Well, a dream of mine recently came true in China ... and no, it had nothing at all to do with visiting the newest MK of them all.
But since this is a site devoted to Disney, after all, I thought you might be interested in my impressions of the place, and its past and its future.
I don't 'do' trip reports so this thread will be a stream of consciousness rift on HKDL. I'll add to it as time allows. I am very interested in comments, questions and feedback.
So let's get to the all-important question right away and get it out of the way, shall we?
Did I like the place?
Yes. Totally. Unequivocally. Absotively and posilutely.
I had a great time at HKDL and would recommend the park to anyone visiting HK.
Whew! I'm glad I got that out of the way because what will follow may make some feel I'm a schizophrenic spirit because I am also going to criticize the hell out of the park and the folks who set out to build a McDisneyland (I think that's more apt a name than the HKDL Lite label I have used in the past).
How can one bash and love at the same time? It's very simple unless you're a simple-minded spirit.
First off, let me set the record straight. HKDL IS a FULL day park. That's a 10-9 day with August hours. I read many criticisms of the park that said the equivalent of 'we did everything in the park numerous times in four hours and were done.' That's simply not possible now. Maybe at opening, but even then I tend to view it as hyperbole or a case of someone who just runs from attraction to attraction and doesn't bother to see the shows, parades or wander into the shops or have a meal.
FWIW, many folks believe parks like DAK and DCA are four-six hour diversions at best. I disagree with those assessments as well.
I spent a full day at HKDL and did NOT see it all. You read that right. Never made it on four Fantasyland attractions (Pooh, Dumbo, Tea Cups and Carousel). For the sake of honesty, I also didn't ride any of the Main Street vehicles. Nor did I see the Stitch Encounter show (which I really wanted to, unlike the others) or the (only in Chinese) Animation Academy. I did leave for two hours to tour the hotels in the middle of the day, however. So theoretically, I could have done everything once if I had wanted. I also did ride Space Mountain five times and take two trips on Small World, which could have gone to other attractions.
But I feel it is important to fairly point out that HKDL does have enough for a day's visit. Anyone going for a multi-day visit at this point is just nuts or a Disney geek (aren't those interchangeable?) because this isn't that kind of park and no justifying will turn that around.
But I am jumping way ahead in the narrative. Let's start at the beginning.
HKDL has it.
Boy, does it have it.
An incredible 'we put one over on the Chinese government' parcel of land between mountains on Lantau Island (very close to the new airport) and backing to the South China Sea. There is no other Disney 'resort' that has a site like this.
In a word, it's breathtaking.
On my visit, it was about 92 degrees with sunshine and almost totally blue skies, which brought out the lush greenness of the mountains and foliage. Taking the subway from my hotel, which was overlooking Victoria Harbor -- kind of diagonally located across from HKDL, took 30 minutes. The final stretch is on a Disney-themed train (figures of the characters are encased in glass) and pics of Walt showcasing his love of trains are in these special cars that have Mickey shaped windows and 'magical' touches like that. It is a good transition to take you out of 'the real world' (whatever that means).
But the first thing I noticed when I got out at the Disney-designed station at the resort was something very common (or in HK something you can't go 12 feet without tripping over ... really!) a 7-11 cart. Yep. 7-11s are huge over there and most of them are tiny compared to what we have in the states. And I would assume that since the station isn't owned by the Mouse (the media over there makes it clear that the park is 'government owned' which makes you wonder how emasculated that must make Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo feel), the 7-11 carts weren't something Disney had any say in. But it sure was nice to be able to buy a cheap can of coffee, Coke zero and a bottle of gum (yeah, gum!) on the way in.
After leaving the station, you immediately are bombarded with a happy Disney soundtrack as you make the way down a tree-lined walkway a few hundred yards to a giant fountain ... the fountain that was supposed to go in the esplanade in Anaheim before Paul Pressler decided it wasn't needed. That's why you have a surfing Mickey on top of a whale. No, surfing isn't that big in HK! The fountain, though, is a beautiful detailed little mood-setter.
Step to the right, buy your tix and there's a train station with a floral Mickey.
This is where it hit me. Something that I never felt on my first visit to DLP. This park was built as a McDisneyland. It was built using as many copied designs as possible. It has the look of a Disneyland. And the feel. Yet there's no denying something's missing ... and it isn't just the signature attractions that were chopped out (or never included from the start) by the likes of Michael Eisner, Pressler and Rasulo.
It's hard to quite put it into words, but you feel something's not quite right (and again, I really liked ... maybe even loved ... the park). It almost reminds me of an analogy to something I witnessed in Beijing. Many huge new impressive buildings were built just prior to the Olympics. (the CCTV HQ comes to mind immediately) ... Driving by these buildings at night, they looked so impressive with lighting on, some having huge video screens showing Olympic scenes on the sides ... but there was one 'problem' ... or quirk perhaps. And that was that many of those buildings might as well have been movie sets because all they were really were facades. Many of these huge new complexes were either incomplete or completed, but sans any tenants to occupy them. So what you had was something that looked like it had depth and substance when it had none.
Now, I wouldn't say that HKDL doesn't have substance because it does. Much of what is there is quite good. As a matter of fact, I'll state right here that their versions of Space Mountain and It's a Small World are the two best in the world right now (having admittedly not seen TDL's yet). I'll also add that Jungle Cruise while not better than its stateside siblings is a very good, unique take on an old favorite. The shows are on par with the very best in Disney theme park entertainment. The parades (two of them) are very well done. And the fireworks are great.
So ... it's not that there isn't substance there. It's just that well ... every chance to cheapen out can be seen. So while this park DOES ooze the Disney feel when you walk under the train station, versus say the first impressions I got from DCA and DSP, you can't help but feel that things aren't quite what they seem.
What's missing? Depth ...
more to follow ...