Hong Kong

Disneyland: Bringing out the child in all of us

For me, a trip to Hong Kong won’t be complete without visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. While I have been to Hong Kong thrice already, I still choose to go to Disneyland over Ocean Park all the time. I know I maybe missing out by insisting on going to Disneyland all the time but hey, the little kid in me is quite loyal to the Kingdom of the Mouse.

Entrance to a Magical Place

Of course, playtime in paradise does not mean that there won’t be small things that threaten to put a damp on your happy camper kiddie mode. Here are some of my tips to maximize your stay at Hong Kong Disneyland!

1. Buy your tickets ahead – there are many ways to secure your Disney tickets ahead of time. You can buy online through the Disney website, buy through recommended travel websites like AsiaTravel.com or choose to purchase your ticket through your hotel or guesthouses. During our planning, I insisted on buying our tickets ahead of time and even asked the guesthouse if they were selling Disney tickets.

Some of our Disney tickets bought ahead at City Econo Guesthouse

Think of the long line you will have to weather if you ended up buying your ticket while on site. Good thing if it’s a slow day, but who can tell? Especially on the number of tourist groups and school field trips usually scheduled within the day. Buying it ahead saves you time — time which can be sent lining up on attraction. Plus, if you are lucky, buying your tickets ahead can save you money. In our case, we were able to get our tickets for just HKD380 (original rates at HKD399). I might be just HKD19 saved, but it’s money that can be used if you want to eat or buy something inside the park later.

2. Get to the park early and leave late (or at least, after the fireworks show) – When we first visited Disney, we arrived at noon and ended up missing a lot of the park’s attractions. The long line in all of the rides and shows didn’t help either. This time, with mom and dad in tow, we arrived at the park at 10AM just in time for the park opening. And since we have our tickets ahead, we strolled immediately to the entrance and started lining up for attractions and photo opportunities with the Disney characters.

3. Never miss the fireworks show – For me, the Disney Fireworks Show at the end of the long day (usually happening at 8PM or 9PM – check your schedules) is one of the highlights of the whole visit. When I first watched it four years ago, I was crying by the time the final strains of “A Whole New World” faded. Well, guess who cried when she saw it again three weeks ago? Yep, crybabies represent! Aladdin was my favorite Disney cartoon growing up and somehow, the familiar strains never failed transport back in sixth grade where I always wanted to grow up like Jasmine and marry a guy who will invite me on “a magic carpet ride, and show me the world — yes, shining, shimmering, splendid of course!”

The magical castle, in all its glory

4. Get your Park Map and schedules – Usually located by the entrance and at the City Hall, the maps will help you plot your way around the park, while maximizing your time in order to see the rides an attractions of your choice. The schedule meanwhile indicates the time where the characters usually appear for photo op, as well as the show schedules. For me, one of the biggest time eaters is the photo op with characters, lining up usually takes a lot of time especially if we are talking about Mickey and Minnie Mouse here. Knowing when and where they appear saves you the time and energy of lining up.

TIP: Mickey and Minnie Mouse is usually found on the first gazebo that you will see upon entering the park.

5. FASTPASS – know it and use it to your advantage – Fast passes are tickets that will allow you to jump a line at a specific time period. They are usually found on attractions that has a lot of crowd and lining up usually takes 30-45 minutes, like the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. You can only use your Fast pass one at a time. To do so, you have to insert your ticket on a special fast pass machine which will print out your fast pass. You can only use your fast pass at the specified time period. The Disney Cast Member will advice you when to come back. In the meantime, you can see other shows and enjoy other attractions.

6. Try Dining in, even just once – I will not sugar coat it. For a budget traveler, everything inside Disneyland is EXPENSIVE. Mineral waters sell for like HKD20 while soda goes for HKD25. Bringing in of food is also prohibited except for snacks like a chocolate bar, candies or biscuits. If you are on a budget and keeping rehydrated is important to you, you can also bring in your mineral water bought outside and refill it in any of the refilling stations inside the park. (TIP: Water refilling stations are usually near the comfort room. Whenever there’s a comfort room, you can pretty much bet there’s a water fountain nearby.)

curry rice for only HKD46.

But even if you are on a tight budget, I would recommend to at least try one of the many dishes sold inside the park. We chose one of the food houses nearest Space Mountain and the food was to-die-for! Plus, at HKD46 per serving, it’s not as expensive compared to the other food choices inside the park. The servings are also huge! Will pretty much fill you up until late dinner where you have the option to splurge (read: eat at restos) or eat a light snack at the bakery over at Main Street and have a late dinner when you got home.

7. Patience at all times! – respect other people’s cultures and as much as possible try to be polite and patient, even if you think some people are rude. Nothing ruins the “magical vibe” more than a silly spat over standing in line!

8. Slather on SPF or bring an umbrella, especially if you are coming on a very hot day – It can be quite hot, especially when you are sitting on one of the curbs at Main Street waiting for the Afternoon Parade to start. Slather on SPF or bring an umbrella to avoid burning to a crisp. The parade can be quite long, and there are times when the giant floats stop moving to wait for the tail end to catch up. Skin cancer is not okay!

These balloons are pretty! They also sell for HKD150 each.

Mr. Donald Duck

9. Remember that you don’t have to see all the attractions and the show. Choose only what you like! – Life is too short to spend wallowing on rides that bore you to death (I am talking about you, Slinky Dog!), no one will judge you if you insist on riding the Racer or Space Mountain four times! Remember, you are a kid — you play where you want to play! If you are in a group, you can agree to check out the rides you want and just meet up after a while on a designated spot. This works well of course, if you’re mobile phone is on roaming.

10. Don’t be a killjoy. It’s okay to be a kid, even for just one last time – No one’s gonna judge you if you happen to morph back into your ten year old self the moment you see Mickey or Minnie or Donald. Relive your childhood by enjoying the rides, eating the junk foods, gushing over Minnie’s dress and telling Mickey you love him! Ride the carousel if you want or sing along to the theme of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Golden Mickey if you wish. Believe and be swept away by the magic of 3D at Mickey’s Philharmagic Orchestra.

Lastly, if you feel like crying once the fireworks start dazzling the sky and the familiar refrains make your heart beat faster then ever, do it. Childhood is a wonderful thing where our worries are only limited according to our imagination.

Asia, Hong Kong

A planned trip back to the Fragrant Harbor (My Hong Kong Diaries)

Picture from The Hong Kong Tourism Board website

I am currently arranging for an upcoming trip to Hong Kong and possibly, Macau this coming October.
I have been to the city twice, with my brother and sister as a pre-wedding get-away in 2008 and with the dear hubby in 2009 during our first overseas trip as husband and wife.

We are going back as a treat to our elderly parents, especially our mum who will be celebrating her 59th birthday during the trip. The upcoming trip is also our pop’s first trip out of the country. He is already 61 years old and we wanted him to experience traveling while he is still strong enough to do so. When he was 59 years old, we treated him to Bantayan Island in Cebu, and made him experience air travel for the first time. It was so priceless, like treating a kid to a candy store. Last year, my sister and I realized that we have been traveling too much in the last few years but we weren’t able to bring our parents who have yet to experience what it’s like being in a foreign country. So, we harassed them to get their papers in order in order to acquire passports. After a few months of searching for a trip for everyone, we finally settled with Hong Kong, especially since mum and pops would love to see Disneyland.

For the upcoming trip, we’ve decided to stay at City Econo Guesthouse in Nathan Road, based on the glowing reviews posted over Trip Advisor and the HK forum at PEX. Again, this is not the Hong Kong Peninsula, but we just wanted a place where we can dump all of stuff and crash peacefully/safely at night. I already arranged our stay and confirmed our reservation with the kind and efficient owner who did not collect a down payment for the stay but instead advised me to re-confirm our stay three days prior to the trip. I booked one quadruple room for HKD700 per night and one double room for HKD400 per night — cheap considering October is conference season for HK and all hotels/guesthouses gets filled up quickly.

I have yet to finalize our itinerary, but for the 4D 3N stay — we figured we’ll go to the time and tested tourist areas which my parents would love: Disneyland, the Avenue of Stars, Victoria Peak and Ngong Ping 360. Yes, we’ve been to these places before, but again this trip is not for us but for our mom and dad who would be seeing all these for the first time.

Well, HK Disneyland has always been a favorite. I love that place so much, like I was a kid once again and have managed to forgot (even for a while) all my grown up worries. (How’s this for super dork? I cried during the Fireworks Display)

HK Disneyland, 2008 (with the Queen and the little bro)

I am also trying to keep the cost down, considering that I don’t want my mom and dad to get overwhelmed with the expenses of traveling. While my sister and I will be spending for the plane fare and the hotel accommodations, I don’t want them to think that traveling is expensive. I pretty much have everything figured out: the transportation (we are taking the A21 bus to and from the airport), the budget per day, the itinerary for the three days (though we are still considering going to Macau) as well as the eateries we will check out while we were there.

Hopefully, I’ll have everything set by the end of August or first week of September. You know how OC I get when it comes to traveling.