Click here for Part 1 of our honeymoon: New York City: Where Romantics and Lunatics are Split Hairs.
After New York, Broady and I arrived in Orlando where two things were inherently obvious. One, we’ve stumbled into love bug mating season. Armed with with long flimsy legs and a chocolate-coloured thorax, those little buggers are ON FIRE. I mean, they do it EVERYWHERE. By the water cooler, on Disney World rides, mid flight, on our bed…
Brrrr… get a room! Just not our room.
Just. Not. Our. Bed.
Two, they don’t call Florida the “Sunshine State” for nothing. While a warm day in New York equals hoodie weather, Orlando in central Florida is redolent of warm and humid Malaysia.
If Florida is the “Sunshine State”, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. And you know what they say? Couples who coaster together, grow closer together. That in mind, there is no better place to consummate a love than the theme park capital of the world.
We eventually park-hopped all four Disney World theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot Centre, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios plus Universal Studios Florida and her sister park, Universal’s Island of Adventure.
Then, we drove an hour out to Cape Kennedy for the Kennedy Space Centre.
But I’m jumping the gun here.
Instead, let’s start at the very beginning, at Orlando International Airport, where we hopped on Disney’s Magical Express (quote: “complimentary motorcoach transportation between Orlando International Airport and select Walt Disney World Resort hotels”). First stop, Disney World, or some say, The Happiest Place on Earth.
DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION RESORT
There are 5 categories of Disney World lodging. They are- in decreasing order of cost- Deluxe Villas, Deluxe Resort Hotels, Moderate Resort Hotels, Value Resort Hotels, and Campgrounds.
Although we pretend to be ritzy haves, we are actually people on a budget. That solemn awareness in mind, we resorted to Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (a value resort hotel a.k.a. poor people accommodation).
Yet, Disney always delivers. The Little Mermaid Standard Room we booked was really roomy. Padded with a cushy seashore carpet and blue walls, two comfy queen size beds offer coveted proximity to the handsome Prince Eric steering a boat.
But the motif transcends the bedroom. The entire block and its surrounding areas are decorated to The Little Mermaid theme. This includes, but not limited to, an airforce blue statue of Prince Eric- perfect hair, chiseled features and all.
I wonder how many people know there is definite proof Eric is gay.
DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM PARK
We start our park hopping adventure at The Most Magical Place on Earth- Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park.
We quickly discovered that Magic Kingdom is practically a photocopied version of Tokyo and Hong Kong Disneyland. Or maybe Tokyo and Hong Kong are photocopies of Magic Kingdom, since Magic Kingdom predates the former two (opened in 1971).
That this park has been around since the 70’s is telling. Many props appear dated. But dated doesn’t mean shoddy. Once again, Disney delivers.
As expected, Disney rides are tame and family-friendly (translation: kids-oriented). However, the magic here is something I just cannot put my finger on. From Cinderella’s majestic castle to the ubiquitous Mickey ears, I am in love. This love is evident by the chill tickling down my spine.
That chill… I cannot put my finger on either…
I recently read that people frequently scatter cremated ashes in the Magic Kingdom.
As is customary, I will review a ride per park. The grading is simple, 1: could-use-alot-of-work; to 10: hold-my-ego-I-need-to-scream.
Initial impression: 4
G force sensation: 4
Duration of ride: 6
Pee-in-pants factor: 4
Average score: 5
DISNEY’S EPCOT CENTRE
Day 2, we ventured to the greatly exalted Epcot Centre. Exalted, that is, within the Lee family. My dad fell in love with this park in the 90s. And if you know my dad, you’ll see he’s determined everybody fall in love with whatever he’s in love with.
And I can totally understand the appeal… or maybe I’m amused by the same things as the man who raised me.
We kicked off the day with a ride through Spaceship Earth– an educational ride that took us through the passage of time. We traveled from the stone age, the dawn of mankind, witnessed scruffy cavemen, then through the renaissance, into the age of information, and arrived in the 21st century. We have another renaissance on the horizon. Are we ready? Basically, it’s like riding through a museum. No wonder my dad loved it (he’s a museum buff).
I have a friend who did all four Disney World parks in a day. Crazy fella, that guy. Obviously he didn’t finish everything- we barely managed at one park a day- but his strategy is interesting.
He reasoned that Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are vastly similar to Disney parks all over the world, and Animal Kingdom is akin to a zoo. Those three are routine. On the other hand, Epcot Centre is unique. The attractions here are exclusive. Therefore, he focused most of his time and energy here.
This is so true. Epcot Centre is unlike any other Disney park. It’s not just feel good, with fairies and true love and believe-in-yourself! It is *nerd mode on* educational.
Speaking of the ethos of learning, there is a lake.
And around this lake, are a series of buildings, each block designed to represent a different country. A stroll around the lake will take you around the world.
So, we had lunch in Japan, dinner in China, a beer in UK. We watched street performers in Morocco, posed with the vikings in Norway, and window shopped in Morocco.
We traveled the world in less than 80 days.
United States of America
Thrill rides are not Disney’s strength. But there are exceptions. Mission: SPACE, for example, is out of this world (pun!).
After a briefing by Jessica Pearson from suits (she apparently moonlights as NASA’s mission director), we are led into a room full of simulators. Here. we strap in and ready for a journey to Mars.
3…2…1… BLAST OFF.
Suddenly, it’s a foggy series of insane Gs and non-stop action. A scream involuntarily escape my lips- it’s that good. After a few minutes of intensity, we stop, almost abruptly.
The screen ahead is beautiful. My home, planet Earth, is staring back at me.
Okay, let’s rate this ride. The rating system is simple: 1 is a snooze, 10 is an adrenaline junkie’s dream.
Initial impression: 9
G force sensation: 10
Duration of ride: 9
Pee-in-pants factor: 9
Average score: 7.8
Verdict: The “turns” shammed the average score. Turns really shouldn’t matter on this ride (I included it only because it’s part of my usual template). We really don’t want to turn and spin all our way to Mars.
J’onn J’onzz won’t appreciate it.
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM PARK
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba… Sithi uhm ingonyama… (Lion King’s Circle of Life opening stanza.)
Animal Kingdom is basically a zoo with roller coasters. This is awesome, because zoo means animal smells, and animal smells mean I can fart freely.
An indispensable attraction of Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari. Guests pile into an open-sided truck that travels into the open savannahs of “East Africa”. Here, we observe the local ecosystem.
Our safari guide says: “I really hope the bridge ahead is still intact. I’m not too sure that it is, though… there was an elephant stampede last night…”
We hold our breath as the truck eases onto the bridge…
And the bridge doesn’t break!
It’s a miracle!
P.S. It’s a miracle because, well, you should’ve seen my lunch.
And here we go again, ready to rate a ride. 1 for bluek, 10 for OMG. Let’s do this!
Initial impression: 7
G force sensation: 6
Duration of ride: 7
Pee-in-pants factor: 7
Average score: 6.6
Verdict: Hmm… not bad for a Disney ride.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIO
In Hollywood Studios, we had the honour of posing for pictures with BB-8 and Chewbacca. We didn’t meet Kylo Ren though, because rumour has it that he keeps his shirt on this time.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
*Drumroll* It’s time to rate a ride!
Initial impression: 6
G force sensation: 7
Duration of ride: 6
Pee-in-pants factor: 7
Average score: 6.8
Verdict: This one blew my mind. But perhaps that has more to do with reduced expectations leading to “relative gratification”.
Every multibillion-dollar franchise needs a personalised mall. For Disney World, that’s Disney Springs. Like any other mall in this universe, the mall is packed with eateries and retail shops. We see various conduits of capitalism around every corner.
But nothing impressed me as much as the amphicar on display. Basically, an amphicar is a car that also functions as a boat; a car-boat hybrid. The bumper of the automobile also behave like floats, whereas the steering wheel manoeuvres the vehicle both on ground and water.
Ahoy! The driver/boat captain adjust his peak cap and waves to the watching audience, where I’m in the front row with my mouth agape. He then slams on the accelerator and speeds straight into the waiting lake.
Swoosh! And she transforms! From car to boat. From land mobile to water craft.
Basically, it’s a real life Bond car. A Wet Nellie that doesn’t submerge.
“Can you swim?”
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA AND ISLAND OF ADVENTURE
Our park hopping escapade continues in Universal Studios Florida. Universal Studios Florida is a lot like Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Japan, except with more white people.
But I won’t bore you with stale descriptions. Instead, let’s talk about the rides.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
On this ride, you get to pick the music. No shit. The lap bar has a built in Audio Control Panel. Scroll through the options for your musical pleasure.
In other words, you don’t just plunge and loop on this ride. No, you plunge and loop while listening to the tunes of your choice. Rock on!
All right, rapid fire. As always, 1 is mild, 10 is take-my-money.
Initial impression: 8
G force sensation: 7
Duration of ride: 7
Pee-in-pants factor: 7
Average score: 7.1
Verdict: “Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (very old German man)
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Hulk Coaster smashes through walls of composure- my composure.
Hulk will light your adrenaline fuse.
Initial impression: 8
G force sensation: 8
Duration of ride: 7
Pee-in-pants factor: 7
Average score: 7.6
Verdict: We rode this ride 3 times in a row. Serious shit.
Behold: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
We arrived at a purple triple decker bus.
The wind is gently whooshing around us, tickling our earlobes, caressing our nose hair. And then I hear it. Buried in the murmurs of the air is a whisper.
“How come the muggles don’t hear the bus?”
“Them! Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”
We walked silently past the hush voices and notice a wall. What appears to be a wall. Upon careful observation, we realised that people are walking… through the wall!
Sheep that we are, we trace their steps. We march deliberately towards the wall. We stride into the wall, through the wall, and arrive at…
A magical place.
What was funky and modish a minute ago has faded. In its place is enchanting and bewitching. A cool mystery has settled over the place. People stroll around dressed in black robes. There are curious shops everywhere, selling wands and quidditch gear and even a joke shop named Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
A group of robed individuals are telling a story called The Tale of the Three Brothers. “There were once three brothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight…“
We’ve stepped into Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley was a treat, but our train’s about to depart from platform 9 3/4 of King’s Cross Station. The Hogwarts Express waits for nobody, and those cauldron cakes from the trolley witch‘s stash ain’t gonna eat themselves.
We board the train in the nick of time. Choo-choo! The magical steam train pulls out of the station. Soon, we we are speeding past city buildings. Upbeat music plays. We’re heading for Hogwarts. The mood is light. This is so exciting!
Concrete gradually part ways for greenery. We’re riding through the countryside. The atmosphere is calming. Our souls are soothed.
But the cherry sunlight slowly dims into nightfall. In the distance, I spot a couple of black smoky figures, but that’s just my imagination. But then those silhouettes draw closer and closer, casting a dark shadow over our cabin.
Suddenly, we hear a pitchy female voice shout: “dementors!”
Dementors? Those demonic creatures that will literally suck your soul? Word is, a dementor’s kiss is a fate worst than death.
An eerie presence fills the space. A diabolic hand imprints on the translucent glass of our cabin door… and a ghostly shape appears alongside the hand. The silhouette enlarge as it nears our door. It’s about to push the door open.
Just then, an urgent “expecto patronum!” rings through the train, followed but a shot of bright light. The dementor stumbles backwards and disappears, and the silhouette of a young boy comes into sight.
“Are you okay, Harry?” says the pitchy female voice.
Who is this Harry? He just saved our lives.
We escaped the dementor’s kiss. Truth be told, I rather kiss non-spectres. I also prefer not to have my soul sucked dry during the kiss.
That close call in our pockets, we arrived at Hogsmeade Station. While Diagon Alley was rustic, Hogsmeade is quaint. Snow top roofs welcome us with a polite hello.
I used to remark that every school has a default lepak spot, usually somewhere easily accessible. We Taman SEA kids have Amcorp Mall and “backfield”. BU 4 has One Utama. DJ has Atria. Well, Hogwarts have Hogsmeade.
Guess that’s where I’ll be hanging during weekends after a long school week…
Okay, cat’s out of the bag; I’m here to enrol in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
See you during the term break!
BYE BYE, THEME PARKS. HELLO, KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE!
Our senses are tantalised. Before us is an assortment of rockets. From our vantage point, Gemini-Titan II and Atlas-Agena frame a horizontal Saturn 1B. Sandwiched in between the two giants is Juno II.
We’re at the Rocket Garden of the Kennedy Space Centre, and I’m exhilarated. This place is the holy grail of my bucket list.
Before the day is over, we would’ve seen the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), where space vehicles are assembled. We would’ve basked in the glory of Launchpad 39A, the site where numerous moon missions and space shuttles were launched. Also, we would’ve posed with a Saturn V rocket.
But most important of all, we’ll salivate over a space shuttle (as per spoilers from previous post). And dang, she’s beautiful.
Later in the day…
We’re in a room double the size of my Form 5 classroom. There are screens everywhere- in front, above, beside us.
The screens flick to life. Swiftly, we’re transported to launchpad 39A, where our launch is about to take place. Fume clouds spread across the screen and a streak of fire blast vertically from the rocket. And then she’s fighting gravity, the rocket is. Strapped to her back is a space shuttle.
Gravity loses. Rocket and space shuttle wins. They’re shooting into the blue yonder. So majestic. Yet so poised.
Soon, we’re outside Earth’s atmosphere. The blue skies make way for the cold dark vacuum of space. Gravity no longer has a hold on us. A clipboard floats around the cockpit. The instrument panels are brightly lit, scintillating every pushbutton, every toggle switch.
We’re floating. We’re weightless. We’re levitating around the cockpit. The further we fly, the clearer the view of home. With her dark blue ocean and chunks of continents, planet Earth is beautiful.
We attempt a reentry. The moment is tensed. Performance must be precise. Too small an angle, and we bounce off the atmosphere; too big an angle and we’re burnt to crisp. But the intensity of the situation does not distract us from the spectacular light show outside the space shuttle. The friction between vessel and air renders us a burning ball of plasma.
But soon the luminosity fades. Instead, we’re descending into cerulean vastness. Reentry is a success. We’re back in Earth’s atmosphere!
We glide purposefully. The undercarriage drops, and we touch down on the runway with a gentle squeak.
Then, almost abruptly, the screen before us thins. The process is steady, yet surprising. A silhouette gradually materialise. We can see through the screen, see the mystery behind.
That’s when I see her. That’s when I…
I. LOSE. MY. SHIT.
It is Her. It is space shuttle Atlantis.
It is THE space shuttle Atlantis.
Oh, if space shuttles could talk. She’ll talk of her previously damaged heat shield. She’ll talk of the secret military missions she’s flown. She’ll talk of her final mission- the delivery of Rassvet (MRM-1) to the ISS.
But she doesn’t talk. So I can only imagine. Imagine the adventures she’s had. The sights she’s seen- the cosmos, the stars, the universe.
And it’s beautiful.
Our time in Orlando flew by quickly.
Not long after, we find ourselves in a Boeing 777, climbing out of Orlando, heading for the third leg of our honeymoon. My heart is heavy. I don’t really wanna leave, but a girls’ gotta do what she’s gotta do.
As we ascend, I catch sight of a familiar sight. On the ground below, smaller than my thumb, is a box-like feature: the VAB.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Next: Dubai, the dessert metropolitan. To be continued…