Monday, October 29, 2007

Hong Kong Disneyland

As long-time Disney fans, during our trip to Hong Kong we couldn’t resist visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. As the newest, and therefore smallest, Disney park (it’s still being expanded), the place has been maligned for not enough activities for hyperactive small children or Asian teenagers raised on video games. But we loved it, partly because of the simple pleasures of walking around a Magic Kingdom, soaking up the atmosphere, and watching how the cultural and language differences played out.

A detailed review, for those particularly interested (and if you are, you’re probably related to me):

When you arrive by subway, Disney has its own train off one of the main lines. The train is plush, with windows and rings shaped like Mickey’s head and gold statues of Disney characters. You exit the train at a gorgeous, old-fashioned train station before walking through manicured grounds past a huge fountain with sculptures of Mickey, Donald, and the rest on your way to the gate.

Hong Kong Disneyland is, visually, a bit on the short side. It’s on Lantau, the same island as the airport, so we’re guessing that a bigger Sleeping Beauty’s Castle or Space Mountain wouldn’t have met height restrictions for flight visibility. But it’s still beautifully done, with all the details you would expect from a Disney park.

Food Surprisingly good. Favorites: Fantastic dim sum in a food court in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, amid tapestries that told the story, classic Gothic arches, and lighted pedestals with life-sized statues of dancing Disney princes and princesses. British and Cantonese food at the end of Main Street. Ice cream (selection: chocolate-and-vanilla Mickey heads, chocolate and sesame seeds, red bean, and green tea) while staking out seats for the excellent parade.

Entertainment Fascinating, largely because of language differences. For the main show, the songs were in English, but they spoke Cantonese, and the Chinese characters (for the Mandarin speakers) and English were on screens on either side. Imaging hearing Cantonese spoken with the squeakiness of Mickey and Minnie, the aw-yuk of Goofy’s voice, and the quacking of Donald Duck!

Stitch Encounter, a computer-run audience-interaction show, was also interesting. Since it would be impossible to interact with the audience in three languages at once, the day is divided into English shows, Mandarin shows, and Cantonese shows. It only takes them 15 minutes to switch the technology from one language to the next. Impressive, and fun. Stitch immediately picked Joey out of the audience and announced that he was an escaped space pirate, complete with mugshot on screen. Ah, the memories...

Rides Space Mountain is tamer; there’s just no getting around it. Lots of tight spirals at high speed, but no drops at all, perhaps because of the lack of height. The “rockets” in Tomorrowland have been altered to take on more people; now they’re literal flying saucers, an odd contrast to the Mad Hatter’s Teacups not far away.

The Jungle River Cruise is more like Disneyland in California, much more fun and involved than the one in Orlando. Also, here Tom Sawyer’s rafts are called Tarzan’s rafts, and they float across to Tarzan’s Treehouse. Not much to do, but given the location and the beautiful hills that surround the park, it’s a terrific place to take in the views.

Buzz Lightyear, the Carousel, Dumbo, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and Winnie the Pooh are the same as in Orlando. It’s a Small World probably will be, too; it’s still being constructed, but we could see the familiar facade.

Omissions? Yes, there are plenty. No Frontierland at all - and while it doesn’t exactly make sense in Hong Kong, that means no Splash Mountain and no Big Thunder Railway. No Pirates of the Caribbean. No Peter Pan. No Haunted Mansion. (No Hall of Presidents, either, but that’s a bonus.)

Hotels There are two Disney hotels near the park. The Disneyland Hotel looked so much like the Grand Floridian (though it was billed as European) that we couldn’t stay there - it was just too weird. Instead, we stayed at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, a casual but glamorous hotel decorated in a perfect art deco style.

If you enjoy finding “hidden Mickeys,” this is the hotel for you. Mickeys tucked into the outer wall. Cubist Mickey carpets in the halls. Mod, flat, circular lights in the restaurants in the Mickey shape. Mickey croutons in the salads. Mickey-shaped tops on the travel shampoo.

And when we got tired of looking at Mickeys, we could look out our window onto the hotel grounds and then out to the bay and the mountains beyond, a constant reminder that we might be at Disney, but we were still in the exotic city of Hong Kong.


Mom said...

Great summary. Wonder why Disney picked that particular island - because of its proximity to the airport? As far as a Pirates adventure, they could just put "The Black Pearl" in the water off the coast!

Cheryl said...

do they have indiana jones adventure? That's my fave ride at disneyland california. It's very strange to have no pirates! Thanks for the great summary, sounds fun!

Andrew said...

mmmmm green tea ice cream....