Monday, November 30, 2015   

`Indoor refrigerator' brings a little winter wonderland to hot and humid Hong Kong ; Chill out at Snow Garden

Dennis Eng

Wednesday, June 19, 1996


Dennis Eng

BILLED as a large-scale indoor refrigerator of sorts, Snow Garden is an attempt to bring a little wintry bliss to the territory's over-heated population this summer.

Housed in a hollow building _ a former skating rink _ within the confines of Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park, Snow Garden is the first of its kind in Hong Kong where people hardly ever get a chance to have fun in temperatures of five to 10 degrees Celsius below zero.

But according to Betty Keung, director of the Taiwan-based organiser, East Lord International, creating Hong Kong's very own Snow Garden involved much more than just bringing blocks of ice.


As the original site required a great deal of renovation which started more than two months ago, everything inside the building had to be taken out, including bumper cars.

The next step was to insulate the walls. This had to done with a lot of care so as to prevent any future leakage of cold air. Heavy machinery, including an overhead snow-making device, was also installed.

Unlike other machines, which create artificial snow out of granular ice particles, Snow Garden's machine produces snow in the natural way. Air and moisture are combined to form clouds which are then passed through freezing air to make snow.

The resulting effect resembles a constant snowfall and, as Keung explains, there will even be snowflakes. The temperature inside the premises will be monitored and controlled by a thermostat. While it is designed to have a minimum of about 20 degrees Celsius below zero, it is usually kept at more bearable temperatures.

The premises presently has a legal maximum capacity of about 400 people, but there are plans to only allow 300 people in for safety reasons. If it becomes full and the temperature inside starts to rise, the thermostat will automatically make adjustments to prevent any melting.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for example, East Lord International has a similar operation by the name of Snow House. But, as no one had any idea how well it would go down with the public, there was very soon a shortage of public toilets.

"We never thought there would be this many people there and we didn't have enough toilets. It was a big problem because there were so many people," she said.

The overwhelming popularity of Snow House may have been due to Malaysia's hot climate, even though Hong Kong is not much colder. With cold spells proving to be a hit in Asia, plans are already being made to set up similar establishments in Thailand and the Philippines. In Hong Kong, Snow Garden, which took two years of planning and $30 million to build, is an on-going operation. With more than 1,500 blocks of ice already being used to prepare the site, an extra 100 blocks will be brought in every day to replace any ice that might get dirty or damaged.

An array of animals, including stuffed bears and reindeer, are also used in Snow Garden. Imported from Canada at a cost of more than $100,000 each, the animals are an expensive addition to the operation.

Keung said special permits and licenses were also required for each animal as they are endangered species, even though they are only replicas. There is a three-month wait for each licence and the location of these animals needs to be reported every three months to authorities in case they are moved. There are also more than 50 Christmas trees, also from Canada, to create the appropriate atmosphere. While the trees also require a licence there is no need to report their location every three months.

"These trees can survive quite long in winter so they won't die," Ms Keung explained.

While the trees and the animals offer plenty of photo opportunities for the public, there are also many activities that children and adults alike can try like ice hockey and tobogganing. There is an Eskimo Village, an open area with snowfall as well as a wishing well and a slide carved in ice.

"In Asia a lot of people have never seen snow before in their lives. Our aim is to give them a chance to see what it's like to have snow fall on them," she said.

Snow Garden is located in the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park and is open Mondays to Saturdays from 11 am to 9 pm and on Sundays and public holidays from 10 am to 9 pm. Tickets are $100 for adults and $60 for children.

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