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  1. #1

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    HKDL - First Impressions

    I was recently in Hong Kong for a few days, and had the opportunity to visit HKDL over the weekend. (During my last trip to Asia in October, I was able to visit TDL and TDS -- and had a great time, thanks to all the valuable suggestions I got from helpful folks on these boards.)

    Some thoughts...

    I was prepared to be disappointed. Every person I talked to in HK recommended that I NOT spend any time at HKDL -- the universal complaint was that "there's nothing to do." In fact, several locals urged me to visit Ocean Park instead. One woman I met, a tourist from the Philippines, gave HKDL a qualified recommendation -- she said it wasn't bad, but if I'd been to the U.S. parks, I'd be disappointed. She said to go with low expectations, and I'd be OK.

    Overall, I enjoyed the park -- but that was probably because of my low expectations. I knew that there was only a handful of attractions, and nothing really novel that I hadn't seen elsewhere already -- or could see elsewhere, if I wanted to. I entered the park at around 2:00 in the afternoon, and by park closing at 9:00, I'd done pretty much everything I wanted to do (including a leisurely late lunch).

    That said, I had a good time. (Other than the heat -- it was probably 90 degrees, and ridiculously humid. I've never encountered such oppressive humidity before -- it literally felt like being in a rain forest. I couldn't stop sweating when I was outside, and had to keep ducking indoors to cool off.) The locale was beautiful. Having mountains in the background really does quite a bit for the atmosphere. And, despite being small, the park itself was charming -- one could tell that a lot of love and attention to detail went into what was there.

    More in the next post...

  2. #2

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    Specific thoughts on attractions:

    Overall, I thought the theming in Tomorrowland was a bit bland, and risks feeling dated in just a few years. The sweeping "wavy" roofs of the Comet Cafe and other buildings weren't unappealing, but just weren't that imaginative. It might have been cool to do some new design that incorporated (for example) aspects of traditional Chinese design in a futuristic way, but I guess they just decided to play it safe (and simple).

    Space Mountain -- not bad. I wish the loading area was a bit bigger, to give more suggestion of "space" and less of loading in a cramped closet. And I've always favored the WDW version in terms of the track (just fix the roughness, add a soundtrack, and make it darker) -- to me, the DL/TDL track template doesn't have nearly enough drops, and has way too many right turns... in a word, boring. But, within those constraints, I thought the HK mountain was enjoyable. I didn't care for the soundtrack as much as DL's former "Carnival of the Animals" one, but it wasn't bad. And some of the effects -- like the explosion/nova effect at the top of the lift hill -- gave the ride a nicely omninous air. I particularly got a kick of the the effect at the end, where it feels like you've come to a complete stop when you're still moving forward. Oddly enough, SM was almost a complete walk-on, even though the park was quite crowded. Do HKers not like roller coasters? There certainly aren't any others in the park to divert thrillride fans.

    I really liked this version of Autopia. I haven't been on an Autopia in years (last time was right after DL opened its revamped version, with the off-road track), but was amazed at how much of a difference the virtually silent HK cars made. That completely changed the experience -- I've always hated the fact that queing up for Autopia is like waiting for a lawnmower convention. The quiet-ride HK cars let you focus attention on the attraction and experience itself. The lights on the cars and sound effects were a nice touch, as were the "reverse side" steering wheels (in keeping with real HK cars). The courses could have been a bit more varied, but the funky lights on the underpasses (I rode at night) added a perfect retro-future touch, and I'm also glad I picked the course that made an extra little loop out over Tomorrowland and around the UFO Zone. Autopia will never be an E-ticket equivalent, but this one was done about as well as can be expected, and should be at the top of any child's list of attractions.

    Buzz Lightyear -- It's never been my favorite... a bit too cartoony and "flat" and pre-fab for my tastes. But this version did seem a bit plussed in comparison to the others I've been on, and the guns/targets seemed a bit more responsive. Maybe it was just my imagination...

    I liked the Orbitron. I particularly liked the little oval "boarding card" they gave you -- it avoids a lot of the "mad scramble" feel of the other parks' orbiter rides. And the sound effect buttons were a nice touch -- the only orbiter ride I've been on recently was the StarJets in TDL, and that had no such thing. I'm not sure whether the Astro Orbiter/Orbitors do, but it's a good idea that helps add to the interactivity of the attraction (especially) for kids, with a minimum of expense.

    This was the first time I'd done Stitch Encounter, and it was amusing. Whoever handled Stitch did a great job. I was also surprised at how many of the other English-speaking guests were not from the U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia -- the three people that were chosen to interact with Stitch were from Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Africa. One thing I really hated about the attraction was the horrible waiting area/pen in the back of the queue, where you're stuck in a holding position for about the length of a performance. There are fans overhead, but they don't help that much with the stifling heat, and it's essentially a dead end -- very little air circulation, and no view of any sort other than plain walls with a few Stitch-type alien posters up here and there. Horrible.

    Adventureland was nice -- it felt properly like a jungle, with wending paths and surprises around every corner. It needs more to do, of course... As for the so-called Pirate Handover... er, Takeover... eh. It didn't really do much for me. If they want to go the pirate route, they should just go all-out and add a new section to the park, as well as the obvious attraction. The temporary "pirate event" really felt a bit half-baked.

    Festival of the Lion King was fine -- pretty similar to what I recall seeing at Animal Kingdom years ago, with the addition of some lines in Cantonese that served to move the exposition along, I suppose. The show I attended (the last one of the day) was really sparsely attended... about a third of the seats were empty.

    The Jungle River Cruise was fun. I liked the fact that they had narrations in Mandarin, Cantonese, as well as English. The effects and scenes were well-presented, and the new (well, new to me) scenes of piranhas and the firey climax helped kick up the level of excitement a bit. The pirate scenes were kind of extraneous (though I got a laugh out of seeing a Chinese boy throw real money at the pirate in an effort to get him to leave us alone -- a move that the boat skipper tried vainly to discourage). The only thing that the ride could benefit from is maybe an interior scene -- have the boat pass through a temple or something. But otherwise, it's probably the best JC version I've experienced.

    Tarzan's Treehouse -- pretty similar to the DL version, I thought. Not really worth queing up for the raft, going over, and then coming back for.

    And whatever happened to the jungle roller coaster that was in the original plans? No, I don't mean Raging Spirits... let's have something new...

    Fantasyland was pretty, if a bit anemic. The whole empty patch of land to the left rear of the section really stood out. Other than iasw (the construction of which was well under way and in plain view), I'm really hoping they add another dark ride or two to Fantasyland soon... it's just so odd having only Pooh, and nothing else.

    Speaking of Pooh, I thought that experiencing Pooh's Hunny Hunt at TDL last year would have spoiled me for all other versions. And, even though I'd been on The Many of Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at WDW a while back, I enjoyed this one. The effects were well done, and overall it fared as well as one can expect for a traditional dark ride. I was amused by the fact that they still included the portrait of Mr. Toad, which has no meaning in the context of HKDL...

    The Golden Mickeys was well done, and very well attended. Every seat was filled. I guess HKers like this kind of musical entertainment... It certainly wasn't the most creative storyline, nor the most imaginative sets, but on the whole the performance was worthy of repeat future viewings. It takes just a little bit away from the show, knowing that it was adapted from a cruise line production, and not created from whole cloth just for HKDL.

    More in the next post...
    Last edited by Kuhio; 07-10-2007 at 05:39 PM.

  3. #3

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    Specific thoughts on everything else...

    I didn't see "Disney on Parade" because I got to the park after the only performance. They were also running the Mickey's Waterworks parade that day, however. Appropriately enough, the meter on the "Heat Alarm" on one of the floats was set at "Ouch!" I was only able to watch about ten minutes of the parade, as it was in the middle of the afternoon, and I was about to melt, even standing in the shade. I beat a hasty retreat into the Plaza Inn for lunch, but what little of the parade I saw seemed to be fun. The kids, at least, really enjoyed getting spritzed... which seems to be a big theme in HKDL, what with the "attractions" UFO Zone and Liki Tikis also being present.

    The fireworks performance was beautiful, if a bit short. I especially liked the Mulan section, where the light effects on the castle, the music, and the fireworks all seemed to work particularly well together.

    My favorite aspect of HKDL, though, was the food... in particular, the restaurants. I've always enjoyed having pleasant surprises in this respect... such as the serendipity of picking China Voyager for dinner at TDL, and finding an incredibly well-themed queue AND dining space.

    The Plaza Inn was beautiful, and a very nice surprise. I quite liked the fact that one's expectations are upended -- the building presents a very typical, English/Victorian facade from the outside, but the indoors is purely and traditionally Chinese, with a nice modern touch in the "centerpiece" of glowing fish. In short -- serene, subdued, and classy. Very nice, Mulan-inspired Chinese art on the walls. And the food was very tasty, even if the service was uninspired (there were a lot of servers; they just didn't seem to know who was supposed to service which tables). I'll definitely plan to eat here again next time.

    I didn't eat at the Royal Banquet Hall, but did walk around inside and take photos. Very, very nice -- the exemplar of what a counter-service DL restaurant should be. And a nice selection of food to choose from, too.

    One question for those who are more familiar with HKDL -- I noticed that a number of the restaurants (Tahitian Terrace, Clopin's Festival of Foods, and Comet Cafe) all purport to serve "noodles, BBQ, and wok dishes," albeit from different regions ("the Jiang Nan Region," "China's Great Northwest"). Are these all the same noodles, BBQ, and wok dishes, or is there some variety?

    In any case, I was impressed by the diversity of food selections throughout the park, and glad that there were many opportunities to diverge from the well-trod burgers/fries/chicken fingers path.

    All in all, I had an enjoyable half-day at HKDL -- in light of the diminished expectations I brought with me. The park (and its surroundings) are beautiful, and show a lot of promise. I can only hope that the new attractions keep coming fast and frequently... and that Disney can turn things around before it's too late. I worry that there are already too many locals who have been turned off for good -- who think that Disney snubbed them by building a subpar park and thinking they'd still go, and/or who have had such a bad taste in their mouth that they'll never come back.

    Really, the park needs AT LEAST two more E-ticket equivalents, plus a few Fantasyland dark rides, even after iasw opens, in order to really be thought of as a true Disney product. A unique attraction would be nice, too, to set HKDL apart from the others and add to its own distinctive personality. I'm looking forward to the day when HKDL reaches its potential... though it may not be for a while yet.
    Last edited by Kuhio; 07-10-2007 at 05:39 PM.

  4. #4

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    FABULOUS and very fair trip report from HKDL. Thanks Kuhio. You certainly were able to see the good and the bad, and even the little ugly there is at HKDL. Like yourself... I too feel that park deserves a visit just for it's charming surroundings and well designed architecture.

    One comment about the shows... The "Golden Mickeys" was taken from the Cruise Line, but about 70% of the show itself is brand new to HKDL and not seen on the big Boat. Likewise, the Lion King show is not a complete knock off from Animal Kingdom's version. You would have to be familiar with both versions to see there are some BIG differences between the two.

    Too bad you got there late and missed the regular parade, since it is a very upbeat and enjoyable parade, with a great song, costuming and lovely floats, as opposed to the more established and lesser inspired parade at WDW. I can't wait to visit on the 27th and see the waterworks parade.
    Did you even see the fireworks show? Small by Disney standards but a favorite of mine for it's elegance and castle projections/lighting.

    Anyways... thanks for a great and fair review of your experiences at HKDL.

  5. #5

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by TDLFAN View Post
    Did you even see the fireworks show? Small by Disney standards but a favorite of mine for it's elegance and castle projections/lighting.
    Yes, they did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kuhio View Post
    The fireworks performance was beautiful, if a bit short. I especially liked the Mulan section, where the light effects on the castle, the music, and the fireworks all seemed to work particularly well together.
    ~ Tokyo DisneySea’s Arabian Coast at nighttime ~


  6. #6

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    I guess I missed post #3 altogether.... shame on me.

  7. #7

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    Fantastic trip report Kuhio thank you so much for sharing.A bit shocked to read that the locals were telling you not to visit this park to begin with.This leads to the question of how many other tourist don't visit because of this very reason.Hong Kong Disneyland may be a better park standard wise but it falls behind on things to do.Disney are going to have to do a lot to improve people's perception of the place and adding Mickey's Waterworks while a welcome addition to people visiting this summer is not the answer here.

  8. #8

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    Thank you very much for the report!


  9. #9

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    Re: HKDL - First Impressions

    You're welcome!

    A few additional thoughts:

    I really felt the absence of a Frontierland -- or at least a fifth land. Despite Adventureland's larger size, the park just didn't feel complete. I don't know whether the decision to leave out Frontierland was based solely on cost, or also on studies that showed that HKers/Chinese aren't interested in the American West, but I'd hope that sometime in the future this omission is remedied. Even if the Chinese aren't as familiar with the mystique of the West as Europeans or the Japanese are, I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy the addition of a Big Thunder, Western River Expedition, or properly done Geyser Mountain...

    I really like the sweets and candy (both the "fresh" kind and the kind sold in tins and boxes as souvenirs) they have at HKDL -- same for what I found in Tokyo last year. I enjoyed the variety of cookies, crackers, and other treats offered. I bought a "vintage Hong Kong" (this image was shown in an earlier thread on new HKDL products) tin filled with chocolate crispy rice nuggets. Less sweet than what I expected, but a nice snack. I remember getting some Pooh-shaped cookies at TDL last year, that had some kind of fruit-flavored filling that I liked but couldn't identify. I wish they'd bring more of these snacks over to the Stateside parks.

    I didn't get a chance to check out the official Disney hotels. I didn't get to the park until mid-afternoon, and I wanted to see the park first before making a detour to tour the hotels. By the time the park closed, I was too tired (and still hot, despite the fact that it was 9:00) to stroll over, so I'll have to check them out next time I'm in town (which will likely not be for quite a while). Still, I have a favorable impression of both hotels from what I've seen here and elsewhere, and will probably try to stay at the Hollywood Hotel if I can -- it seems like a great value for the price.

    Further thoughts on the locals' attitudes toward the park -- I had the chance to talk to people both in Hong Kong and in mainland China during my trip, and always took the opportunity to ask them about HKDL (and whether I should go). In mainland China especially, there seems to currently be a lot of national pride going around, especially in the lead-up to next year's Olympics -- and certainly the idea among at least some folks that there's not anything at Disneyland that they can't find at their own parks. They would be wrong, of course -- but the point is not whether potential tourists are incorrect in their assumptions. The point -- where ticket sales and tourism is concerned -- is how Disney can nevertheless persuade those tourists to come not just once, but repeatedly.

    If a tourist (from HK, mainland China, or wherever) spends a day at HKDL and finds the overall experience to be comparable to what they're used to (or even just slightly better), it's too easy for the tourist to rationalize, "Well, it's not that much better, and even if it is, it's not worth [three times, or whatever amount] my local park is." I think a Chinese tourist who comes in with a cynical mindset would really need to be blown away to be convinced that Disney is something special, and worth a second (and third) look. Having a large number of attractions -- or at least one REALLY special, cutting edge attraction -- might do it. (I've no doubt that, if Anaheim Disneyland or TDL or even the Magic Kingdom were transported to HK, it would probably do the trick. The current HKDL -- somewhat less so.)

    But, short of having an Indiana Jones Adventure, or Tower of Terror, or even Haunted Mansion, the park is what it is -- beautiful and full of charm, but unlikely to really win the heart of a mainland Chinese tourist whose experience with capitalism thus far is "bigger and newer is better."

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