For a child, any vacation in Hong Kong would barely be complete without a trip to Disneyland. After all, no other place in the world can claim to be a “child’s fantasy come to life”, more than a Disney park. Sure, there are better theme parks out there. Even the competing Ocean Park Hong Kong has loads more thrill and fun, but there’s a certain magic that could only be found in a Disney. From experience, Disneys are rarely the most exciting, but they can show a “world of make believe” like no other.
It was our second time in Disneyland Hong Kong, and we were delighted to find the park had in fact grown in size, since our first visit more than two years ago, and is still growing.
If you are going to Disney by train, the “make believe” experience will start way before you enter Disney’s gates. Disneyland is connected to the rest of planet Earth via the MTR’s interchange station at Sunny Bay, where passengers can transfer from the Tung Chung line to the the Disney trains. Sunny Bay itself looks like a futuristic, outlandish station that grew in the middle of nowhere, and trains leave from the station for Mickey’s kingdom every 5 minutes or so.
The Disney train is also an experience in itself, with its Mickey-shaped windows and grab handles, and its plush velvet seats and numerous of various Disney characters. It’s one train ride not to be missed.
Main Street USA and the Disney Parade
Owing to Disney’s American origins, all visitors to Disneyland Hong Kong are greeted first by the Mainstreet USA. A “fantasized” version of an old American town, Mainstreet USA is a collection of shops, restaurants and other food outlets, all lined side by side along a lively strip that every visitor has to pass through.
The entire stretch of Mainstreet USA also forms the route of the daily parade, which involves a lot of street dancing and beautiful floats.
Tomorrowland is the park’s “futuristic”, outer-space-themed section. Though I don’t find it to be an exactly “happening” part of the park, it does have what is perhaps Disneyland Hong Kong’s most popular thrill ride – the Space Mountain.
Fantasyland is what I would call the “core” of Disneyland Hong Kong. It is the “fairy tale town” behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Here you will find what is perhaps the park’s best show, the Golden Mickey’s, and though I didn’t get to see it this time around, I saw it two years ago, and it’s a must-see for any first time visitor. The other attractions on Fantasyland are rather “childish”though, like It’s a Small World and the large carousel. For a bunch of grown-ups looking for some excitement, this may not be the part of the park to hang-out, but I would imagine that for kids, especially little girls, this might best part of them all.
Toy Story Land
If Fantasyland is for little girls, then this is the one for the little boys, and the teen-agers at heart. Toy Story Land was one of the new sections that wasn’t there yet when we visited two years ago, and it is perhaps the most “ride-happy” one. The section is hidden away in one corner of the park, and it exudes a totally different feel compared to the other parts. Instead of feeling enchanted, and “magicky” like the rest of Disney, you will feel like one of the main characters in “Honey I Shrunk The Kids”, dropped on a backyard filled with scattered toys. Come to think of it, it is Disneyland Hong Kong’s backyard. It’s not the most visually appealing, in fact there’s very little in terms of memorable sights, but if you like rides, this is the place to hang-out on.
Adventureland is the park’s tropical jungle – Tarzan’s home, so to speak. The section revolves around a man-made lake, where visitors can take an adventure boat ride. It is also the venue of the park’s other must-see show, the Lion King. Compared to the other parts of the park which are bright and airy, this one feels rather dark and mystical.
Grizzly Gulch is another new section that opened after Toy Story Land. And like the latter, it is also not accessible directly from the central castle. Rather, you pass through Adventureland to get there. Modelled after old mining towns in the American west, the section’s biggest attraction is a roller coaster disguised as a mining car. Not that it’s particularly thrilling by adrenaline junkie standards – there’s no such thing as loops there – but the cars and the surroundings were so brilliantly made that you might mistake photos of it as the real “wild west”.
Beyond Grizzly Gulch is another new section called Mystic Point, which was due to open just two weeks after this visit. Sigh, we just missed it by a hair, but that does mean we have something to look forward to again next time we’re due for another visit to Mickey’s kingdom.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Disney Fireworks
And of course, a Disney is not a Disney without a princess’ castle in the middle, and no day ends in a Disney without the beautiful fireworks.
* Photos taken last May 2013 using an Olympus EPM-2 with D. Zuiko 14-42mm IIR.