By this time, the attraction had reopened, and Mark was done with Frozen, so we reconvened and lined up for Roaring Rapids (via the FastPass queue). Sarah wasn’t especially keen on riding (the whole “long wet hair” thing is a bit unpleasant, I guess?), but she decided not to pass up the chance. We waited in line maybe 10 minutes, and boarded.
It’s really difficult to judge this attraction after only one ride-through. There were elements that were very clearly unfinished (even in the queue, it appeared) and the rafts backed up at numerous points as it seemed like the timing of the switches was off. This led to a very disjointed, stop-go experience.
Then there’s Q’araq. Above is how he appears in concept art. I know concept art is always exaggerated, but I was expecting him to loom over the rafts, almost grazing guests akin to what the Yeti used to do on Expedition Everest. That, unsurprisingly, was not the reality.
However, when he first came into view of our raft, I think everyone in our boat was on edge, muttering some sort of expletive. The reveal of Q’araq was a wow moment, and his size and imposing stature were both really impressive. I kept my eye on him as we passed, and that initial impression wore off quickly as his joints and limited motion (nothing below his neck) became apparent.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this attraction wasn’t show ready, and I think once this scene receives proper show lighting (and light leak from outside is plugged), this will be a real wow moment without the asterisk. If anything, it was probably a good move in Imagineering’s part to make this Audio Animatronics less advanced rather than blowing $20 million for another “Yeti problem.” He will get the job done, and that’s what matters.
At this point, we had done 3 attractions plus lunch, and it was already mid-afternoon. I’ll level with you: the rest of our day doesn’t hold a ton of excitement. It was the most humid day of the trip, we were all worn down, and really moving at a lethargic pace. We decided to head to Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure again, and that was mainly because it had a 5 minute wait. (Spoiler alert: we did it a couple more times over the course of the day.)
After that, we wandered around a bit, further exploring the park. When we dined at Barbossa’s Bounty the day before, we didn’t have a chance to check out every dining room because the restaurant was really busy. This time, we wandered around a bit, and I appreciate the restaurant even more.
There are several excellent counter service restaurants at Shanghai Disneyland, and it’s tough to say Barbossa’s Bounty is the best when it comes to food. If you’re talking ambiance, though, I don’t think anywhere else is on the same level. Wandering Moon Teahouse looks pretty at night, but Barbossa’s is pretty cool any time. I still can’t believe it’s a counter service restaurant.
As sunset approached, the sky was again looking really promising. I won’t draw out my sense of anticipation as I wondered ‘will it/won’t it’ with the sunset since I already did that in the last installment (you’ll see for yourself in the photos), but I did want to touch upon one thing.
We had set up the tripod and were taking ‘clever jumping selfies’ (you know, the kind that are big with pre-teens…yeah, that’s us!). This drew a bit of a crowd. After finishing the photo above, some girls who were passing by looked at the photo on my camera LCD and started smiling and laughing. That then drew a gaggle of spectators, all wanting to see the shot.
After I passed the camera around and everyone got a look, some of them asked me to take the same shot of them with their DSLR. I obliged, and then took a group photo of some of them plus Sarah (without the flash, oops!) on my camera. They looked at it, laughed some more and thanked me for taking the photo. I asked them what they thought of the park, and they asked us what we thought of China. They seemed genuinely happy to hear that we liked China, and they were very excited about the new park.
The language barrier prevented the conversation from getting much deeper than that, but it was a fun encounter before we all went off our separate ways. The moral of the story is not that jumping selfies are a uniting bond that can bridge cultures, but that, for better or worse, people are alike all over. So many media reports have painted Shanghai Disneyland’s guests in a negative–almost dehumanizing–light, but that isn’t what we encountered at all.
Sure, there were differences and instances of poor guest behavior, but I don’t think anyone who has visited both Walt Disney World and Shanghai Disneyland could say–with honesty and without bias–that Florida’s guests are “better behaved” than China’s. At the end of the day, all of us earth creatures on this primitive planet have more in common than what separates us.
The main order of business after that was running around, taking sunset photos. Again, we get insanely lucky with a stunning sunset. Beautiful sunsets two days in a row probably diminishes my claim that these are rare in China, but I’m told they are rare in China.
Sarah and I got separated at some point, as I raced from one side of the park to the other trying to capture as much as possible. It was still ridiculously hot and humid at this point. Ironic that this same humidity slowed me down earlier in the day, but I paid it no mind at sunset. Although, I think by the time I was done running around, my shirt weighed a couple pounds more as it was soaked with sweat.
As sunset gave way to blue hour, Sarah and I met back up and we found ourselves at the front of the park near Storytellers. As I was shooting here, a group gave up a spot they had been saving at the rail. Our original plan was to have dinner at Wandering Moon Teahouse, but the opportunity to snag this spot around an hour before Ignite the Dream seemed too good to pass up.
The decision to wait was even easier given how close we were to Wandering Moon Teahouse, and I walked over there while Sarah held our spot to grab some food to take back to her. After ordering, I was confronted with an issue: Cast Members don’t want people taking food outside of the restaurant for some reason (it’s a counter service spot).
I wasn’t totally sure whether this was a language barrier issue (maybe they thought that I thought there was outdoor seating when in reality I’d be heading to an exit?) or if they had strict instructions to seat guests at certain tables. I tried to communicate that my wife was outside waiting, but that proved totally ineffective as they just kept trying to direct me to an open table. I finally went to the table to which the Cast Member was directing me, sat down for 10 seconds, and then left.
I’m still not sure whether I’m a renegade American who broke an important rule or if it was just a miscommunication, but I didn’t really have any other options, save for eating both plates of food. (Maybe I should’ve gone that route–the food was incredible.)Don’t worry, though, I returned the dishes and trays. No harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned.
This spot was significant better for watching Ignite the Dream than our previous two locations, and Sarah said she enjoyed the nighttime spectacular quite a bit from here. I also enjoyed it, but I had enjoyed it before. I think it would’ve been even better closer to the front, with a better view of the fountains. It still doesn’t match Disney Dreams for me (the high bar of these ‘mixed media’ spectaculars) but it’s a very good show.
Following Ignite the Dream, we had time for one attraction before the park closed. We decided to expand our horizons and do an evening stroll of that nightmare fuel Tim Burton Alice maze. After all, we didn’t need to sleep well–no park time the next morning! Just kidding, we obviously did Pirates. And we could’ve done it again once we got off, as the park was still open for another 3 minutes. Rather than doing it for a 38th time, it seemed more practical to start taking photos.
I spent a while taking photos in Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle, which are great options for night (or any time) photography. Soaring had a pretty long wait at park close, so it was dumping a steady stream of guests out for a good 30 minutes. At around this time, a U.S. manager approached me near Camp Discovery and informed me the park had closed, and said I needed to head towards the front. I started to do exactly that, when she sent me the other direction–towards Fantasyland, which definitely is not the front of the park.
It felt like one of those spy movies where the hero is captured by his arch nemesis’ henchmen, and they tell him they’re going to kill him or whatever, but instead actually set him free because they are actually double agents. In this scenario, I’d like to think of myself as Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but the reality is that I’m probably more like Tom Cruise. Just normal Tom Cruise, not the Ethan Hunt version. Except maybe even more crazy and without the looks. So really, nothing like a hero at all.
In any case, I wound up near Enchanted Storybook Castle, which was totally fine by me, and probably fine in general since there were still plenty of guests around. I shot a bit around the castle, and then headed into the Gardens of Imagination between making my way down Mickey Avenue.
Once there, I went into the shops and took this single Duffy photo (no clue why) and that was literally my last photo from inside the park. A fitting way to end my time in Shanghai Disneyland, I guess? (We ended up recording a short vlog–coming soon–which is why there were no additional photos.)
It was 11:30 a.m. by this point, so again we stayed in the park until the bitter end.
You’re on the home stretch! Page 3 is the grand finale of this report, with the end of this night, a few thoughts on our 1-day visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, and parting thoughts…