Summer Trip to Hong Kong and Disneyland!

This week we took a trip to Hong Kong for Zoe’s first trip to the island and everyone’s first trip to HK Disneyland! There were ups and downs, rain and shine, but overall we had a good time.

Day 1 – Trains, Subways, Bureaucracy, and Typhoons

The day started out pretty good. We got to the south train station by about 8 am and discovered mushroom soup and spaghetti in bread bowls at Rosa Cake and Cafe! I kid you not! And it was pretty good actually. So if anyone is headed to the South train station any time soon, definitely give one of them a try.

This was Zoe’s first trip on a fast train or a subway, so that was fun for her. Of course, three-hour train ride gets old after a bit, and she was glad to have Seth’s Kindle to play with…as was the kid sitting behind her.

Then we got to the China exit point. The night before, a small part of me wondered, “what if they don’t let us take Zoe out of the country because she is a minor?” But I brushed it off and just hoped for the best. But sure enough, we got stopped. Seth at least had the foresight to send her through first just in case anything went wrong so we wouldn’t be separated. They wouldn’t let Zoe exit China because of the type of HK visa they issued her back home. I don’t know the exact details or reason, but because she was a minor, she had to be in a “group.” Why they didn’t tell us this when she got her visa or simply included it in her visa processing is beyond me. But, thankfully, they just happened to have a booth right there at the check point. And for only 160 RMB they will gladly put you into this all-important group even if you are just one person. Thankfully, it didn’t take long and after about 20 minutes we were back on our way.

We got to HK and it was raining pretty hard. We expected that, though. We had been watching the weather forecasts for a few days and knew it would rain off and on all week. But that is typical for tropical areas (much like Orlando) in that every day you get some rain, some sun, and whole lot of heat and humidity. But it was raining hard! We had to stop at one point to venture out and find a bank for Zoe to exchange some money and when we got back I joked to Seth that it “was like a hurricane out there!” I was only being hyperbolic, though, as it was just windy and rainy and I’d been through worse before. Or so I thought…

We got to the hotel and dropped off our things, waited for the rains to die down and then headed out for some shopping and dinner. My epic plan (as always when we go to HK) was to hit up Page One Books in Times Square for a People Magazine to read during a bubble bath later that night and find Taco Loco for a real Mexican dinner! Times Square was open and hosting an art exhibit by Mike Stilkey who uses books instead of paper to paint on. That was interesting.

When we arrived at Times Square, Page One was closed! The door said they were open until 10 pm and it was only about 6:00. There was an information booth though and we asked the lady what was wrong with the bookstore and she said “oh, they closed early because of the typhoon.” We all looks at each other: “Oh, they are having a typhoon.” Still, we didn’t think it was that big of a deal and decided to still try and find the Mexican place. It ended up being a group effort to find it. Seth had us heading in the right way, but then his phone (and our Map/GPS died). Then my phone ran out of minutes. But Seth got us going the right way and Zoe suggested we ask directions from a group of foreigners we saw at an Irish pub; so Seth did which got us closer to the right way. Then I finally spotted it up on a hill. We were all absolutely drenched by the time we got there, but it was worth it! It was not the best Mexican food on the planet, but it was still so good when you haven’t had any for a really, really long time. It was definitely the best margarita I have had in China. We ate and talked to the waitress about the storm and she told us that it was a category 8 storm and it was supposed to officially hit the island at 8:00; pretty much the same time we got to the restaurant. We decided to just head back to the hotel, call it a night, and hope the storm would clear out over night so we could still go to Disneyland.
We have since found out that at one point the typhoon was a category 10 storm (the highest rating possible) and about 100 people were hospitalized due to injuries from the storm. We definitely should not have been out in it, but we seriously didn’t know how bad it was.
Day 2 – Disneyland, Pin Trading, and Typhoons
By the next morning, the typhoon was a still a category 8. Disney’s official policy is to close the park for a cat 8 or above. But according to the Hong Kong weather center, they were going to downgrade the storm to a level 3 by 10 am. So around 9 we called park information and they confirmed that they would be opening the park by 1 pm. Everything outdoors would be closed, no parade or fireworks show, but they would be open and that was good enough for us! Even in Orlando, as season pass-holders, we can easily spend a whole day in a park doing nothing but pin trading! Seth and I fell in love with pin trading int he summer of 2010 just before we left for China and we have hundreds of pins. Zoe is a natural pin-trader and it was funny watching her race to get to park employees before Seth so she could get the super-awesome pins. And they did have great pins. They don’t have many people come through to trade pins (we only saw two other girls with pin collections out of the two days we were there), so we had our pick of pins and made some cool finds.

But we did more than that. The shows and indoor rides were open, so we started with It’s a Small World (one of my favorite rides), did Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers, and caught all the shows: the Golden Mickey’s, Festival of the Lion King, and Philharmagic. It rained off and on all day, but when it would start we would go do something inside and after a few minutes, it would stop again. We finished the evening with a trip to the art studio to learn to draw Winnie the Pooh…

…but we ended up finding something even cooler – the zoetrope!

Basically, a zoetrope is a spinning disc that uses light to simulate animation. We have probably all seen Victorian models of these which used slits to allow light into a cylinder at the right time to trick the eye (if you click the above link, you will see what I mean). This modern version at Disneyland uses strobe lights instead. Sorry for the quality of the video; a camera can’t catch the effect as quickly as the human eye. But it will still show you what happens. If you ever go to Hong Kong Disneyland, be sure to check it out. It is far more amazing in person (my jaw dropped).

Day 3 – Disneyland, Hot Dogs, and Rain

Day three started out pretty good. It wasn’t raining so we got to the park just as main street was opening but the rest of the park wasn’t and got some pin-trading and shopping out of the way (10% off before 11:30!). Then we hit the newest area, Grizzly Gulch, for the new roller coaster. I really enjoyed the Grizzly Gulch area; it reminded me of Silver Dollar City. The roller coaster is a lot like Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom since it goes backwards at one point.

Then we headed off to Toy Story land since most of those rides are outdoors too. These are mainly carnival style rides for the younglings, but it has it’s charm (like pizza cones! Sad I didn’t get a picture of them). Then it started to rain, so we decided to hit up all the characters for picture moments.

 But unlike the day before, the rain didn’t stop. It just kept coming. By about 2:00, we were out of indoor things to do and decided to make our way out. We did more shopping and pin trading and finally took one last subway back to the city. Good-bye Disneyland…for now. They are currently working on a new Mystic Point expansion due to open next year. We will have to go back and check that out at some point.

That evening, Zoe and I went to Hollywood Road to try and do some antiquing. I bought an antique puppet, but that was all because most of the stalls were closed because of the rain. Seth went to a fame store in Mong Kok to get some games he can’t get here in Mainland. We all finally made it to Page One to get some books and magazines. Then Zoe and I went to Temple Street night market and got some pretty Cheongsam dresses. We will go get our pictures taken in them before she goes back to school.

Overall, it was a good trip. It could have been better if not for the hurricane, but we all still had fun. You can see all of the pics from the trip here.