When Brett and I learned several months ago that the price of admission to Hong Kong Disneyland for over 65 seniors was just $13US, we knew we had to go check it out. Opened in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland is located out on Lantau Island and is the largest amusement park in Hong Kong. To avoid cultural issues, the park was designed using Chinese customs and traditions, including feng shui.
We were a bit surprised how much smaller the park was than the Disney parks in the U.S. It took Brett and I only three and half hours to visit the whole place, including a lunch break and time for five rides. However, we picked a wonderful day to go – the MTR wasn’t crowded nor was the park, and lines for the rides moved quite quickly. The weather was delightfully cool as well. On the surface everything looked very similar to the Disney parks in the U.S. – you enter through Mainstreet, USA, for example – but there were also subtle and not-so-subtle differences everywhere. For example, Chinese traditional music was playing as we entered the park and walked down Mainstreet; ride instructions were given in both English and Chinese; and the food offerings throughout the park were mainly Asian other than snacks. However, in signature Disney fashion, the entire park was themed beautifully, was spotlessly clean and the park employees were friendly and polite. Stores and kiosks selling Disney merchandise were everywhere.
As for the rides, we found the two roller coasters we rode much faster and more thrilling than in the U.S. The Runaway Mining Cars turned out to be a combination of Big Thunder Mountain, Rock’n Roller Coaster and the Expedition Everest Ride, and was very surprising and fun. Space Mountain was a whole heck of a lot faster and crazier than it is in the U.S. and we noticed several children left the ride sobbing (we screamed the whole way and loved every second of it). The ride that was the most different though was Mystic Manor, the Chinese version of the Haunted Mansion. In Chinese culture, ghosts are not culturally appropriate as a ride theme, so Mystic Mansion focused on magic instead. The ride was well done though and the special effects were top notch. Overall we had a wonderful time at the park and were glad we made the trip, although after all of the walking we had done the day before we came back to the hotel feeling quite exhausted.
Yesterday was a 180° change from the trip to Disneyland – we went to afternoon tea in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, an experience long on my bucket list. We had been absolutely thrilled to find out when we were in Portland in December that our friend Sylvia (who was born and raised in Hong Kong) would be here at the same time as us, so she messaged us day before yesterday and we decided to get together for the tea.
The tea and service were everything I had dreamed of and more. The elegant setting was just the start, but a string group provided live music while we dined and the food and presentation were exquisite. Our tea for three included fresh-baked raisin scones served with clotted cream and jam, assorted tea sandwiches, a selection of dainty desserts, and Darjeeling tea served in individual silver teapots. It was divine, the memory of a lifetime, and I got to experience it with Brett and one of my best friends.
After tea, Sylvia invited us to walk for a bit around Tsim Sha Tsui. We were on the hunt for a new carry-on bag as we need one for our train journey in Australia and she helped us find a shop with high-quality bags at a good price. We then stopped at Marks & Spencer, one of favorite shopping spots in the past, and picked up some cookies and a box of my favorite muesli to carry along to Australia. We checked out Chinese New Year decorations in the area and a New Year’s shop that had us walking around with our mouths hanging open – the selection was incredible! I had mentioned that I was sort of looking for some wool shawls, and Sylvia found a shop where I bought two (cashmere!) for just $20US. She said this was a good time to buy them because stores are clearing out winter items for the New Year and offering great prices. At the end of the afternoon we stopped in an upstairs Chinese cafe on bustling Nathan Road for some refreshments and to watch the crowds below before saying our good-byes for the day. We were back in our hotel room in time to watch the beautiful Saturday night light show across the harbor!
Earlier today we went Stanley Market, located on the far side of Hong Kong Island, and our favorite shopping location back in the day. Its narrow lanes were always filled with amazing bargains and we used to depart carrying several bags filled with treasures purchased at a fraction of the cost at home.
We debated riding the bus over from Central, but it was warm and humid this morning and in the end we decided we’d rather sit in the back of an air-conditioned taxi. The ride over was lovely, with beautiful views of Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay as we passed through on the way to Stanley. There were many, many more high-rise and luxury apartment than in the past though. We went with no plans to actually buy anything in the market, but the prices there now would have made it unlikely anyway. We saw a few things that we liked but that these days could be purchased for far less back in the U.S.! After wandering around for a while we felt a bit sad over the changes, but then happily discovered that our favorite Stanley restaurant, now called The Boathouse, was still operating. We enjoyed a nice lunch there along with lovely views of Stanley Harbor then walked back up the hill to the taxi stand and caught a ride home. Back in Tsim Sha Tsui we turned in our Octopus cards. Our refund covered over half of the cost of our taxi rides.
Back when we were making up our itinerary for the Big Adventure, we were unsure about whether to visit Bangkok, a new location for us, or come back to Hong Kong once again. Both Brett and I are very happy now that we chose Hong Kong – we’ve had a wonderful time, and the visit has allowed us to enjoy old memories and make new ones.
Tonight we’re meeting Sylvia for a New Year’s dinner celebration (there will be roast duck!). Afterwards we’ll finish packing our suitcases, and tomorrow afternoon we’ll depart Hong Kong for down under in Perth, Australia! Zai jian, Hong Kong – its been fun!