5 theme parks that confuse and disturb
1. South Korea’s Love Land -- “Honey, take a picture of me with the nipple mountain?”
The cute mascots say it all: Bulkkeuni, a mitten-wearing penis, and Ssaekkeuni, a vagina with a floppy pink hat. Visitors pass through the spread-legs gate to giggle at wriggling things (use your imagination) and pose with plaster couples frozen in coitus at this park located on the island of Jeju, a traditional hotspot for Korean honeymooners.
The men’s restroom has a breast-shaped doorknob; the handle on the women’s room is an erect penis. In 2002, 20 artists from Seoul’s Hongik University began creating the 140 sculptures that steam up the park. Despite Love Land’s success, plans to expand into China got the wrecking ball. Video: Feel the love
Love Land, 680-26, Yeon-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea, tel: +64 712 6988. Admission: ₩7000. Age 18+
2. Vietnam’s Suoi Tien -- The Buddha-verse goes Disney
Vietnam’s spiritual history is Disneyfied in this 100-hectare park, built in 1995 and now undergoing a VND$1 trillion expansion.
Children frolic under a giant waterfall shaped like an emperor’s face, water streaming from his nose and chin. Rainbow phoenixes and happy Buddhas populate Heaven, while the opposite end has a boat ride through the realms of Hell. If the bloody heads aren’t alarming enough, there’s always the 'cave of innumerable bats' and air bike suspended over a 'farm of 1,500 crocodiles.'
Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park, Tan Phu Ward, District 9 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, tel: +848 8350 420. Admission: VND$50,000
3. China’s Bruce Lee Theme Park -- Scream along with the martial arts maestro
Bruce Lee only once visited his ancestral home in Shunde, a two-hour boat ride from Hong Kong. Nonetheless, the district built an RMB 100 million amusement center to honor the legacy of the legendary butt-kicker. In 2008, the museum unveiled a giant statue and 1,000 items of memorabilia. The best is still to come: Bruce Lee robot-mannequins and a roller coaster that emits his signature squawks.
Bruce Lee Theme Park, 36 Huanshan East Road, Jun’an township, Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong, China
4. Japan’s Sanrio Puroland -- Paradise for five-year-old girls and drag queens
Follow the electric rainbow to Hello Kitty’s den of cute overload. The rides are mostly coin-operated non sequiturs, such as a bowtie-wearing pumpkin with Kitty perched on top. The longest lineup is for the life-sized pink house she shares with her boyfriend, Dear Daniel. (They have separate bedrooms.) Of all the deranged amusements, marriages officiated by furry mascots stand out.
Sanrio debuted the US$630 million park in 1990 and nearly went bankrupt. But the company made clever changes, such as raising the female dancers’ skirt lengths when male customers were observed yawning. Today, Puroland attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. A second behemoth opens in Taiwan at the end of 2010. Video from Hello Kitty Museum: 5-year-old paradise
Puroland, 1-3 Ochiai Tama-city, Tokyo, Tama Station on the Odakyu line, less than an hour from central Tokyo, tel: +042 339 1111. Admission: ¥3100 children, ¥3800 teens, ¥4100 adults
5. Japan’s NAMCO Namja Town -- One deranged cat mascot, two types of food
NAMCO video games, such as Pac-Man, are supposed to appeal to children. So why is the arcade here designed like a haunted dungeon? And what’s with the evil-eyed whirling dervish cat mascot? From the 1996 opening, young Tokyoites have preferred NAMCO Namja’s eatery to its gloomy rides and games. Gyoza Stadium is dedicated to pot sticker dumplings; Ice Cream City offers delicate flavors such as Tongue, Curry, Shark Fin, Squid, and Octopus. Video: NAMCO Namja Town
Namco Namja Town, 3-1-2 World Import Mart Building, 2nd Floor Sunshine City, Higashi-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan, tel: +03 5950 0765. Admission: ¥300 for a single ticket