The story of how Escape Park was inspired by its founder's childhood

28 Apr 2023 04:21pm
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The innocent, carefree days of our childhood create some of the best memories we hold on to for the rest of our lives.

Many of us carry those sweet memories with us well into adulthood.

Datuk Sim Choo Kheng, who founded Escape Park through the Sim Leisure Group company, walked down memory lane with Sinar Daily and opened up about how his childhood was some of his best days.

Sim, who hails from Penang shared that he grew up in a village surrounded by trees, streams, and ponds.

Having nine other siblings to play with, they would often roam around nature that served as their backyard.

With the environment, he grew up in, Sim found ways to be creative in making his own toys. In fact, he had never seen a plastic toy until he was 11 years old.

"I would build the biggest kite in the village, build tree houses, and more. As kids, we were so connected to nature,” he said in an interview.

This is where he developed a creative and fun-loving personality.

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Cherishing his wonderful childhood was what inspired Sim to create a nature-based adventure park.

Reconnecting with nature, is what Escape Park is all about, said Sim.

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While Escape Park serves as a place of happiness for all ages, he hopes to make children fall in love with nature when exploring the adventure park.

He said with kids having to focus on their studies, parents sometimes sacrifice children’s playtime in the name of academics.

“By nature, kids should play. Of course, you cannot expect kids who live in Mont Kiara or Puchong to run around and fly a kite, it's not safe.

"Escape Park is a place where kids can play games in a safe environment,” he said.

The adventure park is for those who are young at heart, he added.

"You can't enjoy Escape if you are a grumpy old man. We even have signage inside or park that says “grumpy adults will be escorted out. It’s a joke but I’m half serious.

"When you come to Escape Park, you need to come with an open mind, where you feel free to do something you miss as a child.

Escape provides many games for different levels of physical ability and almost all games in Escape are self-directed.

"You can decide on how fast you can go, how high you want to climb, and you decide how exciting you want it to be," he said.

"Every game we create, we will always consider 'how many smiles per hour we will be able to generate out of that game.

"It's not how much we can scare them and that's the difference between Escape and other parks with roller coasters roller coaster parks," he added.

Escape is an attraction or a park that will allow you to have fun in the right way where you will share laughter and many smiles per hour," said Sim.

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Escape Park may be a popular attraction now but it didn’t quite hit it off immediately.

Sim revealed it was rather a “lonely journey” before Escape Park opened its doors.

“When I worked on this idea, nobody believed that it would work. That’s why nobody wanted to fund this because it’s never been done before.

“I ended up self-funding the whole thing. Instead of going big at once, I built it in stages - Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3.

After many years of hustling, Escape Penang was built in 2012 yet his happiness didn't last long since the first day of opening was a 'disaster'.

"First day was a disaster, we only had less than 30 customers. We waited for one hour for customers to walk in, it was very embarrassing. It wasn't selling like hot cake.

"At that moment, I thought my wife was going to kill me since I poured my heart and soul into building the project.

"The second day onwards news went around about Escape and we had more customers. People started to come in and that's how from 30 it went to 2,500 customers per day," he said.

Escape receives tremendous crowds during school holidays, they also receive groups during the week for corporate team building.

"People take time off to spend their time here, we even had people camping here and staying the night because Escape allows you to stay in the park.

"Your connection with nature is not only in the day but also at night," he said.

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The lockdown affected many industries as it depends on customer participation, and Escape adventure parks were no exception.

Being a fun and creative person, it was challenging for Sim to maintain a closed park.

"We couldn’t drain the water from the swimming pool because the pools would crack so we had to continuously run the pump.

We had to maintain the chairlift and other equipment as well so I kept myself busy with the maintenance team.

However, the lockdown was partially good for Sim as he generated a new idea and came up with a new game for Escape which is the 'Zip Coaster'.

"I started coming up with ideas on what we're going to do next, what is the next attraction.

"As always, I took this opportunity (lockdown) to come up with an idea for the 'zip coaster' which was launched in May 2022.

During the lockdown, I was designing a zip coaster, I made use of my time for the park," he said.


"I'm on a mission for global domination and I'm not joking", said Sim.

"Prior to Escape, our company has built parks for clients all over the world.

"We are an international outfit that with our design and division based on the divine," he said.

With that, Sim hinted that the next project will take place in another country in the Southeast Asian region.

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