Thanks for sticking with me so far! We now enter 5 ½ days straight of exotic Disney Parks, which was the main point of this trip.
Leaving Ocean Park around 2, I head straight back to Ibis Styles Hong Kong. Overall for this trip I’ll stay at 6 different hotels, most for only 2 days each, so there are plenty of midday transfers. Partly for this reason I’ve packed very light, with a single carry-on which is easy to drag through airports and metros and unfamiliar bustling sidewalks.
This is what I’m doing now, following checkout, schlepping through Hong Kong’s fabulous MTR to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. This is easy, and takes under 30 minutes. The airport line from Central has a stop on Lantau Island for the dedicated Disneyland line.
Disney certainly makes your arrival feel special, in every resort I’ve seen so far. The outdoor transfer platform for HKDL is just a little better manicured and maintained than Hong Kong’s other stations…and Hong Kong is clean already! The train itself has Mickey windows and Mickey handles, plus faux-bronze character Mickey statues in glass Mickey displays between cars. The announcement voice, though in Cantonese, is Mickey’s. Already you’re entering another world, and it certainly feels peculiar between the Disney familiarity and the foreign exoticism.
It’s well past 3 once the train arrives at the Disneyland station, and wall-to-wall guests exit to begin their day touring the park. (I won’t enter the park ‘til tomorrow.) I’ve already completed a theme park for the day! Compared to Ocean Park’s morning guests, there are more families here, more young children. To be expected for Disneyland.
The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is beautifully located on the southern coast of Lantau Island, on reclaimed land at the foot of a picturesque mountain range. Leafy jungle foliage perpetually threatens to overtake the resort’s well-maintained roadways. Gardeners are a constant sight, always trimming back tenacious tropical vines. The infrastructure on its own reminds me of Orange County CA’s affluent gated communities, complete with decorative fountains and “Mictorian” fencing. It’s that jungle flora (and humidity) which sets this resort apart.
While most train guests proceed under a gateway towards the park, I follow different signage towards the hotel buses. Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is compact, with the theme park sitting across from a park-sized expansion pad. To their east is the parking complex, and to their west are the hotels. It’s all roughly the size of Disneyland Resort, only with lush verdant overgrowth instead of Anaheim’s chintzy chain motels.
Unsurprisingly, the resort is easy to use. Whenever needed, there’s a sign in English and Cantonese. The free resort buses arrive every 5 minutes and follow a single simple circuit between the park and all three hotels. It’s super compact and convenient!
Do note this is my first time actually staying onsite at a Disney resort. I live 40 minutes from the original Disneyland. Most visits are habitual and casual. Disney World fans are constantly talking about hotels, extended stays, things like dining points and the DVC which are totally alien concepts to me. This will be my introduction to a new style of Disney vacation.
Lodging is at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel. I’m unfamiliar with the Deluxe-etc. terminology Disney uses, but it’s the mid-tier hotel. The high-end hotel is the “Mictorian” Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel (patterned after the Grand Floridian), where I’ll be dining this evening. The lower-tier hotel located between the others is Disney Explorers Lodge. This lodge I didn’t explore, but it seems to be a continuation of the Adventureland style; I suspect Animal Kingdom has something similar.
I’ve picked the Hollywood Hotel mostly for a pricing deal. I surely didn’t fly from Los Angeles for Hong Kong’s faux-Hollywood theming…that just isn’t exotic. The hotel’s look, though, is really quite pleasant, all streamlined Art Deco modern curves which stand apart from the encroaching jungle. This particular architectural minimalism is very comforting for me, so the hotel felt like home in a surprising and relaxing sort of way.
Silly Hollywood décor continues throughout the common areas. There are statues of Mickey and pals in the style of Golden Age Hollywood celebrities. There’s a mural of assorted Hollywood landmarks behind the check-in counter. Busboys are dressed as non-spooky Tower of Terror bellhops. Bilingual mouse voices in the elevator announce your floor.
I gather the Mickey overlay is common to all Disney hotels. It definitely brands things. It’s that “Disney Bubble” effect which, well…We all value Disney parks for different reasons. I’m in love with the artistry of Imagineering. You could replace Mickey with Minions as long as the same quality shines through. Other guests have deep emotional connections with the Disney characters, so no doubt Disney’s hotels are extra meaningful for them.
I am a fan of a well-run hotel, however, and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel surely is that! Check-in was painless. The staff’s English was really good – better than at the Tokyo Disney Resort, frankly. This made my series of complex questions – regarding pre-purchased park tickets, hotel guest perks, dining, laundry – not so complex.
In fact, check-in quickly transitioned from formal to conversational. Out of politeness or actual interest, the concierge asked about my travel plans (Californians aren’t a common sight at HKDL). I let slip that I’d just left Ocean Park, and her face just lit up with genuine passion. She loves Ocean Park, which belongs to Hong Kong in a way this Disneyland never can. Disney runs a tighter ship than Ocean Park (she was a big part of that!), but in her eyes I saw that same warm locals’ pride in Ocean Park which I feel for the original Disneyland and its rustic neighbor Knott’s Berry Farm.
My room was nice. Hotel rooms aren’t something I can speak too eloquently on; I slept in it. A post-visit survey (which I took in a Tokyo pub) suggested that there was a Halloween overlay in the hotel room, which frankly I never noticed. There was AC, wifi, a comfy bed, and a functional restroom with easy-to-flush toilet, so my needs were met.
The view was unexpectedly nice – there are no bad views in HKDL, probably the most naturally beautiful Disney resort. The window overlooked Disneyland, not that I could pick out much more than the tallest castle spires. Peering elsewhere, the Disneyland Hotel façade frames a panorama of the Hong Kong skyline behind it. That’s a neat view! Rooms facing away from the park view the South China Sea – all three hotels are situated on the coast. Just north of Hollywood Hotel are rocky, stream-filled mountains. (With more time, I’d’ve loved hiking those mountains, which reminded me so much of my local trails in the Angeles National Forest.)
Really, overall Hong Kong is just a pretty place.
That humidity, though! (I’m a broken record on this topic.) With all the raining and sweating, somehow even the clothes I haven’t worn yet have gotten wet. I’m running through my outfits thrice as fast as I’d planned. Pre-trip research suggested that Tokyo’s Hotel Miracosta has no laundry service (a strange oversight for a 5-star hotel, one I never verified). Instead I just pulled the emergency cord and had Hollywood Hotel clean my filthy, filthy clothes. Not much to say about that. It was handled efficiently while I was out touring. Returning after a day of fun, finding my apparel neatly pressed on hangers, that’s a great luxury. Just another minor thing which reflects glowingly on this hotel, which was a true joy to visit.
While at the front desk I’d made dinner reservations that night for Crystal Lotus in the Disneyland Hotel. That was still hours away by the time I’d recovered in my hotel room. Wanderlust kicking in, I headed out to explore the resort.
I took the resort bus back over to the theme park, familiarizing myself. Dressed in my best “jungle formal” outfit (a classy Hawaiian shirt), I slowly, casually ambled towards the park entrance. Not to see the park yet, but to take in the scenic esplanade. I lingered at the resort’s iconic fountain, which depicts the Fab Five in watercraft surrounding a grinning cartoon whale. Mickey is riding a surfboard atop the waterspout.
The nature walk from here back to the hotels was exceedingly tranquil, just me and the jungle vines. In Hong Kong’s summer humidity, no one walks unnecessarily, and I kept a very deliberate pace to keep my pores from opening up again. Success!
Because I was trying to minimize distances, I didn’t walk out onto the resort’s ocean pier. From what I can tell, this dock is meant to receive the Disney Cruise Line…How fun would that cruise be?! Once this resort expands into its second gate pad, I’d imagine Imagineering will be able to do some really unique things with this dock area!
The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, with its jungle setting, feels like a British adventurers’ outpost on the edge of the wilderness. With one wing under renovation, covered in the region’s distinctive bamboo scaffolding, this impression is driven home.
The hotel’s interior is posh…too posh! Honestly, this sort of Victorian ambiance feels a little stuffy and starched to me. (The Victorian-style Tokyo Disneyland Hotel has a similar feel.) Here, Hong Kong’s British past shines through. To kill time until dinner, and quench an undying thirst, I’d intended to grab a beer in the hotel’s lounge, which I was sure it would have! (As a local, that’s the primary function of DCA’s Grand Californian.) Nope, it has a tea room! While I did manage a seat and a pint, it seemed all sorts of awkward when everyone else was enjoying Earl Grey tea with bitesize cucumber sandwiches.
Eventually, the time came for my Crystal Lotus seating. This is a fancy tablecloth Chinese restaurant, with a stuffiness in keeping with the hotel. Honestly, I enjoyed the casual, hair-down ambiance of the Hollywood Hotel a lot more, and I’m glad that’s where I was staying. My meal – Cantonese barbecued pork as recommended by the waiter – was tasty enough, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself. Kinda boring and expensive, the antithesis of Hong Kong street cuisine.
In retrospect, the most disappointing meals trip-wide were all fine-dining. This surprises me, because normally I like fine-dining. Even in theme parks. DCA’s Carthay Circle is my favorite park restaurant! Maybe it was the trip’s tenor. The food in Hong Kong and Japan was typically amazing, and consistently I found the fine-dining meals the least adventurous. Certainly compared to the miracle of Hong Kong street food, Crystal Lotus was rather staid. Its reviews are generally excellent, too, so consider my opinion the anomaly here.
Anyway…The sun set while my back was turned. In the sweltering jungle nighttime, bugs chirruping away, I rode the bus back “home.” In the dark, Hollywood Hotel’s blue neon Mickey windows take on an eerie glow. My return is carefully timed to watch the park’s fireworks display from the hotel room. (Again, kudos to the Hollywood Hotel staff for suggesting this!) There’s a TV station which plays the show’s audio, which I assume is common in Disney hotels.
Fireworks explode, seen through water-condensed windows (great evidence of the region’s humidity). From the hotel perspective there’s plenty I missed, like the projections on the Castle. I catch glimpses of incredible fireballs rising from the park’s hub. Still, for a compromised fireworks view it remains magical – and there it is, that most common Disney adjective! For assorted reasons I’ll make no efforts the following day to see these fireworks from within the park, but still I’m satisfied.
I don’t turn in immediately afterwards. I study the park map for a while, and otherwise get my bearings. Tonight has just been an appetizer for tomorrow…
Up next: Day 5 – Hong Kong Disneyland!!Tweet
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