Hong Kong: Disneyland

When we decided we were going to spend three nights in Hong Kong after our Vietnamese adventure, I just knew we had to make a flying visit to Hong Kong Disneyland. And after doing some research and keeping an eye on wait times in the park app, it seemed possible to tick off a lot of the park in half a day - if you're OK with going when the park first opens and skipping the parades and fireworks. That worked for me.

As one of the Asian Disney parks, things are oh-so-familiar, but they're also different. First up, whilst Mickey and co are obviously popular when it comes to character meet and greets and merchandise, it's Duffy and friends who reign supreme. If you're thinking who, let me explain. "Legend" suggests Duffy is the bear that Minnie made Mickey when he was planning a long overseas trip. She presented him to Mickey in a duffel bag, hence the name, and over a decade later Duffy is super popular in all the Asian Disney parks where he's been joined by his friends: ShellieMay, Gelatoni, StellaLou (pictured below), Cookie and 'Olu.

The second difference you'll notice is that, Halloween Time aside, the park does not do scary. There's no Haunted Manor or Phantom Manor, but instead it's all about Mystic Manor. Mystic Manor is a trackless ride (like Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris) and it's a playful ride that takes you through Lord Henry Mystic's mansion with absolutely no ghouls or ghosts in sight. I found it quite refreshing!

The rides, overall, follow this theme - quiet fun, rather than intense thrills. Those who have been to the American parks or Paris will likely think that applies to those parks... it doesn't. Take Space Mountain - which has been reskinned as the Star Wars' Hyperspace Mountain - whenever you were about to take a corner or zoom downwards, the ride would slow down. Fun, but nothing to make your heart pound. (Though the reactions of the locals on the rides seemed to suggest otherwise! It was quite endearing.)

Hyperspace Mountain is located in Tomorrowland, home of Disney's first Marvel ride - the Iron Man Experience - which is basically an Iron Man version of Star Tours. Fortunately for us it was in English, and that's the case for the majority of the rides if you're worried about the language barrier. Jungle Cruise even has three language options, which is quite the commitment, though the delivery of the quips aren't *quite* as cheesily amusing,

My favourite ride was in Grizzy Gulch where you'll find the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars - think a cross between Big Thunder Mountain and Expedition Everest - and, to be be fair, what started off feeling like a tame and gentle version of the two (see thoughts above!), did become more thrilling in the second half. As for my second favourite ride? Has to be the timeless classic, It's a Small World.

The lovely difference about this version of the home of the catchiest song in the park is that you can spy various Disney characters hanging out in their appropriate countries, like Lilo and Stitch in Hawaii and Baloo and Mowgli in India. Super cute!

Fantasyland, like in the other Disney parks, has the longest queues. Whilst most rides we went on (we visited on a Friday) had a stated wait time of five minutes - which actually meant walking straight on - you're looking at around 20 minutes. You can get FastPass, but only for Hyperspace Mountain (we waited ten minutes), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (we walked straight on) and the Iron Man Experience (again, straight on) - I'm not at all convinced it's worth having.

A fun but compact bit of the park is Toy Story Land - the theming is incredible - which has the same rides and vibe as Paris's Walt Disney Studios Park (Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin, RC Racer and Toy Story Parachute Drop). We skipped the rides since they weren't new to us (and not our favourites), but it's worth a mooch through (and a pose) as the detail is incredible.

Which leads me to Halloween Time. We didn't see the two Halloween parades, but the park is "dressed" accordingly with pumpkins, characters wear their Halloween costumes, and there's a trick or treat area in Fantasyland where we grabbed a few sweets. There's also the special "Journey to Halloween Town", a Nightmare Before Christmas interactive walk-through. Sadly for us it was in Cantonese (except Sally's room), so we had no real clue what was going on! Unlike Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the Halloween Time activities are part of your general admission ticket rather than an extra ticketed event.

And speaking of tickets, we get free entry since Olly works for Disney (hence the recent trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, and why we were happy not to stay all day), but a general one-day ticket currently costs HK$619 for an adult, $458 for a child or a mere $100 if you're over 65 (so £61/£45/£10, roughly). They offer a two-day ticket for about a tenner extra, but if you go on a weekday then you'll be able to tick off the park in one day.

Last, but not least, I need to tell you about the castle. Ah, the castle. That central beacon in any Disney park. For some reason when they built Hong Kong Disneyland they decided to replicate Anaheim's castle, which is tiny. Zero presence. Zero wow factor. As you can see below. But, they are working on transforming the castle and next year Hong Kong Disneyland is going to, rightly so, have a castle with attitude. They are also working on a Frozen Land and a Marvel Land, which sounds exciting!

Hong Kong Disneyland is a super cute Disney park - it's the smallest one, and it feels adorable because of that - but I wouldn't insist that you must go there as soon as you can. Sure, if you're in Hong Kong and happen to have half a day to spare and really love Disney, go for it (we visited the Big Buddha statue afterwards, which is an excellent thing to combine Disneyland with), but don't plan a whole holiday around it.

What's your favourite thing about Disney? x

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