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Old 05-16-2009, 10:38 AM   #1
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Hong Kong Disneyland

Part One - Introduction

I recently visited Hong Kong Disneyland for the first time. Whilst I was planning my trip, I found that there was relatively little information on the internet about this park. So, I thought that I would do my little bit to help correct this by posting a short report – a combination of trip report and review. I’ve cross-posted this to both the Trip Reports and UK Trip Reports Board.

My visit to HKDL spanned two days: a short visit on Wednesday 6th May 2009 (covered in Part Two) in which I looked around Inspiration Lake and the Resort area; and a full day at the Park itself on Thursday 7th April 2009 (covered in Part Three – to follow). I will summarise my thoughts on the park in Part Four (to follow).

I should say in advance that I have been to Disney World many times, and Disneyland Paris a few times, but I have not been to Disneyland in California. This is significant as many aspects of the Park are based on Disneyland rather than the other Magic Kingdoms.

Here goes...

Last edited by steve76; 05-17-2009 at 05:44 AM. Reason: Made pictures larger
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Old 05-16-2009, 10:52 AM   #2
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Part Two - Wednesday, 6th May 2009

I had spent the morning and early afternoon visiting Ngong Ping, an area on Lantau Island, just West of Hong Kong. The area comprises a cultural themed village, Buddah statue, Monastery and other attractions, reached by a spectacular Cable Car ride from the town of Tung Chung on the island’s North coast, very close to the airport. I had seen everything that I wanted to at Ngong Ping by mid-afternoon, so decided to stop by Hong Kong Disneyland for a couple of hours on the way back to Hong Kong. I had planned to spend the evening at Happy Valley race course, so only had a few hours to spare.

I got the MTR (subway) from Tung Chung one stop to Sunny Bay. At Sunny Bay, I changed to the Disneyland Resort Line – a dedicated train line which runs through a tunnel and between the hills to the North-East side of the island, where Disneyland is located. The Resort is built on reclaimed land, in what was once a bay, surrounded by mountains and the South China Sea.

As the train pulls into the platform, you are left in no doubt as to whether it’s the right train. Even though the trains are a part of the MTR system, requiring a ticket, they are themed to Disney. The windows are in the shape of Mickey ears, and the inside is decorated with pictures of Walt at Disneyland and statues of Disney characters. Even the handles to hold on to are Mickey-shaped.

The journey to Disneyland took only a couple of minutes. The Disneyland station is Victorian themed. From the train, you make your way up the stairs, where you emerge in front of a ‘Welcome to Hong Kong Disneyland’ banner. This marks the start of the Promenade which leads to the Park entrance (and carries on past the Park to the sea and the hotels).

By this stage, I had been in Hong Kong for nearly a week, and was quite impressed that I had managed to resist the temptation to abandon all my plans and go straight to Disneyland. (It was tempting – but Hong Kong is a spectacular city with so much to offer). Well, my visit to the park would have to wait one day more, as I was to return the following day for a full day at the park. Today’s trip was to visit Inspiration Lake and have a look around the rest of the resort. So, instead of heading towards the park, I headed in the other direction.

Behind the train station are the bus stops, taxi ranks and car parks. I walked through these and out to Fantasy Road. The first thing that strikes you is how beautifully landscaped the resort is. The roads are surrounded by landscaped gardens which are very pretty to look at in their own right. I was very impressed at the attention given to areas which most guests would never see.

The picture below shows the map of the resort area so you can see where I’m talking about. I’m now walking along the road to the North of the park, towards the lake in the North-West of the Resort. I made my way along the road and under the underpass to Inspiration Lake.

Inspiration Lake is part of the Disneyland Resort, but not really promoted very much. Admission is free. The lake is surrounded by paths and landscaped gardens, with seating, pagodas, waterfalls, fountains and great views of the surrounding mountains. You can rent boats or bicycles, or just do as I did and have a leisurely wander around the lake, enjoying the views. The lake is actually the reservoir for the Resort, but they have done a great job with it. Most visitors would never see it, but if you are staying on property and have lots of time, it’s definitely worth a visit. There were only a couple of other people at the lake when I was there, plus a wedding party having their photos taken.

(In this photo you can just about see the Disneyland Resort Line Train passing in the background)

After a very pleasant hour strolling through the gardens, I headed towards the hotels, continuing to walk anti-clockwise around the back of the park. Again, the grounds are gorgeous. The main road, which serves the hotels and backstage areas, is a four-lane highway but there was only the occasional Disney bus going by. I could hear music from the park on my left but couldn’t quite work out what it was.

I reached the first of two hotels: Disney’s Hollywood Hotel. This occupies the land between the park and the sea, but the building itself is set back somewhat from the sea. It is Art-Deco in style and I thought that the theming was really fun. As you walk in, you are greeted by bellhops who looked similar to those at the Tower of Terror. I had a quick look around the public areas and gift shop, and then walked through to the back of the hotel. The hotel has quite extensive grounds which lead from the hotel all the way down to the sea. The paths all have road names (Sunset Boulevard etc.) and there are props such as cars and a big ‘Hollywood Hotel’ sign in the style of the ‘Hollywood’ sign. There’s lots of open green space and whilst I was there there were a couple of families using this to let their kids play.

After relieving myself of some cash in the gift shop, I headed back out to the road and headed towards the second and final hotel. As you walk down the road, there are two more clearly-defined plots of land which I can only assume are site for future hotels. They have even built the road junctions, all ready to go, just not leading anywhere yet. Past these two plots is the second hotel – the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel - seen from the back.

The Disneyland Hotel is built in the style of the Grand Floridian, but on a smaller and more intimate scale. As you walk in, the lobby opens up into a dining room with large windows looking out to the back. At the back, the main ‘feature’ is a hedge maze. Seen from the balcony of the hotel, the light green hedges in the middle make the shape of a Mickey head from the side. I thought that this was really neat, a nice change from just having the pool as the main feature, and fit perfectly with the style of the hotel. There is a pool, which is just around the corner. Unlike the Hollywood Hotel, this hotel is set right on the water, so a good number of the rooms would have sea views, looking out over the Sea towards Hong Kong and some of the outlying islands.

The Disneyland Hotel is classy and formal. The Hollywood Hotel is more fun and relaxed. If I were to stay on property, then I would probably opt for the Hollywood Hotel. The only slight downside is that it is further from the park (10-15 minute walk), though there are buses if that really is a problem. The Hollywood Hotel is also much cheaper.

By this stage I was getting hot and hungry so I walked back to the Hollywood Hotel to eat at the Studio Lounge. This is located just off the lobby. I had a seat by the window and ordered the Chicken Teriyaki Burger. Even though this was essentially a bar meal, the food was exceptionally tasty.

Having cooled off and filled my stomach, I decided to finish my walk all the way around Disneyland and head back to the MTR. Once you pass the Disneyland Hotel, you reach the pedestrian promenade – and the background music begins. The promenade runs from the MTR station right the way down to the sea, past the entrance to Disneyland. It is filled with topiaries, fountains and seating areas.

I walked up the promenade towards the station. On the right, opposite the park, is more reclaimed land, currently hidden by trees. I think it is fairly clear that this is where the second park will go. They could either mirror the layout of the existing resort area, and have another row of hotels by the sea, or they could place the park right next to the sea and use it in its theming (like they have done at Tokyo DisneySea).

Outside the entrance to the park itself is a huge fountain, with Mickey riding a surfboard on the spout from a Whale’s blowhole, and other Disney characters in various aquatic scenarios. Mickey rises and falls, and every few minutes the fountain puts on a bit of a ‘show’ in time to the music. Apparently, Disney built this fountain as this area of the Resort needed water in order for it to have good feng shui.

I had already bought my ticket online before leaving the UK, so I went to collect it from the ticket counters in case there was a queue the following morning.

Overall, what I saw on my first day of the resort itself left me very impressed. I was impressed by how well planned the whole resort was, how attractive they had made it, and how they seemed to have built everything with one eye on future expansion and development. Whilst I knew that the Park itself was small and had fewer attractions than its counterparts, it is clear that in general Disney did not ‘cheap out’ when building this resort.

In part three, I will discuss the following day, when I did actually make it into the park. I will post this in the next couple of days. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them.

Last edited by steve76; 05-17-2009 at 05:45 AM. Reason: Made pictures larger
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Old 05-16-2009, 08:37 PM   #3
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I am patiently awaiting Part 3!

I am always curious about what Disney's non-U.S. parks are like so this is a great read. You are right, it IS the hardest to find info on Hong Kong's park. I can't wait to actually see what the park itself looks like!
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Old 05-16-2009, 08:53 PM   #4
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This is going to be good. I've been wanted to see what HKDL looks like for a while. I will be watching this closely.
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Old 05-17-2009, 05:46 AM   #5
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Thanks for the comments. I've made the pictures larger in the original posts so you can get a better view of this beautiful resort. Enjoy!
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:25 PM   #6
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Part Three - Thursday, 7th May 2009

Finally, the day was here. I had spent nearly a week in Hong Kong and had saved my last full day for Disneyland. I got the tram from my hotel on Hong Kong Island to the subway station. I took the subway to Disneyland, changing lines at Central and Sunny Bay. The journey from Central takes around half an hour.

I arrived at the Resort at about 9.30 in the morning. The park opened officially at 10.30 but the cast members had told me the previous day that would start to let people in at 10am, so I still had a little bit of time to kill.

So, I walked down the promenade to the ferry dock. Currently there are no ferries to Disneyland, but they built the dock anyway. I had a quick look around – it is complete and ready to go. I imagine that at some stage the number of visitors will justify them running a ferry service. I hope so, as the ferry would be a spectacular way to arrive at Disneyland. From the ferry dock you can get excellent views of the Disneyland Hotel, Discovery Bay, and (in the distance) Hong Kong itself.

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel from the ferry dock.

This photo shows the view looking East from the ferry dock. It’s a bit difficult to see, but the skyscrapers in the centre of the picture are those of the Western end of Hong Kong Island; the buildings on the left are of Kowloon across the harbour.

I slowly wandered back up the promenade, pausing again to watch the fountain. A couple of minutes before 10am I headed to the turnstiles to wait for opening. There was a small crowd, maybe 10 people queuing at each turnstile. Finally, they let us in. I picked up a guide map and times guide in English and headed under the train station.

In town square, Mickey and Minnie were greeting guests in the bandstand; there were only a couple of people waiting so I joined them and had some photos taken. Unfortunately they don’t have the Photopass system at HKDL (yet), but they had Disney photographers with all of the characters. I also saw the photographers at one point in front of the castle; there may have been more but I didn’t notice them. Once they have taken your photograph they give you a ticket – you can then view and purchase your photos at the photo shop on Main Street. The photos cost HK$100 and HK$120 (about US$13-15) depending on whether they are landscape or portrait. However, all of the photographers were more than happy to take photos with my own camera – something that I was very grateful for as this was a solo visit.

I made my way down Main Street towards the castle. Main Street is shorter and on a smaller scale than the Magic Kingdom. However, it is beautiful, and instantly familiar from photos of Disneyland in California. I believe that it is more or less a replica of the Anaheim version; certainly a lot of the buildings are the same. There are no horse-drawn vehicles in this version of Main Street, and no tracks in the street, though there were a couple of vehicles (the omnibus for example) at Town Square.

One thing that I really liked about Main Street is that it looked as it was supposed to look when it was designed. And by that I mean that it wasn’t covered in banners and decorations with ‘Celebrate Today’ or ‘Year of a Million Dreams’ or whatever the current marketing promotion happens to be. They did have a promotion – ‘Who’s Your VIP?’ but the decorations were discreet and limited to the bandstand in Town Square and outside of the gates. They didn’t allow it to interfere with the theming, which I really liked.

The Castle at Hong Kong belongs to Sleeping Beauty, and is a replica of the California version. It is small, but looks particularly attractive with the mountains behind it. Also, one advantage of having a smaller castle is that it doesn’t tower over Main Street. I always thought that it was slightly strange at the Magic Kingdom that you have a turn-of-the century American street, with a fairytale European castle at the end of it. They seem to go to great lengths everywhere else in the park to minimise thematic contradictions, but not on Main Street. At Hong Kong Disneyland, the Castle is certainly there, and it still draws you down Main Street, but it doesn't seem to dominate the landscape as much (if anything does, it’s the mountains in the background).

I had breakfast at the Main Street Bakery (a banana nut muffin) and got a locker, then made my way down to the hub to watch the Disneyland Band perform prior to opening. There was a small crowd watching the band and waiting for rope drop, but at rope drop the crowd quickly disappeared. After rope-drop I made my way to tomorrowland.

People I had spoken to had said that the longest queues in the park were for Autopia, so that’s where I headed first. The ride is located almost entirely on the other side of the train tracks. The queue for this ride is huge and they obviously have long queues sometimes. I walked straight on with no wait. When you finally reach the boarding station, the line splits into three, one for each track. At this stage of the morning, only one (the right-hand track) was open. This track is the longest of the three, and at one point you cross under the Train Tracks and then go over the heads of the people in Tomorrowland. The tracks merge and split, and pass some well-landscaped areas, with topiaries and great views of Space Mountain. I have never had any desire to ride the speedway at Magic Kingdom, but this was a fun little ride. When I returned to the station, the cast member motioned that I could go round again if I wanted to, as there was still no queue – so I did.

View of Autopia from the queue.

Autopia track passing over Tomorrowland.

Having ticked that ride off the list, I headed over to Space Mountain. I was keeping an eye on the crowds, to see if I needed to start getting Fastpasses, but so far there were very few people about. As I entered the ride, the cast member told me ‘This is a rollercoaster’ and handed me a leaflet with the safety warnings on. I suppose many guests would be unfamiliar with Disney and so would not necessarily know what the ride is. I walked straight onto the ride, with no wait. The ride is, I understand, the same as the Disneyland version, with riders sat side-by-side and with a soundtrack. Wow. This ride is amazing – so much fun. It’s amazing what a difference the soundtrack makes and how fast the ride seems. I immediately went straight back on – again, with no queue.

As I left Space Mountain through the gift shop, a Cast Member holding a Stitch plush tried his hand at ventriloquism by having Stitch say goodbye and wave at me. This really made me laugh. In general the cast members here were really great – polite and helpful, in character, and they really seemed to ‘get it’. This was a nice surprise, since I figured that most of them would have grown up without Disney or Disneyland and so would not necessarily ‘get it’.

Next, I headed to Buzz Lightyear – no wait. An enjoyable ride, it is essentially the same as the Magic Kingdom version, with the laser guns being handheld rather than fixed on the vehicle. As I exited the vehicle, there was a cast member disinfecting each vehicle (the joystick and gun handles). I also noticed them do this at Space Mountain and It’s a Small World. At most of the attractions, there were also hand gel dispensers outside the entrance and exits, which was handy. I’m not sure whether this was routine, or due to the Swine Flu scare, but was nice to see.

I headed from Tomorrowland towards Fantasyland, passing Stitch Encounter. Stitch is located in the same building as Space Mountain, tucked away a little bit around a corner. This is an interactive show along the lines of Turtle Talk at Epcot. They do the show in different languages at set times throughout the day, but the times are not listed on the Times Guide – you have to go to the attraction itself to find out. The screen said that the shows in English were from 2-3pm and 7-8pm. I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing the show did not return to see it.

Tomorrowland is the smallest of the lands at HKDL, and the theming of it is minimal at best. It’s fine, just unimaginative and not particularly inspired. I still don’t really understand how Autopia really fits in with the Tomorrowland theme. In the centre of the land is Orbitron, a hub-and-spoke type attraction, and on either side are two large eateries which take up an awful lot of real estate. The way the land is laid out, I don’t see any obvious space for any new attractions, except possibly on the other side of the train line, with access through a narrow corridor next to Autopia.

I headed over to Fantasyland. There is a very wide path that separates Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, which runs from the hub to the backstage areas, and which is used for the Parade. There is nothing really going on along this path, and no real theming, but there was Woody doing a meet and greet.

In Fantasyland, I headed for It’s a Small World. You have to walk under the train tracks to get to it. The facade is impressive, and the boats are loaded from inside the attraction like the Magic Kingdom version. Not only did I walk straight on to the ride, but I had my own boat, and literally did not see a single other person on the ride or in the queue (this was at about 11.30am). Imagine that happening at the Magic Kingdom! It was actually a little weird. But still, IASW was great. It may be my imagination but I thought that there was more going on in this version than the Florida version (more scenery and more dolls).

Fighting through the crowds to get to It’s a Small World.

Quiet in the back!

Hong Kong’s version of IASW has the Disney characters in it, like the new version at Disneyland. I liked it – all of the characters were in the same style as the dolls and really blended in quite nicely. The only exception to this was the Little Mermaid, who has her own little scene at the start of the ‘Islands’ section which didn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the ride. But, otherwise, excellent.

Next, I headed to Fantasy Gardens. This area is set back from the main Fantasyland thoroughfare, housing a number of character meet-and-greet areas. You enter from one point, and follow a set path which winds around gardens, topiaries and streams, passing a number of pagodas, each with a character. It’s a really nice area and a nice way to meet the characters. When I visited, there was an Aristocat (I think that’s what it was!), Winnie the Pooh, Mickey, Pluto and Goofy. I walked past a few times during the day but it was always the same group of characters. I met Mickey, Pluto and Goofy, waiting only a couple of moments for Pluto and Goofy, and without waiting at all for Mickey. There were only a couple of groups in Fantasy Gardens and so all of the characters were able to spend a fair amount of time with each group.

(I’m the one on the left)

At one point later in the day, Alice appeared by the Teacups. The queue to meet her was quite large, maybe 20 people deep, yet the characters in Fantasia Gardens were standing around waiting for visitors. It seemed that many guests did not realise that the characters were there. Or maybe Alice is just really popular in Hong Kong!

Next, I did the Winnie the Pooh ride. Once again (and by now you should be spotting a theme), I walked straight on, with literally no-one waiting. As far as I can tell, it was exactly the same as its Florida counterpart. This ride is not exactly a ‘must-do’ for me in Florida, but when you don’t have to wait for it, and it’s only 3 minutes out of your schedule, it’s an enjoyable ride. The ride always makes me laugh when it starts bouncing!

I grabbed some lunch at Clopin’s Festival of Food in Fantasyland. The menu was Chinese food ‘from the China’s Great Northwest’, and had separate counters depending on whether you wanted barbecue, wok-fried or noodles. I had the barbecued Pork and rice, which was fine, but not exceptional. In general, from what I saw of the food available in the park, it was mostly Chinese and Asian food, with only a few ‘western dishes’.

Rush hour in Fantasyland.

Fantasyland is similar to the Magic Kingdom version, but more spread out and with more greenery. There are quite a lot of areas which are just gardens, filled with flowers and topiaries, though I suspect that these are just placeholders for future attractions. The mountains are right behind Fantasyland which gives it a unique look.

By now it was about 12.20 so I headed over to the ‘Golden Mickeys’ Theatre to catch the first show of the day at 12.40. Amazingly, the theatre was nearly full by the time the show started – I had no idea where all the people had come from. Apparently the show is a cut-down version of the show from Disney Cruise Line– an awards show where ‘Golden Mickeys’ are awarded for various categories, such as romance and adventure. It’s basically a couple of minutes of dialogue between the host (Bebe) and Mickey or Minnie, followed by a song from a Disney movie, repeated for each category. The staging is quite impressive. It’s a very enjoyable show, though not one I feel I need to see again anytime soon. All of the dialogue is in Chinese, but a screen to the right of the stage shows English subtitles. The songs are all sung in English, with Chinese subtitles on a screen to the left of the screen.

I was planning to catch the 2pm showing of Festival of the Lion King, so my plan was to catch the train to Main Street, then walk to Adventureland. Though there was only a very short wait for the train to arrive, we were sat for a very long time on the train waiting for it to leave. I don’t know what the delay was, but a few people on the train gave up waiting and got off. There are only two stations – Fantasyland and Main Street. The seats on the train are in two rows, running along the length of the carriage, looking inwards towards the centre of the park. The windows at the back, looking outwards, are blocked by shutters. The back row is raised so that everyone gets a good view, but unfortunately there is not very much to look at (though in fairness I only did the Fantasyland-Main Street side of the route). It’s a shame that you can only see inwards, as already a lot of the park (It’s a Small World, Autopia) is outside of the berm, and as the park expands I would think this would be increasingly the case.

I walked back up Main Street, had a quick look at Snow White's grotto next to the Castle, and then went through to Adventureland.

I arrived at the Festival of the Lion King show in good time. They let you into the theatre about 5 minutes prior to the start of the show, and everyone gets seated very quickly, which is better than in Florida. The theatre and the show is similar to the Florida version, with a few differences: the stage raises and rotates throughout the show, there are no tumble monkeys, and the story is different. All in all, I thought that this wasn’t as good as the Florida version, though still enjoyable. The show is in English, but there are two monkeys who translate into Chinese. However, from what I could tell, they were only translating the narrator’s part, so I would think that it would be difficult to follow the show if you don’t speak English. This time, the theatre was maybe a third to a half full.

After the show I headed to the Jungle River Cruise. The big difference here is that when you enter the queue, it splits into three, one for each language. Announcements tell you that the queue time is the same for all languages – they dispatch boats in different languages depending on the length of each queue. They also warn you that you may get wet. I had to wait around ten minutes for this ride – not because the queue was long, but because it was very slow loading. There seemed to be only about three or four boats in circulation, meaning that after one boat left, there was a few minutes’ wait before the next one arrived. Also, the fact that there were three different languages used meant that they didn’t necessarily fill up each boat before it was sent off.

The Jungle River Cruise is slightly different to the Florida version. The route takes you around an island with Tarzan’s Treehouse on it, so when you first leave the dock, the river is wide, with guests watching from several points on the ‘shore’ and on the island, and with the rafts to the island crossing the river in front of you. As you pass by the tree-house you start to leave civilisation, the river narrows and you enter the depths of the jungle. Many of the scenes are familiar from the Florida version. The Piranha attack was a very good effect which certainly surprised the people in my boat!

When you eventually emerge from the depths of the jungle, you can see people again on the river bank and the docks up ahead. But suddenly a geyser erupts in front of you and you take a sharp turn right behind some rocks. There, your boat stops and a scene unfolds involving fire and a lot of water, whilst your boat shakes from side to side. This scene is not entirely unlike Catastrophe Canyon, on a smaller scale. Finally, you emerge from the smoke and return to the dock.

The first time I rode this, I was sat on the left-hand side of the boat, and got a light spray from the final scene. The second time, I rode on the right-hand side, and got wet. Not soaked, but if you’re sat on that side you will definitely need to protect your camera.

My intrepid skipper, Ricky, was excellent. He really got into the part, interacted with the guests, was very funny and spoke very clearly. As far as I can recall, there were no puns, probably due to the fact that many of people in the boat spoke English as a second or third language. My skipper later in the day (I have forgotten her name) was fine but not as good as Ricky.

Overall, I really liked this version of the Jungle Cruise.

Next, I headed for the rafts to the Treehouse. However, the cast member there told me that the tree house had ‘broken down’ and was not currently open. He said that I could do the raft ride, but that it would be a round trip and I would not be allowed to get off on the island. I politely declined and said I’d call back later. I went to look at the Riverview Terrance restaurant, but the cast member there told me that it was closed all day. So, I headed back to Tomorrowland for another two rides on Space Mountain (no wait), Autopia (about 10 minutes), Buzz Lightyear (no wait), and Space Mountain two more times (no wait).

Next, I headed down Main Street, this time taking my time and looking in the shops. In Town Square is the ‘Art of Animation’ exhibition. This is really just one room, with some pictures and a couple of models. A nice diversion but not really an attraction. However, they did have a Toy Story Zoetrope which was amazing – a series of small models on a turntable, which, when spun and illuminated by a strobe light, came to life in a way which is amazing to see and difficult to describe! (There is a video from the version in California Adventure on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrIgwSxZDcc; however, it really does not do it justice). I spent a couple of minutes watching this.

By this time I was getting hungry again and I decided to eat at the Main Street Corner Cafe. I had the two-course set meal of Spaghetti Bolognese and Cheesecake. It was a very nice meal; I was sat in the conservatory section with a view of the hub outside, which was very pleasant. From memory I think it cost HK$120 (USD15) which I thought was reasonable.

After the meal I went to the tip board to ask if the Treehouse was open. It was, so I headed over. You have to take the rafts to the tree house. When you reach the island, you follow a path past waterfalls and an animatronic baby elephant to the Treehouse. The Treehouse is similar to the one in Florida – a series of stairs, bridges and platforms, with props and scenes which tell the story of Tarzan. What sets this apart from the Florida version is that at several points in the trip you are afforded some spectacular views. You can see a large section of the jungle cruise (including the dock and the final scene); the mountains in the background provide a spectacular setting which really fits in with the ‘adventure’ theme. You can see Tomorrowland, with Space Mountain and the mountains behind. In the other direction, you can see the Hollywood Hotel and Disneyland Hotel. And, far off in the distance, you can see Hong Kong – it sounds weird to say it, but I think I had actually forgotten where I was, so this was particularly exciting! I thought that this was a really charming little attraction, which I really enjoyed. I think that this was in large part due to the setting, on its own island, and surrounding by jungle and mountains.

Adventureland is by far the largest of the lands at HKDL, even though it only has 4 attractions (Jungle Cruise, Rafts, Treehouse, and Festival of the Lion King). It is easily the best themed and, I think, most successful part of the park. Adventureland takes up all of the left-hand side of the park, from Fantasyland right round to Main Street (Festival of the Lion King Theatre is just tucked behind Main Street). If they ever decide to build a Frontierland, or any other land, then there isn’t really anywhere for it to go where it can connect to the hub. However, there is plenty of room behind Adventureland, and there is a path that goes under the train tracks, but is closed off. If they build new lands at HKDL then the layout will have to be substantially different to other parks. My feeling is that they will build a Pirates-themed area, which will fit in with the Adventureland theme but have its own dedicated part of Adventureland.

After the Treehouse, I returned to the Jungle Cruise for another ride. The wait was about ten minutes again, but there was only one other party on the boat. I sat on the right for a better view of the final scene but this time got wet. Afterwards, I walked through to Fantasyland. By now it was starting to get dark and the park was even emptier than before. I rode on Dumbo (I would never normally dream of riding on Dumbo, but there was literally no-one waiting) and did Pooh again (no wait). Then I returned to Space Mountain for a few more rides (I actually lost count of the number of times I rode this – it never gets old) and had a wander around the now-lit-up Main Street.

By now it was nearly time for the 8pm fireworks. I went and picked up my bag from my locker, bought some photos from the Photo Shop on Main Street, and wandered through some of the shops. I watched the fireworks from halfway down Main Street. The fireworks were spectacular. I then headed out of the Park to get the train back to Hong Kong.

Now I love Space Mountain, especially the Hong Kong version. But for me, the most exciting ride of the day was the riding back to the hotel, through the streets of Hong Kong at night from the top deck of the tram. Sometimes Disney just cannot compete with reality!

The fourth and final part will follow shortly, so stay tuned...
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:32 PM   #7
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Part Four – Summary

I love this park and I had a fantastic time. The park and resort area are beautiful and well-planned. The setting, surrounded by mountains and on the South China Sea is incredible and unique amongst Disney parks, yet it’s only half an hour from the incredible city of Hong Kong.

The reason that I could not find much information on the internet to help me plan my visit was because practically no planning is required. The longest I waited all day was about ten minutes for the Jungle Cruise and Autopia; most rides (including Space Mountain) were walk-ons all day. I didn’t use Fastpass as it just wasn’t necessary. The one time that I tried to use the Single Rider line (for Space Mountain), it just fed into the regular line and I had a car all to myself anyway. You don’t need reservations in the restaurant as you’ll probably have the place to yourself. There’s no Dining Plan, and no Park Hopper. No need to think about minimising walking as the park is so small you’re never far away from anything. The only planning you need to do is work out at what times you are going to see the shows, and get yourself there with five minutes to spare.

I had a really great day, however I think that in large part this was due to the fact that I almost had the park to myself and rarely had to wait for anything. I think that if the crowds had been like the Magic Kingdom, then it would have been a different experience – I probably wouldn’t have bothered with some of the smaller rides, and I would have been a bit more critical of the number of ‘big’ rides and rides which are unique to Hong Kong.

Having the park almost to myself was fantastic. However, I do hope that they start to increase their visitor numbers so that the park is successful and can expand into a large multi-park resort.

I was pleased to see that, despite the lack of crowds, the park appeared to be fully staffed and with everything open (except for the Riverview Terrace restaurant). It must be tempting for management to close many of the restaurants during the week and cut back on the number of cast members, but I’m pleased to say that (from what I could tell) they hadn’t. There were many, many cast members in the restaurants, shops and attractions, and there were quite a few characters around the park (Woody, Alice, Merlin, some Pirates, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Aristocat, and Pooh).

I did several rides multiple times, but did not do Stitch Encounter, Orbitron, the Carousel, Philharmagic, the Tea Cups, or see the Parade. I still filled a whole day (10 hours) with only a couple of short breaks. I do think that this is a whole-day park, unless you are only interested in the headliners (Space Mountain and, er, Jungle Cruise). This is partly because there are two shows which take up a fair chunk of time each. However because of its size and the fact that many of the attractions could be considered as fairly minor, you could spend just an afternoon here and go away happy.

The park is small, with nowhere near as many attractions as the other Magic Kingdom parks. I imagine that this would be a surprise to the casual visitor, who would walk into the park and then be disappointed when they couldn’t find Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion. I can imagine people arriving without doing any research and then feeling a little short-changed; I think that this is why HKDL gets such a bad press sometimes. But if you accept that and get over it, then it is a great little park. And after all, Disneyland in California was a little park with very few attractions when it opened all those years ago.

I didn’t actually miss any of the ‘classic’ attractions. I hope that if they do build these, then they add a different twist to them rather than just building a carbon copy. One of the reasons I loved the Jungle River Cruise is that it was a little bit different to the other versions. However I would be just as happy if they were to build some new attractions which were unique to Hong Kong. How about some new ‘classics’?

In summary, the park is definitely the baby of the Disney family, but it’s beautiful and I think it has the potential to be a really great park. I’m really excited to see how this park grows and develops over the next few years. It’s not yet a park that most people would come all the way to Hong Kong to visit on its own, but if you combine it with a trip to Hong Kong itself then this definitely deserves a little bit of time out of your schedule.

I hope that people enjoyed the review. If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them.

Postscript 1

The park is very close to the airport. If you sit on the right-hand side of the plane as you leave Hong Kong, then you get a spectacular view of the park as you ascend.

Postscript 2

As part of the same trip, I visited the Night Safari in Singapore. If anyone is ever in Singapore, then I highly recommend this. It’s basically a zoo of sorts, open only after dark, where you can watch nocturnal animals by artificial moonlight. It consists of a safari village, a tram tour past and through enclosures, a self-guided walking tour, and a show. The concept and execution struck me as very Disney-like and something that Disney would be proud of. This is what Disney’s Night Kingdom should be! I would be happy to write a mini-review if anyone is interested.
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Old 05-21-2009, 11:09 AM   #8
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In case anyone is interested, a quick review of the Singapore Night Safari can be found in post 32 on the UK Trip Reports board:

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Old 05-21-2009, 11:31 AM   #9
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thanks for the cool review, i will probably never get there but it is lots of fun to read alll about it. great job
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