Saturday, May 26, 2012

[Disney] [Tourist] Day 10: Hong Kong Disneyland - It's a (VERY) Small World After All

As Day 10 was a Monday and the Peak should have been clear, I had decided to try to take the tram up today. But as I was laying out my plans for the rest of the week, I realized that I could not make any firm ones until I knew with some confidence whether I'd want one or two days at Hong Kong Disneyland. That led me to change things up a bit and to attend HKDL today.

This update will feature a ton of photos as there is not nearly as much out there on HKDL in English as there are for the other international parks. I'll do up today's report similar to previous ones, with a blow-by-blow account of my doings. And then in honor of one of my hometown's most famous residents, the Right Honourable Jerry Springer, I'll close with Danny's Final Thought (on HKDL).

Whether it was the excitement of the Arsenal match the night before, the general sleep issues that have plagued me on this trip, or the slight tinges of homesickness as I realized that for at least the next three weeks I could actually go whole days without speaking to anyone, it was a rough night. I think I managed about three hours of sleep total.

On the sunny side that meant that once again I was up bright and early. I had another delicious breakfast at the Regency Club on the 23rd floor. I'll spare you pictures as the offerings were largely unchanged day-to-day. But each time was just as great as the last.

I wasted as much time as I could in the room writing up old trip reports, because while the trip from the hotel to HKDL looked like it would take about 45 minutes, the park didn't actually open until 10:30 that day.

At 8:30 I could delay no longer and I left the hotel for my first foray on Hong Kong's subway system, the MTR. Only as I was entering the subway did it occur to me that it was 8:30 AM on a Monday morning and that maybe that was not the best time to have one's first experience on the line. It turned out rather well, as while the subway system was busy, it was not as bad as the reports I've read of Tokyo where you often end up packed like sardines on popular lines during rush hour.

The first part of the trip involved taking the red line from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lai King to transfer to the orange line. I found it rather easy to navigate, and though the ride itself took 25 minutes, it passed quickly. The transfer could not have been easier as the train I wanted was on the other side of the platform and had just arrived. I needed to go two stops to the (I'm sure Disney-inspired) Sunny Bay station to transfer to the HKDL Resort Line.

We made it one stop before they said the train was going out of service and we needed to get off and wait for the next one. Easy enough to do and, within about ten minutes I found myself at Sunny Bay awaiting the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort line.

It was hard to miss. No way anyone is seeing this train pull up and mistaking it for anything other than one's magical conveyance to lands of fantasy, adventure, tomorrow and, um, toys (stupid Toy Story Land ruining the flow):

An entire train line just for Disney

Definitely a Disney vehicle


I kinda want one of these but I don't know why

A brief ride later and I found myself at HKDL. One quick swipe of my octopus and off I went.

At this point it was only 9:15 or so and, even accounting for the five minutes it took to walk and get my ticket, I had time to spare. I thought to myself, "self - why don't we go check out the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel...maybe take some pictures, kill a few minutes".




Mickey surfing water being know what, you can see the damn picture for yourself

Poor Donald; never gets to surf whale exhalant

Whole lotta map for not a whole lotta park

What the hell is up with Mickey's coloring?

Mountains again! Get used to this, folks

Told you it was a small park

It was a great idea, in principle. In actuality it took about fifteen to twenty minutes of walking in the godawful humidity to get to. When I arrived I thought, "damn I've walked for quite a while - it would appear I've walked to Orlando and I'm now at the Grand Floridian".

Is that...the Grand Floridian?
It is the Grand Floridian!

Here are a bunch of photos with captions from the hotel. Seemed like a very lovely place worthy of being a flagship Disney hotel, though I'd still never pay their going rates to stay there:

What the heck is it doing in Hong Kong?

Are we sure this isn't the Grand Floridian...maybe I'll just turn around

Nope, definitely not the Grand Floridian

Pretty sweet though


Looks pretty cool

Oh god now I have to come back to Hong Kong in a year when this opens

Thanks, you too inanimate sign!

Statue looks better from this angle...wait, that makes it seem like I have a fetish for Mickey's ass. Whatever, I'm sure somewhere in Tokyo there's a store for that

At that point I bought a giant bottle of water that lasted approximately three minutes and then made the trek back to the park entrance. The park opened at 10 to let folks in for thirty minutes of Main Street USA browsing. I took the opportunity to snap a few Main Street photos.

Much of the park is based on the original Disneyland, including pretty much all of Main Street USA. In fact the best description I can think of for HKDL is "take Disneyland, subtract out half the lands and most of the good rides and attractions from the remaining lands and then add in some beautiful greenery and hills and that' what you've got".

Five minutes before rope drop I made my way to the front. I offered to take a family photo for a group who were in from Canada. This lead to a nice five minute chat. Turns out the husband, wife and kids had been living in China for the past nine months. He had some tips for me on how to deal with queuing (or the complete and total lack of respect thereof) that came in quite handy.

Hey, I remembered it!

Good thing too

Wizard of Bras?

Awww look, it's a tiny little wee castle

With some damn big hills in the background (not sure if you knew that, about the hills...there are hills in Hong Kong)

I'd like to think I'm not so juvenile as to comment on that shirt. Haha, kidding, of course I am. You rock that coc!

After rope drop I made my first mistake of the day and grabbed a fastpass for Space Mountain while also deciding to ride it. Since the park had just opened it was a walk-on, which is great. Less great is that I spent the entire ride cowering in fear of being beheaded. The absolute scariest experience I've had at a Disney park was a ride through Space Mountain in WDW with the lights on. I'm 6'1 - tall but not supertall. But let me tell you, the clearance in certain spots was definitely less than a foot. I could even reach up and touch the railing in a few places. Now whenever I ride it I do this weird thing where I sort of hunch down and pray for mercy from the Disney gods. Created quite a bit of neck pain for the next two hours but at least I can say I've been on Space Mountain in Hong Kong.

Awesome loading area for Space Mountain - those globes were very cool

The day figured to be an easy one as there were literally only four or five attractions I wanted to go on at the park - Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh, It's a Small World and the HKDL Railroad. I also wanted to do the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters but I forgot about that until I'd already left the park. HKDL is a great park if you've not been to other Disneys, but if you have (especially if you've been to DL/WDW often), they don't have a single unique attraction of note. Perhaps the closest is the show they put on called the Golden Mickeys, which also exist on the Disney cruise ships, but as I don't go in much for shows (whether in English, Mandarin or Cantonese), that meant there wasn't a whole lot to do.

After riding Space Mountain I made my way over to Winnie the Pooh, where the line was already at 25 minutes. Huh. Really? Alright, I'll wait and get a fastpass for that then.

To kill time until I could get that fastpass I ventured over to Jungle Cruise. The Adventureland part of the park is truly impressive - it's massive compared to its American counterparts. The Jungle Cruise was temporarily down because of threatening weather, so I accepted the inevitable and went on It's a Small World. I once again took photos of every cheesy character placement - there were even more in HK than in the original DL, but I'll spare you all of those again. The ride was made more pleasant by having a smaller portion of the singing in English. The less I understand, the better in this case. There was also a massive Asia room as opposed to the short shrift that the continent's cultures get in other versions of the ride. Also, as I am writing this I've realized that the song is back in my head. You know what that means? You must all suffer too:


Exterior is pretty alright

Strongly disagree! Being sober is a distinct detriment to enjoying this ride

The signs in every land were actually quite helpful

There's so much hope that we share

That it's time we're aware

It's a small world after all (repeat until depression sets in)

No? Fine. Here's an alternate set of song lyrics that seems remarkably appropriate to all sorts of things right now:

All alone at the '64 World's Fair

Eighty dolls yelling "Small girl after all"

Who was at the Dupont Pavillion?

Why was the bench still warm? Who had been there?

After It's a Small World I grabbed a fastpass for Pooh (hur hur) and then made my way back to Jungle Cruise. The way the Jungle Cruise works at HKDL is that you choose which of three languages (Cantonese, English or Mandarin) you'd prefer to hear it in. While it was very tempting to get in the Mandarin line, I remembered that in Tokyo DL they only do it in Japanese so I figured I'd save that special experience for next week. English it is, please. As I'm standing in line an Australian family behind me says to one another "who comes to Disneyland without kids - why would you even do that"? Hello Australians, I'm standing in front of you in the ENGLISH line which, short of my being illiterate, means that I can actually understand what you are saying. Given the behavior of their kids I was sorely tempted to turn around and say "who in their right mind brings three kids and a six-month old to a Disney park? How can that possibly be fun for you"?

Instead I just started a brief conversation with the couple in front of me by offering them my one fastpass to Space Mountain that I had no intention of using. The guy seemed genuinely threatened by the gesture. Perhaps he though my largesse was going to steal his lady away? Do not fear sir - I give my fastpasses in peace and goodwill. Strangely I would see this couple several other days in other Hong Kong tourist spots. Shame we didn't hit it off as that would have been hilarious. As it was, they probably though I was stalking them. Awkward.

The ride itself was completely unintelligible. That was not the skipper's fault - the PA system was not loud enough to hear anything she said. Perhaps because the expectation was that not every guest would be a native English speaker, the jokes eschewed the usual wordplay and punnery that makes the Jungle Cruise so awesome and instead it went for cheap thrills and blunt humor. At a few points she actually said "that's a joke". I felt bad for her. At one point the Australian guy said "oh, she's actually speaking. I thought that was a recording". Not a good sign.

The climax of the ride entailed a battle between a fire god and a water god, similar to the show in the Ceasars Palace mall in Vegas. I had read up on the ride before going on it, which proved helpful as all of us in the back of the boat had absolutely no freaking clue what was going on. No narration, no contextual clues. Just lots of fire and water.

Looks appetizing?

I like this guy

I see a possible new Facebook photo

Dear god, these got listed as an "attraction" on the map - are you really so desperate, HKDL? Your like an alcoholic licking the dried up bits of NyQuil on the measuring cup

That is a pretty background for Fantasyland

After leaving the Jungle Cruise behind I made the obligatory trek to Toy Story Land. Here are some photos. The rides there were all midway-type stuff. Somehow they built a Toy Story Land without putting in the one Toy Story ride that currently exists that is truly worthy of headling a park: Toy Story Midway Mania. I did not realize this until the night before and a part of me died inside because I had every intention of riding that over and over for hours. The wait in the US parks is routinely 90 minutes. Why wouldn't they build it?

Oh, and why didn't I wait a year so Mystic Point would be built. /drool:

Giant Woody that talks (hur hur hur)

It's like an evolved form of Push the Talking/Moving Trashcan From Magic Kingdom Please Help I Can't Stop Capitalizing Words

I remember seeing Dynamite Pony back at the Garden in '76

Doesn't matter if you're Chinese, you still have to go sit in Pooh Corner

I liked the bronze Pooh

Time to ride me some Pooh bear, Winnie the Pooh bear (much rather have that theme song stuck in my head, thanks). The ride is virtually identical to the one in WDW. Scratch that, I think it is completely identical. The following photo completely and totally blew my mind and simultaneously made my day:

What. The. Hellass. I LOVE YOU TOAD

For those who can't see the details, that's a picture of Owl and Mr. Toad. The back story on this one goes as such. When the $#*#&$@ decided that what we really needed in Orlando's Fantasyland was a Pooh dark ride, they kicked old Toad to the curb and gave his spot over to Pooh. But there are two points in the new Pooh ride with pictures of Toad as a subtle nod to the previous occupant of the space. It's the highlight of the Pooh ride for me in Orlando. Apparently they copied the WDW ride so exactly that the Toad painting made its way across the Pacific as well. Splendid!

This little sign let you know when to smile for the photo - helpful but distracting

In the restaurant - pretty nice!

I walked on (in?) to Mickey's Phillharmagic at that point. Always a pleasure!

After that pleasant surprise it was time for lunch. I was not even remotely hungry at the time because of the humidity but it had been six hours and I figured I needed food. I headed over to the Corner Cafe. The building was built in 1890:

But the restaurant had been established in 1908:

What was in the space in-between those times? Someone in Imagineering must know!

For lunch I ordered the Japanese seafood ramen. In China. Look, I never said I was any good at this. Bonus: I have no clue how to eat ramen. Probably made an ass of myself. Shortly after returning to the hotel I took to Chowhound to get proper instructions before getting to Japan.

Quite tasty!

I really wanted a button - they don't do that here so they gave me a sticker. Of Duffy. I kept it to use in my dark anti-Duffy rituals at the next full moon

The humidity was so completely and utterly awful that I looked the worst hot mess of my life at that point. After lunch I actually bought a t-shirt and changed into immediately because my old one had become unbearable (no, I'm not posting that photo). I was wearing a Hong Kong Disneyland shirt in Hong Kong Disneyland. I'd become that guy (INSERT LINK).

One benefit to wearing that shirt home: the hawkers on Nathan Road let me pass in peace. Apparently everyone assumes that the guy wearing the HKDL shirt doesn't want a Genuine Rolax Watch (now with more Ax) or a tailor. Cool beans!

As I was finishing lunch I realized I'd basically done the whole park in about 2.5 hours. Huh. Now if I hadn't been to WDW 20+ times in the past two years then there would be a bunch of things in HKDL that I'd want to try out, like Mickey's Philharmagic, AstroOrbiters, and some of the midway rides in Toy Story Land. But as it was, I was cooked. I did some shopping in the Emporium. I found the absolute coolest Disney shirt I've ever seen. It's so awesome that I don't know if I dare wear it because I don't want to damage it:

Loved this shirt

The humidity was so completely and utterly awful that I looked the worst hot mess of my life at that point. After lunch I actually bought a t-shirt and changed into immediately because my old one had become unbearable (no, I'm not posting that photo). I was wearing a Hong Kong Disneyland shirt in Hong Kong Disneyland. I'd become that guy.
Emergency shirt purchase
One benefit to wearing that shirt home: the hawkers on Nathan Road let me pass in peace. Apparently everyone assumes that the guy wearing the HKDL shirt doesn't want a Genuine Rolax Watch (now with more Ax) or a tailor. Cool beans!

As I was finishing lunch I realized I'd basically done the whole park in about 2.5 hours. Huh. Now if I hadn't been to WDW 20+ times in the past two years then there would be a bunch of things in HKDL that I'd want to try out, like Mickey's Philharmagic, AstroOrbiters, and some of the midway rides in Toy Story Land. But as it was, I was cooked. I did some shopping in the Emporium. I found the absolute coolest Disney shirt I've ever seen. It's so awesome that I don't know if I dare wear it because I don't want to damage it:

Why is this upside down? Either way, really awesome shirt

I finished the day at the park with a quick tour around the place on the HKDL Railroad. I had no idea how they'd make a RR ride out of such a small park. Answer? It moved so slowly at times that I could have outwalked it. Fun!

This sign looks strangely empty

This movie looks awesome no matter what language the poster is in

Disney trains are comfy

Forgot to show this photo earlier - it's the shirt I was hoping to get embroidered at every park. Fail.

Really awesome umbrella

Danny's Take on HKDL: If I lived in China or Hong Kong and couldn't get to Tokyo Disney, I'd be pretty happy with HKDL. It's at most a half-day park unless the crowds are crazy. I went on a Monday and the place was empty. That still meant 20-25 minute waits because there are so few attractions, but that's livable. The Canadian family told me they were there the day before, a Sunday, and the waits were over 90 for everything, even It's a Small World. If you're waiting 90 minutes for It's a Small World it's time to sit down and have a good, hard think about where your life went so wrong.

The park is definitely up to Disney's standards of detail and immersive storytelling, though you would expect no less as it's the fifth Magic Kingdom-esque park they've built. The park will be much stronger after the Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point expansions in the next year, especially if they add in Toy Story Midway Mania. There's plenty of room - tons of room really - on property to expand. There's talk of a Downtown Disney area being built, which saddens me. I know Disney's a business and as a publicly traded entity profits are what matters. But when you're building a shopping district (to go with your two hotels) before you've even finished building a complete, day-long park then I'm just sad inside.

If you are in Hong Kong and you've never been to a Disney park before, then it's worth going to for half a day, especially if you're already on Lantau Island to see the giant Buddha. If you love Disney you should probably just go for that reason alone. If you don't really care to see a Disney park then don't bother with HKDL because it's not going to change your mind. And if you've been to DL/WDW a few times then you can probably give HKDL a pass as of now, subject to any future growth at the parks.

Alright, back to the trip report. After finishing up my grand circle railroad tour of HKDL, I had a decision to make. The other notable site on Lantau Island is the world's larges outdoor bronze sitting Buddha statue. Each of those words turns out to be relevant because apparently if you remove any one of them (indoor vs outdoor, sitting vs not) then the statue no longer qualifies as world's largest. Go figure.

To get there from HKDL involves a brief 5 minute subway ride followed by either a 35-40 minute bus ride OR a 20-25 minute skyway ride. Ah, the skyway. Picture a slightly larger version of those old-timey skyway rides at amusement parks. Then picture sitting in one for 20-25 minutes. Amazing views they say. Oh, and one time one snapped off and plunged 50 fifty below. And there was the time last year where it stopped running and people were trapped on them for 2 hours. I'll pass, thank you very much.

So the real choice was 45 minute train/bus ride in each direction to see a giant Buddha statue or go back to the hotel. I'll let you guess which won out. Here's a hint: there's no giant Buddha statue pictures to come.

I got back to the hotel around 3:30. I really wanted to go to the Temple Street Night Market, since my attempt the previous night had failed. At about 3:31 PM I passed out in bed. I woke up at 7:00 PM and had one hell of an internal debate at that point. The irrational, whiny tired side said "look, we can just keep sleeping and then get up at midnight" to which the more responsible side said "and then what? completely screw up our sleep schedule". Somehow the responsible side won out and I forced myself awake.

I took out my contacts, put on my glasses, and started the walk up Nathan Road to the Temple Street Night Market. I was in full-on zombie mode. It proved incredibly effective in protecting me from hawkers. The ones who even bothered with me got such looks of withering disdain that I imagine a part of them died inside. It was a fun walk!

I didn't take any photos of the Night Market. Why? Because if you've ever been to a flea market then you've seen it. I left pretty disappointed, not because I planned on buying anything, but because it was much smaller than the guide books made it out to be. Shame I didn't need to buy an iPhone case. I'd estimate that one out of every one stalls there was selling them. Yes I'm aware of how the math on that works.

I got back to the room around 9 and headed upstairs to the Regency Club for a snack:
The perfect pre-bed snack courtesy of the Hyatt Regency

After that I took what must have been my third shower of the day. I called up a few family members back home and then went off to bed, keen to see the Peak the next day.


  1. This is my favorite part so far ;-) I can see your sense of humour in your posts and you seem to be more comfortable writing longer posts. Tell us Gooner, were there any mountains?

    Quick question, how do the prices for the parks compare?

    Did you contact the parks in advance? If you contact their Marketing departments in advance they may have something special they can do for you. I'm sure they treat journalists well.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip and we'll enjoy reading!


  2. There may have been a mountain or two. Hard to tell from the photos, I know.

    Good question. Hong Kong was very, very cheap. At least they priced it appropriately. If I remember correctly, Tokyo Disney wasn't too bad - I think I paid maybe $200 for my 4-day pass, but since it's so nice it's still a great deal. WDW and DL are definitely overpriced, but the Annual Pass can be a great deal if you live in the area. I can't remember about Paris but I'll check it out when I get there next week.

    I didn't contact them. I probably should have, but it's also been nice just being a person in the parks rather than marked as a blogger.

    Glad you are enjoying it!

  3. I have to go through and read this fully when I get home tonight, hopefully I can get my laptop functioning. (Guess who else's decided to die?!) Apparently you were busy with the updates while I was at Star Wars weekends!!!

    ps. I hope you plan on burning that Duffy Sticker!!!!

  4. Very interesting insight into HKDL. I live near Disney World and enjoy a visit now and then. Do you mind if I use the picture of the Toy Story Land on eBay to help me sell a shirt from there? There is very little information and few pictures available that I can find.