Ni Hao! Welcome to China. I am embarking on the Enchanted China itinerary with Adventures by Disney. Over the next 12 days, I will walk the Great Wall, see Pandas, and visit the two newest Disney Destinations with my family, my new travel family, and two Disney Adventure Guides. I thought it would be fun to document my adventure here as Adventures by Disney is a Disney offering that hasn't been experienced by many guests when compared to the theme parks or Disney Cruise Line. So join me for my China Adventure and experience the Wonders of China.
First some housekeeping notes. This report is going to be a lot more personal than most articles you find on Laughing Place. You will experience the trip through my eyes. Therefore, my experience may not mirror your experience. In the real world, Disney doesn't not have as much control as they have in their own properties so each experience will have to adjust. The upside is that every experience will have its own special touches. Also, just like you can't judge a theme park by looking at its attaction listing, words can't truly encapsulate the Adventures by Disney experience. It is definitely more than the sum of its part. But without further ado, here is my report from Day One.
I'm going to spoil this right off the bat. Your adventure is probably off to a good start if before Day One ends you are already planning your next visit to Hong Kong and your next Adventures by Disney itinerary. So some background. This is my first "land-based" adventure. I have done three ABD experiences on the Disney Cruise Line as my family could not be described as "low maintainance." As the person with the closest association with Disney on the trip, I often find myself being the planner, problem solver, and peace maker. When my family decided to do a Mediterranean cruise, I pushed the ABD add-on to take some of that off my plate. Initially, my dad was skeptical, but he became a convert. When we took a second Mediterranean cruise, this time to the Greek Isles, ABD was not even a discussion. The same when we went to the Baltic. Whenever our Iceland cruise comes up, my mother laments that Adventures by Disney didn't have a package for her. Seriously.... EVERY time.
But on to China... we arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport and went through immigration, got our luggage, and proceeded through customs. This was all a very painless procedure. On the other side of the restricted area was Bruce holding an orange Adventures by Disney sign. We met up with another party as Bruce took care of the luggage and escorted us to a vehicle that was taking us to our hotel. After a 30-minute drive, which occurred while I was in a jet-lagged induced haze, we arrived at our hotel.
I have no idea, how the other hotels will rate, but the Peninsula Hong Kong is hands down the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed in. We checked in, where the front desk agent told us that the hotel was built in 1928 and that we would be staying in the historic wing. I, of course, told him that Mickey Mouse also debuted in 1928. After all the paperwork was done, he asked us if we would like to be escorted to our rooms and informed us that our luggage will follow us.
Sometimes "historic" is used as a euphemism for "out of date." That can't be said here. There are several tablets that control everything in the room from lights to the curtains and the TV. There are also more plugs and charging stations than you could imagine. In the room, there was a fruit plate which came with a little booklet that explained what the Chinese fruit was as well as how to eat it. There was also a gorgeous red box that featured soap inside. We have since been informed that it is ours to keep. And finally from Disney was our Adventures by Disney duffel bag, complete with two emergency rain ponchos, and our welcome letter that informed us that we could meet our Adventure guides between 9 and noon tomorrow.
As we were getting settled, our luggage was brought up to the room. Shortly afterwards, a woman came to our room and asked if we would like to be poured some tea. She returned with a full tea set which was a warm introduction to China. I then watched a little bit of the Disney Channel Original Movie Go Figure with Chinese subtitles on the in-room televison and went to bed, ready for our first official day.
Here is the official description of the first day from Disney:
China thrives as both the world's oldest continuous civilization and a bustling society enthusiastically moving forward in the 21st century. You will travel within the vast gallery of ethnicities, cities, folklore and landscapes, reflecting on the past flories of an ancient empire and marveling at the profound achievements of an influential modern country. Even among the pantheon of ancient lands, China was still ahead of its time. Here rests the expansive Great Wall, arguably the supreme monument to human enterprise and endeabor. Colorful and elaborately constructed kites graced China's skies as far back as the Fifth Century BC, and the graceful brushstrokes of master calligraphers introduced a literary form that married art and verse 2,800 years ago. Your 12-day enchanted adventure begins in Hong Kong, the bridge between China and the West.
We started our day with breakfast at the hotel, which was included. We were informed that we had two options, the buffet on the second floor or menu service in the lobby. In order to pace our food consumption on this trip, we decided to go for the lobby option. The service was impecible. While used to having my water refilled, as my father used sugar packets, they would replace them so that the container remained full. As soon as my tea was finished, they were over my shoulder to pour me a new cup. I ordered the Eggs Benedict, which were delicious. Everyone in the family seemed happy with their selection.
We then browsed through a collection of high-end shops located in the hotel in an area called the Peninsula Arcade (no pinball here). We bumped into some other folks in our group who were all recognized thanks to everyone's affinity for Disney attire. Following introductions, we proceeded to the hotel's conference center to meet our guides, Christian and Joe. When not guiding, Christian works for The Walt Disney Travel Company while Joe is from China.
They spent a few moments with us to get to know us and answer any questions we may have. They also had us pre-select some of our dining options. Our Welcome Dinner was going to be in the hotel and we were set to meet in the lobby at 6:30. We asked for a recommendation on how to spend our day in Hong Kong and they suggested a visit to the "Big Buddha." They went through how to get there by either the subway or taxi and gave us a brochure to help make sure we were informed.
We then headed to Lantau Island and the cable car which would take us toward the Big Buddha. While on the taxi, we kept seeing signs with Mickey Mouse pointing the way to Hong Kong Disneyland, which warmed my heart. The bellman at the hotel told us the taxi should cost no more than 300 Hong Kong Dollars (about $38 USD), which helped us feel comfortable that we weren't being taken advantage of. He also gave us a card to show the driver for our return trip so that there would be no language barrier.
Upon arrival at the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal, we decided to spring for a "package ticket" as we had plenty of time to spend in the area. When they say cable car, they don't mean the San Francisco kind, they mean a Skyway (or Skyliner) system. The 3.5 mile journey was gorgeous despite the clouds. You could see the Hong Kong airport and the natural beauty of Hong Kong. After a while, what first appeared to be a mountain appeared. It turns out that it was the Big Buddha. One special moment was meeting a fellow passenger from Malaysia who was so excited to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. When she discovered that we visited the US parks all the time, she treated us like celebrities. She said it is on her "to-do list" and asked us all sorts of questions.
The cable car dropped us off Ngong Ping village which featured the other attractions on our ticket, gift shops, restaurants, and a 7-Eleven. Our first stop was Stage 360 where stunt performers recreated action sequences fron Hong Kong action movies. It was neat to see them do the wire work. We then went to Motion 360 which was a small simulator experience. The show, "Discover Lantau," showed us the highlights of this section of Hong Kong, complete with in-theater effects which made you appreciate the pacing of Disney experiences. I do not know why both experiences were called 360, as they were not experiences that surround you. That being said, there was a charm in their quaintness.
Then it was time to get closer to the Big Buddha. We climbed the more than 200 steps up to see this amazing work which was completed in 1993. We also visited the nearby Po Lin Monastery where I got some "kisses" by one of the many cows that roamed the area. We grabbed a quick bite to eat as we waited for the English showtime of "Walking with Buddha" which was an experience about the life and wisdom of Buddha.
We then took the return cable car trip and picked up another taxi to return to our hotel. As I had become enamored with our accommodations, I wanted a souvenir. I went to the Peninsula Boutique at the hotel and picked up a teddy bear that wears one of the uniforms of the hotel. We then went back to our rooms to rest and prepare for dinner. Upon arrival to the room, I first noticed that they replaced the fruit plate. I then noticed this chocolate Adventure by Disney suitcase accompanied by assorted treats. What a way to spoil my dinner. As some of our fellow Adventurers sold my mother on the South Africa trip, I started researching that itinerary for her. I then freshened up and went downstairs for dinner.
The Welcome Dinner is one of two meals that have a dress code. Gentlemen were required to wear trousers and no beachware was permitted — not exactly a high-bar to reach. We met everyone in the lobby and proceeded to the Spring Moon restaurant and our private room. The guides assigned us tables, which was nice to avoid the "what table has room for us" awkwardness.
To start, we were served beverages. Wine was included in this meal, but I did not partake. Our Adventure Guides then introduced themselves again and told us their stories. They also gave us an overview of the trip as well provided us with some tips and tricks. Then it was meal time! They told us that most of our meals would be family-style, but that we would transition into Chinese culture by having a more traditional plated service.
The food was delicious. The Peking Duck was a highlight. It is amazing how it just melted in your mouth. While I enjoyed everything, there were some who didn't partake in certain courses, particularly the soup. But there were so many courses that noone felt they were missing out by skipping something, and everyone left full.
Before dessert, the guides went through some of the logistics of the next day. We were informed that the planned Star Ferry ride would not be able to occur due to some maintenance. While Christian seemed a bit timid to reveal this, the group was excited about the prospect of having more time at Hong Kong Disneyland instead. After recognizing Adventure Insiders with special pins showcasing how many previous adventures they had completed, we recognized a pair of birthdays with traditional Chinese birthday buns. Then it was dessert time. Along with our dessert came our first "pin of the day." The pin features the greeting "Nimen Hao" along with Mickey in traditional Chinese attire. We were informed that we would be able to enjoy breakfast starting at 7 am before meeting as a group at 8:30 for our day in Hong Kong. We then retired to our room to get some rest.
Upon arrival to the room, there was a message on the in-room tablets that the Hong Kong Observatory had issued a No. 3 Strong Wind Signal. Tropical Storm Mawar will move in the general direction of the coast of eastern Guangdong and move inland before weakening tomorrow. We do not know what impact that will have on us tomorrow, but I trust our guides will do whatever is necessary.
But for now, it is time to dream about the rest of our China Adventure. Thanks for following along!