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Hong Kong Disneyland

Started: 2013-01-12 20:35:01

Submitted: 2013-01-12 22:16:08

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator experiences the magic kingdom and the middle kingdom at the same time

I think it was Kiesa's idea to visit Hong Kong Disneyland as Calvin's first visit to a Disney-themed park. (There is, of course, a Disneyland much closer to home, but this Disneyland is smaller and cheaper, and seemed like a more pleasant introduction to the franchise. As amusement parks go, Hong Kong's indigenous Ocean Park is supposed to be much better, but it appears to be geared more towards older children (and teenagers and young adults) rather than Calvin's demographic.) We picked Friday for its warmer-and-sunnier weather forecast and ended up with fantastic weather -- the temperature was well into the seventies (Fahrenheit; let's call it the low twenties Celsius), much warmer than the zero-degree-Fahrenheit-with-six-inches-of-snow the forecast called for back home.

Hong Kong Disneyland is located out on the outlying island of Lantau, in the general direction of the airport, and is served by a dedicated MTR line, but we had to change trains twice to get there. The final line in our journey is dedicated to Disneyland; the windows are shaped in a Mickey Mouse outline, and the carriages featured various Disney icons inside. We followed the throngs of people heading toward the park, bought our tickets, and entered the Magic Kingdom.

The first thing in the park, like its namesake in California, was Main Street USA. This seemed like an odd choice to me, since east Asia has so much local history to draw on (and idealize), but I was willing to suspend disbelief until it started snowing soap bubbles. We watched a parade, which Calvin seemed to enjoy, and as soon as it was over Kiesa hustled us over to a shop selling Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles. I was a little more interested in the anti-bird flu warnings about not feeding the birds, which didn't seem to actually have any effect on the number of tiny sparrows flying around looking for a handout.

Calvin eats a Mickey Mouse waffle at Hong Kong Disneyland
Calvin eats a Mickey Mouse waffle at Hong Kong Disneyland

We took Calvin through the Winnie the Pooh ride; I found the story a little hard to follow until I remembered it was a direct adaptation of the animated Disney movie, including the (non-canon) dream sequence that utterly confused Kiesa (having never actually seen the animated Disney version). (I was impressed how the rocking of the vehicle we were riding in felt like were floating on water during the flood scenes.) Calvin seemed to enjoy most of it.

Calvin emerges from the Winnie the Pooh ride
Calvin emerges from the Winnie the Pooh ride

Calvin didn't like the Chinese-speaking Merlin who appeared in front of the sword in the stone, and wasn't interested in the carousel, but did want to ride in the Mad Hatter's teacups as we walked by. (He enjoys spinning around to the point where, sometimes, he makes me dizzy.) We didn't spin very fast until the end, when Calvin wanted to go faster.

Calvin rides the spinning teacups
Calvin rides the spinning teacups

After the ride, we headed to It's A Small World. (I did notice, on the Chinese spelling of the ride, the character 小 (xiǎo in Mandarin), which I recognized as "small".) Calvin became a minor celebrity in the queue as the Asian girl ahead of us took a picture of him with her tablet. The ride itself was amusing, and not quite as shrill as I feared.

Calvin rides It's a Small Small World
Calvin rides It's a Small Small World

It was time for lunch, so we discovered just how small of a world it really was by visiting the "Tahitian Terrace", which seemed to have all of the dietary restrictions they didn't know what else to do with; it had Indian veg as well as a selection of halal meals. The thali plate was fine, though since we were in Hong Kong they called it a "set meal".

We took a raft to visit Tarzan's island treehouse, which Calvin found amusing, then queued for the jungle boat cruise, which seemed to combine all of the world's great jungle rivers into one. There were three queues for English, Mandarin, and Cantonese; each boat was narrated by the guide in one of those languages. Our guide could barely stumble through the script in English, but it was amusing to watch the animatronic elephants and other wildlife as we floated past, at least until the headhunters attacked and the volcano threatened to envelop us and scared Calvin.

Calvin and Kiesa watch an animatronic elephant at the Tarzan exhibit
Calvin and Kiesa watch an animatronic elephant at the Tarzan exhibit
Kiesa and Calvin consult the Hong Kong Disneyland map
Kiesa and Calvin consult the Hong Kong Disneyland map
Calvin and Kiesa watch the animatronic elephant on the jungle cruise
Calvin and Kiesa watch the animatronic elephant on the jungle cruise

We took the train in one complete orbit around the park as a palate cleanser after our jungle cruise and were about to head off to Toy Story Land in search of a snack when Calvin spotted the Dumbo ride and insisted on riding it before the snack, so Kiesa headed off to get frozen yogurt with weird little mango-flavored candied balls of juice that burst when one bit down on them. Calvin enjoyed the ride and wanted to stay as high as possible, using the control lever that let us pick our altitude, until the ride was over.

Calvin and Jaeger ride Dumbo
Calvin and Jaeger ride Dumbo
Calvin rides Dumbo
Calvin rides Dumbo

By this point it was approaching 16:00 and I was thinking about picking up my passport and visa before the office closed at 18:30. We headed to Tomorrowland but got caught on the wrong side of another parade, this one with dancing Toy Story characters. As soon as the parade passed we hurried to the Obitron ride, which was almost identical to the Dumbo ride except with a space theme, and each car held four people so Kiesa could join us. Calvin enjoyed this ride as well, and again wanted to stay as high as possible.

Calvin and Kiesa watch a Toy Story parade
Calvin and Kiesa watch a Toy Story parade
Calvin rides Obitron
Calvin rides Obitron

Calvin was still enjoying the park, but I needed to pick up my passport, and Kiesa thought it'd be best to quit while we were still ahead, so we bid farewell to Hong Kong Disneyland and took MTR back in the direction of the city.

Calvin rides MTR
Calvin rides MTR

I left Kiesa and Calvin on the train to take a different route to Forever Bright Trading Limited in Kowloon to pick up my passport. I handed over the little card with my passport's tracking information and a sizable chunk of cash (covering the visa fee from the consulate, the processing fee, and my photo), and received my passport with a brand-new visa for the People's Republic of China, good for two entries (of thirty days each) for six months. Until I actually saw the visa in my passport I wasn't absolutely sure I was going to get it, and now I was really going to China.

North Point and Victoria Harbour
North Point and Victoria Harbour

After picking up my passport, I wandered around Kowloon for a bit looking for supper. As the sun set I found myself on a main street, packed with tourists, and the touts came out in force. In the space of a single block two people asked if I wanted a guest house, two people asked if I wanted a suit, and one guy asked, more surreptitiously than the others, if I wanted cocaine or marijuana. (I did not take any of these touts up on their offers.) This was a level of touting I hadn't seen since India; I'd been in Hong Kong for a week hadn't experienced anything of the sort. (The only time anyone had spoken to us on the street was a saffron-robed monk wishing us a merry Christmas as we passed him in a park in Central.) But this was the first time I'd been much of anywhere without both Kiesa and Calvin in tow; I presume that, when obviously traveling with my family, I present a different appearance. (We'd also spent most of our time on Hong Kong Island; Kowloon attracts a different sort of tourist.)

I jumped into the next MTR entrance I saw and headed for the familiar environment of Central. I ate at the pizza-by-the-slice restaurant Paisano's again while I began cramming for a one-day visit to Guangzhou. (I didn't really want to get my hopes up until I actually had the visa in my hands, but that meant I had my hands full to plan a significant day trip on short notice.) After eating I returned to my hotel and continued planning until I thought I had a workable plan for the next day.

For a parallel account of our seventh day in Hong Kong, see The Seventh Day (Disneyland). For more photos from Disneyland see Photos on 2012-12-28.
Tolkien is hobbit-forming!