Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Disneyland Hong Kong-style

Does Sleeping Beauty get jet lagged flying from her Hong Kong Castle to the California one?

Have I mentioned that we are a Disney theme park-loving family? Until I was 4 years old, I lived 20 minutes away from Disneyland in California, and every single house guest naturally wanted to go to the legendary park. There's a cute picture of my mom and me in front of the iconic Mickey Mouse flower berm with her wearing an early 70's miniskirt while I'm bundled up like an Eskimo. Hubby and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World in Florida. I've nursed my babies on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is just long enough to get in a feeding and dark enough to be discreet. (But hold on tight during the dip.) My little girl already has five Disney park visits under her belt.

So when we began to plan our Hong Kong trip, Disneyland was an obvious choice. Yes, I did  try to convince the kids that we should try out the homegrown Hong Kong Ocean Park. Pandas! Dolphins! Cable Cars! Rides! Roller Coasters! But let's just say that the word on the playground is that Disneyland is the place to go.

I forewarned them that Disneyland Hong Kong was much smaller than the other parks. "Space Mountain is the only roller coaster," I told them. They didn't care.  Since the park does have their current favorite ride, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, a.k.a. AstroBlasters, they figured that everything else would work itself out.

So that's how we found ourselves there the Sunday before Christmas. Any Disney park in the U.S.A. would be packed solid with lengthy, 90-minute lines for a 3-minute ride during Winter Break, but the Hong Kong version was practically empty in comparison. In fact, the Single Rider line at Space Mountain had a mere 5-minute wait time throughout the day. Fantasyland was practically deserted. All you could hear was crickets — Jiminy Cricket.

One hour after park opening, we were the ONLY people on the It's a Small World ride. No one else was in line in front of us. We were the only people on the boat, and no one was waiting when we disembarked.  I almost felt like we had won some special contest in which we had Disneyland all to ourselves. Or perhaps we were in one of those crazy Scooby-Doo haunted parks where a masked goblin would soon chase us through the rides?

It's a Small Abandoned World

It turns out that the big crowd was at Toy Story Land which had opened the month before. Since the U.S. parks don't have this section, we were eager to explore. You get the feeling that you're a small toy wandering through Andy's backyard. Gigantic Tinkertoys reached for the sky around us. Woody loomed large at one entrance while Rex welcomed us at the other one. The rides themselves were typical carnival rides which had been given the Disney treatment.

Other parts of the Disney experience were just what we expected. Naturally, there were Princesses, all played by Caucasians. Oddly, Mulan the Chinese Warrior Princess was nowhere in sight. Little girls in Hong Kong dress up to visit the park, just as they do in the U.S.A. How come grown ups never dress up? If my hubby showed up as Mary Poppins' chimney sweep friend, Bert, would he get preferential treatment?  How many Meet-and-Greets could he get away with before being kicked out?

We found Asian touches throughout the park. Japanese Sushi and Chinese cuisine were offered at the for-the-big-crowds restaurants while hamburgers and hot dogs were relegated to the smaller Western themed restaurant. The Frozen Yogurt stand had Asian toppings in addition to the sprinkles and crumbled Oreos.

Shows and rides were in a variety of languages. On the Jungle River Cruise, we had our choice of three different lines depending on if we wanted a boat ride featuring Cantonese, Mandarin or English. Although to be honest, with the number of under-our-breath comments we were making, it didn't really matter what language the guide was speaking. The Lion King show, similar to the one at Florida's Animal Kingdom, was in English but had two monkey sidekicks who provided Chinese translations without breaking the flow of the story. A musical revue called the Golden Mickeys was completely in Cantonese, other than the songs, but had English "subtitles" on a screen next to the stage. The hilarious Stitch Encounter, similar to Turtle Talk with Crush at both EPCOT and California Adventure, advertised the times and language of each show.

What I found most interesting about this park was the nametags. In the U.S.A, the nametags list the cast member's name and home town. I guess it's so you can strike up a conversation with "Gertrude - Eureka Springs, Arkansas" and tell her that your elementary school friend honeymooned there, for instance. The Hong Kong nametags did not have hometowns, and many of the cast members had Western names. In and of itself, that's not too strange since many young Chinese professionals have Western names for when they have to deal with non-Chinese folks.  In high school, my friend, Yi-Fen, was picking out a name for her U.S. Citizenship papers. I lobbied hard for "Jade" which is what happens when you ask a 15-year-old for name suggestions. She ultimately went with "Jasmine." (Hi Jasmine!!)

While waiting in line for the raft ride to Tarzan's Treehouse, I noticed that we were being helped by Jim, Jessie, and Jill. What was strange was that Jill was a man. I began to suspect that perhaps Disney kept a pile of  nametags in the dressing room, and the employees just grabbed one on their way to the rides. At Tomorrowland, my son pointed out that a man named "Saturn" was in charge of loading AstroBlasters. Porsche was the lady who helped us at Autopia. Coincidence? I think not.

The park may be small, but we spent the entire day there and were booted out 30 minutes after closing. For the kids, a small park and small crowd meant riding their favorite rides multiple times with little waiting. Just for kicks, we decided to take the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) home. Unlike U.S. Disney monorails, this train actually links with the citywide public rail and subway system.

The trains on the Disneyland Resort line have been customized with Mickey Mouse shaped windows and handholds plus bronze figurines that decorate the rail cars. By the way, the Hong Kong MTR subway system is incredibly busy on a Sunday night. I don't even want to try it during rush hour. Two transfers, ten stops, and 40 minutes later, we were finally back at our hotel.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great trip! We too are Disney fans. We used to go to Disney World every spring break when we were in university and when we had kids, we were down there as soon as they weren't babies any more. The boys don't even remember their first few trips they were so young. LOL! We'll have to get ourselves to Disney Hong Kong at some point as well. Glad you guys had a good time!


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