“Are you here by yourself?” a friendly Chinese teenager asked me as I sat beside her on the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars ride at Hong Kong Disneyland. I nodded sheepishly, and she replied, “It’s okay, you can scream with us.” She and her posse of selfie-taking teenagers weren’t the only ones to make me feel welcome as I wandered solo among hoards of Chinese tourists.
I’ve never had a problem with sightseeing alone, so when a chance to visit the world’s newest Disney theme park presented itself, I gladly took it even though I had no one to scream with, no one to ride with and no one to take my photo—fortunately I have sufficiently long arms with which to take a respectable selfie.
Frankly, I couldn’t pass up this visit to one of the two Asian Magic Kingdoms because Disneyland is in my blood. My parents met while both working at the original California theme park in the 60s, and mine was a childhood spent riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant, singing along to The Little Mermaid and getting photos taken with doe-eyed princesses. Now as a 30-something adult, I still have a soft spot for all things Disney.
I’ve never visited a theme park sans companion however. Yet despite the fact I had no one to talk to, I found myself laughing and screaming on Space Mountain, clapping and singing along with the kids at The Lion King Show (did I really just admit that?) and indulging in a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar or two.
A few pitying looks were cast my way as I entered rides through the ‘single riders’ line, but being alone at Disneyland has its advantages. For one, DHK has these special lines for single riders, to fill the extra seats when there are families or groups with uneven numbers. I seemed to have been the only single rider in the park that day, because I walked to the front of every line. I rode almost every ride in the park in under three hours, which must be some kind of record.
Another advantage is that I got to do precisely as I pleased, with no one to naysay riding ‘It’s a Small World’ three times in a row or to sit and people watch, observing children throwing tantrums and scores of couples taking selfies with a stick in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
And although I was alone, I never felt lonely. It’s impossible with the ultra friendly cast members (Disney speak for staff) smiling and chatting to me in perfect English. They must be specially trained to make the single riders feel less silly.
I thought Hong Kong Disneyland would incorporate a lot more local Chinese flair, but the only things I could find were snack carts selling dried squid, a sampan scene on the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride and Chinese staff (but with name tags strangely reading western names like Stella and Tammy).
Even though there was no Matterhorn, dried seafood was served on Main Street USA (don’t worry folks, I found a pizza in Fantasyland) and I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said by my Chinese skipper Eric on the Adventureland Jungle Cruise, Hong Kong Disneyland felt just as magical as the Disneyland I grew up with.
Have you ever visited a theme park alone? Would you?