The excitement never fades with brand new attractions at the magical place that is Disneyland Hong Kong. Get ready to experience a whole new world at Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch and Toy Story Land!
Words: Adli Syahril Images: Hong Kong Disneyland
I’ve been a Disney fan since I was a kid. I bet everyone at some point in time was too. The most memorable Disney film for me is The Lion King. My late grandmother bought the movie for me on my seventh birthday, and I never got tired of watching Simba fight Scar. I always hoped that one day, I’d too get to go to Disneyland. And like having wished upon a magical star, that wish came true on my recent trip to Hong Kong.
Words couldn’t describe my anticipation upon arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport. I imagined I was too old for it but boy… was I wrong. I may have looked calm but inside, I was jumping for joy like a five-year-old impatient to get to the wonderful world of Disney. I told myself “This is going to be freaking awesome!”
The Pride Of Hong Kong
Children were running maniacally towards the water fountain to get a closer look at the Mickey surfing on top of a whale at the park entrance. Parents joyfully snapped pictures of their kids laughing and squealing in delight, some of whom were decked out in princess outfits. It was quite a warm day but that didn’t deter the fun seekers. Thousands of people of all ages thronged the theme park as soon as it opened, and I was raring to finally experience the magic of Disney!
Hong Kong Disneyland was built on reclaimed land on Lantau Island. This glorious attraction is a point of pride as there are only five Disneyland theme parks in the world and Hong Kong is home to one of them. In Hong Kong Disneyland, there are seven themed areas: Main Street, USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland and the newly-expanded attractions Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point. Since its opening in September 2005, the theme park has been visited by more than 38 million guests from all over the world!
Stepping into the theme park, I immediately recognised a medley of songs from Disney films playing over the loud speakers, and felt a pang of nostalgia since I knew most of them by heart. As I strolled around Main Street, USA, which serves as the entrance to Disneyland, with my colleague Fazlina Bee, I was amazed at how the area had been recreated to resemble an early 20th century, middle-American small town. The rail station there, apart from creating the vintage feel, also functions as a monorail that loops around the theme park. The turn-of-the-century buildings on both sides of the street serve as restaurants and souvenir shops.
At the end of the street is a replica of the Sleeping Beauty Castle – exactly like what you would have seen at the opening montage of Disney movies! It was like watching a movie and a fairy tale unfold right in front me! I grabbed my camera phone and demanded Fazlina Bee snap pictures of me posing in front of the castle. This was going to be my greatest evidence of having visited the magical kingdom called Disneyland!
It’s Play Time
We both made our way to the theme park. First, we entered an area filled with huge plants that looked like grass but made of bamboo. As we walked in deeper, human-sized green soldiers appeared from nowhere and a tall figure of Woody from the Toy Story movie stood leaning against the Toy Story Land sign. The toys had become life-size and I was in Andy’s backyard! In Toy Story, Andy is the young boy who owns a lot of toys. This attraction allows guests to experience the life of Toy Story characters and join them for playtime. Toy Story Land is the first attraction of the theme park’s expansion project, which opened in November 2011.
Here, my attention was riveted to the 27-metre high RC Racer ride. In the movie, RC is Andy’s remote-controlled car. The thrill ride moves back and forth at full speed on a U-shaped track. I saw other visitors screaming in delight on the ride and wanted the same adrenaline rush. Fazlina Bee didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it and I didn’t waste time trying to persuade her. I ran towards the ride, hopped into a front row seat and buckled up. And when the ride started, I held on to the railings and enjoyed an exhilarating pendulum ride up and down. Though, I was hoping for a faster ride, the other park-goers enjoyed the speed.
Dashing out from the RC Racer like a giggly child, I zeroed onto The Slinky Dog Spin ride located nearby. This ride was probably the tamest among all three rides in Toy Story Land, and is suitable for kids of all ages.
Next, I decided to give the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop a shot. This ride shoots up and drops from a 25-metre tower. Fazlina Bee and I spotted a kid about five years old on it and the child seemed perfectly calm going up and down repeatedly. If a five-year-old could, of course we were going to try it too, we surmised and dashed towards it. The ride up was relaxed and pretty uneventful but the fun part was when the parachute ‘dropped’! It was a gut wrenching kind of feeling but fun nonetheless. I was laughing excitedly at each plunge but the same couldn’t be said for poor Fazlina Bee. She looked pale and was muttering prayers for the ride to end. Maybe this ride wasn’t for the fainthearted after all.
Meet The Grizzly Bear
Having had our time with the Toy Story characters, we moved on to another new attraction at the park, the Grizzly Gulch. The area looks like an abandoned mining town in a Western Film with a majestic man-made peak called Big Grizzly Mountain.
I was told that it took 14 months for the carving team to carefully sculpt the 27-metre tall mountain in order to make it look authentic. The creative developers behind Disneyland, also known as Disney’s Imagineers, worked on every little detail from the rock carvings to wall paintings to create the perfect setting.
There is a rollercoaster that runs around it called the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. The rollercoaster criss-crosses the entire ground of Grizzly Gulch from the mountain to the township. Having ditched Fazlina Bee who couldn’t bear another gut wrenching ride, I hopped into a cart and got ready for yet another exhilarating moment. As the ride started, I suddenly realised there was more than one carriage on the tracks. All my past experiences on roller coasters have been on single carriages only. So, seeing two others running at the same time got me a tad nervous.
But the precisely engineered ride took us quite efficiently across the tracks but at the end, quite unexpectedly, the carts stopped halfway up the mountain. And, without much warning, the carts swooshed down backwards at tremendous speed and came to a grinding halt at the station. None of us were expecting the backward ride but the surprise element added to the fun!
Inside Mystic Manor
The highlight of my visit to Hong Kong Disneyland was the Mystic Point. Here, I was introduced to Lord Henry Mystic, an eccentric explorer and art collector and his pet monkey Albert at the Mystic Manor in Mystic Point. Mystic Point is a completely new creation, and was designed exclusively for Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride inside the Mystic Manor features high impact special effects and employs radio-frequency identi.cation (RFID) technology to control its trackless carriage. This is the first time Disney has employed this particular technology.
We boarded the carriage for a tour of the manor. As the ride had no tracks, we had no idea which way it was going because it roamed around the room with three other carriages in different directions.
The ride began with a scene where Albert the monkey opens a mysterious music box. Suddenly, an enchanting tune came on and every object in Mystic Manor came to life. The ride has 40 visual effects created by different mechanism and 36 projectors, including four ultra-high-definition 4K projectors that make moving objects look almost real. We were shocked by a mosaic of a woman on one of the walls that suddenly transformed into the snake-haired Medusa.
The music for Mystic Manor was written by Grammy, Emmy and Oscar-winning composer Danny Elfman who was also responsible for the score of box-office hits like Oz the Great and Powerful, Alice in Wonderland and Frankenweenie.
There are about 7,000 artefacts throughout Mystic Point. Outside the manor, ancient sculptures and mosaic art with cool 3D illusions are exhibited at the Garden of Wonders. For instance, a person standing on one side of the Lamassu Bas Relief there looks larger than a person on the other side because the piece is arranged in three separate lines to create the scale illusion.
The Fun Continues…
After having seen the new attractions, we checked out older rides and shows like the indoor rollercoaster Space Mountain, the Broadway-style The Golden Mickeys and Festival of the Lion King. Fazlina Bee and I ended the evening with the amazing 3D Mickey’s PhilharMagic – a 12-minute show with 3D effects, wind and water.
In this hilarious 3D show, Donald Duck accidentally dons a sorcerer’s hat that belongs to Mickey, taking the audience on a trip down memory lane through unforgettable scenes from Disney classics such as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. We were enthralled with the short flick projected on a 180-degree screen – one of the widest in the world!
Most of the rides here close by 6.30pm, about 90 minutes before the fireworks display. In the evenings, guests flock to Main Street, U.S.A, in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle to secure the best spots to see the fireworks. Daily without fail, as the clock chimed 8.00pm, music from Disney films filled the air for the final time before volleys of fireworks began to streak the night sky. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the crowd as the fireworks illuminated the park. This was truly the highlight of my visit to the park and a must-see event. It really felt like being in a magical land watching the shimmer and glow lighting up the night and reflecting off the castle.
When the music finally faded and the last firework died out, the crowd began to trickle out of the park. I left the place with a beaming smile on my face. A day is definitely not enough to explore the whole park, and I even missed out the Flights of Fantasy Parade as I was busy running around the park trying out all the rides and attractions. But I vowed to return someday to experience all the rides over and over again to my heart’s content. I assure you, this trip to Disneyland would not be my last.
Age Is Just A Number
Hong Kong Disneyland is not only targeted at children. Even adults can enjoy this theme park as there are fun performances like The Golden Mickeys and Festival of the Lion King for those who may not be partial to rides.
“Hong Kong Disneyland brings back a lot of childhood memories. Its fantasy setting, fun rides and entertaining shows reminded me how the world of Mickey Mouse and his friends enriched my own childhood. I’m glad it continues to inspire kids today while allowing them to dream and engage in healthy and fun activities.” ~ Madam Fan Peng Lin, 55 years old, Malaysia
Certified halal food is not difficult to find for Muslim travellers at Hong Kong Disneyland and even the city.You can enjoy halal-certified food at Explorer’s Club Restaurant in Mystic Point and Tahitian Terrace in Tomorrowland. It offers plenty of meal options from Korean dishes to Southeast Asian delights such as Malaysian style fried noodles with seafood, deep-fried chicken steak with rice omelette, Javanese vegetable curry and chicken satay.
“When I heard I was going to Hong Kong, I thought it would be difficult to find halal food. I was wrong. In fact, there are plenty of Muslim and halal food options available. The food at Tahitian Terrace and Explorer’s Club Restaurant are certified halal by The Incorporated Trustees of The Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong” ~ Fazlina Bee Abdul Rashid
GETTING TO THE PARK
It is so easy to go to Hong Kong Disneyland from the city. Take the MTR Light Rail Line and alight at Sunny Bay station for the interchange to Disneyland Resort Line.
• 33 minutes from the Hong Kong International Airport, MTR Airport station
• 27 minutes from MTR Kowloon station
• 30 minutes from MTR Hong Kong station