Keith & Della Hong Kong 19/3/06 – 27/3/06
Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report
Hello and welcome to Keith’s trip report! Della and I just returned from a 7 day – 8 night visit to Hong Kong and Hong Kong Disneyland. We were there from the night of the 19th March to the morning of the 27th March 2006.
In summary, we stayed at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and visited the park on four days; the remaining three days were spent sightseeing around Hong Kong. It was a great holiday and the hotel and park were fantastic! Read on…
Note : Hong Kong currency is about $1AUD = $5.5HKD.
Firstly, we flew with Qantas, departing Sydney at noon and arriving around 6:30pm Hong Kong time (three hours behind Sydney). I had pre-booked a coach transfer through Hong Kong Disneyland Reservation Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org) for $80 HKD per person.
Hint: we probably should have just gotten a taxi as they are very cheap – a trip to the resort via taxi is about $130 HKD – so if there is more than one of you – it is more economical to grab the taxi.
Alternatively, if you are staying in the City, you can get the excellent train service from the airport. The airport express does not stop at Sunny Bay (where the Disneyland Resort Line begins), so the train is impractical if you are staying at the Disney hotels.
So we arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel which has a retro 1940-50’s Hollywood film theme. The shuttle bus passes through a security gate that looks like one from an old Hollywood film lot – pretty cool. The bell hops met us as we got off our bus and promised to deliver our luggage to our room after we checked in.
We entered the marble-floored lobby and were amazed by this hotel interior, it looks fantastic. We were immediately on a Hidden Mickey hunt, spotting them in the carpet, on tiles, on mirrors, light fittings – everywhere! We were also met in the lobby by none other than Goofy himself. Della was very excited and I struggled to get any sense out of her as I went to the desk to check in. The check in staff were very efficient and they also arranged park tickets for the next day (“just add them to room 3672 thanks!”)
So after a few photos with Goofy we headed into the beautiful lift and up to the third floor.
The hotel is really impressive with five eateries (three indoor and two outdoors), Disney movie posters everywhere, sculptures, artwork etc. All inspired by Hollywood and California culture (and of course, Mickey Mouse). Oh yeah, there are two Disney stores in the hotel too!
Our room looked towards the park and within seconds of entering it, we saw the nightly fireworks display in the park (which begins at 8:00pm.) In true Disney fashion, they simulcast the firework soundtrack on the large widescreen LCD display in our room, so we could watch them from our room with the music soundtrack playing in the background – nice touch!
The room was well appointed with complimentary bottled water (3 bottles a day), complimentary slippers we could take home, Mickey themed bathroom stuff (soap, shampoo, bath gels etc). Other standard fittings included fridge, room safe, and lots of fluffy towels (too fluffy to sneak out with in your suitcase – you need that extra room for the merchandise you’ll be buying!). The soundproofing was excellent, with no noise audible from the kids in the room next door – yay!
We had breakfast most days at the Hollywood and Dine – a small snack bar that sold Kellogs Cereals, pastries, milk, sandwiches etc. We had cereals and coffee and they provided the bowls and cutlery, it was very cheap and kept us going. We also had breakfast one day a Chef Mickey which is a proper hotel buffet service (but expensive). The Hollywood and Dine was also a great place to pick up some sandwiches if you were heading into the City for the day. We grabbed a handful and put them in our backpack – that way we didn’t have to worry about looking for food while on the go, go, go in the City!
If you want a character breakfast – you have to go to the magnificent Disneyland Hotel just up the road and visit The Enchanted Garden – this is also a full buffet setup (awesome food) and you get to play with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto – we had a great morning there as there were not too many other guests!
Overall, the Hollywood hotel and all the staff were fantastic – highly recommended.
This Disney Park is in a wonderful location, surrounded by mountains and the sea. It makes for some great photo opportunities.
The whole resort area is nicely landscaped, and besides the hotels and the park, there is a relaxation area called Inspiration Lake. At the lake, you can hire paddle boats and four wheel surrey bikes. We hired a surrey bike and rode around the entire perimeter of the lake, stopping for photos as we went.
The path around the lake takes you through formal gardens, across bridges and through exercise areas that include chin-up bars, sit up bars, stretching poles etc to burn up some energy!
Although a free shuttle bus operates every ten minutes between the hotels and the park, we preferred walking every day to and from the park. The pathways are wide (and well lit at night), and of course there is always the constant Disney music as you get closer to the park. If the weather is not hot or wet, forget the bus – it is only a 1 kilometre walk, and you need to burn off that big breakfast (besides, you are going to walk lots more than that once in the park, what’s an extra kilometre?!). For some reason, we were the only ones walking (mad Aussies) but that made it even more fun – it felt like the whole resort was just for us!
Also in the park surrounds, near the Disneyland Hotel, there is the ferry port – which eventually will be used to travel to and from the city. This is an immense dock – which was pretty eerie as it was completely deserted. We were told by a cast member that it is only being used for VIP trips at the moment, but its size suggests that they are expecting greater use eventually.
It is interesting to note that during our walks around the surrounds, there were a number of roads to nowhere – future expansion areas for both theme park and hotels.
As for the Disneyland Hotel, we went there a couple of times to take photos and walk around the grounds and have a character breakfast. Without doubt this is the grandest hotel I have ever been in anywhere in the world (and I’ve been in plenty!). It is an amazing hotel, but for me, it was just too good! It almost takes the fun out of being on a Disney holiday. Inside, everyone spoke in quiet voices – almost a hushed awe at the grandeur of this place. Sure there were subtle signs of Disney, such as small hidden Mickeys in the marble floor, and glass slippers on the twin chandeliers (which were copies of the chandelier from Beauty and the Beast ballroom) – but it still felt a bit…formal. Magnificent – yes, but formal, and maybe not so much fun – the Hollywood Hotel was more attuned to me and Della.
Outside the main gates of Disneyland is the transport interchange – this includes the car parks, bus interchange and the Hong Kong Disneyland railway station – all nicely done of course!
Leading up to the main park entrance is a fountain featuring the Fab Five + Daisy. Mickey Mouse is upon a surf board riding the water spout from a whale – and the fountain performs to Disney music.
Near the fountain are Guest Services and Ticket purchase areas, and a short walk leads you to the main entrance (after the obligatory baggage check by friendly security staff who were fascinated by my Disneyland 50th Anniversary jacket.)
I’d read a lot about this park before I came – mainly about how small it was and how many attractions it had etc. I went there with low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised – what they have done here has been done right.
There are four lands – Main Street USA; Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
Main Street USA – will be familiar to anyone who has been to Anaheim, with some minor differences. The view towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle is similar – although even more attractive in that the street is brick paved rather than tarred, and the castle has the surrounding mountains forming an awesome backdrop. It is home to one of the two stops for the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad. Main Street also has some shops…!
There are no tram tracks in Hong Kong Disneyland Main Street, but there is a vintage omnibus and police paddy wagon transporting guests up and down. One day, the omnibus driver (Jack) allowed Della and me to sit in the driver’s seat while he took a photo of us – pretty cool (thanks Jack!)
There are a number of character greeting areas in Main Street – with Donald and Daisy Duck, Mickey and Minnie, Goofy and Pluto being regular visitors.
There is also a display of how Disneyland came to Hong Kong and features a timeline of Disney entertainment, showing all the parks and the cruise line, culminating with the opening of Hong Kong. This is in the Main Street Opera House building.
Adventureland – now this place is awesome, home to The Festival of the Lion King show (more on that later), the Jungle Cruise and Tarzan’s Treehouse. The pathways around Adventureland are bordered with flaming torches and appropriate ‘jungle music’ floats through the air.
To get to Tarzan’s Treehouse, you have to take a raft across the Jungle Cruise waters (while the Jungle Cruise captains make fun of you!) In this manner, they have kind of merged elements from Anaheim’s the Rivers of America, Jungle Cruise, Tom Sawyer’s Island and Tarzan’s Treehouse into one area – and have pulled it off admirably.
Apart from being on an island, Tarzan’s Treehouse is similar in construction to the Anaheim version. It provides great views of the surrounding area and the park looks especially good from here at night.
Now for the Jungle Cruise – I laughed so much on this – much more than in Anaheim! Maybe it was the enthusiasm shown by the drivers, as well as their Chinese accents, but I thought each trip we made was hilarious – but special mention must go to Jungle Cruise skipper ‘Kenny’, who made our trip memorable with his excellent banter.
The queue area for the Jungle Cruise is split into three languages, English, Cantonese and Mandarin. They alternate boats through each line. The theme is more in tune with an Asian jungle, rather than the African setting in Anaheim, and the detail of things such as the temples is amazing. Oh – and of course there is the volcano, with flames on the water, and the giant water spout to keep you interested! On a rare occasion, you may get wet (as Della did – in fact, if a sign says you may get wet, then Della always will…)
Fantasyland – features Mickey’s Philharmagic, Dumbo, Mad Hatters Tea Party (one of our favourites!), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Carousel, the Golden Mickeys stage show, and Fantasy Gardens character meet and greet area.
Most of these are well known from other parks, but the Golden Mickeys came from the Disney Cruise Line and Fantasy Gardens is something new – a dedicated character greeting area in a formal garden setting under Chinese styled gazebos.
Tomorrowland – features Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and the Orbitron. Coming soon will be Autopia – which we saw being tested.
Space Mountain needs no introduction, other than it has the same track layout as Anaheim, but apparently has slightly better special effects (even though Anaheim was recently rebuilt.)
The Buzz Lightyear attraction appeared exactly the same as the Anaheim experience, and the Orbitron was similar to the Astro Orbitor, but more attractive and with much more comfortable cars that would easily seat four (although we love squeezing into the Anaheim one – talk about squishy!)
The Festival of the Lion King
This 25-30 minute show is awesome – it follows a re-telling of the Lion King story from the characters perspective (it is like the characters have got together to perform a re-enactment after the event). It includes all the great songs, a rotating stage, fire, animatronic floats, terrific lighting and great singers – I would pay good money to see this show in Sydney as a standalone product!
The Golden Mickeys
This is a stage show along the lines of an Academy Award show. It has been adapted from the show on board the Disney Cruise Line. The only problem is that all the “awards night” speaking is in Chinese, although the songs are all performed in English and they make up the majority of the show. Once again, a great production with many Disney favourites, including the fab five, Lilo and Stitch, the Little Mermaid (suspended in the air amid a theatre filled with bubbles!), the Hunchback of Notredame, and Beauty and the Beast. This is a great show – especially if you like Disney musical numbers (which I do).
Other live performances at the park include a Dapper Dans-type group, the Hong Kong Disneyland Band, the Parade (naturally!), Fireworks (great show), and in Adventureland we came across a Polynesian drumming group and another great show we stumbled across on our last day featuring actors and performers with giant jungle creature marionettes put to music – can’t explain it any better than that!
Other Bits and Pieces
Weather – when we were there in late March, we never saw the sun. But that is fine with us as we didn’t have to worry about burning. The temperature was a pleasant 22-24 everyday but when the wind got up it was a little cool so we had our light jackets ready. At night it didn’t cool off and remained around 20-22. On a couple of days we had very short bursts of rain, but it would barely last ten minutes (just enough to get drowned on the Orbitron!)
Our tour guide in Hong Kong said the best time of year to visit is November, as it had similar temperatures, but the monsoonal fog was not present – fog is constant in March so we learned! She suggested staying away in summer months as it is very hot and 100% humidity – yuck! Typhoons can also be a problem in summer. We noted giant fans and blowers everywhere in the park – especially ride queues, which must be for those very hot summer days.
Language – English is one of the three official languages in Hong Kong (with Cantonese and Mandarin) – at no stage did we ever have any communication problems, and people were very friendly (in the Park and the City). The Golden Mickeys is the only Disney thing that did not cater properly for English speakers (I don’t know why they didn’t subtitle the show on the giant screens they were using on either side of the stage) – but this was a minor gripe as the musical show is great.
Characters – we love meeting the characters and getting photos and their autographs. We found that the characters here were more hands on than in Anaheim. They grabbed us and hugged us, and I put Pluto in a headlock etc – it was great fun! In Anaheim, we posed with the characters but did not interact as much (maybe they are more scared of touching guests there in case of law suits!) So if you like character greetings, Hong Kong is the place to go!
Food – we found the food here was great. There is a mixture of western and Chinese dining and we tried both. We found that the portion sizes were more manageable compared to the huge US meals. The quality was excellent (try the hamburgers and fries in the Starliner Diner in Tomorrowland – the best ever!), and the service times good (much better than the abysmal food service we encountered in Anaheim – even on its quiet days.) The food outlets have some amazing murals such as terrific space scenes in the Starliner Diner.
Merchandise – it is a Disney Park – there is plenty to buy! We found the prices cheap – much cheaper than the US. Nice Disney polo shirts for under $30AUD. I also bought Disney business shirts and ties! They had plenty of household goods as well such as towels, bathroom fittings etc – stuff that has disappeared from Anaheim.
Well, there you have it, my trip report on Hong Kong Disneyland. Is it like going to Anaheim? No, it’s not as big and never will be, but what is here is really good, and it is only 8 hours away, and it is around 30% cheaper (food, merchandise, and park tickets). I’m going to enjoy revisiting over the years and watching this park get bigger and better. If they can continue to maintain this level of quality, then they will be on a winner. You can see the park expansion pads from Tarzan’s Treehouse, and we expect there will be some announcements soon (maybe at the 1st anniversary – perhaps “Pirates of the Caribbean”?) – so soon there will be more reasons for me to revisit.