After a pretty decent flight courtesy of Air Malaysia, and a quick sleep at the hotel It was time to meet up with the club and start their China 2013 trip with one of the most lavish parks of the trip, Disneyland in Hong Kong.
Located on some reclaimed land on the island of Lantau and just a short train ride away from the airport, the park has been open since 2005, making it the youngest park in the Disney chain.
Nice fountain at the front of the park. There are some unique theming touches at this park.
But a lot of the park looks the same as all the others.
It's fair to say that the cuisine in this park is a little different to that in the US and France.
The marching band meeting us on the main street. Behind it the rather small castle centre piece
It's similar to the Californian one, and certainly isn't like the Florida one. In fact the entire park is small and I think the smallest in the chain. You can get from one side of the park to the other pretty quickly.
Expecting the park to be busy a group of us paid for the guided tour. The cost is about £300 paid in advance for up to 6 people, so having got the maximum size group it was only £50 each. Whilst some people might baulk at the additional expense having a means to queue jump, re-ride and some behind-the-scenes tour, I have no qualms at doing it. It certainly takes the stress out of the day. The gamble however is that if the park is quiet you don't get the full benefit, which is what happened to us...but that's the gamble.
Heading clockwise from the centre of the park takes you into the Jungle area. No Indiana Jones ride at this park though. They do have a Lions King show, which some people went to later in the day.
Even the closed signs are themed.
Random cooling off area, which was used on more than one occasion. Just watch out for the water jets some of which are at knee height.
Robinsons Tree House. I never get the point in this attraction but it seemed popular with others.
Not real bamboo.
Heading over to the new Gulch section of the park we were told that the coaster was built first and then entire area then built around it. Usually rides are built into the area, certainly a different approach that only the big players could get away with. Early morning teething issues meant that the coaster wasn't open immediately so we headed elsewhere.
So we headed over to Mystic Manor, their new ride and one I had been avoiding on the Internet. It's so easy to have rides spoiled so for each of the big trips I make a conscious effort to not research at least one new ride so that I still get surprised.
The manor is based on the Winchester House California, which is famous for being forever extended and added to.
Marcus and Steve have an eye for the old gods. The back-story to the ride, which opened in May, is Lord Mystic, a treasure hunter has invited you into his mansion to see his antique collection including a box rumoured to bring inanimate things to life. He has a pet monkey that has an unhealthy interest in that box.
With our guide we were able to jump most of the queue and get an instant re-ride. There is some back story and in-jokes in the queue line that may be missed coming in this way however.
In the queue line there's a map of the manor, giving a preview of the rooms you'll be travelling through. Also look for a photo of Danny Elfman who composed the ride music.
These are the cars that move you around the attraction.
In an attempt to not spoil the attraction for others, I will say that the ride is really really good with some great visual effects, animatronics and a train system. Because of the order that the cars enter rooms it is a slightly different ride experience each time you ride it, with trains at the back seeing some stuff that those at the front have already driven past.
If you do want it completely spoiled then this is probably the best video to show what is going on.
This ride is currently unique to this park and a definite reason to go and visit it. It's obviously a modern take on the Haunted Mansion attraction seen elsewhere, however Chinese see ghosts in a different way to us so the original ride wouldn't work here.
Into Toyland now and the theming here is made to have us shrink to toy size and some great, if over the top, theming surrounds you. Grass around the edges of the park is intentionally grown tall to add to the impression of having been reduced in size.
The area is very similar to that in Paris and California.
The coaster in this section of the park is Hot Wheel themed RC Racer ride, a half pipe attraction that usually has an atrocious throughput due to it only having a single car on the track at a time. However today, the ride was a near-walk-on, and whilst tame to most of us hardcore coaster riders was still eliciting cheers and shrieks from the locals.
Theming in this park is top notch, just odd that most of the characters are left-handed.
This confused me for a while as I couldn't figure out what happened to the letters P,S and T. A little research online when I got back indicated that they were probably taken to spell "Toy Story Playland" although this area of the park isn't called this here in Hong Kong; that is the Paris one.
Saying goodbye to Woody and co for now we headed off into the next area of the park.
Big time Disney fan Steve and Kat get to meet Tinkerbell, despite having a run in with her guardian who took it upon himself to mess up the queue line by trying to move it when she arrived. Perhaps not a surprise that the Disney Princesses are predominantly Western, and an even bigger surprise that we didn't see Mulan anywhere in the park.
The garden behind the broom is an exclusive area for one of the Disney Member clubs.
Rides seen elsewhere such as the Teacups are still here at this park too.
Despite the awful tune, that even my sound blocking headphones couldn't remove, the Small World still had to be done if only to get out of the sun and into some air-conditioned space. The ride seemed to feature other Disney characters hidden amongst the usual dolls, which I don't recall seeing before.
Ariel from Little Mermaid for example.
I also tried to find the most sinister thing in the ride and decided that this moon thing was it.
Stitch Encounter is similar to the Turtle Talk attraction in some other parks that has the audience interacting with a clever mix of animation and live conversation. I hadn't appreciated that some of the shows are in English, along with the Cantonese and Mandarin so didn't think to go in.
The Buzz Lightyear shooting ride is identical to other parks and I'm clearly getting quite good at this as I spanked everyone else that I was riding with. Tip: Check the internet in the queue line for the hidden targets that score highest :)
Now I was so excited about riding Space Mountain that I didn't think to take any pictures of the interior and the signage outside was behind a hoarding being renovated, so this was the only photo that I took. The ride was superb, with a much better sound system than the one in California and was one of the best coasters of the trip. It's a shame that it came on day 1 though :)
Pretty cool display in the gift shop.
Having completed one lap of the park pretty quickly we decided to head back over to the Gulch for the coaster there.
Opened in 2012, the backstory to this one has you exploring the bear-infested gulch for gold. Along the way the bears hinder your journey. Numbers are important to the chinese and the theming of this ride has the gulch discovered in 1888. An extremely lucky year to the Chinese due to 8 being their luckiest number.
At the start of the ride a bear inadvertently sends you from track 8 to track 4. 4 is very unlucky in Chinese and signifies "death".
A surprise at the end of the first section of track has you coasting through some geysers, this section of the track looks great but is a bit "meh" riding.
At the end of the second section you find yourself in a gold mine with a couple more bears inside to prevent you escaping with the riches.
One of the trains being blasted out of the final cavern after baby bear accidentally detonates some dynamite. If you're riding in the front of the train you won't be able to see the bears.
That then launches you back through the geyser section, at this speed this time, back into the station.
The ride isn't too bad, it's safe by Disney standards though and isn't as good as Expedition Everest, which tells a story and is still a decent ride. The middle section lets this ride down, the ending is great though.
Our extra expense gave us access to a VIP section in the parade which we made use of. As ever the parade was great with some cute Tiggers and Buzz Lightyears, the latter of which gave the only good reason for ever wearing Heelys as they used them to glide across the path.
Next to the Castle is this rather peculiar seven dwarfs display. Odd in that it looks incomplete with nothing painted. Not sure why this was here.
In the gift shop the only clue that in order to compete with the imminent arrival of Disney Shanghai, the park is expanding with a whole new land themed around Marvel superheroes, and will be the first park to do so. It's certainly a reason to revisit.
As expected the park was really good, if a little small. Mystic Manor is a superb attraction and one of my favourite dark rides (I still think Winnie the Pooh in Tokyo edges it though). Space Mountain was really really good and my favourite in all I've ridden. We were extremely fortunate with our day in that the park was really quiet. Just after lunch we realised why, a cyclone warning had been announced earlier in the day, and it kicked in around 2pm. All of the outdoor rides had to close, no bad thing, as we'd already made plans to leave the park to go and check out Hong Kong.