Friday, July 30, 2010

Disneyland in Hong Kong

Floating Mickey

Today I had the afternoon off work, so my girlfriend and I took a trip out to Disneyland Hong Kong, a theme park notable for being the smallest Disney-themed resort on Earth.

I had misgivings; no longer in the first flush of youth, would I find myself to be out of place, a confused bearded wanderer in a plastic theme park designed solely for the adulation of a cartoon mouse by a nation's infants? I'd never been to a Disney-themed anything, so I wasn't prepared for the hyper-efficient commercialisation of everything. You couldn't go more than a few yards without a stall selling you Mickey Mouse shaped ice-cream, or an entire plastic medieval store selling nothing but plush effigies of your favourite cartoon icons.In the amusement parks I've been to in England, things are less organised, more ramshackle, and not everyone smiles. All. The. Time.

Mickey Ice Cream

However, once you adjust to the bizarre cultish artifice of Everyone Being Happy All The Time, you realise it's quite pleasant that everyone is beaming at you all the time. Yes, it's saccharine and artificial and after a few hours you might worry as to why you're not as happy as all the staff are, but it's a respite from the routine surliness of normal Hong Kong customer service.

Although it's a small Disneyland, there are still big queues, but we only waited half an hour to go on Space Mountain. I'm nervous on rollercoasters at the best of times, and as we hurtled through the darkness all I could think of was that I was on a structure built in China by a possibly less-than-attentive man with a nailgun and a bottle of Tsing Tao. (And in a country where there was no statutory minimum wage.)

But we survived, and as we queued up we did make the discovery that if you are surrounded by a crowd of mainland Chinese who have their volume set to 'Bellowing', you *can* get them to quiet down by shouting. Not by shouting at them; that would be rude. No, just by shouting at one another: this produces instant looks of bemusement and silence as they try to process the competing sights and sounds of Loud Gweilo.

We also found that the English language boat trip around 'the Amazon' has a much shorter line than the Cantonese or Mandarin boats. I guess it's affirmative action to make up for all the depredations the Chinese have inflicted on Europeans over the years.

Like buying opium off us.

Yeah, feel guilty, because you should. It's not like we wanted to pillage your resources and make you build all our technological toys for us, is it?


We also got to see the Lion King show, which was just the right side of cheese, including an animatronic elephant, a camp lion, and more unnaturally cheerful dancers, which made up for a half hour wait in the heat and then being in a shoving match with the People's Republic of China to get into the auditorium.


Then all that was left was to wander back to the MTR and take a train back to Kowloon. Well, the girlfriend has an ineffable need to watch Predators; make of that what you will.

I enjoyed Disneyland, although there was one disappointment. All the advertising makes it appear that Disney characters will be blithely wandering through the park all the time, available for you to run up to and hug. In four and a half hours, I saw precisely one Goofy, for about five minutes, and nobody else; not a Pluto, a Donald or even a Scrooge McDuck. Was I naïve? Are all Disneylands not really a promised land of 'resting' actors struggling under a Snow White costume? Or is it just that the extraspecial heat and humidity in Hong Kong would mean a daily fatality if they insisted on sending more Mickeys and Minnies out there?

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun, to be sure, but it would have been nice to have a few cartoon characters to accompany me.

I'm not fussy. Even Chipp n Dale would do.


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