A few years ago, I had the lucky opportunity to travel to China with my friend Kate. She was visiting Christine, her friend living in Shenzhen. It was a more or less a last minute trip with no planning, so I had no idea what to expect. (A prospect that excited me).
The first day as we walked around with Christine in her neighborhood we came across a strange theme park called “Window of the World”. From the road we could see a giant Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and some other world-famous (and not so famous) monuments, most scaled down but still large enough for Kate and I to know that “Window of the World” had secured a spot on our agenda.
Since it was within walking distance of Christine’s apartment, we asked her what the park was like. Despite having lived there for a few years, she had never been.
She also didn’t have much interest in going. So Kate and I planned to go the next day while Christine was at work.
Window of the World is exactly the sort of place you want to stumble upon without ever hearing about. It’s big, it’s ridiculous, and it offers experiences that are surprising and unique. Combine that with a culture that you’re not very familiar with and the whole place evokes complete surreality to the foreign tourist.
My impression of the park was that it had been made for Chinese citizens to see the world’s wonders without leaving home. Sort of a Chinese EPCOT but far far less commercial (we couldn’t even find a souvenir shop). It reminded me more of Parque Jaime Duque in Colombia.
The few rides they had were all closed and the park felt mostly empty. (Which also reminded me of PJD). But the park is not so much about rides and crowds as it is about all the monuments and the delightful and bizarre juxtapositions they have been put into.
The Eiffel Tower is the backdrop for the Sydney Opera House. Mount Rushmore looms over the White House. Rio de Janiero’s Christ the Redeemer looks down upon Manhattan while some Nazca Lines of Peru are carved into the rock rock leading down to the same harbor. Each display is done to its own scale which results in some amazing photo opportunities.
My guidebook joked that white anglo tourists are sometimes mistaken for actors who work at the park. Families will ask to have their photo taken with them.
Ha! Kate and I joked.
Until it happened.
We weren’t even trying, I swear. We were just looking at the White House and these kids came up to us, motioning that they wanted to take a photo with us. We, of course, were ecstatic to oblige them:
We had allotted about five hours to see the park. It was not enough. We ran through all of Egypt and northern Africa and most of Asia in the last thirty minutes and we still didn’t make it all the way around the world.
I would love to go back and see it again, when the rides are running, when the shows are showing, and when they do the weekend fireworks that drive Christine and her neighbors nuts.
And bonus! It’s next to ANOTHER park called “Splendid China Folk Village” which does for the countryside of China what Window of the World does for the world. Also – next time!
Personally I would recommend going without spoilers, but if you want to check out the park, here’s the official website for the park.