Travel: A year on, and what a ride!

KITTY KAYE was bowled over by her fun and charming Hong Kong Disneyland experience recently. More surprises are in store as the theme park gears up for its anniversary bash.

COME Sept 12, Hong Kong Disneyland will be a year old and to celebrate, publicity director Susan Chan says there will be a “one-day birthday celebration on the day itself followed by a month-long Halloween celebration in October.”

What can one expect then? “Plans are under wraps at the moment for the Halloween celebration,” said Chan with a mysterious smile.

From what I’ve experienced of their hospitality and entertainment, I can almost guarantee you both celebrations will be the very definition of the word for both children and adults alike.

Steadily, new attractions are being added on to Hong KongDisneyland and this season, three charming new ones –– Autopia, Stitch Encounter and UFO Zone — were unveiled last July 13.

Autopia, sponsored by Honda, is a collection of brightly-painted electric cars in primary colours which you drive for about four minutes around a track. Wait! Just don’t think you can get in the driver’s seat and drive at 140km per hour. I nearly twisted my wrist trying to manoeuvre and steer it around the track. In the end, I pretended that it was a driver’s refresher’s course. Look, there were 12-year-olds who were doing better than me, all right! Just remember not to bump the car in front of you — it is simply not on!

The UFO Zone was the perfect water-themed attraction for this really hot summer season. It was a summer of over 30 degrees there! Huge, protruding, colourful UFO objects spurted, splashed and sprayed water “in about every way possible”. Oh by the way, in this instance, UFO Zone really stands for Unbelievably Fun Objects.

Children (and adults) squealed in delight, some avoiding the water while others enjoyed the coolness from the sprays. Yes, yes, I gingerly stepped in to try at first but the enthusiasm of the others there was infectious. Laughter, happy squeals and being soaked was nooooo problem at all! Besides, it gave me the perfect excuse to run into a shop and buy one of theDisneyland T-shirts with prices which start from HK$110 (just roughly divide it into two for a ringgit equivalent).

Then of course, my utmost favourite — and the one complaint I have about this third attraction. It’s too short, too brief and I couldn’t get enough! I’m talking about the Stitch Encounter. Stitch, the furry blue alien, of the famed Lilo & Stitch animated series, always the mischievous charmer, reminded me of an adored old boyfriend. (Don’t ask!)

The Stitch Encounter is an interactive animated show that allowed me (and the rest of the audience too!) to “engage in real-time, spontaneous conversation” with, of course, Stitch. Mind, no two shows are ever the same because it all depends on what the audience is like and what Stitch can get out of that audience. I simply can’t explain…

Hong Kong Disneyland is the fifth Disneyland theme park in the world, out of which two are right in our continent but as Chan said, “We get millions of visitors a year from all over the world simply because we deliver everything here in both English and Mandarin and Westerners are curious to see what our Disneylandhas to offer that is different from, say, those in America or Paris.”

Besides, there are things that are simply unique to Hong KongDisneyland. Like what, you ask? “The Stitch Encounter show, for instance,” explained Chan, “mixed menus in our restaurants of local and international foods and there are merchandise sold here that cannot be found in the other Disneylands.”

Yes, I bought a pair of fabulous pink glittery flip-flops that probably can never be found in the Paris or Anaheim Disneyland, ever!

There is a way to avoid the small problem of long queues and waiting time. Hong Kong Disneyland is very popular and gets crowded, you see. Especially in summer with their clever multiple-entry summer pass of merely HK$450 for adults and HK$270 for children between 3-11 years old that allows unlimited visits from July 1 right up to Sept 28, with the exception of Sept 12 –– that’s their birthday bash day! 

So, what about the waiting time? “There is Disney’s Fastpass Service,” said Chan. What is that? “These passes come from vending machines at the five most popular attractions.” Right. Basically, the fast pass informs you of a time frame which is then booked especially for you, so you can return to the queue at the booked time for the attractions. So, you save time and don’t have to queue for too long. Clever and convenient, isn’t it? Do bear in mind that there are limited fast passes per day.

The Disneyland experience is not really complete without a stay at one of their hotels –– Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and DisneylandHotel. The latter, being the more expensive of the two, has a Victorian feel throughout their 400-room premises with full amenities such as indoor, outdoor pools, gym, a Victorian spa, lounge and the Disney characters ready to greet you at breakfast in their Enchanted Garden restaurant.

The more retro, 600-room Hollywood Hotel offers fun in the form of hidden Mickeys throughout their premises. Their room rates start from approximately RM500 plus 13 per cent tax but I suspect, if you run to a travel agent near you, there are package deals that are worth investigating.

Or simply log onto Go on, you know the inner child in you wants to come out and play! Personally, I’d suggest it comes out to play in Hong KongDisneyland from October onwards. Just for the cooler weather.