Young or old, Disneyland will have you by your heart

I stand, smiling sheepishly, between Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Flanked by the two iconic characters at Disneyland, Hong Kong, for the photo of a lifetime, I am also celebrating my birthday. Each passing year takes me further away from the world of fairies, cats, dogs, and do-good mice… As if sensing my uncertainty, Mickey lands a kiss on my cheek and Minnie pulls me into the colourful jamboree spilling all around. I join in.

Disneyland has a carnival atmosphere. A big party is on everywhere, with people strolling from one exciting theme park to another. I head to the latest one, Grizzly Gulch. The story goes that a grizzly bear was scratching his back on the mountain when it exposed the gold veins that started the gold rush to this area. At the park, the recreated Big Grizzly Mountain is 27m high and has all the attractions that come with the fables of that time. I board the runaway mine car. It makes rapid forward motions, plummets down, speeds through meandering tunnels and rocky terrain. You rush through cutting winds, with your heart in your mouth, your hair flying, your eyes popping, screaming with excitement and fear. Phew! Yes, I would take another trip, I tell a surprised cast member. Many others are ready too for another ride but, unlike me, they are kids.

I try all the rides. The space mountain ride in Adventure Land is zany. You race through a pitch-dark galaxy, winding and looping, falling and rising, laughing and screaming. For old time’s sake, I climb on the carousel and enjoy its slow spin. The toy soldier parachute has your heart racing as you drop from a great height and spring back.

Mickey’s Philarmagic takes you through the stories of Aladdin and Jasmine, Nemo and the underwater creatures, Donald Duck and his tales, all in 4D to an absolutely stunning denouement. A quick sandwich at one of the several eateries and I carry on. It is late afternoon.

I hear announcements of a fantasy parade, a daily activity that takes me to Mainstreet, the venue that ushers guests into Disneyland. Visitors are lined up for the parade: a rising wave of colour, music, dance and drama. Dancers lead followed by tableaus of Disney characters, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Tinker Bell, Peter Pan…. Trampoline artistes and dancers regale the audience.

I dash into the souvenir stores that dot Mainstreet. Soon it is tea time and I grab a Mickey waffle and a cold coffee and rush off to enjoy it on a boat ride. It’s a gentle jungle cruise but “there’s a big surprise,” says a park attendee with a wink. The calmness of the green surroundings, the evening lights and a passing river raft lull one into stupor when suddenly the surprise springs up, an alligator charges and shakes you out of your reverie. The musical The Lion King. is a perfect act and skilfully combines fire works, water acts, sound and light into a dramatic ensemble. It is time to wind up and everybody gets ready for the grand finale. The crowds gather on the cobbled courtyard of Sleeping Beauty’s castle for the ceremony. The pyrotechnics begin. Shooting flares, clouds of winking lights, neon zigzags, bursts of illumination closes the spectacular show.

It is the end. The crowd has clamoured, cheered, clapped and fallen silent. It dissolves slowly as if wishing for more. I walk backhappy with the world.

I am ready to believe in fairies, in tales of cats, mice, dogs, hens… in the fantastic. Next morning, I am back waiting for the gates of Disneyland to open.

(The writer was at Disneyland on the invitation of Disneyland Hong Kong)