Ask one of your students about their favourite place in Hong Kong and there’s a high chance they’ll share their love of Disneyland. To equip you with conversational content for days, in this blog Chatteris’ own Abi Parslow walks us through the history of this treasured theme park.
Perhaps the most magical patch of reclaimed land in Hong Kong (unless you ask the Ocean Park fans – a popular debate amongst Chatteris tutors and students alike), Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) is the smallest Disney park in the world.
But remember, small doesn’t always mean bad! Having opened in 2005, this pint-sized park is easy to get around in a day and only a 45 minute MTR journey from Central MTR station. And, although it’s small, it’s already made a big impact by being the first Disney park to be opened in China, built on reclaimed land next to the now less-than-magical Penny’s Bay (currently home to a Covid-19 quarantine facility). Location isn’t the only similarity between Hong Kong Disneyland and Penny’s Bay. HKDL is also owned partially by the government, which currently holds a 52% share.
Finding the Feng Shui
When agreeing to create the park in 1999, Disney knew it was key to integrate local customs into the parks, with feng shui masters being consulted throughout the layout design. When you explore the park today, you’ll notice the balance of fire, earth, metal, water and wood – all feng shui elements which are said to create positive energy. To the right of the castle, there is a cascading waterfall upon a rock formation, the walkways are all lined with trees, and lanterns are lit with fire. Not only was this intended to attract tourists from Mainland China, but it also creates a dynamic atmosphere for the park.
One of the biggest compromises imagineers (that translates to ‘engineer’ for those that are’t yet fluent in Disney) had to make was the location of the iconic castle. Typically, Disney places their castles south-facing for optimum lighting when you’re taking photos. But in HKDL, the castle faces east. Of course the feng shui masters were right in the end, as where else do you get to see a Disney castle set against such a striking mountainous backdrop?!
Similarly, next time you’re walking into Disneyland, you might find yourself noticing a sudden turn as you walk from the Disneyland MTR station up to the park entrance. This bend was added in to prevent good qi (energy) from flowing out into the South China Sea, whilst the main gate of the park was shifted 12 degrees to maximise prosperity. Inside, cash registers are placed close to corners or alongside walls in another attempt to boost prosperity, whilst the park itself was opened on the 12th September – a lucky date.
Adapting the Architecture
Another design unique to Hong Kong Disneyland is the castle itself. The majority of other Disney castles around the world are ‘dedicated’ to one princess. The Hong Kong Disneyland castle was originally modelled as a replica of the iconic Disneyland California ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle. In 2016 the Walt Disney Company announced a transformation of the castle, reimagining it into what we see today. Officially reopened in 2020, the ‘Castle of Magical Dreams’ represents all princesses, instead of just Sleeping Beauty. If you look closely, you’ll notice each spire has a symbol to represent the various women that make up Disney, from a seashell for Ariel to a hummingbird for Pocahontas.
When brainstorming expansion plans, an obvious suggestion was to add a haunted mansion ride, an attraction that’s become synonymous with Disney parks around the world. However, in addition to consulting local feng shui masters, Disney also had to take into account the local customs and beliefs, which meant ghost rides were off the cards. The result was Mystic Manor, a ride which is entirely unique to HKDL and a charming ride in its own right. Instead of focusing on ghosts and the ‘undead’, Mystic Manor presents the idea of the supernatural in a fun, care-free way, as a magical music box comes to life thanks to a meddling cheeky monkey. Unlike the Haunted Mansion, the ride also uses a trackless ride system, making every ride different.
Dining at Disney
When it comes to food in Hong Kong Disneyland, the options are endless. From traditional dim sum (in not-so-traditional shapes, think three little pigs char siu buns and green alien dumplings), to Minnie Mouse donuts, Mickey waffles, and other theme park classics. For the fellow veggies out there, HKDL is surprisingly accommodating to us too! Each restaurant features a plant-based option, just be sure to look for the green leaf symbol.
The future of Hong Kong Disneyland is an exciting one, with many treats in store for 2022. Not only is Frozen land planned to open this year, but as restrictions ease and Hong Kong returns to normal so will Disneyland, with the return of nighttime shows and fireworks to perfectly punctuate your Disney day.
Would you like to spend your weekends exploring Hong Kong’s most magical destinations? Apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.