Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The magic of Disneyland

Day 3 (Wed, 28 May 2008)

Before breakfast, we brought the luggage that we need for our trip to Nikko down to the concierge and used the takuhaibin service to send it to our hotel in Nikko. What's that, you say? Well, my research had unearthed this uniquely Japanese courier service called takuhaibin. For a mere $25 or so, you can send your luggage ahead of time to your next hotel, thanks to the efficient guys at Yamato (picture of Yamato truck on right). This service is a godsend - it means you don't have to struggle with heavy and unwieldy luggage, especially on the trains. When you reach your destination, your luggage is there waiting for you (even across cities in Japan). In fact, if it's sent before 9am, it can actually arrive at your destination on the same day. In a country known for its exhorbitant price tags, this service is ridiculously affordable.

You only need to make sure that you have the name and address of the destination in Japanese. Show this to the concierge and ask him to fill in the form for you. (Forget about trying to fill the form yourself, it's full of small print and everything is in Japanese! Your luggage will probably end up in Korea.) Make sure your other hotel knows when to expect your luggage, they'll be happy to store it for you, even several days in advance.

That settled, we bought our rice cakes for lunch from Lawson before going for breakfast, having learnt from our experience yesterday. And this was the delectable breakfast spread.

And then it's back on the shuttle and on to Disneyland for the second time this trip. Aside, if you buy a two-day Disney pass, each of the days has to be spent in a different land (Disneysea & Disneyland). If you buy a three or four-day pass, the third and fourth days can be spent in either or both lands. All days have to be consecutive.

Once again, we were there before the gates opened and let me say, Disneyland is WAY more crowded than Disneysea. It was just a sea of people. Apparently, over 30,000 people visit Tokyo Disneyland EACH DAY. No kidding.

So as the entrances opened and people started streaming in, we thought the queues for rides would start pretty quick. But wait, what's that?? An entire horde of people started sitting around the courtyard in front of the Cinderella castle. There must be an event happening we didn't know about. And another group of people, mostly parents with kids in strollers, broke off to form a snake queue in front of a restaurant. They're coming to Disneyland for breakfast???

We're baffled but no matter, we dashed right to Fantasyland where we were practically the first ones to ride Peter Pan. You get on a mini pirate ship and it sails across the air. Well, actually it's on a track but it's a wonderful effect, you feel like you're flying through London, and then Never Never Land and Skull Island, with Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and of course, the crocodile. Definitely a kid-pleaser.

Next, we went across to the Snow White ride. Possibly a bit scary for pre-schoolers, with its menacing forest sets and witch cackles but kids would probably love recognising all these familiar characters and scenes from the very first full-length feature cartoon ever made. Peter Pan and Snow White are two of the most popular rides at Disneyland, 90min queues for these are common. (I'd quickly figured out that the smaller the number of people a ride can seat, the longer the queues tend to be. It's common sense really, it just takes longer to clear two people at a go compared to eight.) The cars for these two rides are both two-seaters.

After the two rides, we were feeling a little lost, honestly. We just didn't expect to finish the rides so quickly, barely 15mins had passed since we entered the park! So we went on the Haunted Mansion ride again. Then Kenneth decided he wanted to go on the Jungle Cruise at Adventure Land, since he missed it when we were last at Hong Kong Disneyland (what with being comatose from Space Mountain and all). Lesley-Anne decided to go with him while Andre and I proceeded to Toon Town.

Toon Town is more for toddlers, it has many static structures like quirky buildings and cars, great for picture taking and exploring (see left picture), but not so interesting for older kids. But its redeeming feature (for Andre at least) was *deep breath* Gadget's Go Coaster. It's Disneyland's equivalent of Disneysea's Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster. He absolutely loved it and after each ride, he would plead "Mummy, one more time! Pleeeeeeaase!!!" Because it was early, there was hardly any queue and we would make our way around again. We tried out the front seat, the back seat and all the ones in between (back is scarier than front). Six times in all. By then, by back was aching from crouching in a tiny car being thrown about relentlessly, so I put a stop to the madness.

When Kenneth and Lesley-Anne met us back at Toon Town, they reported that the Jungle Cruise was great. According to Lesley-Anne, it's even better than the Hong Kong one, which is an abridged version. From the pictures, it does look awesome.

We then went to Tomorrowland, collected Fast Passes for Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters and watched the 4D MicroAdventure. The show is very, very dated. It's based on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids which many children won't even remember, and the effects and storyline are rather sorry.

I'll gloss over lunch which, as you know, was rice cakes again. The park was starting to fill and the familiar queues returned. We wandered around rather aimlessly and just took whichever ride that seemed to have shorter queues. Which was why we went on the Castle Carousel, something I almost never do as I think carousels are awfully boring and pointless. True enough, it was boring and pointless.

We also went on the Mad Hatter Teacups, which turned out to be quite amusing especially if you used the handle to spin the cup really fast (which we did). The kids liked this so they went on it a couple of times by themselves. One time when they were in the queue (right picture), the attendant asked how old they were, to make sure they were old enough to go on the ride alone. Andre said "7", Lesley-Anne said "11". Then Andre make a monkey face and piped up "7-eleven, it's a store and more." The attendant had hysterics.

We walked to Critter Country and tried out our paddling skills at the Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes. They even have mini paddles for kids! Basically with a guide, you paddle your canoe around the creek. Along the way, you see wigwams and other Red Indian characters and relics.

Also at Critter Country is Splash Mountain. It's hyped as the "highest, steepest drop in Disneyland" (as you can see in this picture). Of course Andre wanted to go. Of course Lesley-Anne didn't. (She took one look at the log hurtling down the slide and shouted "No way!") The queue was long so I took two Fast Passes and told Andre I'd bring him back later.

We went back to claim our Fast Pass ride on Astro Blasters at Tomorrowland. This is possibily the most popular ride at Tokyo Disneyland. By the time we went there at about 1pm, the Fast Pass was already being given out for 8pm that evening (there's a limit to the number of FPs given out at each time slot). We'd gone on this ride at Hong Kong Disneyland, but it's very fun, so we didn't mind going again. Each person in the ride gets a laser gun which you use to shoot at targets throughout the ride, from Emperor Zurg to the aliens. At the end of the ride, you're given points based on how well you performed. It's quite cool.

Time to get a seat along the parade route for Jubilation! the afternoon parade. Just as at Disneysea, people fill up the spaces almost in military format. 5mins before the parade starts, cleaners walk along the route, collecting empty cups and other trash from the spectators. Once again, standing up is not permitted. Kenneth stood up briefly to take a picture and was quickly gestured by a nearby attendant to sit down. And this was even BEFORE the parade had started and there was no one behind him to block the view of. A bit repressed, ya think?

The parade begins! As expected, it is absolutely marvellous. I'll just let the pictures talk, they speak for themselves.

After the show, we were quite close to the Grand Circuit Raceway and we went on the ride, taking advantage of the fact that there wasn't much of a queue since the parade had just ended.

By then, it was time to take a break. Frankly, I was exhausted and my back was killing me. I have a history of back problems and it's behaved quite well in recent years but three days of continuous walking and standing in line turned out to be too much. We found a nearby cafe where I ordered a hot cup of tea and laid down (yes, laid down) on the booth seat. Funny story: I went to the counter and said very slowly "one tea". The counter guy chirped "Chicken sandwich?" I just had to laugh.

By then, it was time to use the FP for Splash Mountain, but that was clear across the entire park and there was no way I could make it there without a stretcher. Seeing Andre's disappointment, Kenneth gamely offered to bring him, even though he hates any ride with drops or spins. While they were gone, I actually napped right there at the cafe, and I wasn't the only one too. Pooped parents, teenagers and kids alike were sprawled across the seats.

I thought Andre would be tired when he came back, but if anything, he was recharged by his adventure at Splash Mountain. According to Kenneth, the wait time was 80mins but with the FP, they just walked right past the line. We had dinner at that cafe - chicken teriyaki burgers, if I recall correctly. I think it was the fact that their last day at Disney was quickly coming to a close, the kids found a last surge of energy to go on the Mad Hatter teacups a few more times after dinner. I continued to rest at the cafe until it was time for... the Dreamlights Parade!

Once again, I have no words. Here are a few pictures which honestly don't do justice to the actual event.

And finally, the fireworks! No wind conditions this time. Unlike Hong Kong Disneyland, the fireworks display in Tokyo is not coordinated to music. In Tokyo, the highlight is the night parade, not the fireworks. We also realised that we didn't really miss anything yesterday because the fireworks are the same ones seen from both Disneyland and Disneysea, since the two parks are next to each other.

So, my verdict of Tokyo Disney? Disneyland has more kid-friendly rides (we gave quite a few adult rides at Disneysea a miss, like Tower of Terror, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Raging Spirits) and I suspect many parents bring their kids there for nostalgic reasons. Many of these rides have not changed from 20 years ago. However, I prefer Disneysea because it's not half as crowded and the rides are much newer. Overall, especially when you add the friendliness and courtesy of the Japanese people, both parks are well worth bringing your kids to.


Lilian said...

Excellent stuff THANKS!!! Did you write all this in a travel journal earlier or from memory? This is great!

monlim said...

Thanks! No lah, just remember from pictures and very detailed itinerary... I keep forgetting things though and have to go back and edit!

Alcovelet said...

Monica, tks for the articles! Sure brings back memories - we did Tokyo Disneyland last year, after which we did the HK one some later. Seriously, we should have done the reverse - Tokyo was the best, so HK could only have been a let down, what with the dirtier conditions and the impatient, well, other tourists (hint hint). Anyway, did you guys try the Buzz Lightyear ride? We took it like 3 times! We've been back to Japan twice since, and I'm raring to go again. It looks like Disneyland will be on the itinerary for a few more years to come! BTW, Universal Studios in Osaka isn't as terrific (maybe because of the age group appeal), but Osaka is a more laid back city and closer to Kyoto, which we love.

Looking forward to reading more!

monlim said...

haha, yes, Hong Kong would be a letdown after Tokyo. The Buzz Lightyear is the Astro Blasters ride, you're right, it's great! We almost went to Osaka, but read so many horror stories of the queues at Universal Studios and how you have to pay for the Fast Pass. what a rip off! So we stuck to Tokyo. Wish I could go back soon!