Regarded as the most prestigious award within the amusement and theme park industry, the Applause Award honors a park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with foresight, originality and sound business development. As a member of the Applause Award Board of Governors, John Wood has been privileged to explore, appreciate, and judge a number of outstanding amusement parks over the years.  This year was no exception.  In June of 2014, John set out for China to visit one of the three nominees, Chimelong Paradise.  Here is a recount of his trip. To kick things off, members of the Applause Award board met in the Chimelong Hotel lobby.  Here's our rowdy group!

Applause Award committee

There's already plenty to see, without even leaving the hotel!

In the lobby

But, we're off to see more animals in Chimelong's Safari Park.


The park is home to a plethora of interesting animals, some that I have never seen before.  This is a tapir.


Xiangjiang Safari Park is the first in China to adopt the mode of watching animals during self-drive trip. The self-drive area covers nearly 1 million square meters in total. It was built against mountains and with water inside, which forms a unique natural landscape.

Bears waving hello.

The park is divided into two parts, the walking area and the driving area.  If you want to drive yourself, the price is 150 Yuan.  The drive is a very unique experience!  Here a llama decides to cross our path - pretty "wild"!

A llama stops traffic at Chimelong Safari Park.

It's feeding time!

Hippos feeding time
Giraffes eat

And of course, the safari wouldn't be complete without white tigers!

White Tigers at Chimelong

In the walking area, you can watch animals and their performances for free.  These two put on quite the performance!

Monkeying around

Here's a picture of a monkey holding a monkey.


"Excuse me sir, just passing through."

monkeying around

As you can see, this was a very "hands on" experience.  We even got to feed some panda bears!

Panda feeding

The white tigers were fed too, but by professionals.  These were some hungry cats!

white tigers

Here's their newest addition, a baby panda.

Baby panda

While in the walking portion of the Safari Park, I had to go visit some old friends.  These are two animatronic proboscis monkeys and a female rhino that Sally Corporation produced just this last year.  They're still doing well and lookin' great!

Proboscis monkeys and rhino by SallyCorp

After our animal encounters, it was time to see the gorgeous Chimelong Hengqin Bay Hotel, the largest ocean ecological theme hotel in China.  The lobby is just exquisite!

Chimelong Ocean Kingdom Hotel lobby

Here is a view from the top.

A view from the top.

 The Chimelong Hengqin Bay Hotel opened in January and features 1,888 spacious guestrooms and suites.  "8" is considered a lucky number in China.

1,888 rooms

Situated next to the hotel is their Ocean Kingdom Park.   Here is fellow board member and former Ripley Entertainment president, Bob Masterson, walking into the magnificent Ocean Kingdom park entrance.

Bob Masterson at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

And another shot of Ocean Kingdom's grand entrance, with Liseberg Executive VP, Pelle Johannisson and his lovely wife.

Ocean Kingdom entrance

There are eight themed areas inside the park, each representing a part of the ocean.  Below you see the beautifully themed entrances to "Ocean Wonders" where the Whale Shark Exhibit Aquarium is located and "Polar Adventure" where they have their Penguin Habitat along with other attractions.

Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

Their aquarium is really quite impressive!


After a long day of exploring all that Chimelong had to offer, I decided to make the short trip to "The Bird's Nest" where the opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games were held.

The Birds Nest

From there, (after a night's rest of course) I traveled to Beijing where the IAAPA Asia trade show was held.  It was a great show for us and a fantastic year for AAE with record attendence of over 9,000 industry professionals.

AAE 2014

"No Photography"  ....   Hey, at least our pirate was popular!

"No photos"

My trip to China was an eventful one, traveling to Guangzhou for wonderful tours of Chimelong's exquisite amusement parks and beautiful hotels, to Beijing for the 2014 AAE trade show, but  no trip would be complete without one last "board meeting".

board meeting