28 May 2014

HK Day 6: Disneyland day!

We couldn't stay at the Disneyland Resort without visiting Disneyland at least once!  So, we designated Wednesday as our day for checking out the park.  This was fortunate, as Wednesday's weather was the best yet -- still very hot and sunny, but less humid than on prior days.

Unlike WDW, which opens first thing in the morning and stays open long after the fireworks end, Disneyland Hong Kong doesn't open until 10:00am and closes promptly after the fireworks show (which ends around 8:30pm).  These hours suited us fine -- we spent the morning catching up on this blog (on which we were two days behind, with our memories of HK Day 4 already starting to get fuzzy).  We eventually made our way to the park around 10:30am.

Monstro fountain outside the park with surfing Mickey (who actually went up and down)!
Park gates - so empty!
One thing we noticed immediately upon arriving at the park was the size of the crowds -- virtually nonexistent by WDW standards!  On pretty much any day at WDW, you can expect big crowds and significant wait times for popular attractions.  Here, by contrast, we breezed right through the security checkpoints into the park, and from then on could essentially walk right on to any ride we liked.  We've read that Disneyland Hong Kong has only recently started operating at a profit, and if Wednesday's crowd is any indication, we can see why!  From our perspective, however, it sure was nice to be able to casually walk our way around the park without ducking and weaving though throngs of people.

Right off the bat, we also noticed that HK is much smaller in several respects than the Magic Kingdom in WDW. Each "land" in the HK park has only a couple attractions and restaurants, with considerably more unused space between each one.  At WDW, in contrast, each "land" feels packed with attractions and add-ons (such as Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom) that make use of otherwise dead space.  We think / hope this means that the park simply has lots of internal room to grow.  Several structures also are much shorter than their WDW counterparts.  Most obviously, the castle is very short, which makes it look more like a set piece than an actual building, but the trend of short structures holds true throughout the park (e.g., the gate to Tomorrowland).  Overall, however, we thought that the theming and attention to detail around the park was very nicely done.  Mystic Point in particular was a highlight where theming is concerned.

That's not perspective - the castle is very short!
Mystic Manor attraction
Our main goals for the day were: (1) check out the areas of the park that are unique to HK Disneyland, (2) sample HK Disneyland's take on park food and (3) see the fireworks show.  Starting with goal number one, we decided to head over first to Toy Story Land, Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch.  Toy Story Land is an area aimed at younger age groups that is themed (very nicely) like the Toy Story Midway Mania ride in Hollywood Studios, WDW. 

After working on her for a bit, Todd convinced Gwen to try the Green Army Men's Parachute Drop Training ride, which  lifts you up and drops you down a few times (think Tower of Terror, but much less scary / appropriate for little children).  We liked this ride, in particular because it afforded some great views of the HK skyline and surrounding mountains.  

Howdy, partner!

Mystic Point is an interesting area themed around the travels of Dr. Mystic and his monkey, Albert, who have brought treasures from around the world back to their mansion.  The mansion is the main attraction -- an animatronic ride, somewhat like the Haunted House in WDW, in which Dr. Mystic's treasures come to life.  We thought that this ride was one of most well-done and technologically advanced animatronic rides we've seen.  Really, very cool!  Finally, we walked through Grizzly Gulch quickly before deciding to search for food (Todd was threatening to get hangry).

Light up cotton candy!
Yangzhou fried rice, pickled veggies and watermelon juice
BBQ pork with rice and veggies
The food options are strikingly different in HK Disneyland in comparison to WDW.  As is to be expected, there is a much greater emphasis on Asian foods (including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Indian), and many fewer spots for burgers and the like.  There also are some very interesting snack options (including dried fish and squid at the popcorn carts).  After checking out some options, we settled on Festival of Food, which showcases various Chinese dishes.  Todd got the pork (complete with little bones as you might get in a Chinese restaurant), and Gwen got the fried rice.  At this point, it was around 2:00pm.  As we were feeling way overheated and also had made reservations for afternoon tea at Walt's Cafe, we decided to head back to base.

Check out the capers & onion smiley face!
Walt's Cafe, a restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel, did a nice job overall with tea.  While the quality and presentation certainly weren't at the level of the Peninsula or Cafe Gray, the cost was less than half of the Peninsula's and lower than Cafe Gray as well, and great views out the back of the hotel were free!  For HK $385, we received a single set of tea cakes to share, and we each received a tea pot and a small hot dish (such as assorted dim sum items).

We're actually standing right in front of the castle...
A bit later on, we made our way back to the park for the fireworks show.  Before the show began, however, we were able to walk right into Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters (a somewhat updated version of Space Ranger Spin at WDW).  Again, this ride typically has 25-30 minute wait times at WDW, but essentially no wait here, making it a great deal!  We enjoyed the nifty modifications made to the ride.  Somehow, due to cheating for sure, Gwen's score was nearly double Todd's.


Disney in the Stars fireworks show
The fireworks show was truly spectacular, drawing loads of audible oooohs from the crowd.  The show included several cool firework effects not used in WDW, such as giant spinning sparklers mounted to polls extended from the castle. While there may be several aspects of Disneyland HK that feel a bit small, the fireworks show definitely is not one of them.
As mentioned, the park closes promptly after the fireworks show ends, resulting in a bit of a rush to the exits.  Our efforts to take refuge in a gift shop worked fairly well, however.  After spending some time examining a very cool Disney-themed miniature house display (see below), we found that much of the crowd had dissipated.

With our last ounces of energy for the day, we decided to check out the grocery store at Tung Chung, one stop past Sunny Bay along the orange line on Lantau Island.  Here, we loaded up on interesting candies to bring home as gifts (this is for you, Matt) and procured breakfast for the next day.  The store also included some wild, never-in-the-USA aisles, such as one full entirely of boxes of various kinds of dried mushrooms!  Lugging our grocery store loot home on the train, we got home around 10:30 pm and called it a day.

Dried mushroom gift packages: who wants one?!

Next time: More Mong Kok

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