Geraldine Cardozo has the buzz on Hong Kong! From toy filled markets to Disneyland’s new Toy Story Land, Hong Kong is happening for kids.
With two fun-loving boys, aged four and six, it’s a given that as a family we’ve watched almost every animated movie made in the last two decades. And without a doubt Disney Pixar’s classic Toy Story is the perennial favourite in our house. So imagine the look on my eldest son Xavier’s face when I tell him we were off to meet Buzz, Woody and the gang at the brand new Toy Story Land in Hong Kong Disneyland. Secretly, Mummy is just as excited...
Xavier is kept well entertained on the afternoon Virgin Atlantic flight from Sydney with videos on demand and a great kids’ backpack filled with goodies. Arriving well after bedtime, the painless 15-minute trip from the airport to Disney’s Art Deco-style Hollywood Hotel (one of two Disney-themed hotels in Hong Kong Disneyland Resort) has us both tucked up in our king size beds before midnight.
A 6am wake-up call from Mickey Mouse (who can be cranky when awoken by that cheery voice) sees us ready for breakfast at the neighbouring Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel - a luxurious Victorian-style hotel with a Mickey Mouse inspired maze. As we devour our way through the international buffet (there’s everything from cute animal-shaped dim sum to Mickey waffles with chocolate sauce), who should drop in but Goofy, Minnie and the main mouse himself.
The great thing about staying at either of the Disneyland Resort hotels, is that getting to the park is a breeze. We hop on a free shuttle and within minutes are racing to find Buzz, Woody and the rest of the Toy Story cast.
“Andy’s backyard is this way,” says Xavier, pointing to a giant sign, as we look up to see a giant six-meter high Woody. “Is it just me, or have we all shrunk?” I murmur as I notice we’re surrounded by giant grass and huge toy blocks spelling out the entrance to Toy Story Land. “Attention!” booms a stern voice behind me. We turn to see three life-size toy soldiers - green from head to boot - marching, as we file behind.
I don’t know where to look first in this colourful oversized world. While I marvel at the attention to detail - from Andy’s giant footprints and the immense alphabet puzzle to the toilet building made out of bright building blocks - Xavier spots the Slinky Dog Spin and within minutes we’re rolling along in this giant springy dachshund ride. Next stop is the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop - our mission: to join Andy’s troops for a 25-metre high flying adventure. As Sarge yells “Go!” we are quite literally dropped, but luckily the landing is smooth (don’t close your eyes or you’ll miss the view from the top). We refuel at Jessie’s Snack Roundup before braving the biggest ride here - RC Racer, where we sit in Andy’s remote-controlled car as it hurtles along a 27-metre high U-shaped rollercoaster. It’s not called a thrill ride for nothing.
While Xavier could live in this parallel universe for the rest of his life, I suggest we explore some of the park’s more sedate activities (at least while my lunch settles). With a two-day pass we have plenty of time to enjoy all the park has to offer, from the slick Broadway-style shows, heading into the unknown in the surprisingly-entertaining Jungle River Cruise (be prepared to get wet) and more thrills and spills on Space Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride in Tomorrowland.
As the evening draws near on day one, we get swept along with the excitement of the Flight of Fantasy Parade before watching Tinkerbell light up the Sleeping Beauty castle to mark the start of the Disney in the Stars Fireworks. This magical experience is sure to touch the inner child in everyone – all except my exhausted boy who falls asleep in my arms at the explosive finale!
With such an entertaining introduction to Hong Kong, the Disney experience will be a hard act to follow, but my refreshed charge is thrilled with the promise of seeing real live pandas as we relocate from the cosseted safety of Disney to the real world of downtown Hong Kong and our family suite at the Harbour Plaza Metropolis.
Ocean Park is one of the largest aquariums and marine theme parks in Asia, and home to four giant pandas. It also boasts the first ‘aquatic dining experience’ at Neptune’s Restaurant (with unobstructed views of a 13-metre wide glass-walled aquarium) where we dine on a sumptuous seafood buffet as hammerheads and other sharks look on hungrily. While the pandas are undeniably cute, and riding the rapids is a riot, it’s the Grand Aquarium and its 400 species of sea creatures that captures Xavier’s sense of imagination. Luckily for me, he’s too little for the park’s new Thrill Mountain ride (RC Racer was thrill enough for one holiday).
Our last day is reserved for sightseeing and a spot of shopping, so after catching the iconic Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island, we head to The Peak, with amazing views of the city and harbour. Getting up to the top by the Peak Tram is a remarkable trip and transport-buff Xavier relishes riding this almost vertical bus! We hold on tight as the tram climbs 373 metres along a super-steep track.
We then head to the south-side of the island, past the brilliantly-named Repulse Bay(with a lovely sandy beach, if you fancy a splash and escape from city life) and onto the laneway stores of Stanley Market (one of Hong Kong’s many colourful markets) for some ridiculously cheap toys - think everything from Transformers and Ben 10 to remote control helicopters - and a new suitcase in which to squeeze them and our Toy Story Land stowaways - Buzz, Woody, Rex and Slinky.
After the built-up hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s CBD, the largely ex-pat populated beachside suburb of Stanley, with a Mediterranean-feel promenade, English pub and restored colonial Murray House which is home to restaurants and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum is also a lovely relaxed spot to wind down and catch our breath before our looming flight home.
September to November is ideal while June to August can be hot and humid with daytime temperatures exceeding 31C.
Several airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, fly daily to Hong Kong from Sydney and Melbourne.
The currency is the Hong Kong Dollar.
Nationals of most countries do not require visas and can stay for periods varying from 7 days to 180 days, depending on nationality.
English and Cantonese are the official languages in Hong Kong with Mandarin also spoken.
Images courtesy of Geraldine Cardozo and Honk Kong Tourism