China 01/17 – Shanghai Disneyland

This may be the most brief Disney trip report around. At the time of visiting, it had only relatively recently opened and was already big news everywhere, to the point that I had personally got fed up of reading about it. Figured others might think the same.

Day 8 – Shanghai Disneyland

After turning down a few hundred imitation Mickey Mouse ears on the excessively long metro line to the park, arrived in the outside shopping street and bought some tasty cakes for breakfast before heading inside.

The park as a whole wasn’t busy, but Soarin’ was already on 120 minutes and had run out of fastracks. First ride on your right as you enter is a great place to put it, gobbles people up for the day.
Nothing else broke 30 mins all day and we only bothered with fastrack on the 2 coasters, out of principle rather than necessity. The rapids ride and Crystal Grotto were closed all day and I was somewhat disappointed about those. Pirates was also closed, for now.

Peter Pan’s Flight felt like a nicely freshened up version of the older ones and a good kickstart to the magic.

Didn’t bother with the Winnie the Pooh ride this time. Been there, done that.

The walkthrough attraction inside the castle centrepiece was quite interesting with various scenes from Snow White sung in Mandarin and a bit of projection trickery. It didn’t contain anything from other films like I had expected though, with all the apparent clues to every other Disney film in history in the queue line.

Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue was good fun, as the classic Disney shooting dark ride should be. Just a shame the spinny lever that usually rotates the car didn’t do anything.

There was also a Star Wars exhibition in this area plugging the release of Rogue One.

#1 TRON Lightcycle Power Run

This ride is so visually impressive, inside and out. I have already made my feelings on Motocoasters quite clear and this is obviously the best of the bunch by a significant margin, with a surprisingly strong launch and plenty of pretty things to look at – the indoor section with the projections that follow the train is nothing short of mesmerising.
I just still can’t get on with assuming that position, it simply detracts from the experience for me. A re-ride further proved my point, as we happened to get batched into a disabled car that’s located on the back of one of the trains. Tron was much, much better as a normal sit down rollercoaster.

With some perfect timing, we happened to be walking past Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure just as it opened and got on the first boat of the day, following a 6 mile casual stroll through the huge queue while everyone behind us was desparately trying to overtake.
Wow.
My previous belief that ‘Disney’s best rides are non-IP’ went straight out the window. This attraction is quite the masterpiece of immersion and words cannot really do it justice. Straight up there amongst the very best of dark rides for the sheer combination of everything it does better than I have ever seen before – animatronics, projections, screens, the vehicle movement. It has it all.
Soon after we left, it broke down again (still ironing out some teething problems obviously). Later still, we happened to be passing the very moment it reopened for a second time. A clear indication of skill on our part.

The pirate related show in the same area was rather entertaining. It was quite dialogue heavy, but had some good stunts towards the end.

The canoe ride was a waste of time. Tried to scouted it out quite a bit beforehand and couldn’t see much going on, but thinking of Jungle Cruise and Disney, I presumed there must have been something special about this attraction. There wasn’t. Just some half-arsed rowing around some open water.

#2 Seven Dwarves Mine Train

The other coaster in the park is very well themed and ridiculously smooth with those magic cars, but unfortunately it’s weak as a mine train – I know Disney revolves around family experiences but at least the other iterations give you something to think about. This was purely visual entertainment. Didn’t feel the need for more than one go.

Got hand stamped and went back out to the village via the smaller exit for some food that nearly killed me. I expected better from Disney endorsements.

Gave up on the merchandise shops because they were stupidly laid out and far too packed. It seemed that most of the guests’ day out consisted of Soarin, Shop, Show.
So to get ahead of the curve, we settled in for an early wait at the castle for the closing show.

Everyone was surprisingly civil during the whole build up and throughout the actual event. Being constantly on edge for losing a good spot seemed like a wasted effort.
The show was very good of course, I couldn’t really place it above or below any of the other standard film and song snippet based closing shows that I’ve seen at the other parks, I imagine it just depends on your personal preference on what films and songs you get at the time. This was the first time I saw Star Wars make an appearance in it, which was cool, if a little odd.

It’s a very nice park, but for now it lacks a couple of extra killer rides for a Disney, just to keep you there for a truly satisfying full day experience. As good as Pirates and Tron were, they wouldn’t keep me here for another 12 hours.
I’m not so sure the upcoming copy and paste Toy Story land will fix anything about that issue… so it could be a good many years before I think about returning.


Days 9 – 11

The following morning we were due to head to Happy Valley Shanghai, but minutes before we left the hotel for the day I was suddenly very, very ill and ended up bed ridden for the next 2 days of the trip. I can only assume it was from the food outside Disney the night before and fear through that guesswork has completely rewritten how I will experience China in future – be a lot more selective about meal consumption, it just isn’t worth potentially ruining the trip for a bit of sustenance.

This unfortunate episode meant that there was only a Saturday morning left with which to attempt the Happy Valley visit before our early evening flight back to Singapore. Having spent 2 days in bed pretty much doing nothing but obsessively running through in my head how I could still achieve what I wanted at the park, what to ride in what order, what I would skip if it was busy, we took the stupidly long metro out to the place armed with the most meticulous gameplan you can imagine.

It all went wrong very quickly. The ride closure sign indicated that the Gravity woodie was to be closed for the day (priority ride #1). Though there are several other significant coasters in the park, they are all clones and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world to miss them for now. I was still thinking that the more I got done today, the less there would be to do next time (clearly now that I have messed up and will HAVE to come back in future for the star attraction).

Got as far as the queues for the ticket window, where it was a complete scrum. There were tons of people around, making it look worryingly busy and they were all faffing here over no more than a couple of open windows. A good half an hour passed in the queue with very little progress, all while I’m getting rather anxious about the mountainous task that lies ahead. As I finally near the front, I get blatantly queue jumped by a large group of teenagers who are all brandishing money, both on their phones and shouting out to various people dispersed throughout the mess of crowd behind me and simply taking forever to do what they need to do.
At this point, still not feeling 100%, I decide no, I’m not putting up with this today, it will just be horrible.

So we went to see one of the local water towns for a bit of culture instead.

Bonus China highlight: Particularly enjoyed the excessive lengths to which they went to indicate that this cable floor cover was a trip hazard. Yes, that bloke in the brown suit has a megaphone and it is his responsibility to announce “mind your step” every few seconds.

Click here to see a summary of all China trips made on this travel visa.

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