Allow me to describe Hong Kong in 5 words: a newly renovated old city. The congestion is apparent. There are people everywhere, firing strings of Cantonese (a language with 2000 years of history), shuffling around like every minute cost money. The buildings are obviously old, the ones near Central MTR Station dating back to the mid 19th century.
However, despite the years in their life, there is a cloak of modernity. It is current and contemporary and state-of-the-art; like a reboot of the 1980s Dynasty (less whitewashed, thank goodness) or the Nokia 3310 remake. An air of antiquity is woven with strands of novelty, producing a unique and exotic mix of new and old, forming the fabric that is Hong Kong.
Broady and I wander down Queen’s Road Central Street… Stanley Street, Douglas Street, Wyndham Street… these English names are testament to British colonisation. Proof that they couldn’t keep it in their pants, wouldn’t keep their people within their borders.
EAT: Dim Sum at Lin Heung Tea House
We navigate through a labyrinths of roads till we arrive at Wellington street. In plain view is a green storefront sign indicating with two Chinese characters- “Lin Heung” it reads.
We enter the shop lot and ascend a short flight of stairs. Round tables flood the space before us. We sit at a random table with a preoccupied couple. Here in Hong Kong (and all parts of China), one does not wait for a vacant table. No, one sits at any table with empty seats, next to strangers, this is completely normal.
Elderly ladies make their rounds, pushing metal trolleys stocked with delicacies. Customers flock around them, pointing and choosing from the spreads. We jump into the action and snag ourselves a fair amount of treats. Most items are decent. However, the egg tart I must commend- nicely crisp, brittle to perfection. I read on blogs that the chicken feet and yam cake are to die for. Unfortunately, these dishes are like shooting stars, well done if you catch one, but don’t take their presence for granted. They were not served during our visit.
PLAY: Hong Kong Disneyland
But food plays second fiddle now, because it’s time for Disneyland!
The last time I visited DisneySea in Tokyo, I suffered from withdrawal syndrome for a few days after. Finally, many years later, I get to nurse this homesickness.
Disneyland is truly my happy place. The details are incredible. Every corner holds a pleasant surprise.
That’s what Disney promises, magic.
The magic starts as soon as we step off the train at the Disneyland Resort MTR station (after a transit at Sunny Bay of the Tung Chung line). It only intensifies as we walk through the welcome arc, beep our tickets to gain entrance, and come face to face with the iconic floral Mickey.
Now, to truly appreciate Disneyland, one must construct a strategy. Work around the showtimes, I recommend. If there is one thing Disney never lacks, it’s theatrical performance. We watch in awe as the story of The Lion King play before our eyes, in song and dance, complete with hunky fire dancers that I did NOT check out.
Mickey and the Wondrous Book was one popular show. Twice (different timings) we tried to get seats but failed, the hall already full to the brim. But third time the charm, also because we are slightly Singaporean (translation: kiasu), we finally book seats by arriving 45 minutes before curtains up.
But as far as the rides are concerned, one must never visit Disneyland (or any other Disney parks) without knowledge of the amazing Fastpass. With these free passes (obtained from Fastpass machines at their respective rides), we get to bypass snaking lines, strolling to the starting points like a boss.
I quote from a previous post, “the standard of a theme park lies in the quality of its thrill rides”. However, Hong Kong Disneyland does not place value on nail-biting, high-strung, balls-shrinking rides. Its tendencies are towards family-friendly, we-can-survive-this-holding-a-latte kind of attractions. As far as thrill rides are concerned, they do only okay.
As before, I will now rate these two rides from a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being atrocious, 10- orgasm-worthy.
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
First impression: 5
G force sensation: 0
Duration of ride: 7
Pee in pants factor: 0
Average score: 3.6
First impression: 7
G force sensation: 5.5
Duration of ride: 5
Pee in pants factor: 5
Average score: 4.5
Hong Kong Disneyland definitely does not score well in the thrill rides department. But where they lack in thrill, they more than make up in magic. The charm is in the props. The aesthetics. The art of visual appeal.
Every angle is beautifully decorated. Even retail shops and eateries are decked to theme. The emblematic Cinderella castle was under renovation, which was inconvenient, but fails to rob Disneyland of its exquisite glory.
Disneyland is a glimpse of heaven, here on Earth.
The day ends with a parade of Disney characters, sitting on floats, dancing to upbeat music, some literally wrapped up in cords of flashing lightbulbs- a rightfully grand closure to a magical day.
But the magic doesn’t have to end here, not if you booked yourself a room at one of the Disney hotels (Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel/ Disney Explorers Lodge/ Disney’s Hollywood Hotel). This sounds expensive. But, in retrospect, it cost only RM200 more than our dingy hotel room in the city centre (granted, this is on Lantau Island, a little more than half an hour from the city). Also, booking beforehand via Agoda means we saved RM400. So yay! Says my Chinese genes.
If you have cash to spare, it’s TOTALLY worth it.
We hop on a shuttle bus to the hotel where we check ourselves in and treat ourselves to a hearty buffet.
This buffet, like the hotel, outdid themselves (keep in mind that I’m a pilot of a low cost airline that will house us at hotels with the cheapest deals. Therefore, cheap hotels are my norm).
There is sashimi and lamb- my favourite food- and smoked every kind of meat, not to mention crab on ice. The fried rice is packed with expensive ingredients- overflowing with salmon. And the lamb- did I mention the lamb?- it melts in your mouth.
Then there’s a chocolate fountain for marshmallows and fruits. The dessert spread? OMG.
If Disneyland is a glimpse of heaven on Earth, this is heaven’s cafeteria.
Even after you leave Disneyland and her surroundings, the magic never dies, for you keep a fist full of magic dust in your heart, ready to sprinkle at a moment’s notice.
TOUR: Victoria Harbour and Ngong Ping 360
Beyond the magical glitter of Disneyland, Hong Kong has much to offer. We board a cable car headed for Ngong Ping, a plot of highland on Lantau Island. The cable car station is a short walk from Tung Chung MTR station, and thank goodness we bought our tickets ahead of time, because the line at the ticket counter was crazy long.
The ride up took about 25 minutes. We board the cable call with anticipation, intrigued by the view at every corner- the city shrinking before our eyes, the airport, lush plots of green hills. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long. Soon, we are swallowed by mist.
We arrive at Ngong Ping village. Here, there are temples, souvenir shops, some eateries, a Starbucks (death to capitalism), on top of countless tourist gimmicks. The main attraction is the 112 feet tall Tian Tan Buddha.
Click, click, click, goes the our camera shutters.
Glup, glup, glup, goes the commercialised coffee down our throats.
Ahhh.. we inhale. And exhale.
The ride up was fun, but there really isn’t much entertainment up here. So after a short stroll through the tourist-fied village, we leave.
If a night view is what you crave, Victoria Harbour is the answer to your prayers.
From Tsim Sha Shui MTR station, we take a short stroll to Victoria Harbour. Did I mention that I love Christmas? There are random Christmas decorations everywhere, my favourite one stretches the entire height and width of a high rise office building.
There is something just so settling and profound about city lights. They feel like a promise of infinite adventures, of infinite possibilities. Like a vow of dreams come true.
And the view from Victoria Harbour will thrust even the grouchiest person into sanguine mode. A canal separates the landform where we sit from the an ocean of city buildings of varying heights. Cruise ships with tourists of all skin colours sail by. Colourful lights gleam the night sky, its reflections palpable on the water surface.
I fell in love with the lights. I’ve raved endlessly on this blog about the many things that pull my heart strings, that make me fall in love with life over and over again. And this day, sitting by the docks, one arm around my husband, eyes gazing the city lights ahead, I fell in love with life, again.