Sunday, September 14, 2014

Disneyland Magic

Just got back from a tiring yet really fun trip to HK Disneyland. HK was very hot and expensive. It's true that the exchange rate is now better compared to few years ago (~HKD 6 to SGD 1) but the price increase has been exponential too.

Anyway, for this trip we bought a package from a travel agency, considering the discounts and the special closed door event in Disney park. Included in the package were return flight on C*thay P*cific, 1 night stay in HK, 2 nights stay in Disneyland resort, and 2-day tickets to Disneyland theme park.

I am used to arranging my own trip, so much so that it did not feel right when I did not have to take care of flight bookings, hotel bookings and itinerary. I am also so used to flying budget airlines, I actually planned of bringing an empty water bottle and snacks to the aircraft :p

We reached Changi T1 at 5.20am for our 8am flight on Wed, 10 September to meet up with the tour guide. I am still not sure why such free and easy tour needs a guide, but, whatever, I didn't have a say on that. A section of seats had been reserved for the group, so we followed the seat numbers arranged by the tour guide, not the seats given by the airline. Some people did not know that, resulting in some confusion on board the plane.

On board the plane

The flight was a little bumpy (no hot beverages were served) but otherwise uneventful. Reached HK Int'l Airport by noon and only reached our hotel room 2 hours later - courtesy of waiting here and there, the not-so-good part of travelling in tour group.

The first hotel was Metropark Hotel in Mongkok. It has good location with MTR station, shops and convenient store nearby. But the room was small and the carpet looked worn and dirty. Didn't bother to check out their swimming pool and try their restaurants.

We only had half a day in the city, and we visited Avenue of Stars, took Star Ferry to Central Pier and went to The Peak.

Exploring the city

Taking a ride on Star Ferry was a great choice. For a cheap fare (HKD 6.50 for 2 adults and 1 child) we got to enjoy HK skyline while crossing Victoria Harbour.

However, a visit to The Peak by tram was totally not worth it, in my opinion. Firstly, I've been there a few years ago, and nothing has changed. And then it was really crowded in The Sky Terrace we had to fight for space to get a good spot for phototaking. A much better option would be to ride Bus no 15 to The Peak (forget the tram unless you're there in off-peak hours), and have a leisurely stroll back down while taking photos (forget paying to enter The Sky Terrace). The mesmerizing city skyline is visible from other parts as well, including a section in The Peak building that is non-ticketed. It would be better if they limit the number of people allowed in the Sky Terrace - it is THAT crowded.

Hong Kong skyline

In the morning the following day, we checked out from hotel and went to Disney Resort. We chose Disneyland Hotel over Hollywood Hotel and it's a good choice. It has lovely architecture, with huge lobby, high ceilings and pretty chandeliers. It's overlooking the sea and there's a ferry pier at the back of the hotel, separated by a promenade and a well manicured garden. The garden has flower bed, maze and children playground. The room was clean, very spacious and well stocked. The robes and room slippers came in kids' sizes as well. 4 bottles of water were provided, doubled than the usual 2 bottles given by other hotels.

There's a Disney merchandise store located at the lobby, a very convenient way to shop as you can immediately store your loot in the room, rather than lugging it around in the park.

There's a range of children activities in the Storybook Playroom throughout the day. They are mostly free (magic card, learn to draw Disney characters, button making, towel art, etc). For some activities that require equipments, one set was priced at HKD100. The room itself was stocked with mini playground, mini theatre playing Disney movies, story books and toys.

There are 3 restaurants in Disneyland Hotel. We had dinner and breakfast in Walt's cafe and the food was really good. Breakfast was served semi-buffet style: a continental buffet and one choice of hot meal.

The theme park is accessible from Disneyland Hotel by shuttle bus (every 10 mins, loops from theme park-Disneyland Hotel-Hollywood Hotel) and by a pretty pathway. On good weather, it's much better to walk on the pathway compared to taking the bus. It's mostly empty and the amount of walk is not much different compared to taking bus, as the bus stops are located in quite a distance from hotel entrance and theme park entrance.

Disney experience itself was magical. I guess the characters made all the difference as we grew up with them. In 2 days, we enjoyed 2 Disney in the Stars fireworks displays, 3 Flights of Fantasy parades and many, many rides.

Despite what I heard about the themepark being small and the undesirable attitude exhibited by certain visitors, I did not share the same opinion. In 2 days, we did not manage to try every single rides, but some rides we went for a few times. It's too bad that some attractions are only available in Cantonese, like Animation Academy.

The hot and humid weather was close to unbearable but then the good thing was, queues were usually very short. We did not even bother to take any fast pass. On first day it's scorching hot throughout the day, and on second day it's a little cloudy with occasional rain.

Park was clean, well maintained, with enough facilities like toilets, restaurants and stroller parking areas. Food sold were alright, albeit a little pricey. Staff were polite and paid good attention to safety on the rides.

My favorite ride was The Runaway Mine Cart, a roller coaster ride, of course. I found Space Mountain a little disappointing somehow. Mystic Manor was good too - we toured the antique
collections that came alive in a manor.

On the first day we watched the 7.30pm fireworks from Fantasyland, as we arrived when the Main Street USA was already packed. The staff already advised us that the best view would be from in front of the castle, but we stayed in Fantasyland as there were far less people. It turned out that Fantasyland was in the middle of the show, literally at the heart of the hot actions: fire explosions from the left, lights and fireworks from the front (Sleeping Beauty castle), and another set of fireworks from behind. It got very really hot and smoky after the show was over. It's a good experience, though. On the second night we watched it from Main Street USA and it was crazy crowded.

The closed door event was called Disney Paint the Night, where special Disney characters made their glamorous appearances in the night parade. The park and the rides were open until 11pm. Special attractions to celebrate Halloween were open too for preview. There were face painting, night fair, and 2 haunted houses. I went in to one of them and didn't understand as all the ghosts spoke in Cantonese :p The other house had perpetually long queue so I didn't bother to try.

Tickets and special passes

We enjoyed the last day in the resort, before our flight back home at 5pm. All in all, it's an exciting trip. Glad to be able to experience the Disney Magic one more time!

No comments: