I hadn’t a lot of interest in Hong Kong, whereas John was really keen to visit. So when he insisted he wanted to start our trip in Hong Kong, the first thing I did was google what there was to do there. And the first thing that came up was Disneyland.
I was sold. I’ll admit I’ve a bit of a soft spot for Disney movies, and at 27 may have a Disney CD in my car. So I agreed to Hong Kong on the proviso that we visited Disneyland.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest one, and is also the newest. It consists of a number of themed areas – Main St USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Toy Story Land, Adventure Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point. It’s quite easy to get to as it has its very own metro station, so while we had to make three line changes it wasn’t really difficult. From Sunny Bay station you take a special Disneyland train, decked out with Mickey Mouse shaped windows and handles.
Buying our tickets, our first stop was Main St USA for something to eat. Everything is of course extremely overpriced, but that’s to be expected really. We were just in time for the Flights of Fantasy Parade, and so tried to find a spot from which to watch this. This was when I first started to get frustrated.
I get that Chinese people don’t want their skin to tan. Personally, I don’t want to burn and look like a lobster. However, I’ve a suggestion for this. Use sunscreen and wear a hat. Don’t carry umbrellas everywhere, when you have absolutely no thought for the people around you who you continually stab with the points of your umbrellas, or knock in the face when open them without bothering to look around you.
This was what we saw of the Flights of Fantasy Parade. And that was what we saw for most of the day, and had to spend half our time worrying that we were going to lose an eye or be stabbed in the face. I really wish that Disneyland [and hey, Hong Kong in general – it’s a problem everywhere] would ban umbrellas when it’s not raining. Especially because no-one ever lifts them over you or moves them so you don’t get whacked in the face on footpaths, when the alternative option is to step onto the road into oncoming traffic. Chinese people with umbrellas are weapons of mass destruction in my opinion. For a time I considered using mine just as aggressively as payback, but I felt like an idiot carrying an umbrella in the sun.
I was disappointed that we couldn’t see anything through the sea of umbrellas, but we decided to take advantage of the fact that the crowd there was huge and thus the crowds elsewhere would be thinner. So we wandered over to Toy Story Land to check it out.
It felt like we were walking into a child’s toy room. Everything looked like wooden colourful toys, and in the sunlight it was fantastic.
After John posed for some photos with Woody we quickly got in line for our first ride – the RC Racer. We had to wait in the line for about 20 minutes but soon made it on. The ride looked like a bright orange horseshoe, and the racer went back and forwards, almost getting you upside down. It had been a very, very long time since I’d last been on a rider – almost ten years I think – and I didn’t realise that the practically vertical drop going forwards would cause my stomach to lurch. It felt unbelievably creepy. I didn’t feel sick or anything, but it was a bit weird. I prefer going backwards! However, it was a lot of fun while it lasted – only about a minute once you’re strapped in.
I would have liked to go on the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, however the lines were quite long as by then the parade had finished. Instead we looked around Toy Story Land and John wanted another photo, this time with the dinosaur from Toy Story. I don’t know its name, as to be honest while I like Disney, I don’t really care for Toy Story. John claims that this is like not liking oxygen, which I believe to be a little bit of an overreaction. After all, he doesn’t like Sleeping Beauty which is a far worse sin in my books. I may need to reconsider this relationship. However, he redeemed himself slightly by confessing to liking The Little Mermaid.
We walked down to Grizzly Gulch next. I’m not sure what films this relates to, but it was fun nonetheless. It’s set up as an old wild-west mining town, with geysers blowing and old buildings. We walked past a wall of ‘Wanted’ signs, and upon finding my name there obviously I *had* to have my photo taken. John thought I looked cute, however that wasn’t entirely what I was going for.
We’d seen on our park map that there was some kind of ride here and soon made our way to the Runaway Mine Cars. the line for this was quite a lot longer, and every time we thought we were coming to the end of the line it turned out there was another room with a snaking queue. A bunch of kids in yellow t-shirts – I think they were on a tour – kept trying to push in front of us. It was stinking hot and we’d been lining up for about 40 minutes already, so I can safely say there was no way we were letting seven kids push in. They were about twelve or thirteen – well and truly old enough to understand the concept of a queue. That the adults with them were encouraging them makes me suspect they were from mainland China, as our experiences here so far suggest that politely queuing has not yet been invented. It reminds me a little of India in that…
Eventually we were at the front of the line and jumping into the mine cart. And it was well worth the wait! It was absolutely so much fun. The mine cars zoomed along the rails, clacking and clanking along through tunnels and under hills, turning sideways around corners and then changing to go backwards at the same. Simulated mine explosions made it even more entertaining. We had so much fun that we planned to come back again later…when the crowds died down a bit.
Next up, aside from getting some water, was Fantasyland – with its Sleeping Beauty Castle. Fantasyland is the largest section of Hong Kong Disneyland, although disappointingly all the rides are really for children. However, when I think of Disneyland I always think of the teacup ride. Going on this was non-negotiable, and fortunately the line was only about a half hour long. We were soon climbing into our very own tea cup. I hadn’t realised that you had a wheel inside to spin yourself, but this explained why some cups spun like crazy and others didn’t. John could barely fit into the teacup – luckily we had it to ourselves as otherwise he’d have had nowhere for his legs!
We had a wander around Fantasyland after the ride, and I discovered that Princess Aurora [aka Sleeping Beauty] was hanging out around the corner. I, of course, just had to have my picture taken with her. We joined the end of the line and after a couple of minutes a Disneyland employee came up and asked if we realised we were in the line for Sleeping Beauty photos. She looked a bit confused when I confirmed that yes, we were aware of this. It may have been because everyone else waiting to have their photo taken was a good twenty-something years younger than me…
But hell yeah, I was getting to have my photo taken with Princess Aurora! She didn’t even laugh at me, although I suspect this was due more to professionalism than anything else, and she probably laughed later. As a child I had a bit of an obsession with the film and would dress up as Princess Aurora all the time. It’s still my favourite Disney movie.
We didn’t really want to line up for the Dumbo ride, or the Cinderella Carousel. The lines were long and it was too bloody hot to stand in the sun waiting. So off we went to check out It’s A Small World. John was less than enthused, possibly because I started singing the song as soon as I saw the sign. He became slightly more enthusiastic when we stepped inside and it was deliciously air-conditioned. I actually thought it was pretty cool, with all the sets of little characters and scenes from around the world. But even I’ll admit that the song on repeat became slightly irritating.
Next stop was Tomorrowland.
I’d picked up a free map when we entered Disneyland and fortunately read it, noticing that they had these things called Fast Passes for certain rides, allowing you to avoid the queues. They only work for the Winnie the Pooh ride [although not on that day, so we skipped it – 90 minute wait!], Space Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Basically you insert your entry ticket into a Fast Pass machine near the ride, and it gives you a special ticket and a time at which to come back. You return at that time [usually a 45 minute window] and you can jump the line.
We’d gone and got our Fast Pass for Space Mountain before I’d got my photo with Princess Aurora, and so by the time we’d explored Fantasyland and had an icecream it was our scheduled time to return. It felt great, skipping the queue and going straight in! Space Mountain was the first proper rollercoaster I’d been on in many years, and so I was quite excited. I didn’t realise it would be dark inside however! As we started flying along, unable to see what was coming, I was suddenly acutely aware of my height and that I was taller than the average person in Hong Kong and China. What if they’d made Space Mountain to Chinese heights? I spent half the ride slouching into my seat worried that I’d knock my head off. Despite this, it was quite exciting. When we got off the ride, John confessed that he’d been doing exactly the same thing.
We’d also remembered to get our Fast Pass for the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters as soon as it was allowed [you can only have one Fast Pass at a time, and it gives a time you can get the next one]. We had to wait about an hour after Space Mountain, so we decided to try out Autopia. It’s a track with little cars and you drive around.
The fact that you could drive supervised if you were under 110cm tall should have served as a warning. As it was, we waited for 45 minutes and had a family behind us with the most irritating child ever – and the parents weren’t any better. They kept trying to push in front of us, and encouraged their child to push in front of people so that they could then go and join him however far he got. I’m certain they were from mainland China, as Hong Kong locals wouldn’t do that – it’s too rude. The kid kept pushing me, trying to shove me, pulled at my bag and hit my camera. I was getting close to slapping him myself. Of course they spoke no English, however even our charade attempts and angry faces failed to get the parents to consider asking their demon child to behave with some form of courtesy. In the end, every time the kid tried to shove me aside I stuck my arm or leg out, knocking him still. He’d shove against me or try to climb between my arm and leg. It was disgusting. Everyone else was waiting patiently and this one family thinks that they shouldn’t have to? The fact that when the kid pushed me, the parents would push John was a testament to the example being set by the ‘adults’ in the family.
By the time we eventually got into a little car, I was disappointed that we hadn’t let them in front purely so that we could then ram into them repeatedly. As it was, it was as absolute waste of 45 minutes. The ride was terrible. Because they let kids drive [I get that it’s Disneyland, but they had 3 tracks – couldn’t one be reserved for adults?] – we stop-started all the way around with a max speed of about 3km/hour. It was boring.
However, at least after that we didn’t have too long to wait for the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – which unfortunately was also a bit disappointing. It was clearly aimed at little kids, and you just sat in the carriage with a fake gun that you used to shoot targets on the bad guys along the sides. John was busy shooting them and I was trying to shoot John, with little success. Then I discovered that the joystick in front of me caused our little cart to spin around, and so I spent the rest of the ride spinning us around back and forth. Apparently this negatively affected John’s overall score, but I enjoyed myself.
We’d planned to stay and watch the fireworks, but these wouldn’t be for another few hours. We’d intended to go back on Space Mountain, and then go back to the Grizzly Gulch for the mine cars ride again. However, John was suffering from some serious blisters and was not enjoying moving, so instead we headed off. The sun had set and the lights were beginning to come on, but it looked like an awkward transition rather than something magical. We headed back to the Disneyland Railway Station and in the company of Mickey Mouse windows headed back to our hostel.