Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report – Part 3
This trip report covers our second–and final–day in Hong Kong Disneyland from our first visit to the park. It’s been a while since the second installment of this trip report, so by way of quick recap, the previous day, we spent a lot of time riding and re-riding the amazing Mystic Manor. We also did Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Other stuff happened. (It’s amazing how each of these posts is like 3,000 words, but I can do a succinct <100 word recap.)
My apologies for delaying so long between installments of this trip report. Between the relative lack of interest in the first two parts of this trip report and having limited time to spend on trip reports, finishing it just sort of got lost in the shuffle. However, in a recent ‘feedback’ post, some of you indicated that more trip reports would be nice. So, for all 4 of you who have been sitting on the edges of your seats waiting for the conclusion of this trip report…here it is!
Since writing the last installment of this trip report, we’ve actually returned to Hong Kong Disneyland. We were there for halloween, which–unlike Christmas–was an incredibly cool holiday there. I won’t be writing a trip report about those days in Hong Kong Disneyland, but if you check out my posts on Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland and the debut of the Disney Paint the Night Parade, you pretty cover the salient points of that visit.
Now let’s start the second day of our first visit to Hong Kong Disneyland…
I had a sunrise shoot early that morning. It lasted all of 20 minutes as I realized there wasn’t going to be a sunrise.
A few hours later, we were back in the park. Our first stop was the meet & greet for these gingerbread people. They had ridiculously long lines the day before, so I guess Hong Kongers love gingerbread? That, or they thought it was Mrs. & Mr. Hankey! 😉
Mystic Manor was the first stop, and we literally had the entire attraction to ourselves.
I could gush over this attraction endlessly, but I’ve already done that in this post.
Suffice to say, Mystic Manor is the reason to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. I mean, there are other reasons, but if you need a reason, this is it. I’m not saying it justifies spending all of the money to visit Hong Kong, but if you’re already in Asia, it helps justify a stopover.
We were ready for a snack, with one stand having ice cream and…
YUMMY FRESH GRILLED SQUID!
…We made the mistake of getting ice cream. Not nearly as kawaii as that angry (or is he happy?) squid!
Then it was off to Grizzly Gulch, where we encountered Mickey & Minnie in western attire with literally no one (besides the character attendant) within 50 yards of them. Mind you, this is like 30 minutes after park opening, and Grizzly Gulch is still dead. Everyone seems to head directly for Toy Story Land or Fantasyland, while crowds don’t hit Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point until mid-morning.
I opted for this awkward hand-holding pose with Mickey Mouse because…uhh…would you believe me if I told you this is a customary pose in Hong Kong? Let’s go with that.
By this point, I had lost count of how many times we had done Mystic Manor. Thankfully, we never waited more than 10 minutes or so for it. This time, it was once again a walk-on.
After riding, we discovered that this was the first day the talking Albert plushes were being sold. All of the Cast Members were super excited about it. Can’t you see the excitement in her face?! (I assume Hong Kong Disneyland isn’t infested with bloggers like the US, so they’re probably not used to guests taking photos of them holding plush monkeys.)
A row of Albert plushes waiting to head out and see the world…or some kids’ bedrooms.
Of the many things I purchased was this hat. So, Mr. Anderson, whenever you start filming Grand Budapest Hotel 2: Night At Da Manor, I will be ready.
Across the board, the merchandise for Mystic Manor was absolutely top notch. The “Merchandising A Team” must have been working on this stuff, because it’s the best attraction-specific park merchandise anywhere.
This guy saw a lot of us over those two day, and he gave us a thumbs up on our choices of loot after checking us out during this visit.
One thing the parks in Asia excel at is these non-alcoholic specialty drinks. These are delicious, look awesome, and (usually) have boba in them. If you’re not for boba, you’re against having a good time.
Of course, taste is sort of irrelevant in the conversation. The main reason for buying them is for blog and instagram posts of them that essentially say, ‘look at the awesome thing I’m drinking’ with a cool background.
Sarah demonstrates the art of this. Not pictured: other guests doing double-takes as they walk past us, probably thinking they’ve learned something new about American customs.
On our first night in Hong Kong Disneyland, we had gone to the Crystal Lotus restaurant in our hotel to preorder the special dim sum menu items. We reviewed Crystal Lotus here, so I won’t fixate on this too long.
Since this is a swanky place, it only seemed right to give Albert his own seat. He would have demonstrated poor decorum by sitting on the floor. Actually, I only put him in this chair for a few moments, and took him down as soon as Sarah saw and gave me “the look.” Unlike Tokyo Disney Resort where you are basically committing a faux pas if you don’t give each of your 19 Duffy plushes a seat at the table, at a nice restaurant like this in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, it’s probably best not to have a stuffed animal sitting at the table. Live and learn.
We had ordered the entire special dim sum menu available at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, and by the time the server was bringing them out, it felt like we had a mini Noah’s Ark…for dim sum.
“The Claw! I have been chosen…”
I’d love to return to Crystal Lotus at sometime for dinner, as the ambiance was really nice, and the full meals we saw other people having looked good.
After lunch, Sarah really wanted to head to the Tian Tan Buddha, as we had missed the last cable car by 10 minutes when we tried to go a couple days before. I was feeling a bit lethargic after all that dim sum, so I just opted to let her go by herself while I headed back to the park and sat around in various places.
First priority, though, was getting photos of the whale fountain at the front of the park. This whale fountain is pretty much the greatest thing ever, and I’m guessing is photographed as much or more than Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland.
It seems like water fountains are an endangered species at the US parks, but I really wish Disney would add something like this to the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. This is a total guess, but I feel like the promotional value of such a fountain (just imagine all of the free publicity via social media–and I’m sure some people would come into the esplanade just to see the fountain…and maybe end up buying park tickets?) would outweigh or come close to offsetting the installation, operational, and maintenance costs. If they didn’t want to build a new fountain, perhaps they could just repurpose that incredible sun-shaped hubcap that graced the entrance to Disney California Adventure 1.0!
Since I wasn’t in the mood for walking, I headed to the first thing I saw once inside the park: the Animation Academy. This is located where Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which is absent from Hong Kong for obvious reasons, would be. I think that given the rousing “success” of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and given Hong Kongers’ love of Halloween, WDI could clone Great Moments here and simply give Lincoln an awesome speech about hunting vampires. That would literally be the greatest attraction ever.
After 37 minutes of watching the miraculous Toy Story zoetrope, I waddled out of Animation Academy to the next closest attraction: Disneyland Railroad. In the Tomorrowland section of the attraction, some of the Toy Story aliens pop up and take your photo…
After that, I went in the shops on Main Street to check out the merchandise. I had made a paper cover for my lenses that would create “custom” bokeh (you can read about how I did it here), and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to test it out.
This Chip & Dale were attached to one another, and I carefully balance them on the corner of a box so I could photograph them with a tree in the background. I spent an inordinate amount of time doing this, and when I finally achieved success, a few Cast Members who had gathered around to watch seemed impressed. That, or they were marveling at my idiocy, but I’m going to pretend they were impressed.
In fairness, at least I didn’t look like this. I mean, what kind of fool wears purple sneakers with his cheetah outfit?! Everyone knows beige is the way to go!
I took another spin on Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, which impressed me more and more with each subsequent ride. The random mining props are light as compared to Big Thunder Mountain, but the show scenes are excellent, and the track itself is great.
Then I made another visit to The Explorers Club Restaurant for yet another Blueberry Myst. I had way too many of these over the course of the trip, but at least they have essential nutrients like whipped cream, Sprite, and glowing fake ice cubes!
Another beverage glamour shot…
Then, I did the attractions in Toy Story Land. I only have a photo of this random spinning dude (think of it as a living character akin to PUSH the Trashcan), so it will have to suffice for my ‘soapbox’ here.
Toy Story Land is incredibly divisive. I’m not the biggest fan of it, especially in a castle park. I think the attractions are fun, but in terms of design, detail, and quality, are the opposite of the “Disney Difference.” It largely consists of modified, off-the-shelf attractions that aren’t even remotely ambitious. I think judging it (or anything) based upon whether it’s “fun for kids” is a terrible standard, as Disney theme parks should–and do–aspire to be more than satisfying for kids. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, kids eat boogers and play in cardboard boxes. Their opinion is not the end-all, be-all of whether something belongs in a Disney park.
However, if the rumors are true, and this is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’m okay with it iff adding Toy Story Land is a way to up the overall attraction count cheaply, while allowing the bulk of the funds allocated towards a massive park overhaul to be spent on significant, wow-inducing attractions and theming elsewhere. In other words, if there is a mandate from the powers that be that Disney’s Hollywood Studios receive at least 8 new attractions and Imagineering is allocated discretion as to how that’s accomplished, and a total budget of $1 billion (these numbers are pulled from thin air), I wouldn’t mind seeing them spend $150 million on 3-4 attractions in Toy Story Land, and the remaining $850 million on a Star Wars Land with 1 mega E-Ticket and Cars Land with 1 E-Ticket. Or just $850 million on Star Wars Land. That park desperately needs capacity, and if that’s the bargain that must be made, so be it.
I don’t think this is an unreasonable line of thinking, or crazy “Armchair Imagineering.” If you look at Hong Kong Disneyland’s expansion, it’s clear they needed a lot of new attractions, and also that they spent serious bank on Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. I would hazard a guess that those 2 attractions cost at least double or triple what the whole of Toy Story Land cost. In the end, the park got both a sorely needed bulking of its attraction lineup, and a couple of killer E-Tickets. Replicating this strategy, albeit with different E-Tickets, in Disney’s Hollywood Studios makes a lot of sense to me. At the end of the day, Toy Story Land isn’t ambitious, but it’s really no different than the beloved flat rides that have existed in Disneyland since the 1950s, and if adding it means freeing up funds for truly awesome attractions, I’m okay with that compromise.
But I digress…
After having some fun with the Toy Story Land rides (especially RC Racer), it was time for Festival of the Lion King.
This version of the show differs from the Walt Disney World version in that it’s basically a CliffNotes version of the movie.
The production value on it was higher than the Animal Kingdom version at the time, but with the new permanent home for Festival of the Lion King at Walt Disney World, it sounds like that version has passed this one. I love Festival of the Lion King at Walt Disney World, and a big reason is because it’s not simply a dumbed-down version of the full story. That’s such a lazy cop out for storytelling in attractions, I think. (I’m looking at you, Little Mermaid dark ride.)
As is the case with the Florida version, the costumes are lavish and the overall quality is pretty high. The show does try to accomplish a lot by being in English with monkeys retelling parts in Cantonese and monitors with subtitles above, all of which–I think–occurs to the detriment of the energy of the crowd.
At this point, Sarah met back up with me and raved about how awesome the Tian Tan Buddha was and how I really should have gone with her. In reviewing what little I had accomplished in the couple of hours during which she was gone, I was kicking myself for being lazy and staying in the park, but I figured there was always next time (and in fact, there was; we went to Tian Tan Buddha on our next visit, and it is as amazing as she described it).
This seems like as good of a point as any to stop this installment of the trip report. I’ll pick up in another 6 months with the final half of this day! 😉 Seriously, though, I do plan on writing more trip reports so long as people stay interested and engaged, with one for Aulani coming next, and then perhaps the typhoon evening at Tokyo DisneySea. Which trip reports are your favorites? Do you want to see more from Walt Disney World, even if they might be redundant, or do you want new destinations, even if it might not be helpful to your own planning? Alternatively, would you rather just see topic-specific posts that go into greater depth about a single subject that might be included in a trip report? Let me know!
If you are interested in seeing more of my best Hong Kong photos, check out my Hong Kong Disneyland Photo Gallery.
If you are planning a visit to Hong Kong and want comprehensive planning advice, from how long to visit to language barrier issues to what to pack and much, much more, check out our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Planning Guide.
We would greatly appreciate it if you’d share this Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report via social media to help spread the word. A lot of effort goes into trip report posts. This is especially true of the international trip reports, and the audience for them is considerably smaller than the audience for Walt Disney World or Disneyland content. Consider sharing this post to be your act of charity for the day.
What do you think of Hong Kong Disneyland? Are you in favor of an Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter attraction? Wish there were character dim sum in the US parks? Any attractions you think look cool? Share any thoughts or questions you have below in the comments. We love when readers leave comments on the trip reports…let’s us know people out there are reading!
Tom – please, please, please keep doing the trip reports! While I appreciate the planning guides (and really wish I had seen yours when I visited Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea for the first time in Spring 2013), I personally get a lot more out of the trip reports since they follow more of a cadence of your actual experience. I’m also a fairly experienced international and Disney traveler, so I don’t need as many of the travel tips although I think those are great resources as well. Thanks for putting all the time in that you for for these reports and I can’t wait to ride Mystic Manner for the first time this November!
Trip reports are wonderful and useful!
I just discovered these trip reports. I know that you said that the number of readers for the trip reports is small but I bet that all of those readers really appreciate the effort you put into them.
My teen daughter and I are looking to take the plunge and go to Tokyo Disney next year and perhaps add in a trip to Hong Kong Disney too. As our funds are limited, we have to be VERY sure that we are spending our vacation dollars the best way that we can. Your trip reports are something that I can show to her to determine if this is the right destination for us.
So, although a good amount of time has gone by since your visit, I promise there are some of us out here that are getting value out of your trip report.
Tom I am reading these reports months (years?!) after and LOVE them. Loving your Twitter too I recommend the site to all if they are heading to any park .
You also make me giggle a LOT
loved your blog, I found it helpful and funny. I do the same thing with ally food and drinks and people from other contries just stare. You blog has made me more excited about visiting Hong Kong Disney. I will be going there April 2016
I know this was posted weeks ago, but I wanted to chime in as another person who loves trip reports from all parks.
As someone who has yet to visit Walt Disney World, I really like to live vicariously through the trip reports you post (same with Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland). So I’m firmly in the camp of the more trip reports, the better!
I’m enjoying the trip report, and BONUS! this one has “Armchair Imagineering” in it. (I like the ranting.)
I love your trip reports. They are my favorite way to get updates about the parks and how you tour them and were a great help in planing my first and only at this time trip to WDW. Because of your trip reports of Tokyo Disney I think I have talked my fiance into going there on our honeymoon when we finally set a date. This was a big step as he has been to Disneyland more since we started dating than he had been in this whole life before (we are from southern California and a bit older). Please keep the trip reports coming for where ever you find your final destination to be.
I was waiting on the edge of my seat for the next instalment! Seriously though, I love your trip reports. It’s how I came across your site and now I’ve read them all it would be great to have more! I enjoy all the destinations even if I’m not planning on going it’s fun to read especially when I’m having a boring day at work and I can read them on my lunch break!
Also I started reading your Tokyo Disney trip report just out of interest and had never really thought about going and now I’m like I HAVE TO GO TO TOKYO DISNEY SEA!!!
So thanks for writing them!! I look forward to more.
Thanks for all of the feedback on the trip reports, everyone. I think I have a strong idea of what most of you would like to see, and also what will work going forward with trip reports.
STAY TUNED! 🙂
seriously love reading your trip reports!! keep up the good work!
I visit your site a few times per week and love it. I’ve read all of your trip reports, and in addition to getting some great tips for my trips, they’re just fun and interesting to read. I especially enjoy the Disney World reports, but also like reading about the other parks too. (So I guess this doesn’t really help answer your question about how to focus your writing, because I read just about all of it!)
The trip reports are among my favorite posts you make – whether it be WDW or elsewhere. It’s nice to see how folks spend their time in the park, hear your candid observations, and view beautiful pictures. Please keep the reports coming, even the repeats.
I love all your trip reports. I just found you blog recently (2-3 months ago) and it’s quickly become one of my favorites.
I’ve spend many weekends evenings trying to get through all the trip reports and I’m kind of glad I’m not even halfway done because I like reading them so much.
So please, don’t stop. Also, I wouldn’t mind more reports of same destinations (it’s a different trip, even if the same location, amiright?!) and I also enjoy locations I haven’t been and probably won’t ever get to.
I would like to know more about those little balls/beads in the beverages. They look like the magic water beads my kids got for Christmas…they’re toys, not food and they don’t smell pleasant. What is the consistency? What are they filled with? Are they tasty? I’ve only seen them in tea here in Ohio and they just call it Bubble Tea lol, but I’ve never tasted one.
You’re pictures are amazing by the way. 🙂
I think the beads in bubble tea are impossible to describe. Try it and see for yourself. It’s definitely a love it or hate it type of drink. I love it!
I love seeing new trip reports whether they are at new places or familiar places. I would personally like to see another Disneyland one though.
Thanks for the trip report. It is fun living vicariously through your Disney Asian Adventures. We won’t be going anytime soon, but maybe we’ll put it on our retirement “bucket list.”
One of the very best theme park photographers out there
Very good, succinct, funny writing
Erudite analysis of the parks
Tom, you are the King of Trip Reports. It should feel good to be the Best in the World at something. I don’t always agree with your opinions on a few things (e.g. much prefer original version of Sinbad), but I ALWAYS enjoy reading/viewing your stuff.
You prefer the original Sindbad? Unfortunately, that casts serious doubts about your judgment, namely your opinion about me being the “King of Trip Reports.” 😉
I love ALL trip reports – even the WDW ones. When the narrator has a strong and humorous writing style, it’s fun to find out what happened on the trip!
I think Toy Story Playland is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the Walt Disney Studios park — shoehorned into the original ‘Toon Studio’ section, (it’s a further insult that it’s so close to Place de Remy) — but I actually really liked it in Hong Kong. The additional size, details and night-time lighting helped with the illusion of being ‘shrunk down to the size of a toy’.
I was desperate to try that Dim Sum, but didn’t manage to pre-order it (I was staying at Hotel Hollywood, not the Disneyland Hotel). I ended up having lunch at Plaza Gardens instead, which was actually an amazing experience — they go past you with trolleys full of dim sum, and you point to anything that takes your fancy… sort of like a moving buffet! That said, it’s not Disney-themed inside, and these sorts of restaurants are commonplace in ‘Chinese Asia’, and I seem to remember writing a scathing critique of Sunshine Seasons on this very blog a couple of days ago on that rationale… so perhaps I’m just an illogical hypocrite.
I would have tried more of these drinks, but I became obsessed with Hong Kong Iced Tea. This was iced tea that is half-way to an iced coffee in strength, as invented when someone misread the instructions and thought it called for adding a tablespoon of milk and water to the jar of tea leaves rather than the other way round 😉 — I’ll definitely look to try more of those after reading this report.
There are so many things wrong with WDSP that it’s really tough to identify one single thing, but I think you’re right. It’s crazy to say lands that are so similar have a dramatically different tone in two different parks, but they really do!