Hong Kong was great, a much needed getaway after a long summer. The city itself was most suited to some wandering, and the witnessing of random stuff. Our base of operations while undertaking this was the Harbour Grande, which provides views such as this from the 35th floor, on which we were camped in a splendid little suite. I say little, but given the crush for space that exists on the island, it was generously proportioned next to what else is available. Not cheap, being at the top, but all sorts of perks exist for those on the top few floors, such as access to the Executive lounge, and various complimentary refreshments. We abused them surprisingly little.
Wandering around the city provides the opportunity to look up and witness things like this, which is novel for a while, especially arriving from Delhi, which features far less up, and far more sprawling across.
Kowloon, across the water from Hong Kong, probably has more on offer if you’re not skyscraper geek, including the Avenue of the Stars, celebrating the Hong Kong movie industry. Much of this is in honour of Bruce Lee, including statues that don’t look an awful lot like him. A pleasant enough wander though.
We also stumbled across an impromptu martial arts demonstration in a park. Everybody was kung-fu fighting. Very impressive stuff. Those cats, you could say, were fast as lightning. It was, at times, a little bit frightening, though they did fight with expert timing.
Kowloon is also where the streets actually do look like you imagine Hong Kong streets should, a madness of lights and action. Also, knock-off goods, which cheery looking men on street corners try to flog you. They’re very honest about it, in so far as they make no pretense at all that the products they’re offering you are really from the name brands marked on the gear.
The latter part of the break was spent at the House of the Mouse, Disneyland Hong Kong. I went to Disney in Florida when I was a teenager, around about twenty years ago, more or less…
Bloody hell. Hang on. Have to take that last sentence in.
Hmmm. Okay, yes, about twenty years ago. Hong Kong is much smaller than I remember Florida being, with an absence of the larger rides in particular (Space Mountain being a notable exception), but it’s still plenty big enough to keep a seven year old busy for a couple of days.
Eva pretty well exploded with delight. Seven, it seems, is just about a perfect Disney age, and her reaction to this strange new world of fantasy and adventure made the holiday for me.
Of course, it wasn’t all glee. There was actual terror too. We went on Space Mountain early, and it scared the hell out of her. On the other hand, when we walked out, she couldn’t shut up. My girl is always a motormouth, but this was remarkable. She had to replay the whole thing over and again, verbally and mentally, to get over the shock of it – and her amazement at having done it and somehow survived was evident. It was like being machine gunned with words. Space Mountain, for Eva, was a fun kind of terror.
The Jungle boat cruise was different. If you’re not familiar with it, this is a river boat boat goes around an island, with various animatronic animals and effects on show. Unfortunately, nobody told Eva it wasn’t real (we just sort of assumed she got it). As far as she was concerned, this was a simple pleasure cruise, a chance to be on a boat for a bit.
She started to get nervous when we passed the weaving cobras, which developed into real fear when a plastic hippo reared up out of the water next to us. By the time headhunters were shooting darts from blow pipes at us, and we got caught next to the fire-spurting volcanic rocks, she was diving from one side of the boat to the other, screaming at the driver that he should watch out, and it wasn’t safe.
Up to that moment, one of the most traumatising experiences of her young life.
Also, very, very funny. Especially her bold assertion afterwards, when we explained how it was done rather than let her have nightmares, that she was ‘only acting’. Bless her.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Demon jungle was still to come. It’s one of those attractions where you wander around disorientating corridors in the dark (these ones dressed like Aztec tombs of some sort), with disorientating light and smoke effects all around, and deafening creaks and screams playing through speakers. Actors in (extremely good) make up then pounce out at you, shaking even the strongest nerves. It was here that we discovered the limits of her fairly remarkable courage. There was howling, and wide-eyed terror. Half way round, I had to pick her up, because I was starting to worry that she’d just bolt off the path into the dark, or worse still, attack an actor in frenzied terror. To be fair, I probably would have been jumpy myself, if I hadn’t had to watch her so closely.
When we left, she was shell-shocked. Even after we explained that it was all just blokes in Halloween gear, she didn’t try to pretend that she was only acting. It’s going to be something she remembers for a long, long time. Well, Disney is supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, I suppose. I genuinely hope that’s the first and last time she’s attacked by cadavers.
As far as I’m aware, Demon Jungle isn’t one of the regular Disney exhibits. However, while we didn’t know it when we booked, every October, for Halloween, the Mouse takes a step backward and lets Jack Skellington take centre-stage. The park develops a distinctly haunted feel, with zombies wandering Adventureland by night, installations like Demon Jungle being set up, and so on. Great fun, and a little different too. Right up my alley, as it were. None of us had ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas before we visited (though it was the first thing we did when we got back), but I’ll take the Pumpkin King over the Rodent God any day of the week.
And that was Disneyland. We had a feeling we’d end up there while living in India, even before we moved out here – I think there’s a perfect window in any child’s life when they haven’t yet embraced cynicism, but are smart enough and old enough to really enjoy the wonder of it all, and we knew Eva would hit that window while living in India. I can’t tell you how glad we were to do it – even Kirsty and I, hardened cynics both, had a fantastic time. Kirsty even got to go on a carousel, for the first time in her life (I know, I was stunned). Disneyland forbids anything other than happiness. It may be an offence not to be happy there.
And of you break the Rules of the Mouse, he’ll come for you in the night.
Tagged animatronic, bruce lee, demon jungle, disneyland, executive lounge, halloween, harbour grande, holiday, hong kong, house of the mouse, jack skellington, knock off, kowloon, martial arts, motormouth, pumpkin king, rodent god, space mountain