As you enter the Asia section in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., you expect to be assailed by a plethora of different symbols and signs of the vast diversity of Asia. But, it is not so. Only Nepal, with a few symbols of India, seems to be representative of Asia at this theme park. The first place near the gate is the Yak & Yeti Restaurant, with the address below it saying Anandpur District, obviously an imaginary place. It would have been better if it had been said to be Kathmandu, Nepal, because that would have been true, and would give some much needed publicity to the country. The people who conceptualized this section missed mightily on that one. Still, the tall peak in the near background meant to represent Everest left no doubt that Nepal is the star in this world famous park.
Additionally, there are quite a few establishments, such as a trekking supply shop and other restaurants that try to give the Nepali ambience. Failure to do so authentically is due to the confusion in differentiating between India and Nepal, and so you have some funny names in Devanagri script that are neither this nor that. One restaurant had a Hindi film poster hanging inside on its wall, the ceiling was high, and the designers had tried to incorporate some Newari-type windows, too. But, they were a far cry from the beautiful authentic ones; much too inferior.
Being pretty hungry after the safari ride and the ‘rafting’ on the Kali River (maybe I’ll describe this in another blog), I searched desperately for a place where I could get daal, bhaat, and tarkari, or at least momos. Sadly, they weren’t available; the restaurants mostly served a hodge podge of so-called Thai, Korean, Japanese, and such cuisine. I was really very surprised to see no signs of China or its fantastic fare in the Asia section. Anyway, Korean pork ribs and a bottle of Spanish beer satisfied my hunger, and I carried on to line up for the Everest Expedition (or, Everest Ride, as it’s popularly known).
As expected, it was a long line, the sign above the entrance read—waiting time: 55 minutes. Here, allow me to detail some fascinating facts about Walt Disney World Resort. It features four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios) and two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Blizzard Beach Water Park). Tickets are steeply priced. A single ticket for one day to any of the theme parks costs over 100 dollars each. Nevertheless, that is money well spent, which is proven by the fact that, in 2015, 20,492,000 people visited Magic Kingdom (around 56,000 per day), making it the most visited theme park in the world, and 10,922,000 visited Animal Kingdom (29,923 visitors per day). It’s actually a fantastic place to promote Nepal tourism, and somebody should do something about this.
Anyway, the line I was in started moving very slowly. As we went around a typical pagoda style temple, in the near distance, I could hear yells and screams of people taking the ride. It sure promised to be a thrilling affair, and I couldn’t wait. But waiting I had to do, since the line was so long. However, this was alleviated on entering the Yeti Museum on the way. It was a pretty interesting museum. One display had a torn tent, smashed up vessels and stoves, and other paraphernalia of a climbing expedition in the Himalayas. The signboard informed that it was an expedition in which all members had vanished into thin air, and it was suspected that a yeti had carried them off.
There were many photographs of the Himalayan region, as well as footprints and skull fabrications said to be of the yeti. The whole point of the museum was to intensify the mystery of the yeti, and at the end of the room, before we entered another room, a notice declared that, indeed, the many proofs proved the existence of the yeti to be true. The other room was dimly lit, with low watt bulbs that gave a yellow light, probably to represent a typical trekking supply store in Nepal. There were many aluminum kettles and momo-making utensils in the glass fronted shelves, as well as Druk pineapple cans, pickaxes, down feather jackets, ropes, climbing boots, and so on. Coming out of this room, we reached the ride platform, somewhat like a train station.
I boarded a narrow gauge open type of train, sat down, and pulled down the protective barrier. A young American lady sat down beside me. Very soon, we were off, a leisurely glide downhill, then a very steep climb up to the peak of Everest. However, near the peak, the train stopped momentarily, the path ahead seemed to be blocked, and then we started rolling backwards. Did I say rolling? No, that’s not right, we backtracked at full speed; the sound of the rattling train on iron rails was terrifying; and soon we were inside a pitch black tunnel, hurtling backwards at full throttle. A sudden flash of lightning revealed the figure of a giant yeti way above us on a cliff.
Then, the train again started moving forward, and coming out of the tunnel, immediately plunged down vertically, again at full speed. Twisting and turning this way and that, it tore around a hairpin bend. By this time, my mind had stopped working, lost as I was in the thrill of the moment. My stomach was churning, and my nerves were raw with excitement. Throughout it all, panicked screams rent the air, as the petrified riders yelled their lungs out, not knowing what to expect next. Another vertical drop, another hairpin bend, and we finally glided into the station. The lady beside me jumped out of the train with some alacrity, and I could well empathize with her, because I and all the riders did likewise. We had been through a terrific ride that scared the hell out of us.
Anyway, to conclude, the Everest Ride is something that all who can should experience.