OMG!!! I am as giddy as a kid in a candy store.
I just got back from my afternoon trip to HKDL's esplanade and back. Me likes what me saw!!!
First up.. it's very humid and hot here in Hong Kong today and there is a thick haze in the air... so thick in fact you can't see across the harbor from Kowloon towards Lantau Island where HKDLR is located at.
My trip started in Kowloon and the One-Way fare on the MTR subway was only HK$20.00 and it took me only 25 mins to travel from Kowloon to the very door of HKDLR, the Disneyland Resort Station.
One thing I have to say... I was taken aback by the amount of people who were riding with me today. I was expecting to be just about the only person riding the MTR into HKDLR but alas! There were hundreds and hundreds of very enthusiastic chinese and few american as well on the train.
The transfer at Sunny Bay Station was smooth. All you do is get off the Orange Line and walk across the platform to the HKDL Train. It's that simple. The ride from Sunny Bay into HKDL takes about 4 mins in very lovely trains that rival those at TDR in whim. The HKDL train feature mickey-shaped handstrap, several old pictures of Walt and his trains, Disney character busts in little display windows and Mickey-shaped windows. The ride is short but the fun is huge. These are lovely train that I hope will be maintained clean and in top shpae. Even the blue velvet seat cushions are lovely! Not much is seen during the trip to HKDL since a part of it is in a tunnel, but when you emerge, you go under the cer bridges that lead into the resort, and you also go pass the recreational lake on the property, which features trails and such. It should be a pretty popular spot for walking, jogging and sailing (if they rent those little boats like they do at WDW).
The Disneyland resort Station is quite lovely as well... and while I expected it to be another victorian-style structure, the fact is the station incorporates touches of victorian with classic Parisian Metro accents, and all the modern conveniences you might expect from an Asian metropolis. There even is an ATM in the station if you need cash. The station is well designed to be covered but also allows for plenty of sun to come in from the side thru it's vaulted style high ceilings. The bottom of the columns are adorned with green Sorcerer hats. Nice touch. In fact, there are great little touches here and around the HKDL esplanade.
Once you exit the Disneyland Station, you first come up with the huge "Welcome to HKDL Resort" archway, which is probably the very first photo spot of the day for all. Even guests who will arrive by car, bus, taxi or other road vehicles have to walk pass this lovely archway. Behind the train station and to the right is the parking lot which didn't seem terribly big, and there are toilets, Guests Relations building, bus and taxi areas, which are covered!! Thank God for that since it gets hot here.
The Esplanade leading to HKDL Park is lovely, expansive and well ornated with trees, benches and lovely light fixtures that currently display cute see-thru Disney character banners (I want one of those for my Disney Room). The floors have also received a pretty nice treatment with solid colors and marble-like tiles and such that make for a most interesting pattern. The trees (as well as the archway) have been retrofitted with lights so at night, this area will look quite nice and lit up with trees in sparkling delight.
As you walk towards the center area of the Esplanade, right across from the park's entrance, you come upon a wonderful dancing fountain. I just *LOVE*LOVE*LOVE* this fountain of Mickey surfing above a whale's spout, with Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Donald and Pluto added around the main whale centerpiece adding a touch of glee and fun to the whole fountain. BEST of all is the fact that the fountain puts on a musical dancing water show every 10 mins or so, when there are fan-like swaying water spigots and burst of water similar to those at TDS' Aquaphere. This is one of Disney's most wonderful water fountains ever created. So simple, yet so much fun to look at, and people just love taking photos of it!! I know I did take at least 20 pics of it. KUDOS!
Now the main event... HKDL Park. I was only able to make it to the ticket booths, but WOW! The details of theming and the lovely tall trees make this entryway into DL one of the most understated but elegant entrances of any MK park out there... with the exception of maybe DLP's glorious Fantasia gardens.
The feeling is deja-vue! Having been to DL recently, I just got an overwhelming feeling of being back in CA, and yet... it's not quite the same.
While not much of the park can be seen from the esplanade and the main entrance area, the only things that could be spotted in between the trees were the top of the building housing the Lion King Celebration in Adventureland, the top spires of Space Mountain, the very top of the Orbitron, and some huge building (with victorian accents) that is located behind the right side of Main Street and next to Tomorrowland. I can only assume this is where the CM areas are located, such as costuming etc etc, but can't confirm that right now.
From that area as well, you can get a glipse of the majestic Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, which is an exact replica of the Grand Floridian in many ways, but yet different in the way it's set up. The Hollywood Hotel is not visible from the Esplanade but you can catch a quick glipse of it from the MTR as you ride in and out of HKDLR.
Lastly... I also noticed that the Esplanade features several smaller fountains towards the side leading to the hotels and pier area. There are several gazebos as well which were quite popular with the guests checking out the facilities today. And lastly... the Esplanade feautures and exquisite symphonic soundtrack of Disney tunes in lovely digital sound. Just sitting there watching people go by, taking pictures and listening to the music, and enjoying the main fountain do it's thing...made for a most enjoyable time at HKDL's Esplanade. As I sat there, I could see the workers putting some finishing touches on the ticket booths' covered waiting areas, and also got to check out some of the HKDL CM's (mostly custodial and security hosts in costumes and name tags) and some american CMs (Imagineers, trainers, maybe?) strolling around. I even caught one of them pulling a couple of weeds from the garden surrounding the main fountain which BTW... resembles a starfish in design. Great job.
All in all, my first impression of HKDL's surroundings is a most positive one.
One thing struck me funny... while there were 3 CM's selling soda and bottled water from a vending cart, there was NO souvenir stand anywhere. No balloon vendors, no pin trading carts... NO MERCHANDISE being sold anywhere. I would think that Disney would take advantage of the crowds visiting the resort via train and sell some pre-opening stuff...such as pins or a tee at least. But none were found and I was a bit disappointed about that. More disappointing was not being able to find anything HKDL-related at the Disney Store at Ocean Center upon my return from HKDLR. Oh well...
After being there about 90 mins or so, I got on the train back to the city. It was just too hot and humid to be outdoors too long. But one ting is certain...I can NOT wait to come back and explore this little park and it's resort hotels with more time. I will be posting pictures from my visit as soon as I get home later this week.