A performer wearing a plush giraffe suit stands outside a small turnstile below rainbow-colored lettering that spells out “Noah’s Ark.” The giraffe takes a few bows. My chipper tour guide, Larry, wearing a headset and screaming yellow polo shirt, asks me if I want to pose for a picture. I tell him I’m alright for now.
The entrance to Hong Kong’s Noah’s Ark theme park is located at the end of the impressive Tsing Ma Bridge, one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, connecting the small island of Ma Wan to the rest of the ever-developing city. Ma Wan used to be a fishing village without roads or public transportation. But since the theme park was built in 2009—in a government purchase lasting 21 years—the island has seen rapid transformation. Bus stations surround the park and cars shoot down the bridge, atop of which it’s impossible to ignore a large brown ship lodged into the ground.
The Ark replica is, naturally, the theme park’s centerpiece. On the day of my visit, Zoe Choy, the park’s administrative assistant, speed walks to the turnstile to greet me. Then she tells me that Sun Hung Kai, the Hong Kong mega-property developers behind the park, made a fiberglass replica of the ship to match the exact size of the Ark in the Old Testament—27,000 square feet, according to the park’s communications team. As we walked past the turnstile I can’t help but notice that there were no visitors at all on a sunny and temperate Wednesday at 3 p.m.
The park administrations say this is the only operating Noah’s Ark theme park in the world, although there’s another on the way. In Kentucky, a Christian fundamentalist is now spending some $102 million to build a controversial Noah’s Ark theme park to preach that the Great Flood will come if America continues with same-sex marriage, atheism, and abortion. Hong Kong’s park isn’t without controversy, either: One of its developers, Thomas Kwok, one of the three founding billionaire brothers of Sun Hung Kai, was sentenced to five years in prison for high-profile corruption unrelated to the park.