Sorry, it’s been a while since Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report – Part 3. Hopefully, I’ll get the next couple of installments done fairly quickly. Now that we’ve detailed most of the main attractions, I don’t need to be quite as verbose. We left off the last installment with the sky starting to look good before sunset. When I say before sunset, I don’t just mean a few minutes. It was nearly 2 hours before sunset that the 3 of us split up, and I started focusing on photography. This might seem excessive, but going into the trip, I had very low expectations for photography.
Most photos I had seen of Shanghai showed dull, gray skies or–at best–a thinner layer of smog being backlit by the ball of the sun. I had witnessed this “type” of sunset a couple of times at Hong Kong Disneyland, and it’s a cool look. Not as stunning as wispy clouds and an explosion of colors, but still pretty. I wasn’t getting my hopes up even for that, as I figured the most likely scenario was nothing at all.
So, when the sky was still looking good with the sun blanketing Shanghai Disneyland in the warm glow of golden hour light, we decided to prioritize that over attractions. As we were shooting, Mark exclaimed that he never expected to be able to capture a sunburst in Shanghai (even mild haze generally precludes achieving a sunburst with a smaller aperture) and that was my exact sentiment. We were really lucky and had to take advantage of that.
Actually, before we get to the sunset fun, let’s revisit a couple of topics touched upon in previous installments of the trip report. To help illustrate, I have the following map for reference…
In orange text, I’ve labeled the two items of interest, veritable icons rising about the landscape of Shanghai Disneyland: Celebration Cafe and “Wall.”
Celebration Cafe (and its adjacent bathrooms) is clearly part of the soon(?) to be built Toy Story Land that I really hope is rethought. I’m not quite sure why Disney didn’t just elect to wall this off rather than painting cutesy characters on it, as the restaurant was never open during our visit. I captured this photo of it for posterity sake.
Decades from now, I look forward to telling my great-grandchildren about back in my day, when the Toy Story Land restaurant was actually a part of Fantasyland. They’re sure to think I’m crazy. (Probably for reasons independent of this.)
The other icon is “Wall.” Here it is in all its glory. This wall and gate are adjacent to Troubadour Treats, which is basically a glorified snack stand. As best I can tell, there’s no real reason for a huge wall and gate, and all the two things really accomplish is blocking the view of Enchanted Storybook Castle. The above photo was taken from the far side of the walkway, meaning this is the best view of the castle from this path.
If you look at the above map again, you’ll notice that there is a pretty significant area of greenery between Voyage to the Crystal Grotto and the Fantasyland walkway. This greenery itself is puzzling, but what’s even more puzzling is the giant wall that appears on both sides of Troubadour Treats, blocking views of the castle. Why there isn’t another walkway that cuts right behind the boat ride is beyond me, but I’d think this would’ve been an obvious place for a path as it would’ve added to the kinetic energy of Fantasyland. There are no attractions back there that make such a cut-through unworkable.
Now back to the beautiful sky and sunset photography…
My thinking was that this beautiful light would probably vanish well before official sunset time, never to be seen again for the remainder of our trip. As such, I was already running around like a madman, taking as many photos as I could.
It only kept getting better. As that happened, I revisited some of my favorite views, “replacing” a shot I captured only 30 minutes earlier with a better version. If anything, this is one of my regrets: I have a lot of redundant photos of the same scene with different light.
My other regret is focusing on Enchanted Storybook Castle too much. I have ~15 solid sunset photos, but so many of them are similar that I don’t want to post them all here and have each lose its impact. Obviously, it was my first visit and there’s a certain allure to the castle, but Shanghai Disneyland is an incredibly photogenic park and I missed huge areas of it. I should’ve just gone for quantity rather than fixating on my favorite spots and returning to them again and again.
Part of the problem, though, is that Shanghai Disneyland is also a huge park, something I’ve already discussed at length. It’s not uncommon for me to make a couple laps of World Showcase and zigzag to Spaceship Earth while chasing a good sunset; running around Shanghai Disneyland was far more physically exerting than that.
A little under an hour before sunset time, I noticed that the sky was looking ridiculously good, and posed for a jaw-dropping sunset. Sometimes an amazing sunset sneaks up on you, other times the sky has a 50/50 look that could go either way, in very few situations gorgeous sunsets are telegraphed well before the fact, and you’re pretty confident one is coming. This was the last situation. However, I didn’t want to admit that even to myself, lest I somehow jinx it or set myself up for disappointment.
This probably worked out for the best, as when the sky did explode with color, I was beyond elated. It was almost surreal to see such picturesque scenes in a brand new park, particularly because I had mentally prepared myself for washed out skies.
Reading about this is probably as dull for you as seeing those washed out skies would’ve been for me. However, this was the highlight of the trip for me. Although it’s impossible to convey how I felt while running around photographing the sunset, it was an important (time-consuming!) part of the trip. I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least try to articulate the feeling.
There are some things words cannot do justice, but sometimes they don’t need to. While shooting the photo above, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up, and an elderly Chinese man was standing behind me with an ear to ear grin, pointing at his camera’s LCD screen, and then pointing at the sky. I turned my camera to show him my LCD screen. He said something, then I said something he didn’t understand, and he gave the thumbs up. I doubt he understood what I was saying, but we both knew exactly what the other meant: HOLY COW! 惊人!
They say love is the universal language, but I’d say sunsets are even more universal.
This was also the first time I had slowed down for even a moment while chasing the sunset. Wanting to etch it into my memory, I put the camera down for a bit, and walked through the Gardens of Imagination towards Enchanted Storybook Castle.
There were a lot of reasons not to go to Shanghai Disneyland for opening day: heat, crowds, potential for chaos, incomplete attractions. From my perspective, this sunset vindicated the decision to go, and nullified all of the downsides.
As I walked from the Gardens of Imagination over to Tomorrowland, I thought about how lucky we had been. This seemed like once in a lifetime kind of luck as a casual tourist, like the chances of being at Tokyo Disneyland when it snows. Had we decided not to go, I would have been forever kicking myself once I saw the photos friends were taking while I sat at home.
Although I hadn’t “accomplished” anything over the course of the last several hours–aside from procuring a scent and look reminiscent of an opossum that had gone swimming in a sewage treatment pool as I was drenched with sweat from the humidity–I couldn’t have been happier.
No mention of any attractions on the entire first page of this installment. I’m really giving you reasons to read this thing, eh? I promise it’ll get better. On page 2, we have emotions tied to music, eating fried chicken with a glove, and 2 whole attractions! (Okay, maybe it won’t get better…)