One Wild Day at Shanghai Disney Resort! - SDR TR, April 11, 2018 (Wednesday)

Discussion in 'Other Lands' started by Impromark, Apr 20, 2018.

  1. Impromark

    Impromark Mouseketeer

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    Our Visit, Part The Second

    In case you missed it, this post’s corresponding pictures can be found in a gallery here.

    Missed Part The First? Click right here!


    Star Wars Launch Bay

    I could easily have stayed on the Tron coaster in the single rider lineup and ridden the rest of the day, but we still had other things to do. Tucked in behind he coaster building, looking lonely and almost ignored, is the Star Wars Launch Bay. Barely paying lip service to the multi-billion dollar franchise Disney owns, it’s really just a mini museum and cosplay corner where you can take some pictures. I still ate it up and had fun posing for the same pictures I’d otherwise have done at my local comic expo. The mockup of the Millenium Falcon cockpit was extra fun though. There’s also a Lego corner, build-a-lightsaber thing and the usual gift shop, but we got what we wanted an moved on. Perhaps a full-on Star Wars attraction will be built in this location later on?


    Peter Pan’s Flight

    By this time, our sole FastPass time had come. We hung around the area’s shops for the fifteen or so minutes prior to our time and then headed in, and after the confusion surrounding how the FPs worked between our phone and printed tickets, we got in for a fifteen minute wait. This wasn’t a must-do on my list, but as with POTC we’d schooled our DD on the original movie and she loved it. Shanghai’s has their more modern spin, and the way our ship banked and dipped felt more contemporary to the technology available than any other version I’ve ridden. I haven’t ridden the one in Paris but it looks most similar to it, though every version has different character placement (especially at the beginning). We’re glad we used our FP on that, anyway, as the main wait time was still almost an hour in the mid-afternoon.


    Return to Treasure Cove

    Instead of returning to the Tron coaster (nope, not gonna let that one go), we found it was time to head back to Adventure Isle for the Tarzan live show, so we returned for our third circuit around that area. However, we were surprised to find the attraction had shifted its showtime to over an hour later! We couldn’t get a reason out of the CMs but found ourselves with time to kill before that show and then Peter Pan. Consulting the app, Soaring was still over an hour wait, but POTC was there at ten minutes – practically inviting us for a second ride! Having loved the first time through, we needed little more convincing, and off we went.

    Afterwards (and yes, it’s just as thrilling as the first time – there’s just so much detail to take in on this ride!), we still had some time left over. Finding a bench just outside the Siren’s Revenge walkthrough, I went off for a couple minutes to buy my DW the OTHER “seasonal” drink & collector’s bulb, and then let her enjoy that and rest her feet while I took DD aboard the pirate “ship”… But not before we were approached by a pirate-clad CM who spoke English well enough to ask her if she was having a good time, liked the pirate lifestyle, and gifted her a “pirate map” of her own – she was so happy!

    The Siren’s Revenge attraction was fun enough, with tons of things to do – including video screens of “wanted posters” featuring characters from the movie, which react to you when prompted (or stand around long enough). A fun highlight was a similar poster you could stick your head through to pretend to be the subject; as I was posing in my best pirate’s “Arrr Matey” face, several kids wandered by and I’m pretty sure they thought I was part of the attraction. We eventually found the canons, but couldn’t get to pretend-firing them at the hapless Explorer Canoes going by, as SW was summoning us back ashore. It was time to head to the jungle!


    Tarzan: Call of the Jungle

    I was looking forward to this live show for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I was going to spend the following night “off” and go to an improv comedy show in Shanghai (which I try to do at most every city I visit) while the wife and daughter go to the Chinese Circus show. I figured this would be consolation prize enough, so I was happy things lined up for us to go see.

    Unlike the earlier POTC stunt show, this one had very little dialogue to go on besides the Chinese language versions of the songs. Aside from that, it was a visually spectacular show that entertained us as much as we were expecting! There was an assortment of “classic” acrobatics and tumbling numbers, with ribbons, juggling, and so on mixed in. While some of it was definitely not quite real (the opening number featured some plate spinners, and those plates were certainly not able to fall off their sticks!), and of course there were safety lines for the numbers performed at altitude, the show was really fun and entertaining from all sides of the “theatre in the round” style stage. The theatre was probably just over half full, and we managed to secure front row seats down at stage right despite walking straight in.

    The story itself was a condensed version of the Tarzan movie, told more visually than with any dialogue. Most notable was the replacement of antagonist Cecil Clayton with an assortment of generic pirates, but otherwise there was no real need to understand Mandarin, or even have seen the movie, to enjoy this show.


    Heading to Disneytown, and Back to the Hotel

    “The sun’s getting real low”, as Black Widow would say, and our stomachs were rumbling yet again. By this point we’d gone round the Adventure Isle / Pirate’s Cove three times, and done every other area of the park at least once. The dogs were barking, and it was decided that it was time to eat and then forego the last open hour to head back to our hotel and rest our feet for the following day of planned hiking around Shanghai. However, I really, REALLY wanted to go on the Tron Lightcyle Power Run one last time, and so we decided to head over to Disneytown for a full meal, whereupon I’d return alone into the park and do Tron while the DW and DD shopped. Settled, we moseyed through the Mickey Avenue part of the park, didn’t find any dining option that would tempt us away from the restaurants we’d seen in Disneytown on the website, and then used the dedicated (and practically queue-less) Disneytown gate to leave the park.

    Dinner was at the Xin Wang restaurant and featured Cantonese / Hong Kong cuisine. Quite tasty, and overall not expensive! It was tough getting a seat as we were in the middle of the dinner rush, but a little patience and getting a hold of the non-English-speaking staff got us results. We have sweet & sour pork back home, but by gum, you haven’t tasted it till you’ve done it in China! :)

    It was around 7pm when I made my way back through the Disneytown gate, taking all the paper tickets as I didn’t know which one was mine, and they checked it against the photo in the file (naturally, I showed my wife’s ticket first). I bee-lined straight to Tomorrowland… To discover that the Tron coaster had closed for the evening! I wasn’t the only one disappointed, as there was a stream of people approaching and being turned away. My hopes of a re-ride under the neon outdoor lights of the attraction were dashed! In hindsight it wasn’t a huge loss, as the majority of the ride is indoors and under darkness anyway, but I’m not kidding when I say that this coaster is really, REALLY good. I rode Everest three times in WDW on my honeymoon and would have loved to do something like that here.

    I made up for it though – I used the time to head down to Buzz Lightyear and its now five-minute wait time, and basically walked onto the attraction to do something I’d wanted to do since my first time on the ride in WDW nine years ago. A solo ride, dual-wielding my astro blasters! I didn’t come near my high score, but MAN did I look cool in the picture at the end. ;)

    Satisfied (enough), I made my way back to exit via the main entrance. It was almost 7:30 by that time and there was a definite crowd gathering around the castle for the closing fireworks. I quickly picked through the shops one last time and then went through the main gates; the fences around the security area had been reconfigured to usher everyone to the Disneytown anyway, so I was able to meet up with my DW and DD with no issue. They'd spent the little bit of time apart picking through the shops, and DD had picked up her main "item" for the day, a Lego set to continue her collection.

    The walk to the Disney station and the hour-long trip home was uncrowded and uneventful, save for my girl falling asleep on the way, necessitating her dad to carry her part of the way. Our day at SDR was over!


    TO BE CONCLUDED…
     
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  2. Disney127

    Disney127 DIS Veteran

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    Great trip report and thanks for sharing all the tips. We too are from Calgary and will be visiting SDL in August, follow by HDL and TDL. DD (16) thought that we might as well visit all three parks since we are in Asia, our original plan was to just visit TDL. Her mission is to visit all the Disney parks so we only have DL Paris after this trip. We just came back from DL in California and every time we got caught up in crowds, we would tell ourselves that we are practicing for SDL. LOL The one and only time we visited China, we had my parents who could communicate on our behalf in Manderin. We can not speak the language, even though my husband was born in China. It was a real eye opener when it came to personal space when we were there, I had to put my arms out to make sure our girls who were little at that time, did not get pushed around.

    I do have the SDL app on my phone already so I am assuming that I just need to link our tickets to it in order to obtain FPs. We are staying at the Toy Story Hotel and will get our tickets upon arrival. We are only in Shanghai for 3 days - 2 of those days, DD and I are going to SDL. Hubby haven't decided yet if he wanted to join us. We like rides but we are more the type to take in the atmosphere of the parks so we won't be too disappointed if we can't ride everything, just have Tron and Pirates on our list. :-)
     
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  4. indoshakespeare

    indoshakespeare Reach out and find your Happily Ever After

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    Treasure Cove is probably the best Themed-Land Disney has done so far (at least until Galaxy's Edge).
     
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  5. npoon

    npoon Mouseketeer

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    wonderful trip report. did you have to request the smart phone from the hotel or did they offer it to you?
     
  6. Impromark

    Impromark Mouseketeer

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    It was a surprise - it was sitting in our room in its own charging cradle and all, plus instructions on its use. We totally used it. A shame Pokemon Go doesn't work in China. ;)

    Mark
     
  7. Impromark

    Impromark Mouseketeer

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    Hi everyone, sorry for the lateness of this concluding post. Stuff got in the way, then I lost my document file! All of the following was not critical to the day itself, so I was resigned it wouldn't have been found, but here it is! :)

    Missed Part The First? Click right here!

    Or maybe youu missed Part The Second? Then click over here!


    And I'm admittedly getting lazy for pictures here, now six months after the fact, but please enjoy browsing all our pics and vids of our vacation by clicking here. :)


    Other Places and Final Thoughts

    Yu Gardens - The ones everyone talks about


    After the Bund, the Yu Gardens are rightfully near the top of the “must do” attractions in Shanghai, but you have to be careful about it. We’d read about it in the guidebooks of course, but lots of them mistakenly emphasize the famous teahouse in the pictures and not the gardens themselves, which are not as well represented. And so, we thought the teahouse and surrounding shops were all there were.

    We’d followed the guidebook advice and gone early in the morning, and there was practically no queue for the gardens themselves, so we actually walked by the entrance without realizing it! The gate looked understated and almost humble, so we thought it was a specific temple or something that charged extra admission. Instead, we were following the crowds who seemed more interested in the shops, which are arranged around the gardens like a series of concentric rings. A further ring of more modern shops and commercial malls surrounds even this, so the garden itself is almost lost in the literal tourist trap that has sprung up around it. Thankfully we realized we were missing something and backtracked to the entrance.

    Once in the actual garden, I was blown away by the beauty of what the gardens offered in small, carefully-designed doses. Evolving over the years, the gardens are a series of pavilions designed to view an associated garden from a specific perspective, for a specific psychological effect. We could have spent a half day in there appreciating the beauty of each garden view, and exploring how they interconnected by pathways, tunnels and bridges. As we were here relatively early in the morning, there were only small crowds here and there, with plenty of room to catch good pictures with our cameras, and leisurely sit on the benches to appreciate the view.

    I’d read both here and in some reviews that some visitors had only gone here, taken a picture with the teahouse, done a bit of shopping, and had come away unimpressed. Had we not returned to the garden gate and actually entered the centerpiece, we surely would have had the same opinion. So, should you plan a visit to the gardens, go early, take your time, and ACTUALLY GO IN!


    Qibao - A close-by "water town"

    There are several so-called “water towns” in proximity of Shanghai, and this was the closest, but ostensibly the least “genuine” and most touristy of them is Qibao. It’s located a short walk from the Qibao station, past both an upscale mall (complete with a Roots Canada store!) and an unassuming residential area. The reconstructed area is home to a variety of shops, tea houses and food stalls arranged along a cross-shaped set of canals, which once served as a nexus for local commerce from upriver.

    This was fun, though we didn’t spend much time there. We’d hit this one earlier in the morning, but the crowds exploded with the arrival of the first tour buses, so by the time we finished an early lunch the “core” area was bustling. Still, we were clearly there in the off season (and the middle of the week) so many of the surrounding shops were not well frequented, or even open, and the noted boat tours didn’t seem to be operating. Still, we enjoyed exploring the streets and shops and eating along the food street, partaking in a soup that looked good but tasted not-so-good, and since no menus at this restaurant were in English we had no idea what it was… We’d ordered some dumplings to go with it, and in this town it’s tough to go wrong with dumplings, so we couldn’t complain much.

    Despite the touristy orientation of the area, we were surprised to see quite a few genuine locals eating in the restaurants and shopping for the more pedestrian goods like fruits and vegetables (and weird herbs and insects and the like) I’m guessing would not be easy to find in the more average grocery stores. If you can’t afford the time for a proper day (or two-day) trip out to the more “genuine” water towns, then this should do the trick, but I’d caution that you won’t get the more old-timey feel that you’d probably get in the more rural locations.


    Xintandi - Upsacle shopping for the locals

    This was arguably the most gentrified of all the districts in Shanghai we went to. Situated on the border of the old French Concession, it’s been thoroughly reconstructed and Westernized and to me seemed like a big outdoor mall geared towards the big luxury brands and not much else. Being uninterested in that end of the shopping spectrum we ended up breezing through the district, stopping only for a treat in the cutesy Kumamon bear café thing that had been exported from Japan.


    Tianzifang - Artsy wares in a charming presentation

    Now this one made up for the other one! Composed of a myriad of small artisanal shops, it’s managed to maintain its more intimate and genuine atmosphere despite also being a tourist trap where many of the goods are commonly found between the shops (and there were several branches of the same shop in the district as well). Still, we were able to find several nice curios and take-homes that felt genuine enough, and there were a few food stalls that offered some tasty treats. Churros and ice cream? American influence on the old French Concession has arrived! :D


    Wenmiao Lu - The Anime Street

    I’m an unabashed (and rapidly aging) fan of Japanese animation as well as the Disney empire, so I was happy to visit the so-called “anime street” on Wenmiao Road for a brief visit. It’s a fair collection of small shops on an out-of-the-way side street, which shared the commercial space with a variety of pet shops. The usual fare was there in terms of anime models, figures, toys and assorted merchandise. It’s nowhere near the variety and volume you’d find in Akihabara or Nakano in Tokyo, or even DenDen Town in Osaka, and I’ve been to those several times each over the years; but if you’re in Shanghai and NOT going to Japan, this is a nice little diversion.

    Oddly, to my experienced eye most of the stuff seemed genuine (the Gunpla and assorted Sentai toys were, in any case). There were quite a few figures of the kind you’d find in the little lotteries or the crane games in Japan, but there’s no telling how genuine those were. My wife is a premier fan of Sailor Moon (can you tell it was anime and Disney showtunes that brought us together?) and she wasn’t all that impressed.

    Despite the authenticity and the fact that it was MADE in China in the first place, lots of these goods are not made for Chinese consumption and must therefore be ironically exported and then re-imported to the country. As such, bargaining for the stuff I was interested in did not meet much success, and prices are higher than you’d find in Japan. I’m sure I could have haggled some of the stuff down (especially the goods which were clearly fake or which had that “fell off the back of a truck” sort of air to it), but I wasn’t in Shanghai for anime stuff and so I didn’t press. I’d researched the knockoff goods you could find on eBay and the like and some of this was in evidence, but the online prices were uniformly better and if I’d really wanted it, I could go buy stuff that way instead of bargaining with the locals.


    Shanghai Circus World

    This was high on the tourist list of must-sees, and carried a price tag to match. However, not being much of a circus-goer, and wanting to do other things that evening (see next section), it was left to my wife and daughter to enjoy. Their report after it was done was that it was... Alright. Definitely a tourist trap, there were vendors everywhere outside the building, which was an impressively large dome. The show itself was apparently alright, but not as spectacular as had been expected; and inside the building was somewhat run down, with broken and worn seats, messy washrooms, etc. There were also noisy and rude tourists of foreign and local backgrounds that took away from the experience. I can't speak for it directly, but from what I was told after I'm glad I skipped it. Speaking of which...


    The People's Republic of Comedy - Improv from the Ex-Pats

    I'm a practicing improv comedian based in Calgary - no, not STANDUP comedy, but the version made popular in North America by the show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?". In my hometown, I perform both longform and shortform comedy shows with several groups, in both English and French. Always up to see how others around the world work their craft, I was happy to be able to sit in on a show with the People's Republic of Comedy (PRC), a small group of improvisors who do a biweekly show of the Kung-Fu Komedy club in central Shanghai.

    I won't bore you with the details of the craft, but I was very well entertained by this team of practicing comedians who are mostly expats from various English-speaking countries around the world. They put on a nice shortform show and make up for a relative lack of experience compared to groups back home with sheer effort and enthusiasm that really pays off. I was also happy to chat with the gang before and after their hour-long show, and check in on how another team applies the same principles of acting and improvisation that mine do, to their specific situation AND location. If you're in town and can take in one of their shows, definitely try. I've been doing improv for near twenty years now and liked it a ton. :)


    Hangzhou - Where the locals go to get away


    Aside from the Disney Day, this was probably what we were most invested in seeing and doing. Hangzhou is a resort town a good hour or so away from Shanghai by high speed train. A region known for, among things, its world-famous longjing tea, Hangzhou is also the site of many huge temples and the iconic West Lake that dominates the touristy area of town. We spent two nights there and it was a proper highlight indeed.

    We WERE there on a weekend, so both the traffic and the tourists were very heavy - to the point where the taxi we'd decided to hire as a shortcut ended up taking as long, or longer, than the bus. Our full day was mostly spent travelling around the Jing'An Temple (for which we only did the outside parts, not the higher-priced inside temple) and then investigating the West Lake. We eventually found a ferry to its famed (and full to the bursting point with tourists) "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon" Island, using another ferry to shortcut our way back to shore closer to our hotel. All along the way we sampled various snacks and street foods to keep energized, and while it was scenic as promised and a great cultural experience, the high level of tourists around was draining and we retreated to the hotel before too long.

    Speaking of which, stayed at the Sofitel Hangzhou West Lake hotel right next to the lake, where apparently they were responsible for a tea service that was presented to the first ladies of the G8 heads of state (including Michelle Obama) when they met in Hangzhou a few years back. We sampled that service on their rooftop lounge / garden at the end of the first day, and it was delightful.

    Ironically, this is also where we spent the most time in China's famed "night markets", which spring up after dark in unused streets for lots of bargain-able wares (which are usually knockoffs). We went to a more touristy, permanent one close to the hotel, and also to a "proper" one also nearby. Neither disappointed in terms of the stuff available, but both were strangely resistant to the kind of haggling the tourist books tell you to verse yourselves in. Not wanting to spend that much energy for nothing we REALLY needed, we basically left it be and availed ourselves of the street food for more culinary memories.


    Lightning round of final thoughts:

    - The general comportment of the locals is polite and friendly, but there are the usual elements of local behavior that can annoy some average Western sensibilities. Chief among them is the noise! In a country with such a high population, it’s no surprise that people often just shout at each other to communicate, with no respect for the people around them. My wife noted several occasions where someone practically shouted into her face, though they were actually communicating with someone else nearby (or not so nearby). Growing up in an Asian family, my key phrase about many Asian languages is “the loudest one is right”, and it rings true here. Thing is, even if they appear to be shouting at each other, they’re actually being relatively cordial for the local standard – they just need to shout to be heard. This, and the constant din of traffic and advertising (people here tend to honk their horns to say “hey, I’m here” versus “get out of my way”), creates a visual and auditory cacophony that is rare for people coming from less populated countries. Those looking for peace and quiet in Shanghai may come away disappointed.

    - Cleanliness is definitely of a different standard here. Squat toilets are the norm, and outside of Shanghai Disney Resort and the hotels, few seem very well maintained. Squat toilets are the norm, and urinals are such a relative novelty that I saw stickers several times advising people to stand closer so as to make less of a mess (which rarely helped). Worse still, few people seem to wash their hands after being done, let alone use any toilet paper (as there is rarely any to be found). Only once did I see anyone urinate in public: on our last day, we were consulting a map when a little girl next to us ( who was maybe five years old) hiked up her skirt, squatted next to a street lamp, and cut loose. Our DD8 couldn’t solve the squat toilets, and so ended up holding it for most of our time away from the hotel. If you’re more cleanliness-oriented, bring some sanitary wipes. It may not help much, but it may make you feel more comfortable.

    - On cash: Despite what the guidebooks say, we quickly found ourselves at a disadvantage in carrying cash around and not using our credit cards. Shanghai is a very modern city, and practically ALL the locals pay by phone (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and the like), with bank cards coming a distant second. At many shops cash is so infrequently used we sometimes inconvenienced the staff! Once at a higher-end shoe store they didn’t take any credit cards at all, and winced when we used cash; and a couple times we saw restaurant servers stare dumbfoundedly at the notes we gave them, before digging up a cash box to retrieve our change. We eventually resolved to ask first if cash was okay, but as life gets ever more digitized the takeaway is to suggest you figure out if and how to pay by phone and simplify your experience, at least in Shanghai.

    - Taxis – I’ve had an irrational and generally unfounded aversion of taxis after several bad experiences (ever been taken for the “long ride” in Vegas? Been there), but we did end up using the taxis a couple times. Once, up to the temple in Hangzhou instead of the bus (we were looking to save time, but even early in the day the traffic was so bad it didn’t really help), and then another time from the hotel back to the Hangzhou station. In both cases the hotel arranged the taxi for us, so I figured they had as much to lose as we did by hooking us up with a scam service (and this was one of the “five star” hotels in Hangzhou, so we expected them to try a bit harder than a lesser one).

    - Scamming in general: it only happened once that we knew of, and I caught the guy, but the attempt still counts. Typically in China (and Japan for that matter), when people hand change back to you they place the coins on top of any bills they give back to you. When in a corner store, I noticed when the staffer placed the coins UNDER the bills in my change. I habitually check my change anyway, so when I moved the bills out of the way the guy instantly said “oh! Sorry!” in English and took the change back. I then realized that instead of 1-yuan coins in the change, he’d actually placed 1-jiao coins, which are one-tenth of the value of a yuan. He’d deliberately tried to swap them out and hope I wouldn’t notice – this is a known scam taking advantage of foreigners’ unfamiliarity with the local currency. While the actual value is very low (one yuan is about 20 cents Canadian), if someone scams enough people during the day, it could easily mean a meal or a couple rounds at the local arcade for the locals.

    - Panhandling / begging: I’d read about it but wasn’t terribly worried – but like the knockoff-offering people on the Bund, these guys aren’t afraid to get into your face getting your change. It wasn’t an issue while we were away from the touristy areas, but while in urban Shanghai we were approached a few times. Once, a guy shook his tin can at us; when we politely waved him off, he took a couple steps closer and shook his can even louder. We ended up just moving on and ignoring him. Another time, a burn victim had no qualms showing us his scarred hand and face, and again when we waved him off he responded by sticking his hand right into our vision. I do my best to sympathize with those less fortunate than we and do give to various causes back home, but personally I avoid giving money to panhandlers, and IMO rudely shoving their business into our business isn’t a way to get results, at least from me.


    - Food: Oh boy, if you do one thing in Shanghai, EAT LOCAL. We probably haven ‘t eaten as well on any vacation we’ve ever taken as we have in Shanghai! On our first evening there, we arranged to do a food tour, which took us to six different restaurants and six different regions of Chinese cuisine (highlight: spicy roasted rabbit’s head!). We also ate sushi, curry, other Japanese cuisine, Hong Kong fusion stuff, french pastries and so much more. The street food was a real highlight, and came mostly spicy but also really savoury. The famed soup dumplings (xiao long bao) were also a real treat too, and I really wish I could find a local eatery offering good ones. And don’t forget the local staple representing Western decadence: McDonalds, along with its tantalizing local Chinese-adapted menu offered side-by-side with your Big Mac. And overall, this stuff isn’t terribly expensive overall! My wife says she’d go back to Shanghai JUST to eat, and I’d tend to agree.


    But that’s all folks! I won’t conclude with more than saying it was a great vacation overall, with our Disney Day being a great highlight, which was part of a much larger vacation for our family to remember for all time. It wasn’t a bucket-list place to visit, and I’m not sure when we’ll ever go back, but we have few regrets and fewer hesitations to step out of our comfort zone for places to enjoy and explore.

    I hope you’ve liked this trip report! Please let me know any questions you may have, I’ll be happy to respond to the best of my ability (and recollection). Cheers!

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2018
  8. Fsudisney

    Fsudisney Mouseketeer

    Joined:
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    Thanks for the great report and info. My husband has a conference in Shanghai in May and it looks like I’ll be tagging along. Hoping to do a day at Disney as well as some other local sights when he’s not working.
    Do you know if you can download the app here first and then if you buy the tickets there at the Toy Story Hotel if they’ll help you link everything up?
     

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