Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Day Two in Shanghai (Or How Knox Ended Up Asleep in a Gift Shop)

As I mentioned in a previous post, we made the right call by ignoring the guy at the check-in desk and assuming that the park would open earlier than 8:30.  One positive thing about drastic time changes during travel, especially when traveling to Asia, is that you’re usually up raring to go early the first morning.  Of course, I guess our family is usually pretty easy to get up and going for a day at Disney wherever we are in the world, so maybe jetlag doesn't really matter when it comes to a day with The Mouse.

Whatever the reason, we were all up and excited to start our day, so Knox and I decided to go down to the cafĂ© in the hotel to check out breakfast options.  I had read about some yummy sausage biscuit thingys on a blog, so I wanted to find those, and we ended up purchasing several treats to take back to the room to share.  We bought the sausage thingy, a Mickey-shaped doughnut sort-of-thing (don't you love my specificity?), a honey-pomelo-flavored drink, some coffee, and a couple of muffins.  
These are called moon cakes, I think, and they were delicious.  The pastry was flaky and the sausage was delicious.  The red Mickey ink didn't seem to have any taste at all to me.
This is the Mickey doughnut, though it's not as doughy as a US doughnut.  It's more the consistency of a soft pretzel.  We thought it was yummy.  Oh!  And notice the Grand Opening packaging.  We were surprised to still see Grand Opening on all types of things even though the park has been open since June of 2016!
Our family really likes pomelo, the largest citrus fruit.  You can get it in US grocery stores sometimes, and it looks like a giant green grapefruit.  This drink was honey-pomelo flavored.  It tasted a little bit artificial to me, but Josh loved it.
After I paid and started walking back to the elevator with my tray, I could tell that the girls at the hostess stand were troubled.  Their English wasn’t perfect, but I eventually figured out that they didn’t want me to take the tray.  I had to go back in and ask for everything to be bagged up. 

After we ate in the room, we went to catch the shuttle bus to the park.  We had asked several cast members (Disney calls all of its employees cast members) how to walk to the park, and without fail, each one assured us it would take 30 minutes and that we shouldn't try it.  We could see the park from the hotel driveway, so we couldn’t understand how this could possibly be true, but we gave up and walked to the queue for the shuttle.  We were first in line, and the cast member standing there told us we’d need to wait until 8:00 for the first shuttle.  It was chilly and about 7:40, so we weren’t excited about that.  But five minutes later, the shuttle arrived and we hopped on.  

The ride was only about five minutes (again, how could it possibly take 30 minutes to walk that distance?), and we were deposited at the shuttle drop-off area.  Interesting side note here.  I had read online about people selling knock-off souvenirs and even FastPasses at this park, and, apparently, Disney turns a blind eye to this.  Well, as soon as we got off the shuttle, we encountered this guy trying to sell us tickets to the park.  He suddenly became camera shy, but guys like him were all over the place!  And the security guys seemingly intentionally kept their distance.  Go figure.  Capitalism is clearly creeping in to Communist China.
This guy isn't waving; he's trying to stop me from taking his picture since he's scalping tickets.  You can see them in his right hand.

Upon reflection, I'm pretty sure ALL these guys were scalping Disney tickets!
We arrived at the line outside the gate by the fountain by 7:51.  Even 39 minutes before opening, we were at the back of a large crowd.  We hopped in line and tried to maintain our position in spite of the many, many people who tried to push past, around, and between us.

You can see the biggest World of Disney store in Asia behind us as we stand in line for our first day in the park.

This is only half of the crowd.  To the far right outside the frame of the picture is another set of identical gates with just as many people in line.

At 8:00, these gates opened to allow us to walk through metal detectors (though a mother and child in front of us blatantly just walked around them with no repercussions) and have our bags checked.  The security guards must never have to bring food from home, because the amount of just-add-hot-water noodle bowls they confiscated should keep them fed for a lifetime.  So if you were considering stashing away some ramen to munch on during your day at Shanghai Disneyland, think again.

Another set of gates was ahead of us, and those didn't open until 8:30.  We went to the far left side which seemed to have a slightly shorter line.  Once inside, we decided not to stop for pictures, but I just had to snap this one of a cast member holding a sign reminding people not to run.  It was completely ineffective.
Bless her heart.  Standing there holding this sign was having exactly zero influence on the crowd rushing past her.
One thing that was odd to me was that this area of the entrance appeared to be the train depot, just like the entrances to all the other Disneyland and Magic Kingdom parks.  But there is no train here.  It's just an elevated area of some sort.  Kinda weird.
We did stop long enough to snap one quick picture.  This is the weird looks-like-the-train-overpass-and-depot-but-isn't-the-overpass-and-depot thing.  

  I was looking for the sign that's always on the train overpass at the other parks that says, "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy," but it wasn't there.  (Later I discovered something similar in front of the castle.)

Shanghai is different in another way, too - it doesn't have a Main Street USA.  Instead, the area leading up to the castle is called Mickey Avenue.  It's much shorter than Main Street USA, and is really only the length of a couple of storefronts.  I had read that there is a slight shortcut to Adventure Isle just past the first storefront, and as I veered off to take it, I saw Minnie Mouse coming out for pictures.  We quickly walked up to her and got the PhotoPass photographer to take a picture or two.

After rounding the corner on our shortcut, we encountered another character.  Duffy the Disney Bear is not a favorite of mine, but Knox really likes him.  Kinley wasn't interested in a picture with a bear that she thinks doesn't count as a real Disney character, so our stop was brief.
Knox and Duffy pose for a picture.
We continued walking briskly to Adventure Isle, trying not to give in to the temptation to break into an all-out run, knocking over anyone who dared to get in our way.  We also tried not to intentionally trip the inconsiderate people who were running.  We did not, however,  avoid making snarky remarks in English about said inconsiderate people.
A thin yellow line indicates the route we took on our first morning in the park.  Two little yellow stars show the spots where we met Minnie and Duffy.  You can get a sense of how massive this park is by following that yellow line which was a good ten minute walk even at a brisk pace.

We passed the FastPass kiosk area and went straight to the most popular ride at the park, Soarin'.  We hadn't ridden this ride at Walt Disney World or at Disneyland since the ride had been changed from Soarin' Over California to Soarin' Around the World, so we were excited to see the changes.  Because we knew that this version had a Shanghai-specific ending, we didn't want to skip it even though we knew it was very popular.  For us, this was the right choice!  There was no line, and we even enjoyed the queue since it's very different from the airplane-hangar-themed versions in the US.  This one was more of an ancient stone temple theme.  The attraction has a brief film at the beginning to set up the story, but it was all in Mandarin.  I entertained the family (and perhaps some English-speaking Chinese guests) by pretending to translate the whole thing from Mandarin into English, and then we took our seats for the main part of the attraction.  It was fabulous, and we all agreed that if we could swing it, we would do it again.
The themeing of the queue for Soarin' is very different in Shanghai than it is in the US.

We were excited to see Iguazu Falls get a cameo as we exited!
From there, we went over to the Fantasyland FastPass kiosk to get Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPasses.  We hadn't been to Walt Disney World since this attraction opened, so we were excited to experience it for the first time.  This was also our first experience using a kiosk that had FPs for multiple rides, but there were pictures, cast members, and an English option, so it wasn't hard.

Next, we back-tracked to Adventure Isle to do Camp Discovery.  I wrote about this attraction briefly in a previous post, and our family really enjoyed it.  The harness and rope system kept me feeling secure even when I could see lost shoes, Mickey ears, and sunglasses in the waterfall beneath me.  Before you get your harness and ropes, though, you must stash all of your stuff in a free locker.  You're not even allowed to take a cell phone.  (Remember my comment above about the lost shoes and stuff?  Yeah.  Don't take your cell phone.)  The wait for the locker was about 15 minutes since you have to wait for other people to finish the course and empty out their stuff before you can get a locker of your own.  I was expecting the harnessing-up part to take a while, but Disney cast members perform this with impressive efficiency, so the locker line really is the longest part of the wait.
After getting all of our stuff out of our locker, we stopped for a picture in front of Camp Discovery.
After exerting ourselves by jumping from rock to rock and balancing on moving logs, we decided we deserved some caramel corn.  It was a fairly small box, but it was delicious.  From there we grabbed Roarin' Rapids FastPasses (the return time on those was late evening) and headed to the largest castle in the Disney parks system for a walk-through.
We made quick work of this little box of caramel corn!
You can't enter this castle from the front as you can Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella's castles; you enter it from the back or the sides.  Since we were coming from Adventure Isle, we entered from the side.  The Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique is inside if you have a hankering to be primped, pizzazzed, and princessed, and the Royal Banquet Hall is also in there.  Also inside are beautiful mosaics that depict not the traditional princesses and their stories but the more recent Disney heroines Ana and Elsa, Rapunzel, Tiana, and Merida.  These are beautiful pieces of art with stunning detail, and we enjoyed looking at them on our way to Fantasyland.

 As we exited the back of the castle, we took a right to head to our first-ever ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train since our FastPass return time had arrived. While the ride was fun, I thought it was kind of short.  I guess I was expecting more of a Splash Mountain-type length of ride with the story and the roller coaster part mashed together.  I enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn't wait more than 25 minutes for it without a FastPass.  Here's a 30-second video of the ride that I took.  It's kind of cool to hear the song switch to Mandarin after the Heigh-Ho part!

We thought the ride was too short, but we did enjoy singing "Heigh Ho" along with the dwarfs!

After the mine train, we went back up to the area near the castle to check things out.  We happened upon another character greeting spot where Belle was posing with guests.  We zipped over into the line, and admired the lovely princess as she interacted with her admirers.  We tried to listen in to see if she spoke Mandarin, but we couldn't tell from our spot at the back of the line.  When our turn for pictures came, I intended to ask her if she spoke Chinese, but I was instead more entranced by all the other guests who wanted to take our picture while we posed with Belle.  People were smiling and waving and taking pictures of us!  
The lovely Belle graciously chatted with us in English while cameras all around us snapped away.

This wasn't my first Asian rodeo, so I shouldn't have been so surprised.  When we've done mission work in Thailand or traveled in places like Viet Nam or Cambodia, our little, fair-skinned, blond-headed kiddos have been tourist attractions all on their own, but I guess I just hadn't thought about the possibility now that they're so grown up.


At a store in Thailand and shopping for souvenirs and walking through the park in Viet Nam, Knox and Kinley were constantly stopped by strangers for pictures.  If I had a dollar for every stranger in Asia who picked up my babies, I'd be a rich lady.

Knox was patient and charming as all three of these girls wanted pictures with him,

Kinley was more than happy to take a picture with this little cutie patootie.
This same thing actually ended up happeneing to ME later that evening.  Two girls wanted pictures with the kids and me (Josh was happy not to be included), so Jssh filmed the whole thing.  The video is dark, but short.

After the impromptu photo sessions, we noticed that the line for Peter Pan was fairly short, so we hopped into the queue.  After a 10 minute wait, our flying ship (which seated all four of us comfortably) was ready for takeoff.  In this version, flying through the nursery is a more developed part of the ride's beginning.  But for us, the neatest change was seeing the Peter Pan statue from Kensington Gardens in London!  We visit that statue each time we're in London, so it was a nice surprise to see it added to this version of the classic Disney ride.

Nearby was the Pinocchio Village Kitchen where we decided to each lunch.  We each made our choices and then we sat out in the courtyard to eat.  I think that no one had noticed that the doors to the courtyard were unlocked until we went out, because the tables out there were completely empty until about 10 minutes after we sat down.
These empty tables filled up quickly after we sat down.
Kinley and Knox got the pork ramen soup combo.  Kinley also tried the restaurant's specialty drink which was matcha, pineapple, and coconut flavored.  I suggest trying every single specialty drink you can since they were uniformly yummy.

Josh had the Village Minced Pork with Rice.  (The pork is inside those dumplings.)

I had read good things about the Peking Duck Pizza, so I tried that.  The sauce was a little too sweet for me, but I loved all the julienned green onions on top. 
One thing that I noticed at a kiosk past the checkout was that there were two spigots where you could get free hot water.  I'm not sure what these were for since I saw the security guys confiscating all that instant ramen at the front gates, but maybe it was for making your own tea?

After lunch we made the trek over to Tomorrowland to get FastPasses for TRON.  While Josh and Kinley went to the FastPass kiosk, Knox and I went to the Marvel Universe/Be Iron Man attraction.  Knox played a video game that allows you to be Iron Man'
Knox takes a turn as Tony Stark.
After grabbing our TRON FastPasses, Josh joined us to play.
Once we finished playing, there weren't any characters at the meet and greet stations inside Marvel Universe, so we moved on to ride Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue where the wait was about 20 minutes.  It's very much like the other Buzz attractions in the US parks, but the AstroBlaster design is better here because each blaster has a red laser at the end that allows you to see where you're aiming.  Another difference is that all of the targets are a red Z.  The result for us was far higher scores.
All of the explanations and directions were written in both Mandarin and English.

The bigger the target, the smaller the point value in this version of the popular ride.
Josh and Knox paired up to save Planet Pepperonia from the Evil Emperor Zurg!

After this we enjoyed a DELICIOUS ice cream treat in the shape of Minnie Mouse.  The inside was raspberry ice cream and the outside was white chocolate.

While we munched on our snack, we noticed that the app was displaying a 30 minute wait time for the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto attraction in Fantasyland.  This is a ride that begins behind the castle and is very much like the Storybook Land attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim.  It tells several favorite Disney stories as guests float along in boats, ending up  under the castle in a crystal cave.  We got to the end of the line, and the sign there confirmed the 30 minute wait.  We joined to queue.

This ended up being the most frustrating part of our day.  The wait was actually almost double the listed time, but by the time we figured that out we were too invested in the wait to quit.  We had already wasted 25 minutes in line, so giving up seemed foolhardy.  We stuck it out, but the attraction wasn't worth the wait.  I would do it again if the wait were 25 minutes or less, but otherwise, I would skip it.  After all, the stories are completely in Mandarin.
The boats for this attraction remind me of the ones on the Jungle Cruise.
Mulan, Aladdin, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Tangled, and The Little Mermaid are a few of the tales told on this attraction.  In Mandarin, of course.
These are the doors to the Crystal Grotto under the castle.  Unfortunately, none of our pictures of the inside were very good.
Hot, frustrated, and more than a little bit disappointed, we grabbed a churro and a mickey pretzel to perk ourselves up before the parade.

I'm munching on a churro as I wait for the parade and update my notes on my iPhone so that later I'll be able to remember enough details to draft this post!
These people were asked repeatedly to get out of the trees, but they just kept climbing back up there.

Before the parade, the cast members kept asking people to stand behind the lines so that they wouldn't get hit by the floats in the parade or to get out of the trees to avoid injury.  But the cast members' requests didn't have much effect on the behavior of the people.  Once the parade started, it was even worse.  I literally had to keep my arm out the entire parade to keep a 20-something-year-old-girl from pushing in front of me and Knox.  I mean, my arm was stiff and flexed, actively pushing her back the whole time.  Because of this, one parade was enough for me in Shanghai.
Ana, Elsa, and Mulan were the stars of the show!

After the parade (which ran up Mickey Avenue and then between the castle and Adventure Isle), we went back through Fantasyland to get to TRON in Tomorrowland since our FastPass time had arrived.  

The outside of the TRON ride is almost as awesome as the inside!  The Disney Imagineers who worked on this project rocked it!

When you get to the queue, just like at Camp Discovery, you have to first wait in line for a free locker.  There's not enough room on the ride for you to store bags, so the lockers are for keeping your stuff until your ride is over.  Then you line up for the actual line, which was at least 20 minutes long, even with a FastPass.  There is a single rider line, but most people come through the line in pairs, so even the single rider line takes a while.  I would estimate that the single rider line took twice as long as the FastPass line.
This is the view of the loading area for the TRON ride as you're standing in line.  The interior reminds me a lot of a more modern Space Mountain.

I waxed eloquent about this ride in my blog post titled "Ten Things to Love About Shanghai Disneyland", so I won't go into great detail.  But seriously, people.  I love this ride.  It's mostly inside in the dark with lots of blue neon, but it does go outside for part of the ride.  Spectators entering the ride can watch riders whiz by screaming, so Kinley and I made sure to squeal extra loudly.
           Kinley screams like a banshee on the TRON ride while Knox looks a little less sure about the whole thing.

                                         As the ride whooshes by outside, curious onlookers get a taste of the thrill.

After the ride, you grab your bags from the lockers and then exit through an attraction called TRON Realm.  Knox enjoyed this area because he likes the TRON movies so much, but I certainly wouldn't call it a must-do.

This attraction was similar to the Iron Man one except that it was TRON themed.

                                       Josh and Knox check out a TRON-themed game.

It was now time for our character dinner at the castle.  A week before, we had Skype-called Shanghai to make a reservation for the dinner in the castle at the Royal Banquet Hall.  At Walt Disney World, you have to reserve dinner in the castle at Cinderella's Royal Table 180 days in advance, and your chances of getting in are still slim.  But here, a week out was plenty of time.  In fact, from the looks of the dining room, we could probably have booked the day of.

We checked in at the hostess stand and got to have pictures with Princess Minnie before heading upstairs to the dining room.

                During the meal, Mickey, Donald, and Daisy stopped by our table for pictures, too.
The food was delicious, plentiful, and less expensive than Cinderella's Royal Table in Orlando.  I think we each got a three-course meal for a total of about $160.  The menus had pictures which helped us to make our decisions.  (This is fairly common in Asia, and it helps to bridge the language barrier.  Sometimes, especially in Japan, restaurants will even have fake food sitting in a display case so that you can see life-size versions of everything on the menu.)  
Josh and Knox look over the menus.  Knox was still young enough to eat from the child's menu ( and pay the child's price!).

We tried to all order different things so that we could try each other's food, so we had soup, salad, and the crab cake for our appetizers.
The soup was yummy!
Knox doesn't like shrimp, but he loved the Mickey-shaped crouton.  Josh and I ate his shrimp along with our own salad and crab cake appetizers.
The entrees were yummy, too!

Knox loved his kids' meal salmon.
The desserts were showstoppers that were also super tasty.

And now I come to the part of our trip that was the most magical for me.  We Boyds end every single family trip with a big powwow where we debrief about our favorite moments, meals, memories, and experiences of the trip.  After it was all over and we were on the plane headed home, this was mine.

My dessert is pictured above on the bottom left.  It was a white chocolate slipper filled with berries and a raspberry macaron filled with apricot filling and topped with a tiny apricot-flavored macaron and some spun sugar.  I ate the berries and slipper first with my fork, and then decided to eat the tiny macaron and spun sugar with my fingers.  It was delish, but I felt kind of gauche eating with my fingers in a nice restaurant.  I decided to eat the last macaron (which I had saved for last because it was what looked yummiest to me) with my fork.  As I cut into it, it skittered across the table and onto the floor, Pretty-Woman-escargot-scene-style.  

I'm pretty sure I audibly gasped followed by an unintentionally-dramatic moan that was easily overheard by the staff stationed nearby.  I actually stared at it for a moment and considered eating it anyway.  I tried to mentally calculate exactly how many feet had stood on that square of carpet since the restaurant opened in June and whether or not those feet would really have been that dirty.  But before I could make up my mind, a cute little server quickly came over and asked what had happened.  I told her what I had done and how irritated I was with myself, and then I bent down to pick it up.  She said she was so sorry and whisked away my much-anticipated macaron.  As I licked my wounds and tried to recover, she returned with a fresh macaron on a new plate and proudly presented it to me.  I was thrilled and completely surprised.  I mean, it was my own fault that the silly thing ended up on the floor, and Disney certainly shouldn't have had to replace it.  But without my even asking, they did what they do best - make magical moments.

And you'd better believe I ate that bad boy with my fingers.  I wasn't taking any chances.

A reservation for dinner in the castle comes with a special perk - the right purchase tickets to a private viewing area for the fireworks.  It would have cost us about $40 to do it, but, unfortunately, we had FastPasses for Pirates of the Caribbean during the fireworks show, so we couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.

And, let me tell you, Pirates was breathtaking.  I wrote about this ride in my previous post as well, so I'll just reiterate that IT IS AWESOME.  If I get to go back, I could seriously spend my days doing TRON and Pirates over and over and over.  I could post lots of the pictures inside the ride that Kinley took, but it doesn't come close to doing it justice.
Knox and I check out the scenery in Pirates as our boat meanders past the dining area where you can eat while viewing a section of the attraction.
I think maybe Kinley was trying to put away her phone as we went down the drop during the ride so that she didn't drop it   Or maybe she's elbowing her daddy?

After Pirates, we caught the very end of the fireworks and then went into a photo shop to try to make sure our PhotoPass was working correctly.  While Josh and Kinley went to ask about that, I went to look at pins.  A few minutes later, I turned around to see this.

Bless his heart, he was asleep on the floor of the gift shop.  He later told me that this was the most tired he had ever felt in his entire life.  The combination of jet lag, an early morning, and walking a 936 acre park for 14 hours wore him completely out.  I decided to let him sleep until Kinley and Josh were done, and then we gently woke him up and made our way toward the park exit.  We stopped for a quick picture, and then went back to the hotel to get some sleep to be ready to do it all again the next day!

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