Thursday, January 30, 2014

Disneyland Part 2, Hong Kong 2013

We visited Hong Kong Disneyland at the perfect time. The park has just completed a three-land expansion to include Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point in addition to the traditional lands of Tomorrow, Fantasy and Adventure. These three new lands are all exclusive to Hong Kong in some way. 

Toy Story Land was my favourite of the three new lands in terms of how extensively themed the land was. Although you don't see it in my pictures, bamboo is planted to act as giant blades of grass and every building and prop is designed to be oversized!

Now, you would think that in Toy Story Land, the rides should be rather tame and friendly. NOT!
Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop may never rival the Tower of Terror over at Disney's Hollywood Studios but it's still terrifying when you get up there and they jerk you up and down a few times before letting you float down. And the RC Racer in that last picture, looks manageable right? So manageable that you and your friend ask the cast member if you can take the next ride to sit in the front row. And then you spend the whole ride, one hand clutching to your spectacles terrified that they might fall off your face as you rush forward, one hand clutching the overhead safety belt, screaming your guts out! Yup, totally manageable!

(BTW, I may not sound like it but I love roller coasters! I am the girl who sat California Screamin' in the front row solo and did back to back rides on Space Mountain and Battlestar Galactica!)

This is Mystic Manor in Mystic Point (a world-exclusive land to Hong Kong for the time being) and it houses the best, yes the best, ride in all the Disney parks! Seriously, no kidding! The technology behind this new dark ride is absolutely amazing and like nothing else you have ever ridden. The ride is created from a new original story of Lord Henry Mystic acquiring a magic music box and his pet monkey Albert opening it and letting loose the magic through the manor full of exotic items collected from their travels. You can imagine the madness and mayhem that ensues!

Grizzly Gulch is Hong Kong's version of Frontierland, Critter Country and Grizzly Peak rolled into one little land. It's set in an abandoned mining town and was founded on supposedly the luckiest day of the year (for the Chinese at least), 8/8/1988.

Grizzly Gulch features the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars that goes in and around Big Grizzly Mountain. I was expecting it to be like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and it is but with a twist, it goes BACKWARDS sometimes. And guess where we were sitting, yup, the last seat!

A few more scenes of Disneyland - Tarzan's Treehouse, Cinderella Carousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Sleeping Beauty Castle (from Fantasyland) and exiting the Castle back towards Main Street.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Disneyland Part 1, Hong Kong 2013

I love Disneyland! I mean, who doesn't? Troubles and worries are left at the gates and you enter a "happy place" of magic, wonder and the impossible. As a kid, I was incredibly lucky to have visited Disneyland twice and Walt Disney World once. We missed out on Tokyo because according to my Dad "it's the same as Anaheim". I, of course, beg to differ and I am now on a mission to conquer the Asian Disneys - Tokyo and (the soon to come) Shanghai I am looking at you!

Hong Kong Disneyland is located at Lantau Island and is conveniently connected by an MTR station to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, with its own pink line from Sunny Bay to Disneyland. Disney takes advantage of this and uses the journey to begin immersing you into the magic with a Disney-themed train. Trust the Imagineers to install Mickey Mouse cut-out shapes for windows and safety hand-rails! There were also statues of various Disney characters scattered all over the carriage, Pluto says howdy!

Alighting from the station, there was still quite a bit of a distance to walk before you reach the main gates. I have heard that this is due to fengshui to ensure the prosperity and success of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Traveller's tips: Before you leave your ho(s)tel, check if they sell Disneyland tickets. We bought ours through our hostel and they were a few bucks cheaper and saved us a few minutes of queueing at the ticket counters. Every minute saved is one more minute of Disney magic!

The holiday decorations have started to come up! While I love Disneyland during the holidays, I would love to see it dressed up in another season, like Halloween!

By the way, does anyone else do this too? Ever since I read that the Disney Imagineers use a technique called "forced perspective" to design the Main Street buildings (and almost every other building in the park) to appear taller than they really are, I have been craning my neck up to see if I can spot how the illusion works. To this day, I am no wiser.

As we walked down Main Street, we encountered the Hong Kong Disneyland Band! To be honest, if I were a kid, I couldn't have cared less and would have run off immediately to a roller-coaster. But now that I am older and a little wiser, I am really starting to appreciate these little Disney touches. It's the details that make the experience that much more magical.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nathan Road, Hong Kong 2013

If you choose to live in Tsim Sha Tsui or Mongkok during your stay in Hong Kong, you are definitely going to walking up and down Nathan Road in your daily rambles. Nathan Road starts from Tsim Sha Tsui and ends at Sham Shui Po (about 6 MTR stations or 3.6km).

After stuffing our faces at Tim Ho Wan and Cafe Bistro The Alchemist, we decided we needed to walk off those calories and decided to embark on The Great Nathan Road Hike to get back to our corner of Tsim Sha Tsui. We started at Sham Shui Po and ended at Dundas Street in Mongkok before we decided we had enough exercise and needed more drinks.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fullcup Cafe, Hong Kong 2013

We usually think of cafes being located on street level with a pretty signboard and interesting decor to invite you in but the crazy rents in Hong Kong have caused many cafes to move up higher within the multitudes of commercial buildings that dot the Hong Kong landscape. Most of them have nary a signboard or facade to warn you that they are there though!

Fullcup Cafe is located on the 3-7F of a building in Mongkok, and was recommended to us by our friends of friends to go to for live music. I had also found it independently so the extra recommendations made this an immediate must-go for us. Sadly, our dates were wrong for a live music event. Next time.

We got really lost trying to figure out how to actually get into the building. There's no public lobby that opens out from the main road, rather we had to walk down a dingy alley to find this orange sign and then futilely try to push open some likely-looking doors until a security guard took pity on us and showed us where the elevators were.

When we got there, the main floor of the cafe was full with locals and we got moved up to an empty 5th (or was it 6th) floor. This floor had a retro-grunge bar kind of feeling. We took a window seat, and it was fun to observe the hustle & bustle of Hong Kong from high up. Through it all, no one else came up to join us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Hong Kong 2013

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden is located at the end of Flower Market Road and it's interesting to watch the birds flit about. Also a little sad when you watch the birds who are free flying next to their caged counterparts.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Flower Market Road, Hong Kong 2013

While walking down Nathan Road, we took a fun detour to Flower Market Road. Both of us came out with a small bouquet of flowers to brighten up our corners in our hostel room! I think it really makes the space so much more homely.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Café Bistro The Alchemist, Hong Kong 2013

When we were planning for Hong Kong, we organised what we wanted to see by area, planning to spend every day in a new area, slowly discovering them and more. After the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, we walked a few steps to Cafe Bistro The Alchemist. And by a few steps, I meant we took the train from Sham Shui Po to Prince Edward, walked to the cafe only to realise it was only about 100m from Tim Ho Wan.

A cafe for travellers, C and I immediately felt welcomed into this space. We also felt that there was a very Taiwanese feel to the decor. Loved the mis-matched chairs, cement wall and fixtures, travel books and inspirational Mandarin quotes on the wall.

Still stuffed from Tim Ho Wan, we went for some coffee and desserts. Our waffles were awesome, why did no one else think to combine green tea ice cream, chocolate fudge and strawberries? And f the horde of people that descended on the cafe for lunch are anything to go by, the rest of the food must be pretty good too!
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