Once upon a time or a quarter of a century ago to be precise, I stepped into the magical realm of Disneyland California when I was still a dizzy teenager. Like everyone else who has ever visited any of the Disneylands, I thought it was truly one of the happiest places on earth. I mean, how could anyone fail to be happy in Disneyland unless they were The Grinch? Even if you were a lot poorer because of the admission fees, the happiness and joy on everyone’s faces is quite infectious.
Before I arrived in Hong Kong, I’d already planned on visiting Disneyland there even though I knew it was a smaller scale version of its US counterparts. 25 years is a long time not to have visited Disneyland again so I really wanted to go this time as a middle aged adult!
However, although I’d planned on going there on a weekday, my plans changed as my Hong Kong friend was also going with her family on a Sunday. We’d be meeting there as she was going later while I was planning on being there by 10am when the gates to The Magic Kingdom would open.
Now as everyone know, the most crowded days to visit any theme park would be Saturday and Sunday so all along the way to Disneyland, I had misgivings even up until I arrived at the ticket counter. When the MTR train stopped at Sunny Bay which is the interchange station for the Disneyland Resort Line just across the platform, it seemed like everyone got off – groups of domestic help, parents with screaming kids and a few foreigners.
Looking at the hordes, I felt like turning back and going there the next day when surely there would be less people but thinking of my friend, I soldiered on. The train to Disneyland is very special as there are effigies of Disney characters in every carriage and the windows are in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s face.
This being Hong Kong where the old cliche “time is money” rings more true than in other places, every passenger on the train rushed out on to the Disneyland station platform and bounded up the stairs when the escalator was too crowded. Everyone ran to the ticket counters and parted with HKD399 per General Admission Ticket (aged 12-64) and HKD285 (aged 3-11).
From there, it was like a stampede to Main Street USA where there are rows of cafes and souvenir shops. Visitors were already shopping even before the gates were open to allow access to the magical lands. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to make their purchases and then have to bring them all over Disneyland. After all, most people would be spending the entire day there. Perhaps the Disney souvenirs were too irresistible?
When the gates opened, there was another mad rush with most people heading towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle which is the gateway to Fantasyland. I went towards Adventureland since there were fewer people going in that direction. The first attraction in Adventureland is the Jungle River Cruise which has 3 queues, one for Mandarin speakers, one for Cantonese and another for English speakers.
No surprises here, the queue for the Mandarin speakers was the longest. It seemed that more than half the visitors to Disneyland were from Mainland China. I joined the Cantonese speakers because in the beginning, there was no queue for English speakers, The guide just gave us 2 options at the outset.
The Jungle River Cruise is very tame although there are warning signs that passengers on the boats may get wet. The ride on the boat isn’t exhilarating since it’s rather slow but it is a good ride to take if you want to rest your feet and chill out from the more exciting rides.
Adventureland has a Tarzan’s Treehouse which is accessed by raft but I didn’t go there. I was more concerned with the wait time for the attractions in the more popular lands so my next stop was Toy Story Land which is the latest land to open.
Slinky Dog is a very popular ride among the young visitors and the queue was very long for that one so I went for the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop which is very similar to The Giant Drop at Dreamworld, Gold Coast, Australia but the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop is very mild by comparison as The Giant Drop rises to 39 storeys high (119 metres) and according to the Guinness Book Of World Records, is the tallest, free-falling ride in the world.
Although the queue for the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop was long, at least the queue snaked underneath some cover and they had fans blowing, For most of the rides, single riders queue up at a separate lane so if you are willing to take the ride alone, you can by pass the majority.
I am no adrenalin junkie which is why I avoid roller coasters like the plague but I did try the RC Racer at Toy Story Land. It didn’t look that frightening and if such young kids dared to go on the ride, they’d be putting me to shame. You get into a carriage which zooms up and down a U-shaped coaster. It wasn’t half as bad as dangling upside-down but I admit I had my eyes shut tight throughout the ride!
Where to eat? Well, there are plenty of options as there are cafes along Main Street USA. I had a sausage roll (HKD35) at one of the cafes there. Food is not cheap, there is no such thing as cheap & cheerful eateries at Disneyland obviously.
Most people go to the Royal Banquet Hall (pics above) which is a food hall/court serving up international cuisine. There is another food court located in Tomorrowland and that one isn’t as upscale as the Royal Banquet Hall.
Fantasyland is for the kids, you won’t find one adrenalin-pumping ride here. Actually, it’s also for adults who eschew those rides which can make your heart skip a beat and make you wish you hadn’t eaten lunch before the ride.
Out of the 4 lands, Fantasyland probably has the most rides and attractions. There are shows and there are rides to thrill kids and adults alike. Choose from between the Mad Hatter Tea Cups, It’s A Small World, Cinderella Carousel, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh. You will feel like a kid again even if you are over the hill like me!
At Tomorrowland, I got my neck sun burnt while waiting for the Orbitron ride. It’s not that the queue was that long but they were very stringent with the safety checks for each passenger even though this isn’t a roller coaster and there is hardly any danger of a passenger accidentally dropping out of the car. Still, I commend them for conducting such safety checks as it shows they place a huge priority on visitors’ safety.
My next ride was at Space Mountain, the one ride I avoided 25 years ago at Disneyland, California because I was too chicken. Well, it’s now or maybe never. Life is short and I’d better go for it since kids so young dared to go for it. At least, I could say I dared do it finally. A little tip from someone who has done it and survived albeit all the worse for it – don’t have your lunch an hour prior to the ride as I did. All that jolting made me feel completely disoriented and woozy when I got off the ride and I did feel like throwing up my lunch.
My overview of this visit is that it’s a little disappointing if you’ve been to the other Disneylands before, particularly the ones in USA. I missed not going to the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Mark Twain Riverboat and Peter Pan’s Flight, all of which were available at Disneyland California all those years ago. Nevertheless, if you have not been to any of the bigger Disneylands, you will find Disneyland Hong Kong fascinating, exciting and scintillating. After all, this is the happiest place on Earth, no matter which Disneyland you choose.