What it's like visiting Hong Kong Disneyland as an adult
The last time I set foot in Hong Kong was in 2007, and as any young, innocent person with no developed vices would agree with, a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) was a must. I spent my 15th birthday at the park, enthused by sharing the street with my favorite animated heroes, and exhilarated by the adrenaline pumping through my veins (Back then, I had ridden Space Mountain a total of 6 times!)
Eleven years later, I am hardened by the trials of young adulthood – a mountain of work files and the fear of dying alone constantly on my mind. There was no hesitation in my acceptance to come back – I was thankful for the opportunity to kick back and settle into a journey that would take me back to a less complicated time.
There will always be a sense of wonderment entering a theme park; guests are stepping into a place designed with the sole purpose of presenting a fantasy – an escape from real life. I was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia seeing Mickey Mouse greet me at the entrance.
In the mid-afternoon, crowds line the central avenue of Main Street for a HKDL-exclusive show. In Flights of Fantasy, a parade of gorgeous, larger-than-life floats coast down the road with cast members dancing and weaving in between each one. I see frenzied children screaming at the sight of the Disney cartoons come to life. While the young find enjoyment in the mascotry, I find myself impressed by the scale and performance value shown in the presentation. (IN PHOTOS: What to look forward to in Hong Kong Disneyland)
Admittedly, at this point in my life, I have outgrown many of the fantastical, kaleidoscope-colored worlds of Disney. My one exception to this thought is the shiny, metal-clad area of Tomorrowland. Now that The Walt Disney Company has acquired the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, they’ve taken over this part of the park.
The rollercoaster I braved in my youth is now rebranded as Hyperspace Mountain, and the whole ride is a simulation of a battle between X-Wings and TIE Fighters. While the ride doesn’t contain any loops, and you’ll never feel breakneck speed (this is a still largely a children’s ride), whooshing through the illusion of a far away galaxy will be a highlight of any superfan.
There is currently only one dedicated Marvel ride in HKDL, and it is centered around one of the founding members of the Avengers team, and star of the movie that launched an entire film franchise: Iron Man. The 3-D motion simulator attraction The Iron Man Experience didn’t resonate as much with me as the coaster – I like a sense of danger in my rides, but I will happily admit that I lost my mind during the meet and greet with the titular hero.
As night falls, guests converge in Main Street once again for another visual spectacle. In lieu of a fireworks display, HKDL opts for a more technical demonstration. In We Love Mickey!, a nighttime projection show, all the buildings in the vicinity are painted with light depicting scenes from Mickey Mouse’s storied career.
Seeing major milestones from his debut in Steamboat Willie to the present day, only emphasizes the impact Walt Disney’s creations has in modern pop culture. Millions of people’s childhoods were shaped because of this one character. It can be assumed that majority of those alive today owe a part of their happiness, and their developed imagination to this one mouse – and that’s something to be celebrated.
After a long day of sightseeing, I sought comfort in my room at the Disney Explorers Lodge. This hotel is the newest of 3, with this particular lodging themed around the tropical jungles of Asia, Oceania, South America, and Africa.
The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is all lavish, Victorian sensibilities while Disney’s Hollywood Hotel is decked out in Art-Deco fare. Whichever establishment you decide to check in to, you’ll be treated with the comforts of a luxury hotel.
After getting my bearings, and freshening up in my quarters, I make my way to Hollywood Hotel, the only one of the accommodations with a bar. As with many a young adult of today, I reflect on the entirety of my day sitting on a stool at the counter – thankful to partake in an activity marketed exclusively to people of legal age.
Never gets old
Going to Disneyland as an adult is an unexpected challenge. It requires a suspension of disbelief to fully immerse yourself in the Disney culture. If you’re able to do so, then kudos to you. The resort is the playground of your dreams; your only boundaries the queues to each ride.
For the more cynical, uptight adults, there’s still merit in choosing to spend your time here. The grand, intricate architecture, costuming, lighting, and general design presented in the park is nothing to scoff at. The dedication to the craft shown by each performer is astounding, and hearing the soundtrack of your childhood as the background music to your journey will never get old – they’re classics for a reason.
Disney’s imagineers have accomplished their jobs; there are moments of magic to be had no matter how you look at it.
At one point in my tour of the resort – taking a breather on a bench in one of the rest areas, I noticed a trio of adults who looked a fair bit older than me. We strike up a conversation: asking our respective countries of origin, recommending rides with short lines, and commenting on purchased merchandise. It was a nice break to get a feel of how other people perceived the Disney experience.
Before they made their way to the next area, I asked them if they had any kids in tow. They looked at each other sheepishly before one of them answered with a laugh, “We are the kids.” – Rappler.com