Ni hao, Hong Kong Disneyland!

Skipping around through Hong Kong Disneyland today marked the best day of this contract. Words will never explain how much Disney means to me, especially since it’s such a privilege when I get to see another new park abroad.

However, it wasn’t a normal Disney day by any means. The ongoing political protests in Hong Kong meant that the park had huge decreases in attendance this year, and the almost-ghost town atmosphere reflected this. While it’s perfectly safe to still go to Hong Kong Disneyland right now, it’s still wise to monitor the news on a daily basis and steer clear of any problematic areas.

Getting to the park is pretty straightforward, especially since Uber is readily available throughout Hong Kong. From our Kai Tak cruise terminal, it only took 25 min and cost $35 USD to get there (I didn’t want to deal with the 1hr45min public transport way). Unlike other parks, there isn’t a Downtown Disney area to shop and dine in, so this isn’t really a park you’d need to do for more than a day. Its park hours (10:30am – 7:30pm) may seem strange, but you really don’t need the entire 9 hours to see everything.

Given the current situation, I literally walked the entirety of the park in repetitive circles and rode all the main attractions I wanted. I was there for the gate opening, and within 3.5 hours, I had gone on Hyperspace Mountain, Iron Man Experience, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle, Mystic Manor, Jungle River Cruise, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, Winnie the Pooh, and it’s a small world. I went on Hyperspace Mountain as soon as the park opened, then went on twice more – all within the span of 20 minutes – because there was absolutely no line. It was pretty insane. When I went next door to meet Chewbacca, I screamed when I almost ran headfirst straight into him because I was zipping around to beat crowds. I soon realized that there were absolutely no crowds that needed to be battled, so it was the most seamless, relaxing park experience of my life.

I really enjoyed Hyperspace Mountain (duh, it’s my favorite attraction ever), but surprisingly also loved the Iron Man attraction as well. It’s basically just Marvel’s version of Star Tours, with the 3D glasses and virtual simulation. However, I loved how they specifically made that attraction for Hong Kong Disneyland – taking you through parts of the park and also into downtown Hong Kong throughout the entire ride. I’m not a fan of Marvel at all, so I was quite impressed with the turnout of that attraction.

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars (say that five times fast!) was a combination of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Expedition Everest with the surprise twist in the middle (which I hadn’t read about beforehand, so I screamed at first because I thought the attraction had malfunctioned). I quite enjoyed the second half where it rockets the cars with far more velocity, but not enough to make me want to go on again. I can tell I’m getting old since bumpy, jerky rides like that make my joints hurt – and damn, that certainly never happened when I started working at Disneyland eight years ago.

Mystic Manor was somewhat of a disappointment to me, but don’t let my opinion sway you. Perhaps don’t trust the online articles about it being the “best” attraction that Disney has ever Imagineered, since that’s really up to personal preference. The ride track is very similar to Haunted Mansion, except much spinnier (not really into that), and the main (troublemaker) monkey Albert looks exactly like Abu from Aladdin.

Several tribal figures similar to those from the Tiki Room appear, as well as Haunted Mansion similarities (the Medusa changing portrait, the moving busts, and a conservatory). The visual effects are definitely impressive, especially with the seamless way the projections on the portraits move as your car moves with it. The last bit is by far the most complex, with a whirling tornado causing the wall to break open. That scene in itself is worth the ride, just because it’s so visually captivating. However, I just wasn’t really blown away with it like I was with other attractions such as Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea.

The Ant-Man and the Wasp attraction replaced Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, and I obviously liked this version a lot more since it was new, spiffier, had better graphics, and the guns were far cooler to shoot (the blue and red colors gave off the TRON vibe). The laser aim definitely seemed more precise with these guns as well, so my score was definitely higher than anything I’ve ever gotten with that kiddy Buzz game.

Toy Story Land is meant for the kids, so I didn’t go on any of the attractions. However, it’s a photo haven with the cutest backdrops and giant characters/props, similar to the old Bug’s Land in Disney’s California Adventure.

I had typed up a document/plan of attack upon arriving, yet didn’t even need to use it (after all, I even walked onto Mystic Manor without waiting even a second, and it stayed like that the entire day – and that one is considered the E-ticket attraction). FastPasses are useless at this park (for now), and even if the park gets crowded, the only one worth getting it for would be Hyperspace Mountain. Even the Flights of Fantasy Parade was just average to me – again, it’s probably because I’m comparing all entertainment to my experience at the Disneyland Resort. Who can compete with the original park, after all?

I also met R2-D2, Chewbacca, Goofy, Cinderella, Snow White, Iron Man, Minnie, and Pluto – all of which wouldn’t have been possible at any other park without a giant queue. I’m MOST proud of my photo with Christmas Minnie, since I’ve never had the patience to wait in the giant queues at Disneyland.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the merchandise, much the same as my experience at Disneyland Paris, but my savings account definitely appreciated that (says the girl who then left the park early and blew money on Star Wars stuff in downtown Hong Kong). I was highly disappointed that they weren’t selling special Hong Kong Disneyland ears, either. But PANDORA’s partnership with Disney has made this a dangerous mission of mine to collect charms from all the parks…

One of the main reasons I also left early was the food – at least five restaurants were closed in the park (probably due to park attendance being so low) and the variety of food offered on Main Street and Tomorrowland were pretty lackluster. If there’s one thing Disneyland isn’t short of, it’s an INCREDIBLE VARIETY OF FOOD – and that’s exactly why I was more rotund back when I worked there. They did have quite a few cute Chinese goodies to choose from, although none of them appealed to me – photos sufficed.

The “it” thing to do is to make a restaurant reservation at HK Disneyland Hotel, a few blocks from the park, for their famous Disney dim sum in the shape of the little green aliens and Duffy. It seems quite costly (obviously), but when in Hong Kong…

Overall, Hong Kong Disneyland is still a beautiful park. The mountains in the background give it a more authentic feel, even if it also makes everything else seem quite small in the park (the castle, currently under construction, is quite tiny compared to others). Although it is technically the smallest park, it will soon be expanding with more offerings in the next few years.

Last tips: Ask City Hall for a 1st visit and/or birthday button (they’re different from the DL/WDW ones), and Cast Members around the resort hand out stickers like candy. Absolutely divine!

So get out there, enjoy it, and embrace the beauty of Hong Kong. This is one heck of a dazzling city, and I’m already in love.

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