Duffy the Bear has temporarily replaced Mickey Mouse in the iconic Hong Kong Disneyland garden. (Photos: Pattarawadee Saengmanee)

After opening its borders and relaxing restrictions on leisure activities in public areas late last year, visitors from outside Hong Kong are no longer required to submit RT-PCR tests upon arrival. As things go back to normal, this island has become a favourite destination for Thai tourists and families seeking short-haul vacations.

My previous trip to Hong Kong was a few weeks prior to Covid-19, but this was my first time visiting Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, where a cast of recognisable cartoon characters bring back childhood fairy-tale memories.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney and the theme park is providing spectacular performances and new attractions throughout the year. For instance, the iconic garden at the entry is temporarily replaced with the face of Duffy the Disney Bear instead of Mickey Mouse for fresh immersive experiences, as part of the spring campaign.

It was a cloudy day with a 90% probability of rain according to the forecast and although an umbrella and raincoat were required, the downpour did not deter young visitors from dressing up in fancy costumes and accessories inspired by their favourite Disney animated characters.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad – Main Street Station served as the opening stage for a group of students to show off their talent, while Main Street USA is lined with a ribbon of beautifully decorated Disneyland stores and cafes selling a wide range of adorable lifestyle products as well as tempting cartoon-theme pastries and street food.

We made our way through the crowds and made our first stop at the Castle of Magical Dreams, which was launched in 2020 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. It stands in the heart of the amusement park as a light of bravery, hope and possibility, encouraging people to pursue their ambitions and beliefs.

The Castle of Magical Dreams was launched in 2020 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. (Photo: Graham Uden)

“The pandemic lasted almost four years and we want Hong Kong tourism to rebound. The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort remains a top-of-mind and must-see destination. Despite the pandemic, we continue to remain competitive in order to present a new product offering. In 2020, we launched the Castle of Magical Dreams as an icon of Hong Kong,” said Eva Lau, Hong Kong and international sales director of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

“This year, customers will discover a variety of experiences. Last month, for example, Duffy and Friends offered a new experience, and Stella Lou, a member of the Duffy family, is highlighted this month. Next month, we’re going to have heroic characters from Marvel.”

Its architectural design portrays the distinct attributes of 13 Disney princesses and queens through the creative use of colours, emblems, symbols and cultural elements in fresh interpretations. Visitors can pretend to be a party of royal guests as they stroll into the Royal Reception Hall, where gorgeous princesses and queens such as Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, or Anna and Elsa roll out a red carpet and have a private talk.

We also got an opportunity to explore the Enchanted Treasures, where artisans from the renowned Chow Tai Fook Jewellery store have been appointed as royal jewellers to craft the kingdom’s magnificent keepsakes and treasures like Cinderella’s glass slippers and the enchanted gold rose from Beauty And The Beast.

Outside, Mickey and Minnie take the stage to welcome special guests to the all-new Follow Your Dreams performance. Accompanied by Donald Duck, Goofy and 3 princesses, this 20-minute outdoor musical is jam-packed with classic Disney songs with modern arrangements, as well as effects like fog jets, bubbles and sparklers to boost creativity and embrace the power of dreams.

The lavish projection mapping Momentous with special effects illuminates the Castle of Magical Dreams at night. (Photo © Hong Kong Disneyland Resort)

Just a short walk from the fairy-tale castle, I found myself in the middle of an epic spaceship battle at Tomorrowland. It looks like a mythical doorway that transports visitors to the future and allows us to witness certain iconic scenes straight out of sci-fi blockbusters such as Star Wars, Avengers and Ant-Man And The Wasp.

I couldn’t pass up the chance to ride the Hyperspace Mountain indoor rollercoaster and picture myself sitting next to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Rey, warrior Chewbacca or shining golden android C-3PO, with Princess Leia Organa serving as a captain.

Admiral Ackbar briefed us on the mission: the Rebel Alliance will launch a reconnaissance craft to inspect an Imperial Star Destroyer detected near Jakku, a barren planet depicted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Set against a backdrop of the starry sky, an elite X-wing squadron escorted us into hyperspace and we arrived in the twinkling of an eye at a place where the Star Destroyer and a swarm of Imperial TIE fighters had set up a trap for us.

We got an adrenaline surge as we were bombarded with red and green blaster fire and had to swiftly learn how to evade blaster fire and dash through a ferocious dogfight as the Rebel squadron made their last assault on the Star Destroyer. Thankfully, we were able to land safely on Earth.

Following a brief intermission, our adventure resumed with Iron Man Experience Presented by AIA to safeguard Hong Kong from villains. We donned StarkVision glasses and boarded an exciting 3D simulator against a backdrop of Hong Kong landmarks including Victoria Harbour, as Tony Stark showcased all the newest Stark Industries technology at the Stark Expo.

We pretended to wear an Expo Edition Iron Wing equipped with an arc reactor, substantial armour plate, artificial intelligence and self-healing glass. There were reports of Hydra forces invading the city right away, and Iron Man forced us to learn how to sweep over skyscrapers and fight in the air to defend residents.

As it rained intermittently during the day, we headed to Adventureland and sat ringside for a wonderful 30-minute musical production Festival Of The Lion King which is designed for people of all ages to have great holiday experiences.

During the day, visitors can participate in exciting adventures with a group of Marvel superheroes. (Photo: Graham Uden)

A theatre is set up in the centre of the African jungle to tell the story of Simba, Nala and Scar through a medley of legendary songs such as Hakuna Matata, while Simba strives to reclaim his rightful role as monarch of the Pride Lands.

Next, we made our way across the wild to the historic mining hamlet of Grizzly Gulch, which was created during the Gold Rush. Surrounded by vintage-style buildings armed with water cannons, the Water Tower and Lucky Spring Geyser fountain lie in the middle of the town, where a group of young miners can join a fun water-splashing fight amid the rainfall or cool down from the summer heat.

Riding the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars is another great opportunity to travel back in time to 1888 when the mining industry was booming. Visitors may ride a rapid rollercoaster down a steep rail track and act like a geologist who discovered gold inside a mountain while exploring a barren canyon.

When the sky darkened, we rushed to the Castle of Magical Dreams, whose walls would be transformed into a massive backdrop for the brand-new, breathtaking projection mapping Momentous, which employed lighting, spectacular pyro and firework effects as well as an orchestra-style medley of original and new Disney theme songs to create immersive, multisensory experiences.

This groundbreaking 20-minute multimedia performance is divided into six chapters that reflect our lives through Disney animated favourites facing various challenges. For example, when the castle is turned into a timepiece and the sun rises in the “Time Begins” chapter, visitors will see Disney and Pixar characters as newborns. Kala is cradling Tarzan celebrating the birth of life, as baby Dumbo swings in his mother’s long trunk, and toddler Riley from Inside Out learns how to walk.

To commemorate our early days of building bonds, the “Time Of Your Life” chapter portrays Wendy and Peter Pan playing in Neverland, Anna and Elsa creating a snowman in Arendelle, and Simba basking in youthful naivete before becoming a king in Pride Lands.

The “Time For Change” chapter illustrates the times in our lives when we come to a fork in the road. Moana sails across the ocean to find herself and Judy Hopps from Zootopia strives for excellence in every way conceivable, while Hercules uncovers his power.

Our journey concluded with an overnight stay at Disney Explorers Lodge, where our room was decked out in Disney motifs, from the bed to a series of collectable amenities in the bathroom, and even Mickey Mouse-inspired slippers.

Until Dec 24, guests can book a LinaBell-themed room package, starting from HK$4,547 (19,850 baht) per night. The room will be decorated with LinaBell-inspired slippers, pillowcases, a floor mat, a blanket, plush and popcorn bucket so that guests can fulfil their imagination.

To find out further details, visit hongkongdisneyland.com.

The Main Street USA serves as a major shopping and dining venue.

Mickey and Minnie, together with their friends, star in the brand-new musical performance Follow Your Dreams. (Photo © Hong Kong Disneyland Resort)

The Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars transport visitors back to the Gold Rush era. (Photo: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort)

Cinderella’s glass slipper is on view in the Enchanted Treasures. (Photo: Graham Uden)

The Festival Of The Lion King musical attracts young visitors to Adventureland. 

The old mining town of Grizzly Gulch converts its land into an open battlefield for a water-splashing war. 

During the day, visitors can participate in exciting adventures with a group of Marvel super heroes. 

LinaBell steps out of the magical world to embrace her fans. (Photo: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort)

Hyperspace Mountain allows you to witness an epic fight between the Star Wars X-wing squadron and the Star Destroyer.

The Disney Explorers Lodge provides visitors with a seamless experience to appreciate the fantasy world. 

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