We left our hotel room in the People’s Republic of China at 9am. By 11:15am, we had crossed the border and we inside the Hong Kong Disneyland.
The Disneyland Resort is an oasis within an oasis. Even getting to the park is the sort of magical experience that you’d get in Hong Kong but not the Mainland, complete with the MTR shuttle’s Mickey Mouse-shaped windows and blue-velvet seats. Every corner of the park has the scent of Caramel Corn and there are Disney songs constantly playing softly over the speakers (which seems like an oxymoron, but it works). There are also absolutely no lines for any of the rides (but to be fair, there are also no rides that a 12-year-old or a 50-year old with a good heart wouldn’t have been able to handle). I’d only been to Disneyworld in the U.S. once before, and then as a moody, hormonal 13-years-old, I wasn’t quite able to embrace the Disney magic. This time, I walked around like a giddy 6-year-old and I was completely okay with that.
Did I mention that there absolutely were no lines?? We rode Space Mountain four times and almost every other ride twice. The only two things that the Hong Kong Disneyland lacked (well three, but I don’t know if hard liquor is allowed in the happiest place on Earth) were:
- A proper store that sold the kind of candy that you can buy by weight, from pixie stick dispensers (a necessity).
- An appropriate amount of thrill rides (which is to say, a non-zero amount).
The park, nonetheless makes up for these (small) shortcomings with its Toy Story Land, the fact that the “It’s a small world” ride was tucked far far away, and its blatant disregard for Mainland tourists. It was indeed a paradise
In all honesty, I had been a tad scared to return to Hong Kong. My first visit to that tiny island evoked such strong emotions, and much like Disney movies when you’re a teenager, I didn’t want to ‘ruin the magic’.
And yet, when I opened Google on my phone, without a VPN, with 3G that actually gave me 3G speeds (my China Unicom bands say LTE, their speeds say: “I hope you weren’t planning on looking at this web page today!”) Being in Hong Kong, more so than anything I’ve done here on the mainland, feels like I’m standing on solid ground. I feel like I am inside a real city instead of merely an imitation of one. I feel like there is a sense of awareness in the people around me. I feel alive. And I think I need these trips to remind myself that even in China, I need to maintain those feelings.
I had gone to Shenzhen this Saturday on a whim, and I ended up getting stuck in transit from 8am to 5pm on one of those infamous Chinese flight delays for what should have been a 2-hour flight. Only in China can you board a plane on time only to be told that you flight which should have taken off at 8:55am will be delayed until at least 10:50am (and then two times more after that). I sighed and popped open my Kindle to read “Evil Under the Sun”; the man sitting next to me starting throwing a fit; most people around us started eating fermented sausages for breakfast. Shenzhen itself was beautiful and new. The bird-shaped airport was overwhelmingly empty and I still don’t quite understand why the drinks we had in the ‘Houston-themed-bar’ were so sickly sweet.
This was my first time crossing the border from China into Hong Kong on foot (or really, crossing any border on foot). The lines were short, because Mainland and Foreigner travelers were separated and the entire process took no time at all, except for the fact that this was the first time I got stopped for TWB – Traveling While Blonde. Now okay, I know I don’t really look like my passport photo anymore – the photo in it is almost eight years old and I look (well, I was) a teenage with weird eyebrows. But this was the first time I was actually stopped repeatedly given the once over, and asked to recite my name and birthday. I’ll take that as a sign that I’ve been aging well.