Shanghai Disneyland boasts the largest Disney Fairytale Castle of them all, it’s also the most interactive, if you speak Mandarin. This is my 4th Disneyland. I started at Anaheim, some 25 years ago, and have since been to Disneyland Paris and Tokyo. Shanghai is nowhere near as big as Orlando, it’s just one park, but they have expansion plans in place.
Like Tokyo, popcorn is everywhere, however the Chinese do not seem to embrace the numerous themed popcorn holders the way the Japanese do. Nor do they wear coordinating outfits here. They do take just as many photos and the Chinese love to film everything, in portrait mode on their phones, no matter how bad the lighting. Disney is Disney though and the park is instantly recognisable the moment you get close. You can see the castle from the metro as you approach and everything from railings to door handles all instantly become a homage to Mickey’s silhouette.
We quickly realise the place is set up for Halloween, giant plastic pumpkins bearing the images of popular characters were positioned all around the entrance. It’s a bright sunny day and the place is very busy. It’s the day before Golden Week starts, when China’s workforce takes a week off to celebrate the anniversary of China becoming a Republic. This year, China will be 70.
Shanghai Disneyland is easily navigated via an app. It will tell you where you are, what’s nearby, what food and shops are available and most importantly, the waiting times for every attraction and ride. It also has a planning function so you can plan out your whole day to maximise your time. It’s an app that we have, we just don’t have any internet capability to make it work. You can buy a Chinese sim card when you enter the country, you have to get your Passport scanned and do some paperwork in order to get one. We didn’t as we have always made do with WiFi hotspots. Had I known the problems we would come to have, I’d have bought one. If you travel to China, I would recommend you take a phone that doesn’t rely on google, an iPhone for example, and get a sim at the airport when you land.
Instead of the app, I found an english map of the park by returning to the entrance and getting directed to guest services. I was surprised they didn’t have them everywhere like normal. The wait times for the big rides, the runaway mine train and the tron cycles were almost 2 hrs but smaller rides were often only 30mins at most. We finaally got to ride on the Buzz Lightyear Star Command ride thatceluded us in Tokyo. It was so busy there that the fastpass we got at 9 in the morning was not valid until 2250 at night. It was worth a 25 minute wait.We also went on some other rides and watched the parade, which was sadly not Halloween themed. Instead we saw Mickey’s Storybook Express.
The sun went down and the crowds gathered to watch the Castle projection show and fireworks. We didn’t get a great view, plus everyone had their phones in the air, but we got the gist and the fireworks were decent, though I expected more from China. Still better than New Years in Paris, I’ve seen better firework displays at local rugby clubs than what they had to offer. We realised as we left that we had not even visited two areas of the park but we had a two day pass so the rest could wait.
The next morning it was spitting. This, we decided, was in our favour. The Chinese tend to stay away from places when it rains. We arrived to find it was distinctly less busy than the previous day. We enjoyed the morning, heading for a few rides that had eluded us the day before, namely Woody’s Roundup that was more fun than I expected. Most importantly, we met Baymax. He was so real it was hard to believe it wasn’t the real thing. We had a big hug and he fist bumped us both. Best. Day. Ever. That’s a lot considering yesterday we met both Spiderman and Thor.
The rain got heavier and we started to get uncomfortably wet so we invested in an umbrella, Disney branded, of course. It kept the rain off but we actively sought out indoor queues. We practically walked onto a Pirates of the Caribbean ride with almost no wait at all and it was mind blowingly good. It felt like an hour long wait at least kind of attraction. It started with an animatronic Jack Sparrow but turned into an underwater boat ride and huge sea battle, courtesy of huge sets and detailed projections. It felt expensive, to say the least.
The rain persisted and we became unbearably wet. We didn’t know it but we were actually caught in a typhoon. We decided we had done all we needed to do and headed back to the hotel. Despite the umbrella, we arrived at the hotel soaked from the waist down. I had to ring my socks out but it was worth it. Disneyland is like pizza, even when its bad, it’s still pretty good. Plus we met Baymax so we were, at least, satisfied with our care.