08 March 2009

How to be the best Dad in the world...

One word: Disneyland.

Ordinarily, I am not really fond of spending either my time or my money on things which are blatantly commercial and tastelessly trashy. However, I did it, and I don't regret it one little bit. Our kids have grown up sadly bereft of most forms of advertising that children are subjected to simply because we have chosen - quelle horreur! - to live without a television.

But you know, those crusty executives at the Disney conglomerate have their ways and means, so our two little girls were quite familiar with every Disney Princess in their repertoire.

On our most recent trip to Europe, we had the opportunity to stop over in Hong Kong on the way home. We usually do this to break up the ultra-marathon distances Australians have to travel to see much of the planet anyway, but Hong Kong afforded us the possibility of satisfying every little kids' dream (except Yvette's, apparently) of going to Disneyland. Yvette was a bit skeptical about the idea at first, but my repressed inner child was fully in favour of it. And to add icing to the cake, we eventually opted to stay in one of the full-on Disneyland hotels.

Well, it is hard to summarise what the kids' response was. We kept it a secret from them for a long time, and eventually we let on to this surprise. Their excitement was palpable. Watching them enjoy themselves was one of Yvette's and my lasting and most satisfying travel experiences (life experiences). Once we arrived they looked as if they were going to burst, such was the excitement they displayed. Bendy has, since then, found a new aim in life: to visit every Disneyland park on the planet.

A few good things about Hong Kong Disneyland, which we thoroughly recommend:
  • It is small. Or should I say, It's a small world. Unlike the behemoth versions in America, HK Disneyland is on a geographically manageable scale.
  • It is designed with small children in mind. This is not a park for teenagers, though some would undoubtedly still enjoy it. There is a distinct lack of adrenalin-pumping rides - but there are some. Bendy LOVED the thrill of Space Mountain. The Bookworm screamed in terror and thought her end had come.
  • It was crowded, but not oppressively. Sure, we waited in lines, but no more than 20 minutes for any ride. Most were only about 5-10 minute waits.
  • The photos with the Disney characters are a really fun way to capture the memories - and they even let you use your own camera. They'll even get a team member to use your camera to take your family photo so you can all be in the shot. I did feel for the team members in the character costumes in the ridiculous heat and humidity.
  • Disney's Hollywood Hotel (where we stayed) was a great place to stay. There were shuttle buses to the park, a breakfast spread that has to be seen to be believed (including Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles), and unbelievable decor.
  • There is a long waterfront promenade between the two Disney hotels from which you can see Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It's a pleasant way to fill in some time.
  • HK Disneyland is very close to the airport. And if you have a long break between flights it would be possible to fit in a visit to the park. If you stay at the park, there's the added benefit of not having to struggle with the kids and your luggage through the streets of Hong Kong itself.
  • It is very well connected to the rest of Hong Kong by public transport. HK Disneyland has its own railway station on a spur line between the airport and Kowloon, so access is fast and easy. But taxis would suffice just as easily.
  • We were able to get a deal through our travel agent where we got a 2-day Disney pass for the price of one day. Part of the deal was that we had to stay in one of the Disneyland hotels. It was convenient, and added to the whole experience. And we could go in to the park twice - which we did.
So, do your kids a favour, and satisfy that inner urge to go to Disneyland which formed long ago while you were watching episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club" on TV. I know we shouldn't do anything so crass as to "buy" the admiration of our children, but in retrospect I know it was a really, really positive experience the kids will never forget. And I came away with a smug inner glow knowing that - for a while, at least - I was the best Dad in the world.

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