Being a young adult nowadays can be quite stressful. Waking up early, drowning in the sea of paperwork, budgeting limited finances and some personal drama seem like a rinse and repeat process for 20-something people like myself. Which is why taking a breath of fresh air and some healthy distraction from reality can now be considered a necessity, even a luxury for others. Luckily, there’s this place in Hong Kong than can give that necessary breather you were hoping for. And not only that, you get to experience being a kid again, even just for a day. This is an account of our Hong Kong Disneyland experience, a day inside the world-famous theme park that felt like a time machine in disguise.
First off, planning this trip was a no-brainer. After having explored the exotic city of Kuala Lumpur to experiencing the first-world amenities that Singapore had to offer, Kaye and I knew that Hong Kong will be the next destination to conquer. And what better time to visit Disneyland than a day before I turn 26. 🙂
Tip: Our planning for this trip consisted of three things: reading PinoyExchange threads (Ultimate HK Guide, HK 2013), reading travel blogs and utilizing Google Maps for directions. The internet is an awesome place.
August 23, 2013, 16 hrs before my 26th birthday
After a rainy touchdown, we arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport from Manila via Cebu Pacific Air (promo fares FTW). After going through immigration and getting our luggage, we hurriedly made our way to the nearest Starbucks for a quick breakfast (and buying my first HK souvenir).
After munching on some desserts for breakfast (the lemon tart is the sh*t), we then looked for the CTS stall inside the airport to buy our 1-day tickets for Disneyland since it’s cheaper by HKD20 (Disneyland price HKD450; CTS price HKD430). However, if you happen to stay at Golden Crown Guesthouse BEFORE going to Disneyland, they sell it cheaper at HKD410.
We then hailed a cab outside the airport straight to Disneyland. You can also go there via MTR (train) but we opted to go for the cab to maximize our time. The cab ride took just around 15 minutes and cost us HKD106.50.
Finally, Disneyland! By the time we arrived at the theme park, we were greeted by the HUGE number of tourists (most of them were from mainland China) queuing outside the entrance gate . I expected Disneyland to be crowded but NOT this crowded (I can bet the crowd at Disneyland was at least 2x more than what we saw on USS). Right then and there, Kaye and I knew it was gonna be a very long day.
Tip: Since we went from the Airport straight to Disneyland, we still had our heavy luggage with us upon entering the park. Fortunately, the park offers storage lockers, located midway Main Street, USA (near the bakery). There are small and big lockers to choose from, depending on the size of your bags. Since we had 2 backpacks and a messenger bag, we chose the big locker for a fee of HKD60 (the small locker costs HKD40). The “big” locker is actually not very big. In fact, I was amazed that I managed to squeeze all of our bags inside the locker (money concerns really does push people to the limit). This one-time rental fee is good for the whole duration of the day so you shouldn’t be worried with time limits.
After securing our valuables, we immediately browsed the theme park map in order to strategize our measly one-day visit. Hong Kong Disneyland is quite big as it is composed of seven (7) themed areas so navigating around the place may be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re only limited to 10-11 hours. As previously seen on my Universal Studios Singapore blog, I will be giving my thoughts on the shows/rides found on specific themed areas. Less do eet!
Main Street, USA
Right after the entrance gate, you will be greeted with the first themed area of the park, Main Street, USA. Most of the stalls here are souvenir shops, specialty boutiques and restaurants so there’s no rides or major attractions found here other than the gazebo, where you can meet Disney characters for quick snapshots. Oh, and the whole avenue also serves as the venue for the much-awaited Disney parades such as the Flights of Fantasy and Mickey’s Waterworks Parade (well get to that later).
After quickly passing by the grand and colorful stalls along Main Street USA, we headed towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle right up north. Of course, we wouldn’t miss having our pictures taken in front of the iconic landmark.
Passing through the lowered bridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle led us to Fantasyland. Many attractions are found in this area such as Mickey’s Philharmagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Cinderella’s Carousel and It’s a Small World, among others. However, our main order of business on Fantasy Land had to be the Golden Mickeys. As we neared the theater entrance, we immediately noticed the large crowd lining up.
A word of caution: You may want to consider the time and month when visiting Hong Kong. We were there last August 2013 and it was summer season in the city. Let me tell you, the weather can be very, very humid. There were also 2 or 3 strong showers during our 4-day stay, so keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable (do bring umbrellas). And to further up the ante, August is also school break which means lots and lots of kid tourists, especially at theme parks. You’ve been warned.
After waiting in line for a few minutes, the theater was opened and the crowd rushed through the gates like there was a buffet or something. Good thing we managed to snag some seats at the far center, which was fine, I guess. Though I think I would opt sitting near the stage next time, closer to the action happening on stage.
The Golden Mickeys is a variety show starring Disney’s resident love team, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. However, they are not the only stars of the show. This musical production is a star-studded affair with appearances by Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Woody, Buzz and some of our beloved Disney Princesses such as Ariel and Belle. Some of the spiels delivered by Mickey, Minnie and the host were spoken in Chinese (or Mandarin, or Cantonese; they sound the same to me) so there’s a bit of language barrier on some parts of the show.
I wouldn’t elaborate on the content of the show too much since I was busy enjoying myself with the elaborate musical performances during the show. Grand and nostalgic are the best words to describe The Golden Mickeys. And did I mention how envious I am with Tarzan’s abs? Goodness gracious!
The Golden Mickeys
Entertainment Value: 4 out of 5
Verdict: Must watch
Remarks: Sitting near the stage or at the middle might be a better idea than sitting at the back
Since it was already approaching noon by the time The Golden Mickeys wrapped up, we decided to have a quick lunch before going to the other attractions. We went to Starliner Diner, located at Tomorrowland, to buy eats. Starliner Diner was your typical fast food, serving combo meals with choices of rice meals, burgers, fries and soda. Prices were relatively higher compared to other fast foods, but that should be expected as far as theme park food is concerned.
We continued our sight-seeing with a quick stroll around Tomorrowland. This part of the park is themed with futuristic rides, complete with sci-fi inspired designs to boot. Tomorrowland is home to attractions such as Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Stitch Encounter, Orbitron and the very famous Space Mountain. We wanted to ride the Space Mountain right then and there but alas, the queue was very long. We decided to try our luck with Space Mountain later that night.
We headed to the eastern part of the theme park and found ourselves in the midst of Adventureland. Here, you can find kid-friendly activities including climbing up Rafts and Tarzan’s Treehouse, picture-taking with the Liki Tikis or riding a makeshift boat along the rapids with Jungle River Cruise. We decided to give Jungle River Cruise a go since climbing up and down rope courses would be a little weird for us young adults.
The Jungle River Cruise, being a relatively harmless ride, only had few people lining up so we immediately had our turn. The cruise featured many “robotic” animals behaving as if they were at their natural habitats. There’s also a slight chance you might get wet so better prepare your paper ponchos (theme park map LOL) and shield your faces away.
Another part of the cruise was passing by a ravaging fiery deity, spewing water and flame to unknowing riders. The flame can get very hot though, I can tell you that. And that face vomiting fresh water might be a bit intimidating. 🙂
Jungle River Cruise
Entertainment Value: 3.25 out of 5
Verdict: Maybe more enjoyable for kids or parents
Remarks: You may get wet. Sit at the left side of the boat to avoid the flame.
Toy Story Land
Moving on, we then went to the northeast part of Disneyland where Toy Story Land is located. As the name of the area implies, this part of the park is heavily inspired with the Toy Story franchise, which makes it very appealing to kids due to its vibrant and colorful surroundings. The rides inside Toy Story Land include the Slinky Dog Spin, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop and RC Racer.
Unfortunately, we didn’t try any of the rides here since we were planning to catch the 2pm show schedule of The Festival of the Lion King back at Adventureland. Although we did feast our eyes with all the eye-candy stuff surrounding Toy Story Land. The captivating visuals of screaming kids (and adults) riding the RC Racer or hearing the highly soothing girly squeaks you hear near the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop were very much entertaining. Haha.
Tip: One thing I learned from reading travel reviews about Hong Kong is that you have to set priorities for each place you visit. If you are up for visual entertainment and overall spectacle, Disneyland will always be top choice. But if you’re the adrenaline junkie looking for challenging and hair-raising rides, Ocean Park (check out for my future blog post) has more to offer. Part of the reason why we didn’t try out all the rides inside Disneyland because we didn’t want to miss the shows. The limited time for the 1-day visit didn’t help either.
Done with the jolly and lively Toy Story Land, we found ourselves wandering around the newest attraction inside Disneyland, Mystic Point. Freshly opened last May 2013, Mystic Point is the home of the Garden of Wonders and the Mystic Manor.
Garden of Wonders is an open garden with mysterious scattered sculptures. Looking at the sculptures individually may not make much sense but seeing through the magical scope will give you some source of enlightenment.
Since the Mystic Manor is one of the most anticipated rides inside Disneyland due to it being relatively new, we decided to come back for the ride after eating dinner. But first, I’ll have myself photographed with the creepy mansion behind.
We then proceeded to the Theater in the Wild and patiently waited for the Festival of the Lion King. It was very crowded outside of the theater as guests were starting to build up 20 excruciating minutes before the start of the show. By the time they let the guests inside, we were fortunate enough to get good seats near the stage.
The Festival of the Lion King is somewhat different from the animated version, mainly due to the fact that portraying the main characters were real life actors. The show was filled with highly entertaining musical productions, including the classics like Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel the Love Tonight and The Circle of Life, with the addition of original tracks not found in the animated movie.
I was very impressed with the production quality of the show. From the lighting and props to the singing and acting skills of the character actors (they sang live too). Even the backup dancers were superb (the zebra one was really pretty)! The story-telling was also well-executed, as they managed to showcase the highlights of the story within the 30-minute limit. Kudos!
Festival of the Lion King
Crowd: Heavy to Very Heavy
Entertainment Value: 4.5 out of 5
Verdict: Must watch
Remarks: Sit near the stage to further appreciate the superb performances!
After the awesomeness that was the Festival of the Lion King, we went on to the next themed area: Grizzly Gulch. Home to the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, Grizzly Gulch is carrying the western cowboy theme borrowing from the animated Disney movie, Brother Bear. Since we were done with the shows, we thought of trying our luck with some of the rides.
By this time, the crowd in line was starting to diminish although we still had to wait and stand for over 25 minutes before we got our turn. Good thing there were industrial fans inside the queuing area, otherwise I would’ve melted into sweat. Haha.
The ride started off a bit slow for roller coaster standards. It wasn’t very intimidating looking at the structure of the ride, since it has no visible loops and sharp turns that will make spectators feel worried. However, as the ride went on, it began shifting to higher gear and built some momentum. Before we knew it, we were already in reverse motion at full speed. Ha! Fun times.
To tell you the truth, I was surprised that I managed to enjoy Big Grizzly. Heading into Disneyland, I was expecting the rides to not be as exciting as ride-heavy theme parks like USS. Perhaps the lowered expectations helped but hey, Kaye and I enjoyed it and that’s what matters.
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
Entertainment Value: 4 out of 5
Verdict: Must ride
Remarks: Sit near the front. It’s not as scary compared to bigger roller coasters.
Just as we were settling down after the Runaway Mine Cars ride, we were surprised to see some very familiar faces along the way. Turns out, 3 of our classmates from college were also busy strolling inside Disneyland! Fun mini get-together in the most unexpected of places.
After some quick chit-chat with our college friends, we went back to Main Street, USA for the much anticipated parade. However, because it was summer in Hong Kong, Disneyland actually had two different parades for the two schedules: the regular Flights of Fantasy Parade and the summer exclusive Mickey’s Waterworks Parade.
Tip: We were a bit confused with the parade schedules that we ended up watching the 4pm schedule which was Mickey’s Waterworks Parade. Because of that, I was quite bummed to realize that we missed the Flights of Fantasy (though it was in no way a downer to great day so far). Always a virtue to dig deeper on vital information regarding show schedules, I guess. On the brighter side, at least we got to see a different parade than most people have seen. And as they always say, there’s always a next time. 🙂
Since this parade involves Disney characters spewing water, the park management indicated areas classified as the “Wet Zone”. When you are staying inside the Wet Zone, expect to get wet. This can be especially fun for the kids but not so much with grown-ups. Ha. FYI, we stayed at the gazebo, which was classified as a Dry Zone.
Keeping up with the summer vibe of Hong Kong, Mickey’s Waterworks Parade did a great job of incorporating the fun nature of the Disney characters while matching them up with the sinister act of firing water guns. The more you get wet, the better experience you get. Wow, that came out wrong.
The parade, as should be expected, was an all-star cast of who’s who in the world of Disney. Buzz, Goofy and Chip n’ Dale started the parade, followed by the toy soldiers from Toy Story, Donald Duck, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket. Minnie and Daisy were also in on the wetting action followed by the legend himself, Mickey Mouse. Overall, a fun and unique way to witness a theme park parade. Feels great to be a kid again!
Mickey’s Waterworks Parade
Crowd: Heavy to Very Heavy
Entertainment Value: 4.25 out of 5
Verdict: Must watch
Remarks: If you want to stay dry, stay out of the Wet Zone. If you want the regular parade, make sure you watch the Flights of Fantasy Parade instead of this one.
By the time the parade was over, we still had time to waste before our scheduled buffet dinner at Chef Mickey located at Disney Hollywood Hotel. This made for a perfect timing for some souvenir shopping at Main Street, USA. Theme parks are a credit card’s worst nightmare.
Disneyland Emporium has everything you want from a souvenir shop. Shirts? They have ’em. Key chains? Please. Character utensils? Keep trying. Stuffed toys? Are you listening to yourself?
As to be fully expected from theme park specialty stores, prices will always be steep no matter how you look at it. But Disneyland has that kind of charm that will make you forego your financial burdens and make you buy stuff anyway. Teach me, Master Walt.
Before we end up broke inside the souvenir shop, we figured we would go to Chef Mickey a little earlier than our call time of 5:30pm. But not without stopping by at the front garden for some photo ops.
The Disneyland entrance is one of the most iconic photo spots of the park, so do take time to savor your moment inside one of the most happiest places on earth. In auditing parlance, we have a saying that goes “If it’s not documented, it’s not done”; but in this case, it’s as easy as “pics or it didn’t happen. lol”.
From the entrance area, we rode the shuttle bus and dropped off at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel. The ride is given for free to both hotel guests and non-guests.
Chef Mickey @ Disney’s Hollywood Hotel
We arrived at Chef Mickey a bit earlier than scheduled. Since Chef Mickey is quite strict about the buffet time schedule, we had some free time to rest our aching feet. Good thing they had free wi-fi so we got to update our social media after being in disconnect from the interwebz for the entire day.
The dinner buffet at Chef Mickey (at that time) was priced at HKD388+/head (roughly Php2,200+). But since we availed of their online promo, we saved HKD80 (around Php450+) each bringing the price down to HKD 308+. Yeah, the price is relatively expensive compared to other (bigger) buffet stations in the Philippines (Vikings quickly come to mind) so we’ll just have to live with that harsh reality. Still a good thing to have that HKD80 savings, though.
Tip: Check out Chef Mickey’s website for the updated buffet prices and promotions. The price and promotion we availed last August 2013 might be different from what is offered currently.
What I liked most about Chef Mickey is the attention to detail with the interiors. From the tables, utensils, seats and napkins to the chandeliers, murals and lighting, the place was just a visual treat. In Filipino, we say it as “mata pa lang, busog na”.
While the food tasted good overall (others were ordinary but some dishes were also spot on), I can say that I was a bit underwhelmed with the food selection. Although they have separate stations for appetizers, pasta and other international cuisine, I left the buffet station wanting for more. It may be due to the justification of the high price tag, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who nitpicked the variety of food being offered. Maybe I just expected too much.
As for our fellow sweet tooths, you don’t have to worry as the dessert station is more than capable of catering to your needs. I was not able to take photos of all the dishes, but if you’d like more reviews about Chef Mickey, head on to TripAdvisor for additional insight.
Since we were there on a Friday, we didn’t get to meet and greet Chef Mickey and the gang as the characters only appear during weekends and holidays. But we already expected that, so no biggie.
Chef Mickey at Hollywood Hotel
Experience Value: 4 out of 5
Verdict: Recommended if you have extra cash to splurge on food.
Remarks: The food alone (both variety and taste) may not fully justify the quite expensive price tag but if you account the ambience and overall experience, I think it’s worth a shot.
We strolled through the back of Hollywood Hotel after finishing our heavy dinner. While we were not “guests” of the hotel per se, guests who availed of the buffet are free to roam around the hotel.
As dusk began to rule the skies, we started to wait for the shuttle bus to go back to the theme park. Since we expected the crowd to lessen during night time, it was the perfect time to try on some of the rides we missed during the day.
Back at the theme park, we immediately rushed back to Mystic Point and found ourselves lining inside the Mystic Manor. While queuing, we were passing by some make-believe memorabilia from the Mystic Manor just enough to distract you while waiting.
Mystic Manor is different from other rides, since it’s neither a roller coaster nor is it a type of carousel or ferris wheel. Per Wikipedia, it utilizes a “trackless” ride system, wherein the carriages are not guided by tracks/rails but is controlled with the use of magnets/electricity. This ride mechanism is pretty comparable to Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Singapore. Pretty geeky stuff.
Mystic Manor was the surprise of the night. The ride was really a visual treat, with pretty nifty special effects accompanied with great surround sound that exponentially added to the dynamics of the ride. The story-telling, though predictable, was very well-delivered with that added distinct Disney touch. In-your-face fantasy: that’s my definition of Mystic Manor.
Crowd: Moderate to Heavy
Entertainment Value: 4.5 out of 5
Verdict: Must ride
Remarks: Enjoy the visual treat happening in front of your eyes.
With Mystic Manor already checked on the list, we really did save the best for last with Space Mountain. While the crowd in line may not seem much, it still took us some time to get into the ride (we waited for about 30+ minutes). Apparently, the trick was a longer line inside the Space Mountain chambers.
Space Mountain is classified as an indoor roller-coaster, with similarities to The Mummy Returns in USS. Since it is enclosed within the dome, you can expect darkness during the duration of the ride (except for the very prominent cosmic space lighting).
The coaster was really fast, the fastest among all the rides inside the theme park. The darkness inside the dome added much intrigue and thrill as you never know where the nearest sharp turn is or if there’s a loop looming near. The special effects, while probably not as good as the one on Mystic Manor (really hard to top that one), provided the necessary outer space ambience complete with black hole sucking action and meteor shower spectacle. The aptly-themed soundtrack also deserves a thumbs up for giving the UFO-Alien-Space Abduction vibe from start to finish. Scream if you must, but don’t you dare blink.
Entertainment Value: 4.5 out of 5
Verdict: Must ride
Remarks: Are you afraid of the dark? If yes, you’re gonna have a bad time. XD
Disney in the Stars
Moving on to the last and most awaited part of the night, we strategically positioned ourselves at the roundabout in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. While the fireworks spectacle won’t begin until 9pm, people are already securing their spots for the show in as early as 8pm. Be warned though that the crowd for the Disney In The Stars will be bigger than the one you saw at the parade. Bank on that.
As soon as the opening note of “A Whole New World” hit, I immediately had goosebumps. Nostalgia overload! While the fireworks display was already awesome as it was, what really made the show mean so much more was the emotion behind every Disney song. The emotion you feel hearing some of the most beloved Disney classics while watching pyrotechnics in-synch really leaves a lasting pinch. The final moments of the show sealed a great day with a bang, literally. Kaye remained speechless throughout the show while I had the burden of holding my man-tears. 😀
Disney in the Stars (Fireworks)
Crowd: Very Heavy
Entertainment Value: 5 out of 5
Verdict: Don’t miss this, just don’t.
Remarks: If you want to fully enjoy the fireworks spectacle, DO NOT take a video while watching! You are there too see it live. Besides, there are tons of video uploads on Youtube if you want a second viewing.
So there you have it. I spent my last day as a 25-year old feeling like a 5-year old again. Despite the very tiring nature of the things we did on Disneyland, we felt very fulfilled leaving the joyous place. And that’s the bottom line. Best birthday eve ever? Most certainly. -rod-
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