This was going to be a post on Hong Kong Disney – not another ‘user guide’ per se, there are so many of those that are really useful already. I was going to do a short and quick ‘here is the advice I collected that worked for us’ piece. However, sometimes the unexpected happens and your plans get a little derailed. What do you do then?
We had been planning this trip for over a year. For BB’s 5th birthday we went to LegoLand in Malaysia, and it was awesome. We thought what a great ritual to have, a ‘coming of age’ for turning five. So, this year was FB’s turn.
Now, when you go to a place like Disney there are all sorts of expectations at play. It is ‘the happiest place on earth’ and it is, well, it is Disney. As a child, I watched the show every weekend, promo ads for a world full of magic would show in-between the movie of the week. Be it Old Yeller, or just good old Mickey and Minnie, the magic was there. I remember the footage of laughing people on the teacup ride and wished I could get a turn. I remember sitting, flicking through the Disney books we had, and thinking how wonderful it would be for people to be able to afford such a treat. I tucked all dreams away in that place that still haunts me today.
Getting ready to go, the excitement was building a little, the children will have the most amazing experience of their lives!
On arrival things went smoothly. We stayed at the newest resort – the Disney Explorers Lodge and it was wonderful. I cannot fault it. We arrived early but got through check-in to get it out of the way. The staff were delightful. We received our maps, our special gift ‘fast passes’, we booked breakie at The Enchanted Garden at The Disneyland Hotel the following day to meet some characters. We had time before we could get into our room so we checked out the gift shop and we brought the kids the lovely, shiny autograph books for all of the signatures they were sure to collect. Walking into the gift shop I reverted back to my childhood. I felt giddy with joy and excitement and I ran around with the children picking up everything and gasping with the thrill. SB put us all back in place saying we could buy things later.
When you check in at The Disney Explorers Lodge you get given a ‘field guide’ which has all your useful information about the resort in it, as well as information about the other two resorts. I read that we were in time for a kid’s activity, the ‘Finding Hidden Mickey’ game. A guide walked us around the resort to find the signature Mickey head silhouette hidden in the décor. This is so clever! Before long tired kids were running around with excitement as they counted the Mickey heads.
Finally we checked in. After dumping our luggage the kids threw on bathers and out the door we went. We walked along the bay to The Disneyland Hotel to use the pool, they have a water slide. The kids got one slide in and the pool was closed – some kid had done a shit in the pool. Good one – here’s a tip for free people: Swim Nappies! Use them! We walked back to our resort to the musical backdrop of miserable children.
That night after dinner we took a stroll through the four themed gardens at the Disney Explorers Lodge. The gardens are named after characters from movies and are the Kevin Garden which is South American (I don’t know – SB reckons that is from Up), Little Squirt Garden (Finding Nemo) which was by far the kids favourite, the Hathi Jr. Garden (Jungle Book) for Asia and the Rafiki Garden (Lion King) which was an African Savannah. They are so well done with themed music playing through speakers as you wander through for a truly sensory experience. The kids had a wonderful time running barefoot on soft grass. They ran up grassy banks and rolled down again. It was a lovely end to our first day with giggles filling the air. The temperature was warm and balmy and soothing to our weary souls. I felt calm, relaxed – happy. I was excited by the adventure that awaited us.
That night the excitement was a bit too much for the children and they did not sleep well. Waking in the morning I felt dread at what lay ahead – little did I know.
We had a wonderful, enormous buffet at breakfast, during which time the kids met Goofy, Pluto, Mickey and Minnie. The kids were overjoyed. Then it was time for FB to transform into a Disney Princess, so I took her off to the Bippity Bopperty Boutique while the boys went swimming. FB chose Rapunzel and I loved seeing how excited she was at being ‘allowed’ to wear a little makeup. I listened to her excited chatter as she asked questions about what was going on, it was so cute and happy! At the end when they put sparkly shoes on her feet FB had a meltdown because shoes were not included in the package. I pointed out we had to sell body organs on the black market to pay for this treat, and perhaps she should show some gratitude for the dress, wig, makeup, jewellery, wand and nail polish she did get to have -oh and the photographs. FB wasn’t buying it. She wanted the shoes too and felt really let down about it. ‘Suck it up princess’ I believe were some of the choice words out of my mouth…and it was all downhill from there for the rest of the day…
The photos of that experience are the only ones that day where she is smiling.
We walked back to our resort – just next door. That was when it started to rain. We legged it up the driveway to save Rapunzel’s wig turning into a fur-ball. FB got changed and it was out the door to Disneyland.
As we wait for the shuttle bus it starts to rain again, not just rain – pouring rain. It does not stop. At the park the kids and I wait under shelter while SB runs off with the one small umbrella I packed, to sort the tickets. By now the kids have started to complain. They are tired. It is raining…the rain stops, SB is back and we walk into Disneyland. Wow, we are here! There are people everywhere…EVERYWHERE and FB starts bawling her eyes out – she is tired and no one is listening to her… But that is okay, SB had devised a well-planned itinerary to ensure we see everything so we head to the train station where FB and I will get the train to the Fairy Tale Forrest to meet Tinkerbelle (if she is there) while the boys book into Jedi Training. Except the train is not running. It turns out when there is wet weather most of the attractions stop. But apparently, there are a range of indoor activities you can wander around and see…FB is still bawling her eyes out, now she is particularly unhappy. As we walk back up Main Street, the rain returns. Now BB starts complaining, he is tired too and they are both refusing to walk any further. We go into one of the million souvenir shops, and I sit the kids down on the floor to rest. I cuddle FB on my lap and talk to her about what a big day it has been. She nods in agreement and just wants to go back to the hotel…this is not looking good.
We head off to Tomorrowland and find the Star Wars rollercoaster is an indoor ride. Yes! We use a fast pass and get straight in. As we wait in line the kids perk up and get excited – Yay! I read the description – fast paced, in the dark, jolting from side to side…that’s okay, they loved the dragon roller coaster at Legoland…
As the ride finishes and our carriage comes to a stop, FB is screaming hysterically. It turns out she did not like that ride. Actually, neither did BB. It was too dark, too fast, too scary.
So, the kids are hysterical, and the rain is pouring down – still, and we are saturated. We need a ‘Plan B’ and fast. We head to It’s a Small World and float around looking at lovely colourful and musical dioramas and the song is on repeat, with a range of variations. By the end, my head has that song going around and around and I fear it might explode. The kids are happier though, but not much, BB wants food and is tired and wants to go back to the hotel. RIGHT NOW…we head to Winnie the Pooh, another slow ride which seemed to bore the kids. Now they are crying again and it is loud. As we walk past my dream ride – the tea cup ride, I ask the porter standing there in the rain when it will open. ‘We don’t know because of the typhoon’. Oh right, so it’s a typhoon…it turns out this is the first typhoon of the season, Typhoon Merbok. Due to hit that evening. We walk through Toy Story Land to Mystic Mountain to find food, the restaurant sells a range of dishes the kids will not eat. Most eateries are closed – because of the pending typhoon. We find a vendor selling sausages on a stick and the now bawling kids are pacified for a few minutes. At least the rain has stopped for a bit. We try to find more food and finally back in Tomorrowland we succeed. As we sit on a bench to rest weary feet it starts to pour with rain again. Up we get and high-tail it to an undercover area to wait it out. Finally, it is time to go and watch The Festival of the Lion King. So far we have spent a good few hours walking around like idiots looking for things to do, gone on three rides and the kids have cried hysterically for most of the time. It is nearly 2pm, we are drenched from the rain and I am ready to start bawling with the kids. And by the way – there is not a fucking Disney Princess in sight.
The Festival of the Lion King was recommended as a ‘must see’ and I have to say it was the highlight. It is an incredible performance and if you go – you must see it.
After the show, we visit one shop, spend way too much on Disney stuff and then we leave. The rain was getting stronger, the kids were crying, whinging, and being miserable, and we felt like utter failures. Are we the only family who had a miserable time at Disneyland?
Back at the hotel I went to reception to ask about it all. Of course there were no princesses on site – what with the rain, we can’t have running mascara now can we, and the weather will be the same or worse tomorrow. I point out we have travelled quite a distance and spent a fortune, it was for our daughter’s birthday, she has been in tears, our son has been in tears, and what does Disney do in these situations – most things were closed, it was boring, disappointing and just dismal. This is meant to be the happiest place on earth! They spoke to the park for us and organised a one day pass to use within six months. I appreciate that, enormously. Very generous considering there were hundreds of people there in the same boat. Okay maybe not so much with the hysterical kids, but I did see a few kiddie meltdowns, and I did smile because I felt less alone.
Back in our room, the kids are suddenly happy and full of energy as they jump around and play. I am so over it I crawl under my duvet and go to sleep. At dinner I stared out the window at the pouring rain flooding the grounds and a palm tree bending in half from the wind and I feel defeated. The kids are playing up, so over tired and emotional. The menu is reduced to one page because of the typhoon so food is scarce, it is pizza for the second night in a row.
Finally, it is bedtime and the kids pass out quickly from exhaustion. I sat in the window seat of our room, a secret nook enclosed with curtains and I look down on the pool and watch the weather coming in. I felt devastated. What will tomorrow bring? Well, I thought, we leave tomorrow night and have all day to spend at the park so we need to figure out a way to turn this around.
During times like this, I like to try and think of the good stuff. At dinner I had asked the children what was the best part of today for you? FB said nothing because she was crying all day. I pointed out she had a lovely time being dressed as a princess. BB said nothing. He was just happy being back at the hotel. But he got to go swimming with his dad this morning, was that not fun? Apparently not.
The following morning the children woke refreshed and SB and I had renewed determination. Our plan was simple, borrow umbrellas we fit under, find the map with the ‘indoor’ activities on and get around to all of them. The weather was due to pass over around midday and we hoped that when the typhoon classification was dropped, the rides would start up. We had all day there, and we were going to have fun…this is where I felt like Clark Griswold at Walley World.
On arrival to the park we noticed there were hardly any people there. We brought rain covers for the kids and to get them motivated we repeated The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and It’s a Small World. We were going great. We made our way around the park, following the map – even sighting Sofia the First and Tigger for autographs and cuddles! We had lunch in the Grizzly Gulch area and an afternoon pit stop at the Corner Café on Mainstreet for a milkshake, coffee and a rest for the kids. The rain had passed by early afternoon and the rides reopened. With absolute joy we ran around to get on as many as we could. Finally, I got to go on the teacup ride and to my delight the children adored it so we went on it twice.
By the time we had to leave the park we were exhausted and exhilarated, filled with Disney Joy – we had found it! I was so happy I wanted to cry again – but this time tears of joy.
Despite adversary, we still managed to have a great time at Disneyland. We missed out on parades and fireworks, but we experienced a whole lot more and let’s not forget – with heavy rain, the crowds were nowhere in sight. Now who can say they have been to Disney and not had to line up and wait for a ride? We can.