There were three families with loads of children, who kept on yelling and crying. Whenever they would start howling my parents and I wished. (Well, never mind what we wished.) When I put on the T.V, after searching I managed to find Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Finally, when we reached Bangkok we were surprised to see the colour of the taxis. They were red, yellow, blue, pink, blue+pink, green, green+red, orange and orange+yellow. For the first time in my life I saw Tuk-Tuks. They were like Indian autos but much bigger and very colourful and extremely clean and tidy.

In Bangkok

We took a blue+pink taxi from the airport to our hotel Sawasdee Langsuan Inn. It was an extremely cold day in Bangkok with chances of a light shower later in the day. After about three hours of being in the hotel we went to a shopping mall called MBK. It was an indoor mall but it was humongous and there was almost everything you could think of. It was there that I got my camera. After leaving MBK we went back to our hotel. After playing some games and reading a bit, we went out and had dinner. It was a carnivore’s delight. Soon after dinner I popped off to sleep.


The next day at about 7:00 we took a tuk-tuk to a car rental store from where we had booked a Toyota Vios. We paid the money, got into the car, drove back to the hotel, checked out, got our luggage and away we drove. You wouldn’t believe the amount of wrong turns we took in Bangkok. We were sent to almost every street there was to go to. At 12:15 am we were still driving. Around us was complete wilderness, absolute darkness, no streets lights or (gulp) people, very heavy rain on all sides. We had no hope. We had almost given up. We seriously thought of spending the night in the car, at least I did. Then, all of a sudden, we saw a large pretty building which was a hotel. We went in and asked if they had any empty rooms. They did. In fact, they had only empty rooms. As you can imagine, the very minute I lay on the bed my eyes closed and I was asleep.

Another Day

In the morning when we looked around the hotel it was absolutely beautiful and scenic. It had a lovely private beach and as soon as I stepped on to the soft sand, it sank under my feet. I went absolutely crazy because I hadn’t been to a beach for ages. Then we went and had breakfast at the restaurant and I happily tucked in to the food because I was really starving. The truth is, I threw a most beastly tantrum and had to be coaxed into eating my egg. After that we got into the car and hit the road. The drive was really great, partly because of the view and partly because of the weather. We reached Phuket at around 2:00 (an earthly hour, thankfully.) We found a hotel at 6:00 (oops). It was a nice hotel, not located right on the beach but on a road going straight to it.

From Phuket to Phi-Phi

We had a great time at the beach. I kept jumping waves and swimming with them. My parents swam with the waves. At night we went to a nice open air restaurant (all the restaurants were) and had an exotic dinner (pizza for me, as usual). The next day when we woke up in the morning, we started packing our things because we were going on a ferry to Phi-Phi Islands. It was past ferry time and we were still on the road. We decided that we would catch the 3:00 p.m. ferry instead of the 9:00 a.m. one. We went to the Rasada Pier anyway to wait for the next one, and found that our ferry hadn’t reached yet.

When we clambered on to the ferry with everyone else, I noticed that the ferry had three levels. First we went and sat in the lounge, chose our seats and kept our luggage. We then went and sat on the deck admiring the spectacular view. There were many rocks with green seaweed on them. They were growing right in the middle of the Andaman Sea. When we first saw Phi-Phi we wondered how there could be any hotels on it because it was just one big rock. Then, when we got closer we noticed that Phi-Phi was like a ‘U’ with a lovely row of beaches inside it. Our ferry stopped at the port and we got off and did not know what to do. Suddenly we noticed that there were all these guys waving signs for various hotels.

We found one who was waving a sign for our hotel. When we went up to him he told us that his boat was coming since Bay View was on the other side of the island. So after waiting for some time, the boat came and away we went. The sea was very calm and the water was a perfect temperature. Just by looking into the water you could see lots of coral reefs. When we reached Bay View it was impossible for the boat to go right to the land. So, our boat guy lifted me up and when he was putting me on the land I tumbled out of his grasp and fell straight on the soft sand. It didn’t hurt at all. Then we went into the hotel and drank some orange juice. Then we went up the little island and got into our cottage.

Phi-Phi was amazing. It had lovely calm blue waters which looked as if they stretched for miles. The water rippled gently about with big rocks jutting out of unexpected places, as the never ending sea shone in the sunlight. Suddenly a happy feeling came over me and I started jumping around in pure delight. The wooden floor creaked as I jumped on it.

Phi-Phi and Phi-Phi Town

We didn’t do much that day. We just lazed around the beach and explored the hotel. We didn’t do any swimming. It was a calm, peaceful day for us to get our senses back after a couple of rushing and manic days and we were thoroughly relaxed. When it was time for dinner we went down to the beach and ate some really good Thai seafood (Pizza for me as usual).Then we went for a walk around the beach and found that it was a very lively little place at night. There were fireflies roaming around and the sea was gently swaying in the night breeze. We started to feel sleepy, so we went to the hotel and to bed.

The next day we woke up and went down to the breakfast hall and helped ourselves to a buffet breakfast. After that we went down to the beach and rested and I took some photographs of the sea. Then we went and had a good look at Phi-Phi town. It was a magical little place. There were little restaurants everywhere and it was very merry. After having a good look at the town, we went back to Bay View and just lazed around till lunch when we went back to town. We found this little place which had super seafood. I had a meal which consisted of only prawns. After lunch we went to the beach and swam.

Well, we didn’t do much swimming, because the water was so shallow. But we did wade out quite far into the sea. We saw a gigantic coral reef deep out in the water. Of course, after all that swimming we were really tired, so we went and slept till about tea time. At tea time we went into town and had cakes beside the beach. After that we went shopping. The shops were not like the shops in MBK where it was completely modern and air-conditioned. It had a very nice, quaint feel about it. The shops were open-air and the weather was simply superb. We bought lots of clothes and after reaching the hotel we went and looked at the other hotels on the island. Then we went and played beach volleyball and I kept falling on the sand. Once when I smashed the ball, I fell over the net. The amount of sand that fell on me was really unbelievable. For the next two minutes I did nothing but cough out sand. We went and lazed around watched a movie, played a game and stuff like that, till dinner. Dinner consisted of sour curry and a fish with a long name. (Pizza…you guessed it) After dinner it was bed. Oh man! Straight away.

Calm Wind, Blue Waters…Quicksand and Sharks

The next day after a huge breakfast we took a motorboat to our hotel, Zeavola. It was a very nice hotel because it was in a tropical forest. When you went out you were on the beach. The only problem was the mosquitoes. But it was not much of a problem anyway. Zeavola was not on Phi-Phi Don, unlike most hotels, but on Phi-Phi Leh. On a small island quite far away from Phi-Phi Leh there was another island which had a beach called Long Beach where there was quicksand and sharks. (Oops, I’m scared) But the sharks couldn’t go to far from Long Beach because there was some kind of underwater netting which the sharks could not cross. (Thank goodness) We spent the day at Zeavola in a very relaxed fashion. No tension, no boats to catch and lots of time on our hands. We found a nice little restaurant on the beach, ate, went back to the room and played a game and went to sleep.


The next day after breakfast we went and saw normal fish, jellyfish and anonymous fish. At least anonymous to me, that is. At about 1:00 p.m. we left Phi-Phi hoping that Chaing-Mai would also be nice. The ferry took us to Phuket Rasada Pier from where we took our car and drove off. We spent the night at Phang-Na.

It was 12:30 p.m. We were goodness knows where. (Are we in trouble, or what??) We had been asking people the way to Ayuthaya, which was our destination and getting a volley of different directions from each person. Finally we ended up on a highway to Myanmar, (What next?) when my father said “I think we are going wrong”. He stopped the car and asked a man who informed us that we were on target for Myanmar and even drove us to the right highway. (Nice guy) Then we kept going and finally reached Ayuthaya. Well, you might think that after all that driving we deserved a good rest. But you thought wrong. For miles we found nothing but empty roads. Finally there was a hotel in sight. We spent the night there. Ayuthaya turned out to be a rather old, forgotten town, but lively at the same time. And as soon as I touched the bed I was asleep.

Chiang Mai

The Golden Buddhist Monastery Chiang Mai

After reaching our hotel, Holiday Inn at a reasonable time, we had a normal day. The next day we drove of for Shangri-La and reached in 20 minutes. It was a combination of old fashioned style and modern material, which was quite nice. The days at Shangri-La went peacefully, playing golf and tennis and swimming and having a good time. The staff was rather pleasant as well. Then suddenly I realized that the holiday was almost over and in 5 days it was back to Delhi. The night malls at Chiang Mai were quite interesting. You would ask a ‘took-took’ to take you there and then you could shop to your hearts content. After two days at Shangri-La we drove off for Bangkok. Goodness, how time flies.

The End of the Holidays

We reached Bangkok at 12. I said Bangkok, not our hotel Amari, so don’t think that we are on time. When we looked at the map we realized that Amari was on a 10 km road. (When will this ever stop?) The road went on for about half an hour, (Well, not so bad) and when Amari finally came in sight we were so hungry, that includes everyone except me, that we couldn’t wait to eat. So we stopped at a mini soup place on the road. My parents ate, but I only grumbled. (Bad boy, Dausi) So we went into Amari, soaking wet. Oh, I forgot it was raining outside. Now, where was I? Oh, right. We entered Amari, soaking wet, checked in and found that we didn’t know how to control the lift. Then we saw people were putting their keys into a slit and felt rather sheepish. Amari was quite a decent hotel. We spent two days there rather peacefully. A small restaurant opposite Amari had an amazing variety of foods. Finally, the leaving day came. We were all rather sober. The flight went quite comfortably all the way. When we reached Delhi, there was a large valley of clouds and mist below us. Staring at the clouds and mist I thought to myself – What a holiday, explored half of Thailand, seen such gorgeous places. Hmm, I wonder what we would do next holiday. Maybe we would have a look at the other half of Thailand.

But, that’s another story!

June 2009

Firdaus Mohandas is a nine years old, he shares his travel experiences of Thailand with candour and ready wit and provides a refreshing glimpse of Thailand.

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For a lot of kids, a trip to the museum is as appealing as a trip to the dentist. Wandering aimlessly from weird-looking art to even weirder-looking art as you are constantly “shushed” by adults is no fun. But museum visits don’t have to be somber and boring; in fact many museums cater to kids with special exhibits and programs that make learning more fun.

When planning museum trips for kids, first think about what your kids like. If you have a child who actually is really interested in art or history, by all means, enjoy a visit to one of the best modern art museums or museum that showcases the local history. But if you’re child isn’t quite captivated by artistic expression or the French Revolution, don’t expect them to enjoy a few hours spent in the museum.

Instead take them to a museum that better fits their interests. As a child who loved horses, I’m sure I would have been enraptured with Lisbon’s Coach Museum, a collection of ornate carriages and coaches. Kids who love dinosaurs would flip for Chicago’s Field Museum, where a full T-Rex skeleton is on display.

And don’t forget some of the lesser-known and slightly odder museums around the world. There are several unusual food museums
that would fascinate children, as well as museums centered on space exploration (always a favorite with kids) and natural science. Any museum that offers hands-on exhibits and interactive experiences can be good for kids.

Many more adult-oriented museums also have special exhibits for kids that help make the information more accessible and entertaining. No matter which museum you choose, there are ways to make the experience a bit more interesting for kids of any ages.

First off, try to schedule your visit when there are less people there. Come early in the morning or later, before the museum closes, and limit the amount of time based on your kid’s attention span and interests. Some kids might be happy to scamper around a museum all day while others would get bored after an hour. If you want to see several sections of a large museum, consider breaking your visit up into two days. If the kids bet bored or hungry before the parents want to go home, consider having one parent take them to the food court while the other gets their art fix, and then switching off.

Visiting a museum with your kids doesn’t have to be a whiny “are we done yet?”-filled experience. If you pick museums that offer something for kids and plan your visit with your child’s personality in mind, a visit to a museum can be a rewarding and entertaining educational experience for the whole family.

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