Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tokyo Disneyland, here we come!

Day 1 (Sun-Mon, 25-26 May 2008)

We took the 11.25pm Sunday flight on ANA from Changi Airport to Narita. At Changi, 30 minutes before the flight, I realised with a start that my outer jacket was still hanging on my wardrobe door, I had forgotten to bring it. Darn it! What an inauspicious start. In the plane, I had to borrow Lesley-Anne's denim jacket (she had a spare sweater in the carry-on bag). A little short on the sleeves but it did the job nicely.

It's a 7-hour flight to Narita and we all tried to get some shut-eye since we had a full day the next day but it's always difficult to sleep on the plane. All except Andre, he laid down across two seats (Kenneth moved to another empty seat), grabbed RJ, his stuffed racoon backpack, and was out like a light. The ANA seats are really a tight squeeze, wish we could've gotten an SQ flight (would've been cheaper too!) but we booked too late.

The rest of the plane journey was uneventful, so I'll skip it. Eventually, 4 bleary-eyed folks touched down at Narita at 7.25am local time. We went over to book the airport limousine to Palm Terrace Hotel. The transfer was not until 9.40am, so we had two hours to kill. Found some comfy seats in one corner of the airport and rested there. Andre laid down and was quickly in dreamland again.

We'd read over and over again that the Japanese were a stickler for punctuality and we got our first experience with the airport limousine. There was a large digital clock close to where our queue for the airport limousine was and when it turned 9.40am exactly, the bus cruised into our bay. Very comfortable luxury coach, this one dropped off passengers at a few hotels in the Urayasu area, where Palm Terrace Hotel was. And whadya know, Andre once again, dozed off on the coach! That boy can sleep anywhere.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel before 11am and we loved it at first sighting. It's vibrant and pretty and very family friendly. More about the hotel later. Since we couldn't check in till 3pm (well, we could if we topped up another Y10,000 but that was just silly since the room per night was only Y17,800). So we bought 4 three-day passes to Disney (note: each day you add to the Disney pass is better value) and decided to start our Disney journey right away. One great thing about the hotel is that it is a Disney partner hotel, so there is a free shuttle bus to and from Disneyland and Disneysea throughout the day.

And we're off! A little tired but we're always game for Disneyland. The only other Disneyland my kids had ever gone to was in Hong Kong and that one was miniscule. Tokyo Disneyland is mind-boggling. It's as large as the LA one and the crowds as horrendous. Considering we were there during their off-peak season on a weekday, I can't imagine what the peak seasons are like! The weather was perfect though, about 20 degree celcius.

First stop, Pirates of the Carribean because it was quite close to the main entrance. The queue was about 30mins and Jack Sparrow occasionally makes his appearance, I guess to relieve the boredom somewhat. I have fond memories of this ride, from my first ever visit to the LA Disneyland at age 10. It hasn't changed much, meaning the animatronics, which were state-of-the-art some 25 years ago, now look a little amateurish, especially for kids who grow up in today's world of super graphics and virtual reality.

However, they did try to modernise the ride by interspersing Jack Sparrow here and there. And the contrast is great, the character looks so life-like that even at close scrutiny, I wasn't sure if it wasn't really a human being posing at the spot! It's not very clear in this picture (this is inside the ride) but that's an animated character. You can see it looks pretty real.

Then it was time for lunch. We headed for Fantasy Land, enroute we took the Fast Pass for Haunted Mansion. The queues for everything were just dizzying. We managed to find a table (I must say the Japanese are wonderfully polite - they saw us hovering, waiting for a table and immediately finished off their food, cleared their tray and stood up to let us have it!) We ordered pizza that came packed in cute triangle paper packages. Oh, did I mention it's Tokyo Disneyland's 25th anniversary this year? It's all over the merchandise.

After lunch, it was back to the rides. I must say that it's in the afternoon that Tokyo Disneyland really starts to get crowded (I know, like it wasn't crowded before!) By 3pm, you practically have to queue a long time for anything. Even to buy popcorn, there were like 20 people in the queue, for Pete's sake. We went to It's a Small World because the wait time was listed as "5 minutes". Well, even though there was hardly any wait, it was probably the most boring ride ever. If you like saccharine, cutesy toys singing "It's a Small World" over and over again in a gazillion different languages, then yeah, it's nice. But the kids seemed to like it (not thrilled but ok) so great.

We took three more rides. Pinocchio was way too short - it whizzed past in a blur and was all over before we knew it. When we came out, we were like, "what was that all about?" Haunted Mansion, which we had taken the Fast Pass for, was a nostalgic ride for me. I still loved it. All the creaking doors, ghostly ballroom dancers and floating objects. Lesley-Anne is a bit of a chicken when it comes to rides, she just doesn't enjoy the unknown so I kept telling her it wasn't scary (indeed some of these effects are pretty mild by today's standards). Just as I was saying "At least they don't have objects that pop out at you", as if on cue, we entered a graveyard scene and a head popped out of the ground! Lesley-Anne shrieked accusingly "Mummy!" As if I had instigated that!

Finally, we had a little snack before we went on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Just the three of us, Kenneth after suspecting that the ride would go around in circles, decided to give it a miss. A notorious sufferer of motion sickness, he was comatose for half a day after going on Space Mountain in Hong Kong Disneyland.

Although the wait for Roger Rabbit was listed as 40mins, I took a peek in and said "It doesn't look that long, come on!" Of course I was wrong. The queues are deceptively short, just when you think you're near the end, you turn a corner and voila! there's another winding network which you have to negotiate. We did end up waiting about 40mins although I must say they have included very interesting effects as part of the queue line, where you walk through Toon Town and see the sillouettes of Jessica Rabbit and the Weasels. The ride too was well worth the wait. You race through streets and back alleys in a cab, where you can manually spin the car. The wacky scenes are just hilarious with their psychedelic colours and pop up characters.

After that, we decided to call it a day. The lack of sleep was starting to take its toll and we wanted to rest up for the next two days of Disney, so we headed towards the exit. As we checked the shuttle bus timetable, we realised there was one in 4mins, so we started to run, thinking we could make it. As we were 50 metres from the bus-stop, we were 1min late and we saw the bus pulling away. Japanese punctuality! No biggie actually, the next bus was only 10mins later. This shuttle is a life-saver. The bus-stop is just outside the entrance, so you get dropped off from door to door. You may not think much of this but from experience, if you have a young child, after a full day at Disney, he will be so exhausted he literally cannot walk another step. So unless you are planning on dragging or *horrors* carrying him most of the way back to the hotel, this is truly the ideal arrangement.

So we're back at the hotel. It's extremely spacious for Tokyo. Designed for families, the room had four single beds, a flat screen tv, a separate toilet and shower area. All for the grand old price of Y17,800 (about S$230) a night including breakfast. What fascinated us most was the toilet - it's electronic! It's actually branded (Panasonic) and there is a side panel with lots of buttons. Unfortunately they were in Japanese but I know there's one which squirts water to wash your rear end. Throughout our trip, we came across these toilets. Some had music (presumably to cover embarrasing noises), some had sounds of running water, some had automatic deodorisers. Andre, being the ever adventurous one, came out of the toilet with the back of his shirt wet because he pressed the water button.

What is also great about Palm Terrace is the 24-hour Lawson at the hotel lobby. This is like a convenience store only better. The food selection is unbelievable. Since the hotel didn't have a restaurant (only a cafe that opens for breakfast), we bought our first Japanese takeaway meal from Lawson and brought it to our room for dinner. They had so much stuff it was hard to choose (and decipher). There was an interesting array of triangle rice packs but we couldn't make out the fillings inside. Luckily the sales lady knew some basic English: "shrimp mayonnaise", "pickle", so this is what we bought in the end.

The food was DELICIOUS. My entire family loves Japanese food and it was great fun trying out new stuff. They even heat up the bento box for you if you want. I believe it was chicken and some kind of sausage. The rice packs were equally good and they were, get this: only about Y120 yen each (about S$1.50).

So that was the first day in Tokyo. A jolly good day, I'd say!


Lilian said...

You write so well, I love it. Hey, small world is my family's favourite ride oi! haha, it always makes me happy and the tune's stuck in my head for days after.

I was in Tokyo Disneyland with Eddie back in 1997 (4 months pregnant with Brian) and the queues were truly horrendous. I especially remember the Roger Rabbit/Toon Town queue, which was so deceiving from the outside. Do they have Fast Passes now?

monlim said...

No Fast Pass for Roger Rabbit, but if you go early in the morning, nothing really has a long queue. If you're going to Tokyo, must go lah... it's really fun for kids! go and cheong in the morning, then afternoon when it gets crowded, relax, have ice cream, enjoy parade :)

Kimmy said...

The Palm Terrace Hotel seems very comfy and the rate you mentioned sounds even better! Did you book it directly from the hotel website to get the special rate? I'm planning a trip to Tokyo with 3 young kids in June too and really enjoyed reading your blog.

monlim said...

Kimmy: Yes I booked it directly from the hotel website. The room is perfect for four. Although my friend recently stayed at Sheraton Grande at Disney itself and she said there was a great promotion for family of 4 at about the same price as Palm Terrace. You might wanna check it out!