Crossing the Asia bridge from Discovery Island, you enter Asia through the village of Anandapur, a veritable collage of Asian themes inspired by the architecture and ruins of India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal. Situated near the bank of the Chakranadi River (translation: "the river that runs in circles") and surrounded by lush vegetation, Anandapur provides access to a gibbon exhibit and to Asia's two feature attractions, the Kali River Rapids whitewater raft ride and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Also in Asia is Flights of Wonder, an educational production about birds.

Expedition Everest -- yep, another mountain, and at 200 feet, the tallest in Florida -- is a super-headliner roller coaster. You board an old mountain railway destined for the foot of Mount Everest that ends up racing both forward and backward through caverns and frigid canyons en route to paying a social call on the Abominable Snowman. Expedition Everest is billed as a "family thrill ride," which means simply that it's more like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad than like Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Attractions

Asia is a remarkable land that sprawls from the Flights of Wonder Theater all the way to Expedition Everest. Unlike Africa, which features a strong center in Harambe, the little village of Anandapur weaves in and out of the jungle along the floodplains and lower foothills of the Himalayas. Asia is not set in any one country but reflects the design and urban form of rural communities throughout Nepal, India, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Anandapur means "place of delight" in Sanskrit and the underlying theme is the conflict between the population explosion and traditional respect for animals and wild places. On Discovery Island nature and the built environment were in balance. In Africa, that balance was being restored but there is a clear distinction between the urban and rural edge. In Asia, nature seems to have the upper hand as many structures are being reclaimed and the foliage is taking over.

The architecture varies from Nepalese, Javanese, and Thai influences. The hand-built feel is everywhere. But the real star of the show is the landscape architecture. One of the designers, Paul Comstock said, "If you've been in the wild, surrounded by the foliage and flowers, you know you have to go over the top. We had to convince them that landscape was the show." As you move toward Serka Zong (Fortress of the Chasm), the little village at the base of Expedition Everest, you will see a greater use of the color red. Red is the color of protection. Enhancing the authenticity of place is the use of prayer flags. These are common in Tibetan villages and meant to bring prosperity, long life, and happiness to those who put them on display. The flags also add kinetic energy to the landscape.

The paving materials along the pathways add to the story. Look down (careful) and you will see imprinted on the rough surface footprints, bicycle and truck treads, leafs, and animal prints. As you move toward Everest, the bicycle tires fade away as that mode of travel becomes impractical. Here you will more hoof marks. It is as if you just missed the residents.

Dining