Asian Adventure: A Visit to Hong Kong and Tokyo

by Alice McNutt Miller

Feature Article

This article appeared in the September 10, 2013 Issue #729 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Hong Kong DisneylandAs part of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China and Japan to celebrate my older daughter's graduation from high school, my family and I were fortunate enough to be able to visit the Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney Resorts. I thought I would take the opportunity to share some observations about the resorts and parks with AllEars® readers.

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Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

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This was my second visit to the Hong Kong Disneyland resort, but the first for the rest of my family. My previous visit was about six or seven years ago, just after the park had opened, and I was excited to see the changes.

We stayed in the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, as I stayed at Disney's Hollywood Hotel on my previous visit. These are the only two hotels at the resort, and I can say that I would heartily recommend either one of them. They both have lots of Disney details and offer a broad array of amenities, including several choices of restaurants, gift shops, and (free) pools. We stayed in two rooms -- a king and a double/double. Both rooms were large and quite comfortable. We used DVC points to pay for the rooms, and length-of-stay tickets for everyone in the party were included in the points cost. This was a great value, as we got two-day park tickets for the one night stay (even though we could use only one day). Here are a few photos of the hotel.

Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest of all of the Disney parks. When I visited in 2006, one day was more than enough to see the whole park and all of its attractions. The park has since been expanded however, and crowd levels were way up, so the single day we had to visit was barely enough to cover everything. We walked over to the park from the hotel. The walk takes about 10 minutes, is beautifully landscaped, and takes less time than riding the crowded shuttle bus. (Shuttle buses are coaches rather than the types of buses used at Disney World. No standing is allowed, so if the bus is full, you have to wait awhile for the next one to come along.) I highly recommend the walk, although it is longer from the Hollywood Hotel than from the Disneyland Hotel.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the scheduled opening time, and walked down Main Street toward the (rather diminutive, but quite lovely) Sleeping Beauty Castle. Guests are allowed to visit shops and restaurants along Main Street prior to the opening time, with ropes at the end of Main Street, that are kept up until the Family of the Day comes out with several princesses to formally open the park for the day.

Hong Kong Disneyland Mystic ManorWe waited at the end of Main Street for the rope drop, ready to make a quick dash for HKDL's newest attraction, Mystic Manor. Mystic Manor is kind of like HKDL's version of the Haunted Mansion, but with the following backstory: "Lord Henry Mystic, eccentric explorer and adventurer, has travelled around the world with Albert, his monkey and trusted companion. His collection of fine art and antiquities, acquired during his travels, is housed at Mystic Manor. You will be invited to ride in his latest invention, the Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage, and treated to a front-row experience of the precious collection!" Of course, Albert gets into a bit of trouble, and unleashes some unexpected fun and excitement for the riders. We really liked this ride, as it had beautiful theming and used interesting ride technology similar to that of Pooh's Honey Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland and the new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin ride at SeaWorld Orlando. The cars are not attached to a visible track, and seem to move randomly through the various rooms of the Manor. The ride was a hoot!

We popped by Grizzly Gulch for a ride on the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, then we made our first mistake of the day, which was to try to ride ANY of the rides in Toy Story Land. HKDL's Toy Story Land is very similar to the Toy Story Playland at Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris. There are a number of very well-themed, but very slow-loading and ultimately not very satisfying amusement park-style rides. We took a ride on the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop after a 25-minute wait in line. It was fun, but not really anything special. We then got in line for the (posted) 30-minute wait for the RC Racer, but since we had ridden this ride in Paris, and got the feeling that the wait would in fact be much longer, we finally abandoned ship after about 15 (wasted) minutes, and moved on. Again, this area of the park is really cute, but if you want to ride all of the rides, I recommend that you head to this area FIRST, then move on to rides with FastPasses or that are faster loading later in the day.

We spent the rest of the day doing the more recognizable attractions in Fantasyland (including my personal favorite, the Mad Hatter Tea Cups), Tomorrowland and Adventureland. "Push" made an appearance in Tomorrowland. He even spoke English with us for a moment!

I highly recommend seeing the show, "The Golden Mickeys," at HKDL. Disney Cruise Line guests may be familiar with this show, as a version of it is shown on the Dream and the Wonder. The show originated here, and even though most of the dialogue is not in English, I prefer it to the version shown on the cruise ships. I really get a kick out of hearing Mickey and Minnie speaking in Chinese! Also, the Jungle Cruise is offered with an English tour guide, so don't skip that one!

My family and I had a great visit to Hong Kong Disneyland. We all agreed that the park was very pretty, with lots of green landscaping, and the mountains of Lantau Island rising in the background. We would definitely go back, if we were ever in the neighborhood!

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Tokyo DisneySea Resort
and MiraCosta Hotel
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Tokyo DisneySea Mediterranean HarborThis was our first visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort, and its two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. I was very excited to arrive, as both of these parks have been on my bucket list for a long time. We stayed in the Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta, which is one of the three Disney hotels at the resort (the others are the Disney Ambassador Hotel and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel), and the only one of the three that actually makes up part of the theme park.

The hotel is directly adjacent to Tokyo DisneySea, and some of its outside walls make up the theming of the Mediterranean Harbor area of the park. We were lucky enough to have one room overlooking the Harbor itself, and one overlooking the Venetian Gondolas attraction. We liked the hotel very much, although the lobby always seemed extremely crowded, and the hallways were LOOONG and confusing (think Boardwalk Villas). The theming was gorgeous, though, and the views into DisneySea were amazing. Guest rooms have thoughtful touches like cute Disney-themed toiletries and special amenities for children. Most of the rooms have two beds and either a trundle bed or pullout sofa, and sleep three. That's right, three. The two beds, while listed as "regular-sized beds" in the English-language version of the website, are decidedly NOT doubles, and while they are slightly larger than our twin beds, would not sleep any more than one person comfortably.

Guests have a private entrance into the park from the lower level of the hotel (kind of like at the Grand Californian into Disney California Adventure), but if you want to take advantage of the 15-minute early entrance time for hotel guests, you need to use a different entrance outside of the hotel that is adjacent to the regular entrance to the park.

The hotel has two pools, one indoor and one outdoor, which are only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and cost about $30 per person, per day in the summer time! We initially thought that we would not use the pools, but because it was SO hot during our visit, and because our kids needed a break (from us!) during our DisneySea day, my husband and I ponied up the exorbitant fee (which also includes access to the fitness center, and is valid for about 24 hours), and headed down to the lovely pool area. Unsurprisingly, there were only five other people at the pool when we arrived, and we were the only ones there by the time we left.

We purchased our park tickets at the hotel, because they were not included in the DVC points cost, as they were for Hong Kong Disneyland. Most multi-day tickets for Tokyo Disney will only allow you to visit one park per day for the first two days of your visit, then allow park-hopping from the third day on. Guests of the Disney hotels, however, can purchase multi-day tickets that will allow them to park hop from the first day, for an extra cost. We decided to forgo the park hopper option, and bought a two-day ticket that would allow us to visit only one park per day. We did have to indicate which park we would visit on which day.

After our arrival, we took the Disney Resort Line train to Ikspiari to try to find some dinner. The Disney Resort Line is similar to the monorail at Walt Disney World, and runs in a loop to each of the parks, the Disney hotels and a number of other affiliated hotels. Tickets are required to ride the Line, and are included for Disney hotel guests. Ikspiari is a shopping and dining complex that is Tokyo Disney Resort's answer to Downtown Disney, and has shops (including a Disney Store), restaurants, a movie theatre, and even a Disney Vacation Club Welcome Center. We had dinner at a restaurant serving sukiyaki, a fun experience where you are supposed to cook your own meats, veggies, etc. at your table. Our very kind waitress took pity on us, however, when it was clear that we did not know what we were doing, and helped us with the food preparation.

Our first park day was at DisneySea. What a cool park! I think that this park may now be my favorite, in terms of immersive theming and sheer imagination. We went through the special hotel guest entrance located outside the hotel near the regular entrance, and entered the park 15 minutes before the other non-hotel guests. We then had to wait for the rope drop at the regular opening time. We headed toward the back of the park, and rode the entertaining StormRider before making the early-morning mistake of riding Aquatopia, an outdoor ride using similar ride technology to Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland and Pooh's Hunny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland, where the ride vehicles move in unpredictable directions seemingly without a track. The unfortunate thing about this ride was the "aqua" part. There were water cannons shooting at us from all over, as we moved through the ride, and we were soaked to the skin first thing in the morning. It was HOT, though, so we all dried off relatively quickly.

Next up was the Lost River Delta, where we rode Raging Spirits, a fun roller coaster with a 360-degree loop, and Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. This ride was a near exact copy of Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland in California, but with a few tweaks that featured the crystal skull from the fourth installment of the movie series. I really love the California version of this ride, and this one did not disappoint. We were very happy to use FastPasses, as the wait time for the ride was already approaching an hour mid-morning.

Tokyo DisneySea NautilusAfter Indiana Jones we strolled through the Mysterious Island to grab FastPasses for Journey to the Center of the Earth, then continued on to the Arabian Coast. There we boarded Jasmine's Flying Carpets (nice to see Jasmine getting top billing) before moving on to the Mermaid Lagoon. (Somehow we missed Sinbad's Storybook Voyage. I think we thought we would circle back again, but we never did.)

I thought Mermaid Lagoon was one of the best-executed areas of the park. The rides are geared toward the younger set, and there are both outdoor and indoor areas. The indoor area was called Triton's Kingdom, and offered welcome respite from the stifling heat. There were lots of fun kiddie rides (including a version of this big kid's fave -- teacups), a kids' play area, a counter-service restaurant and a shop in Triton's Kingdom, but the highlight was a Little Mermaid stage show that combined live actors and puppets in a creative theater-in-the-round setting. We were slightly dismayed by the alternative ending to the story presented here (and also confused, as the show was in Japanese), but the spectacle was very entertaining.

We then rode Journey to the Center of the Earth using our FastPasses. It was a great ride, although I'm not sure that there is any other ride in any other Disney park that you can compare it to. You basically ride in a specially designed vehicle that takes you underground where you view various subterranean flora and fauna, then get surprised by an earthquake. My husband and I thought that Jules Verne would have approved of the general theming in the Mysterious Island section of the park. We returned later in the day to ride the excellent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was kind of like the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland in California, except with sea monsters.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel for a break. We returned to the park late in the afternoon for more touring and dinner. We saw the extremely popular show, "Big Band Beat" in the Broadway Music theatre, did some shopping, and pondered standing in line for the Tower of Terror (the line was almost 90 minutes long, so we only pondered). Toy Story Mania, which recently opened here, and is the current "hot" ticket in the park, was closed for some reason. There were lots of disappointed guests.

We LOVED Tokyo DisneySea! What an amazing park. It is unlike any other park in the world, and if you can get there, I highly recommend it.

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Tokyo Disneyland

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Tokyo Disneyland CastleWe started our morning with a lovely buffet breakfast in the BellaVista Lounge in our hotel, and then headed over to the Disney Resort Line for the quick ride to the Tokyo Disneyland entrance. After our 15-minute hotel guest head start, we headed into the park, with a quick stop to take a picture in front of Cinderella Castle (which was all blinged-out for the park's 30th anniversary celebration), through the covered World Bazaar (Tokyo Disneyland's answer to Main Street USA), then through Tomorrowland to wait behind the rope to go directly to Pooh's Hunny Hunt, the attraction I had heard that we really needed to get to early if we wanted to ride it.

Pooh's Hunny Hunt is similar to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Walt Disney World, but the ride vehicles use an interesting technology that makes it appear that you are not moving on any kind of track, and where movements through the various rooms seem random. The effects in the Tigger room were particularly good. We REALLY liked this ride and understood why the lines were so long later in the day.

We left Pooh and continued to tour Fantasyland, which included old favorites, such as "it's a small world," Pinocchio's Daring Adventure, Peter Pan's Flight, and Dumbo. Oh, and of course, my personal favorite -- the tea cups, here called Alice's Tea Party, after my namesake -- now my favorite tea cups in all of the Disney parks!

One of the things that we noticed when we visited both Tokyo parks was that the Japanese LOVE flavored popcorn. There are popcorn carts scattered throughout each park, each offering a different flavor. You can buy a regular or large size or a refillable souvenir popcorn bucket. The buckets were very cute, and you could see guests wandering around all over the place with the buckets hung around their necks like pin lanyards. Unfortunately, I didn't take any popcorn stand pictures in DisneySea, but some of the other flavors we saw there were strawberry and black pepper. We only sampled the honey flavor, but it was very good.

We also spent a bit of time in Toontown, which is very similar to the one in Disneyland, California, including the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, always a great ride!

After a lunch of Japanese curry rice, we continued touring, riding very satisfying versions of the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise (in Japanese, but it appeared that our guide just happened to be hilarious!), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain (thankfully with not a lot of splash). Unfortunately, my now very tired kids vetoed the Country Bears, as I really would have liked to see the Japanese version of this favorite show of mine.

Toward late afternoon, we were all exhausted by the heat and the crowds, and decided to say goodbye to Tokyo Disneyland as we made our way back through the lovely atrium of the World Bazaar.

All in all we had an amazing trip to China and Japan, and were so thankful that we were able to see these three parks. There is something very fulfilling in seeing the comfortable familiarity of the Disney parks from home plopped down in the midst of the very unfamiliar. I think it makes us feel a little closer to the other members of the Disney Family wherever they are. Oh, and it IS a small world after all!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice McNutt Miller
is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have now visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

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RELATED LINKS:

More photos from Alice's trip:
http://allears.net/hkdl/hong-kong-photo-gallery-2013.htm

Tokyo Disney Resort - Beyond the Theme Parks, Guest Blog by Jenny Lynne:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2013/09/tokyo_disney_resort_beyond_the_1.html

Hong Kong Disneyland blogs by Jack Spence:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/hong_kong_disneyland/

Tokyo Disney Resort blogs by Jack Spence:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/tokyo_disney/


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.