Every girl has her favourite Disney princess while growing up. Whether it’s a classic princess, such as Cinderella, or a modern version, a.k.a Queen Elsa, they all fall in love with one girl’s story of how she overcame her challenges to become the royal she now is. When I was a little girl, I was obsessed (confession: I still am) with Princess Aurora. I watched the movie ‘Sleeping Beauty’ over and over again. I drove my mother insane, because she was the unlucky one who had to sit through the movie with me. I wanted to meet her, visit her castle and watch her dance with Prince Philip. So, when Gigi asked me if I would like to accompany them to Hong Kong Disneyland, I jumped at the possibility of fulfilling my childhood dream.
We left for Hong Kong very early in the morning, as going through customs can be a lengthy and slightly daunting procedure, especially if you have a foreign passport. When I had to go through Chinese customs, I had to stand in front of an old man who looked like he’d never smiled in his life, while he frantically typed on his computer, only stopping to frown at my passport photo and then doubtingly look at me. After five minutes of this, I thought he was going to tell me that I wasn’t actually the person in the photo (long story short: bad hair day) and have me thrown in jail. After I had died of natural causes, the man approved my passport and stamped the wrong part of my visa form. I rose from the dead, gave the man a death stare as I grabbed a new visa form and dragged my coffin across the border.
As we walked through the gates of the Disneyland resort, I realized why it’s called the happiest place on earth. As you look at the giant statue of Mickey and his friends, while hearing the classic Disney music blasting from the speakers, you just know that you are about to experience something truly magical. We rushed through the admissions gate along with a million other people all donned with mouse ears and being dragged mostly by mini Elsa’s and the occasional tiny Belle. (It’s been three years since Frozen was released; I guess these girls just can’t ‘let it go’?) We were met with the perfect sight of a vintage town, Main Street USA, with tiny shop selling curios of all things Disney and small cafe’s selling overpriced everything – you don’t want to breathe in those shops for fear they ask for a generous donation after seeing your nostrils flare once.
The first thing you notice is how perfect everything is. It is so perfect that it all looks fake. I had to keep myself from touching every surface to make sure it wasn’t plastic. But the tiny cottages were made from actual wood, the worn down buildings in the Wild West section were made from real bricks, the mystic statues in the wild forest were made from genuine stone. The park was divided into seven sections: Main Street USA, Fantasy Land, Toy Story Land, Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch, Adventure Land and Tomorrow Land.
A daunting prospect for me was that in each section there was at least two rides that would ensure I end up greener than the perfect leaves of the perfect trees in that perfect park. I decided, despite my knowledge that swing sets make me feel sick, that I was in Disneyland and that I might not have this chance ever again. I tried out a few rides and actually ended up enjoying all of them! I just had to make sure there were long periods in between these rides to make sure my stomach could cope with everything. I rode a horse on Cinderella’s Carousel, piloted my own flying saucer high above Tomorrow Land on the Orbitron and boarded a mine car that raced backward and forward through the entire town of Grizzly Gulch. I ended up feeling completely fine.
We saw many spectacular shows while we were there too. Mickey’s PhilharMagic was a great 3-D orchestra show that showcased a grumpy Donald Duck chasing after Mickey’s magic hat through all of the different Disney worlds. “It’s a small world” was one of my favourites – taking a feel-happy cruise through a castle where cute dolls represent each country and continent while singing “it’s a small world after all”. We then went to Mystic Manor where we boarded Lord Henry Mystic’s Magneto-Electric Carriage to view his amazing collection of art and antiquities from around the world, but when Albert (his loyal monkey companion) opens a magic box, it unleashes havoc on the entire house and you are flung around the Manor while the magic creates a chaotic but utterly awesome experience! However, my all-time favourite was the “Festival of the Lion King”, witnessing a colourful pageant of music and dance inspired by and celebrating “The Lion King”, made me feel proud to be African and also quite homesick.
The day flew by and it started to get dark, but there were still two more shows to come that everyone wanted to see. The first was a parade where all the favourite Disney characters rode on floats through the streets. It was a spectacular performance where there were hundreds of dancers in glow in the dark costumes and magnificent lighting features of the floats ensured that all the children were on their feet dancing and screaming trying to get Mickey to wave at them. The final show was a firework display high above Sleeping Beauty’s castle that recreated the Disney symbol we’ve been seeing at the start of every princess movie. “Oohs” and “Ahs” escaped every mouth as the phenomenal finale took place.
As the last fireworks reached their peak in the sky and faded away, the park announced that it was closing for the day. A wave of exhaustion hit us and we made our way back to Shenzhen. I was so grateful that I finally had the chance to go to such a wonderful place and even though I never got to meet Princess Aurora, but had to endure running into Queen Elsa and Princess Sophia around every corner, I still had an utterly irreplaceable adventure!