This is my last post about my trip to Shanghai (see parts one and two), and it only features one day, but what a day it was! I’ve already been to Disneyland parks in both Florida and Hong Kong, so I couldn’t visit Shanghai without going to their’s too (Tokyo will hopefully be the next!). It was a good choice too, as the rest of the trip was so laid-back, it was nice to have an exciting day in the middle. We were taking a gamble though, as we chose to go on a public holiday, and we were bracing ourselves for it to be rammed, but it was actually fine! We later thought that maybe the crowds were there the previous days, as it was now the last day of the holiday weekend, and many of the domestic tourists would be returning the home. It suited us fine, as we didn’t have to wait more than about half an hour for any ride.
In anticipation of crowds though, we got there first thing, ready for the rides to open at 8am. Tasha had been before, so we’d been able to plan the best options, and as such, we headed straight to the TRON ride first, only having to wait about five minutes to get on – what a way to wake yourself up in the morning! It’s rollercoaster, where you ride a Lightcycle, and whiz through a dark room resembling the TRON world. Disney has mostly rides of a size I can handle (what with the fear of heights and going upside down) – TRON’s size was fine, but as most of it is dark, I was definitely screaming about not knowing what was coming next, or when the cycles tipped on their sides to round a corner! The speed made it really exciting too, as we flew around in what seemed like mere seconds! Screaming aside, I did enjoy it though, and probably would more so on a second time round, now knowing what it involves. We headed towards Treasure Cove next, and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, anticipating long lines there later too. I’d heard it’s amazing, and Tasha said the same, so we were disappointed to be met with a ‘Temporarily Closed’ sign. We crossed our fingers that this just meant it would be open later in the day, and carried on in the meantime. We did get a quick pirate fix, exploring The Siren’s Revenge, a pirate ship moored in the lagoon. It was fun to have a look around, and spot props from the movies, while portraits of the characters spoke to you (in Chinese).
We were sticking with the big rides first though, to beat the queues, so we went to the next land over, Adventure Isle, where the Roaring Rapids could be found. This was a longer wait, but it was worth it in the end, even if we did get a bit wet! It started quite slowly, but once we reached the top of the initial ascent, we were off, rolling through the waves and spinning all the while. There was the cutest little boy in our raft too, who was absolutely loving it (most of the time…). We were all hoping we wouldn’t be the ones facing backwards for the last big drop at the end – I ended up taking it sideways on. The cave was definitely the most exciting part though – there was a surprise in the darkness that we didn’t expect at all! And then we were straight off to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rollercoaster. We skipped ahead in the singles riders line, but still got seated together anyway. I’ve done similar rides, under different names, in the other Disney parks, but it’s still a fun, quick, mountain-themed ride, very much on my level. The animatronic dwarfs were a little creepy to be honest though! It was a fun ride, fast and winding but not too high, but it did feel very short, which was true of a few rides throughout the park.
We wandered back towards Treasure Cove next, and by sheer luck, got there just minutes after the Pirates ride, Battle for the Sunken Treasure, opened! It only took about 15 minutes before we were setting sail. This was the ride I’d heard the most hype about, and was most excited for, so I was so happy it was open. The narration is in Chinese of course, but the journey is so much fun anyway, and that iconic music, one of my favourites, is ever-present. You take a boat trip through hidden caves, inside pirate ships, and along the sea bed, accompanied by characters from the movies, and all brought to life by the most impressive combination of massive CGI screens and real-life sets I’ve seen on a ride. I absolutely loved it! We continued on the pirates theme next, with a live show, ‘Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular’. I’ve been highly impressed by live shows in the past, but this one wasn’t my favourite. The stunts themselves were fantastic, especially the wind tunnel, but there were too few of them, and too much talking in-between. It wasn’t balanced anyway, and add on new, unfamiliar characters, and the fact that it’s all in Chinese (no subtitles like Hong Kong has), and we were lost as to what the plot was!
We saw another live show straight after, in Adventure Isle, ‘Tarzan: Call of the Jungle’, an acrobatics performance. This was much easier to follow, since I know the story anyway, and there was no dialogue – the songs were translated into Chinese, which is odd at first, but I sang along to myself in English. The acrobatics were amazing – all sorts of balancing and contortionist poses, backflips catapulted off a see-saw, pyramids of people jumping rope, and heavy use of ribbons suspended from the ceiling, by the Tarzan and Jane characters, to mimic swinging from jungle vines. It was all very impressive, and much more like what I expect from a Disney show. We took a pause to get coffee and eat our lunch snacks after this, before heading into Fantasyland. We weren’t racing against queues anymore, since it was after midday, so we took a more leisurely pace from here. First was the Alice in Wonderland Maze, a simple path through the hedges (not much a maze really), with characters from the movie throughout, including a large, rather intimidating Red Queen’s head. I love these parts of Disneyland as much as the rides though, because you can really see the craftwork and the imagination that goes into it all, down to every detail. My favourite part of this was the Mad Hatter’s tea party scene, with the table laden down with cups and cakes. We were in the shadow of the Enchanted Storybook Castle here, so of course we took a few selfies along the way.
I got very excited as we approached the castle, when I realised we could actually go inside – not something available in every park! The attraction inside is the “Once Upon a Time Adventure”, which relays the story of Snow White through various animated screens on your route through the castle. Snow White is far from my favourite princess, but there is a certain amount of nostalgia here, since she was the very first princess. Mostly I was just admiring inside the castle, especially when we emerged in its central courtyard, with a vast chandelier overheard, and some beautiful murals on the walls. We descended below the castle next, on the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. We knew it was a boat ride to somewhere below the castle, but it far exceeded my expectations, and was actually one of my favourites! As you sail through the grotto, you pass scenes from classic Disney movies – featuring several of my favourites, like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled. The scenes have fountains integrated and burst into life and music as you pass by each one, which was so much fun for me. The ride finishes in the actual crystal grotto, with lots of coloured lights and a gigantic crystal in a cave under the castle. We continued through Fantasyland, passing by all the cute little shops and restaurants, and eventually winding up at Peter Pan’s Flight. This was another ride that exceeded expectations (I typically expect Fantasyland to have more little kid rides, which they are, but are no less fun for all ages!). We boarded a pirate ship, which took us on a flight over London and through Neverland. It was the intricacy here that astounded me, as we didn’t seem to be flying through a large room, but the ship and all the sets moved perfectly to allow us to slip through them with ease, while still being able to get up close to them all. It was all very well executed, and a fun ride through another old favourite film.
We looked around a bit more of Fantasyland, but didn’t try the other rides, opting to save our time for other things. I did suddenly realise that the parade would be happening by now – there’s just the one, no night time parade here – so we dashed off to the parade route. We missed the first couple of floats but still caught the rest, and they were just as big and beautiful as to be expected. The songs were in Chinese again, something I got used to throughout the day, but did lessen the nostalgia and emotional connection I normally feel. There were floats for Finding Nemo, Frozen (duh), and Mulan; that last one was particularly impressive, as she rode by on a gigantic horse. There was a Tangled one we missed, to my disappointment, and the last float was a somewhat random collection of other characters – including vaguely terrifying Incredibles, with large plastic heads – but overall, it was fun, and a Disneyland day isn’t complete for me without seeing a parade! No Mickey Mouse though, and I actually didn’t see him all day, which was definitely more than a bit strange! We headed out of Fantasyland and back to the front of the castle. Disney owns plenty of other companies, so it makes sense that they’d capitalise on that and include other franchises in their parks now. I think of the classic and modern Disney films, when I think of Disneyland, so I’m not a hundred percent convinced about including others – but I absolutely love both Marvel and Star Wars, so I wasn’t complaining that much! Both have their own halls in the park, so we went to see those next.
The Marvel ones was up first, where you can admire various costumes and props from different films, including a whole line-up of Iron Man suits. There’s an Iron Man game too, where you have to shoot from his hands, but it’s not really my thing, and we didn’t want to wait in line for it. There was Guardians of the Galaxy and Spiderman areas too, but I probably got the most excited about Captain America, since he was actually there in person. We didn’t go to take pictures with him, as we weren’t bothering with that at all that day, but I probably would’ve been a bit flustered if we had! Of course, he was no Chris Evans, but he looked cute, and in that outfit? Can you blame a girl? The Star Wars hall was similarly laid out, with various props on display, from the original, prequel, and most recent movies. Darth Vader and Kylo Ren were strutting about ominously, waiting for people to come get their photos with them – I think I would’ve been too scared to! R2D2 and BB-8 were adorable though, and it was just cool to get to see all these props. They may not be “Disney” in my mind, but it was definitely fun to get to visit some of my other favourite franchises that day too.
We stuck around in Tomorrowland after the Star Wars hall, and caught a few minutes of the Baymax Exercise Expo taking place outside, which there seemed to plenty of kids enjoying. We only stayed briefly though, before going to the Stitch Encounter. We were warned by staff on our way in that it was a Chinese-only show, but after everything else we’d seen in Chinese so far, I wasn’t all that bothered – and Stitch is one of my absolute favourites, so I wasn’t about to let that put me off! It’s an interactive show, where we all sat around a screen, and the animted Stitch on it began talking to the crowd. Staff go around with a microphone, so people can reply to him, and cameras show their faces on the screen next to him. We didn’t know much of what was being said (Tasha could pick up bits and pieces), but there were a few jokes we could get, and I just think Stitch is so adorable regardless. I think the Florida park has something similar, but I don’t remember doing it there – I will if I’m back in the future though! It didn’t last too long either, or I’d have gotten fed up eventually, but rather ended just at the right time, so I enjoyed it a lot in the end. We made one more stop in Tomorrowland, on the Jet Packs ride (which might have been our longest wait of the day). It’s a simple enough ride, which I’ve done other versions of before, with the cars attached to long arms that rise up and rotate around the central sphere. I was a bit worried about the height at first, but it was fine in the end – there’s a button in the middle of the seats though, for controlling how high your particular arm reaches, and Tasha thoroughly abused it! Rather than just riding up high, she kept pressing it, so we were basically bouncing up and down, while spinning around. Combine this with the fits of giggles we were having, and the whole sensation did hurt my belly quite a bit! It was really funny though, and my only complaint was how quickly it was over!
We walked back through the Gardens of Imagination, passing the Fantasia Carousel, which looked so pretty, but had a long line, so we opted to skip it. We did stop to take more photos in front of the Castle though, posing with the coffees we’d just bought – a necessity when in Disney for this long! Instead, we went back to Adventure Isle again, to try Camp Discovery (which we’d passed on earlier due to the long line). The centrepiece of this area is a huge rock formation, full of caves and waterfalls. We’d actually walked through some of the caves earlier, as they can be freely accessed, and it was so cool to explore and see what had been created here. The attraction itself though, involves getting strapped into a harness and exploring it all on a series of ropes and bridges! I was a little nervous about some of the higher parts, but each crossing had a couple of options, so I could take the flat bridge, rather than the wobbly ropes, if I wasn’t sure. I was a little disappointed that we could only choose to do one of the three routes available, but we had fun anyway – especially when I watched Tasha navigate her way around the waterfall, clinging to the wet rocks! I was glad we did it late in the day too, as it was now dark, and everything was lit up in colourful lights, and looked even cooler! It was time for dinner after that, and we went (yet again) for a pirates theme, getting our food at Barbossa’s Banquet, which actually has seats that look on to the Pirates ride, so we could watch other boats pass us while eating. I never think much of the food in theme parks is very good (apart from some of the fancier restaurants we ate at in the Florida Resort), but this served us fine.
We’d been in the park for almost twelve hours by this point, and were definitely getting tired, but figured that we’d made it this far, so we may as well stay until the end. We browsed the gift shops on Mickey Avenue (which is just Main Street USA but with a different name), but there wasn’t really anything that took my fancy – not even a magnet available, like I got in the Hong Kong one! So we took a seat in front of the Castle, to wait for the closing show, ‘Ignite the Dream’. I was expecting fireworks, which there were some of, but rather than being a proper fireworks show, as in the other parks, it mostly focuses on lights and music and projections on the Castle. Tasha informed me that fireworks are actually banned in Shanghai, so this would account for the limited usage of them. My photos show a lot of them, but that’s because the photos of just the projections all came out very blurry. The projections on the Castle were fantastic though, bringing various movies to life in a riot of colours, with the appropriate songs playing alongside. Star Wars was even featured (again, not typical Disney for me, but I let it slide). The show lasted a good while, and was suitably impressive, but whereas I was nearly crying by the end of the Hong Kong closing show, from nostalgia and emotions and sheer magic, this one didn’t resonate with me in the same way at all. I think it was largely because of the Chinese lyrics to the songs – I totally get why that’s the case, and that’s what Chinese children will grow up hearing – but it obviously was very noticeably unusual and different to my ears. The lack of fireworks, and the crowds constantly blocking my way were less than ideal too. It’s still a fantastic show, and amazingly well put together – there’s fountains and fire involved too! – it just didn’t have the same emotions for me.
And then it was time for the train back into the city! Thirteen hours makes it one of my longest Disney days (the Florida Magic Kingdom still definitely tops that list though), and it was a blast! It was great to have Tasha there with me, as I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it as much on my own. I obviously love all the classic, nostalgic parts of Disney, but it was also fun to see newer things featured too. And since it’s the newest park, the technology in the rides is some of the best I’ve seen – every Disney park is magical, of course, but the tech here makes some of it so realistic, and even more thrilling in many cases. It was exhausting, yes, but absolutely worth it. And that’s three Disneylands down, three to go…