‘Mummy, Daddy, I felt the magic all of the whole day’.
A sentence to bring a tear to the eye of every weary parent and justify every single Hong Kong dollar that had just passed through our hands.
We set off from Taipa on the 12 o’clock ferry, and in just 50 minutes we had passed by the many small and beautiful Islands and were watching the glittering Hong Kong skyline come into focus. The sheer scale of the buildings took my breath away. We were off the ferry and onto the overhead walkway looking down on the bustling streets, teeming with traffic and noise below. Surrounded by the terribly British road and place names felt strange in such an alien city, but there was a bus on Connaught Road, heading to St. Mary’s via Edinburgh square. There was little time to contemplate this however as we were having a quick lunch stop in McDonalds at the request of small person (the same the world over, but perhaps a little faster service), before getting our ‘octopus’ metro cards and heading toward the house of mouse. We arrived at the interchange station and waited for the shuttle with Moo barely able to contain herself. The train that pulled up was covered in sparkles and had Mickey shaped windows, the magic had begun.
As we walked the short distance from the station to the park entrance Moo was captivated by statues and flags of all shapes and colour, but when she saw the mouse himself riding a surfboard atop a whales spout she exclaimed, ‘LOOK, it really is a magic place’ and we hadn’t even bought the tickets yet.
As the sun beat down we thought it might be a good idea to get her a hat, but took one look at the prices and decided that really it would be a better idea to use the umbrella I had packed as an afterthought, for shade. Thank the good Lord for those afterthoughts.
With tickets in hand we headed for ‘Main Street USA’ for those familiar with the magic kingdom experience I need say no more, but in case you are not I will explain further. Main Street is the main thoroughfare in every park, a row of shop fronts fashioned on a traditional ‘olde-worlde’ mid-west American theme, which I actually thought was a bit of a myth till I visited a couple of traditional ‘olde-worlde’ mid west American towns last summer, and I have to say it’s pretty much spot on. Until you go inside them and find them piled high from floor to ceiling with every conceivable piece of merchandise you could imagine, with prices which are, in the main, like the character balloon on sale, over-inflated and far too high. Having done the park in Paris last summer we were wise to this and headed straight to sleeping beauty’s castle, which sits proudly, as it is does in every park, after the roundabout at the head of main street. We had arrived at around the right time for the parade and picked our spot to watch the cavalcade of characters and floats which passed us by with happy smiling faces beaming and waving from every one of them. Even the most hardened cynic would find it difficult not to raise a smile at the look on the kids faces when they go by. The only problem we were having was the heat and I suddenly realised why ‘our’ side of the road was not nearly so popular a place to stand as the other more shady side. After a captivating but boiling 20 minutes it was time for a shade break so we headed to ‘tomorrow land’, for a nice sit down while I procured a couple of coffees.
After a brief respite we figured it was time to get small one on some rides and She and I headed of to ‘autopia’ whilst Hubs got a pass and went off to ride the ‘space mountain’ roller-coaster. After a dispiriting 40 minute queue it was finally our turn and Moo took great pleasure in ‘driving’ me round the track at great speed. Next we headed off to see Buzz Lightyear, but due to a small technical problem, we were advised to return later. Then Moo discovered the kids ‘cooling station’, various rocket and robot like structures with flashing lights, curious noises and most importantly, random jets and sprays of water flying in every direction, I’m not sure I’ve see a happier, wetter, cooler bunch of kids.
Next on the agenda was fantasyland.
After a 10 minute walk Moo had dried out and we headed for ‘it’s a small world’ singing our own versions of the song ‘it’s a broken world’, (attributed to our time in the Paris park), and its a painful world, (attributed to my time working for Mr Mouse in the West end), but thankfully neither turned out to be true. The boat ride took us on a journey through the countries of the world seen through the eyes of Disney and, I’m a little ashamed to admit it, I found it all rather charming. After that we were rather thankful that the sun was beginning to go down a little and it was on to the Mad hatters ‘waltzers style’ tea-cups ride where Moo and I spun ourselves round to the point of pure dizziness with a rather green looking Hubs watching from the safety of barrier. With carousels and rocket rides done we headed off for an ‘Amazonian river cruise’ with our amusing, very nearly, English speaking guide ‘Birry’.
By now it was getting dark and we headed back to main street in search of coffee and balloons, both were very much required, and to find our pitch, (as near to the exit as possible but still able to see the castle), for the 8PM finale of the day, the fireworks display. As the park lights dimmed, I hoisted Moo onto my shoulders and listened to the ‘oohs. aahh’s and wows’ as she swayed gently along to the music and delighted in the wonderfully choreographed show illuminating the night sky.
Before it was over people began swarming past us in to secure a fast exit onto the trains and buses before it got too busy, but we stayed to the bitter end, and the look on small ones face when she came back down to earth, at least physically, was enough to make our hearts melt.
As it turned out when we did get to the train station it was relatively quiet and a mixture of both Chinese and Disney efficiency at work ensured the trains that were to whisk us back to the centre of Hong Kong were on time and frequent. After a slight detour due to the wrong exit being taken from the central station, not a difficult mistake to make, and a hastily found taxi we were back at the ferry terminal and on board the 9.30 ferry with moments to spare. An hour and another 2 stamps in the passport later we were in a cab on the way back to the apartment. Lovely.
The park in Hong Kong is very small when compared to its European or American siblings, and there are no big roller coasters or thrill rides, but it has all the essential elements that make for a day of utter magic and delight for the under 7. Whilst it lacked the big attractions it also lacked the attitude and the exhaustion that we experienced in Paris. I wouldn’t recommend taking older kids or teenagers as they would more than likely be very hard to keep entertained, there are plenty more places here that would fulfil that need more than adequately, but if you have a small person who still believes in magic, I have to admit that no body does it better than Walt.
As we poured Moo into bed that night we were rewarded richly with hugs and thanks and she took no rocking as she slumbered off to a world of wonderful dreams. As we poured ourselves a little nightcap we were tired but happy parents.