Asia 01/16 – Hong Kong Disneyland
At long last it was time to go to Disneyland. I had saved the supposed best ’til the end mainly because it was geographically closest to the airport and furthest from everything else.
The resort has a dedicated metro, decorated with Mickey windows and other artifacts within and though it departs from Sunny Bay, the weather couldn’t have been further from it.
Hong Kong Disneyland
In fact it was downright miserable the whole day. But that wasn’t much of an issue, aside from some physical discomfort.
It may have been affecting the performance of Big Grizzly Mountain, which wasn’t operating for several extended periods. Everything else was running well and, more importantly, mostly empty. Walk on queues are very unusual to see for a Disney park.
So we started with Mystic Manor and what a place to start. This gorgeous piece of architecture houses one of the greatest dark rides in the world.
After an endearing preshow that sets the scene, introduces you to the characters and contains some magical animatronic action, the most friendly people in Hong Kong, dressed in traditional maid outfits lead you to your trackless vehicles.
These vehicles are mesmerising to watch. Entirely automated, going about their business like robots, this is what we need for those driverless cars.
The advantage of trackless rides is the way they make the movement and interaction with the scenery feel a lot more fluid and less fixed to a single path. Cars dance around each other and head off in different directions to navigate around certain rooms so you can get a slightly different experience each time.
Each room in Mystic Manor is a work of art. The detail, the effects, the story and the music all add up to a magnificent attraction and by the time you reach the climax, with the room spinning and the walls being ripped away I had completely fallen for the ride. It demands many laps and it got them.
This demands 1 lap, for the cred, and it barely deserves it. It’s a poor excuse for a ride, especially in a Disney park and it’s even more annoying to see them cloned into multiple Toy Story lands in a lazy fashion.
The walkthrough attraction full of miniature sets was a quaint experience with not many people around. Having time to watch the smaller details was nice without having to jostle around with the crowds I imagine are usually filling these areas.
As my shoes slowly filled with water, I stopped taking pictures for a while. Space Mountain offered an opportuniy for shelter and it’s a stunningly good rollercoaster. The train climbs and climbs in the dark with the onboard soundtrack blaring, taking you up into the centre of the dome where it suddenly gets all lit up and spacey.
The layout is an intense sequence of drops and tight hairpin turns, winding it’s way down through the structure and scenery. The momentum builds and builds and it all becomes more of a blur as you struggle to see. I started second guessing the turns and it led to some fantastic moments when I thought left and it goes right, chucking me violently to one side. It’s the sensory overload that truly makes it special though.
Eventually we stumbled across the Vekoma mine train when it was back up and running. This ride shows a fantastic leap in innovation from the Big Thunder predecessors, using shuttle track sequences and a launch to break the layout up into three distinct sections.
Each section leads off with some mischievous grizzly bears, up to no good. They pull levers and you go the wrong way, they make your chain lift snap and they explode dynamite behind you, sending the train shooting out of a cave. They’re the stars of the show.
The entire land that houses the ride is a pure spectacle, with all manner of decoration turning it into a village in its own right. The geysers and hot springs bubble away and shoot jets of water all over the place, some directly interacting with the ride and others just dotted around for showing off.
My only let down with the ride was that it’s a tiny bit too much on the safe side. Throughout each part I found myself willing it to go just that little bit harder and faster, sitting like a complete rag doll and hoping to be chucked about in my seat a little bit more. It lacks any true out of control feeling like the Paris mine train.
It’s still exhilarating, particularly the launch sequence out over numerous small hills and through the aforementioned geyser jets, but selfish me wants it to be even more thrilling. Never mind the children.
The way the area lights up at night is even more enticing and it’s just a masterpiece. I really don’t want to mark it down.
Somehow the day still managed to fly by and we soon found ourselves rushing to nab an attraction we had managed to miss before it closed. It was completely dark by the time we made it onto Jungle Cruise, but that was probably a good thing. For a boat exploring the jungle, it made for an eerie atmosphere and our staff skipper performed some great commentary and entertainment. The ride itself also has a few surprises up its sleeve, with water effects, fire and explosions creating yet another of the parks wondrous spectacles. Very glad we made it in time.
With all the rides now closed it was time for the closing show, projected onto the tiny castle. It was par for the course for a Disney castle end of night display – so that means emotional and amazing. All the tunes, all the characters, all the joy. I defy anyone to not enjoy this aspect of a Disneyland park.
This report seems to make the park seem really small and lacking in attractions. While it is relatively tiny, there was easily enough to keep me happy over the course of a very long operating day, even with almost no queueing. My only gripe with the park was having to stumble over a million pushchairs (where did these even come from?) to get to the fastrack machine for Space Mountain (I didn’t even need to, just feel obliged to abuse the system when it’s free). Other than that, a pure world class park, easily one of the best and a fantastic way to end Hong Kong on a high.