Oriental Land: Weird name, but we love it

Oriental Land: Weird name, but we love it

Windmills, tanks and bamboo groves make for a fun-filled day or weekend at this alternative theme park

Oriental Land, also known as Oriental Green Boat (东方绿舟) -- slightly more PC -- opened in 2001 as a multi-theme park with an emphasis on learning and adventure. Situated next to Dianshan Lake west of Shanghai’s city center, the park covers a vast area of 373 hectares. Billed as a destination for youth camps, physical and teamwork training, and corporate family days, Oriental Land is also popular with local families for its appeal to both young and old. With the weather warming up, this is the perfect trip out of the city center.

Visitors can rent bikes or quadricycles to explore the maze of bridges and wooded areas, including an ultra-Zen bamboo grove straight out of that scene from “House of Flying Daggers.” In addition to recreational land- and water-based activities, the park also prides itself on its educational components, such as a “knowledge-seeking island,” a state security education gallery, and a “Wisdom Avenue” lined with 168 statues of famous thinkers such as Plato and Chairman Mao. Here we take a look at some of the cooler (or stranger) features of the park; we’ll leave the rest for you to explore in person.

No. 6888 Qingping Lu, +96 21 5923 3000; open 8:30am-4:30pm daily.

Directions: Single-day tour tickets (RMB 80), which includes admission and round-trip transport, can be purchased from the Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center at Shanghai Stadium (666 Tianyaoqiao Lu, +86 21 6426 5555). Buses depart daily at 9 and 10am and pick up at the park at 3:30pm and 4:30pm, respectively. For additional information, including driving directions, check the official website.

If you’re staying overnight at one of the onsite hotels or villas (and indeed, we found that one day is hardly enough to see everything), the website also advertises package deals, including the “Romantic Lovers Tour” and “Parents Filial Piety Tour”. (We’ve also been told by locals that one can simply enter the park through the hotel to avoid paying the RMB 50 admission, but you didn’t hear that from us …)


Oriental Land family and boat

Arguably the park’s biggest attraction, the military zone features a giant replica aircraft carrier and (real) submarine sitting in a pond flanked by missiles and artillery.








Oriental Land plane

Atop the aircraft carrier, get up close and personal with fighter jets, have a chat with the guys in military garb, and gaze out at the fleet of retired military machines.








Family friendly at Oriental Land

The carrier’s interior houses a tank museum and a Shooting Hall, where visitors of all ages can practice their aim in a safe environment (no actual bullets are involved).









For RMB 30, you can fulfill your lifelong dream of riding in a camouflage amphibious vehicle. Lifejackets included, bullet-proof vests not.









Go karting at Oriental Land

Next to the pond is a short but exciting go kart track. With a single loop setting you back RMB 30, you might end up spending quite a bit to get your fill.








Oriental Land

The giant battlefield is designed for team-building games like capture the flag, but looks more like a sadistic obstacle course. Hurdle a barbed wire fence or hustle down a trench -- just watch out for the rusty spikes (really).








Rock climbing

Luckily for the climbers and crawlers out there, not far off is a real obstacle course that’s pretty legit. At the end of the course sits a hedge maze, made a tad too easy, to our dismay, by a shear-happy custodian.








Water bubble at Oriental Land

The lake offers not just the paddle boats we’ve come to expect from any Chinese park, but an impressive fleet of dragon boats as well. Oh, and giant inflatable balls (RMB 20 per five mins), if you’ve ever wondered what being in one of those hamster exercise balls feels like on water.







Windmill at Oriental Land

The park’s “Global Village” contains guesthouses representing countries from the Netherlands to Thailand to Australia. (Randomly, buildings shaped like an elephant whale, and mushroom also made the cut.) A Haibao statue greets you at the entrance, making the place feel like a mini-Expo of sorts.







Oriental Land rocket

With its eclectic selection of sights and activities, Oriental Land offers something for even the most jaded of park-goers. So set a date and bring your kids -- or at least the kid in you.

Frances Woo lived in Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States before coming to Shanghai in 2009 to do penance for a childhood of daydreaming through weekly Chinese lessons.
Read more about Frances Woo

Sean Hanratty is a photographer originally from Baltimore, Maryland. When not working he can be found on his bike going all over the place, including an Oreo and PB&J fueled trek to Suzhou.

Read more about Sean Hanratty