Shanghai Disneyland!

Hello world, from behind the Great Firewall! I’ve been meaning to write a post about my day at Shanghai Disneyland / useful tips for China in general because of the limited information available online on Shanghai Disneyland. I surfed a lot of blogs before I visited in order to plan my strategy for Disney, and there are a couple of things which I believe I should have done / could have done better.

This was how our day eventually went: Fastpass for Peter Pan as Soaring was out (on hindsight should have grabbed the one for Mine Train instead, but we skipped this ride) – Pirates – Peter Pan (by the end of this, at 10.45am, all fastpasses were out) – Grabbed a lavender soft serve at Il Paperino, watched a parade, went to Downtown Disney in search of a coffee – Watched Pirates show – Ate Mickey shaped pizza – Camp Discovery – Tron – FIREWORKS – day ends.

ROUTE PLANNING

First off, arrive in advance to clear the security line. We made the rookie mistake of arriving at the Disney station at 7.50am. BAD MISTAKE. While the queue to get into Disney itself isn’t long, the security check prior to that takes about 30 minutes, and it is extremely packed, with Chinese people trying to cut your line at every turn. So you gotta either just let it go, or play good area defence. Telling them off won’t help either (I told 3 people off in my very accented sub-par mandarin but was obviously ignored) and parents actually use children to help them cut lines. The park opened at 8am, and we only got in at about 8.25am.

Second, Soarin’s fastpasses tend to go first. If that is a must-ride, grab the fastpass for it, and jump into a standby line for Pirates (the line for Pirates will be short when the park opens) or Raging Rapids if that’s your thing – it was closed when we went, but I wasn’t really keen on it because I didn’t want to get drenched. The wait time for Soarin’ will be approximately 120 minutes to 150 minutes throughout the day and it doesn’t ever fall below 100 minutes. When I checked the Disney app for Soaring fastpasses, they were completely out. Ohwel, not a big loss for me because I’ve seen the California and WDW ones but I think Tdy would have enjoyed it!

At around 10am, you should get in line for Camp Discovery as it opens then. This is one thing I wish I did early in the day, because I ended up waiting 75 minutes for the obstacle course. Camp Discovery is the first of its kind, I think. No other Disney Parks has it. It’s an obstacle course with varying difficulties and it is great fun for all ages, with plenty of height elements. I would recommend not bringing your Mickey Ears on the obstacle course and to wear shoes that fit for this. Was quite freaked by the height elements (somehow I seemed to forget that I had a harness on), but this was really quite creative and extremely fun. A must try.

So this is the route you should be doing in the morning: get fastpass for Soarin’ (if out, then grab one for the Mine Train), jump into the line for Pirates or Raging Rapids (do the other after), grab second fastpass for Tron. I can’t emphasise how important it is to start your morning right so you maximise ride time.  There are plenty of blogs which state that there tended to be no wait for Tron but I had to queue 90 minutes for it on the day I went, as the ride only opened at 2pm.

For me, as all the fastpasses had gone out by 10.45am, I decided that I was just gonna take it easy and explore the park as Shanghai Disney was really, really massive and quite different from all the other Disneys. It was fun exploring new corners, such as the castle, which is now open to walk through.

THE RIDES

As you can see, while I didn’t take that many rides in Shanghai Disneyland this time, sitting Pirates and Tron made my admission price worth it. Even rides like Peter Pan had an extended sequence that the other parks don’t have, so kudos to Disney for trying to keep it fresh.

Pirates is probably my favourite ride in the park (and Teddy’s too!), and perhaps my second favourite theme park ride of all time (Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey in Universal Studios is my absolute number 1, but that’s also because I’m a Potterhead). And yes, Pirates is that good. It makes the other Pirates’ rides in the other Disneys look outdated and well, for lack of a better word, nostalgic. This ride makes use of animation and crazy, crazy visual effects, and is a gamechanger. Do not miss this.

Tron is my second favourite! The screams of people on the outside track really freaked me out when I was jumping into the line for Tron. Didn’t help that the queue area brings you to the start of the Tron ride where riders are catapulted into the rollercoaster. Man, I have to say, the entire thing was EPICCCC. First, riders sit on the light cycles the way one would sit on a motorbike, hunched forward and secured by a back plate. The premise: You, as a member of Team Blue, will be facing off other teams on the Grid. To win, the team would have to clear 8 hoops before anyone else. Sounds simple right? But so, so smart. When the ride starts, cyclists are transported to the start line where a countdown begins (with people still in line looking down at you) and at 0, you’re just catapulted onto the track, swinging outdoors. The thing is, I don’t ever recall any sharp drops on this roller coaster but there were so many moments that my heart was in my mouth. I was simultaneously freaked out and excited and while I wanted it to end, I wanted it to never end too. Again, as the only Tron ride in the world (until 2023 when it appears at WDW), this must not be missed.

THE FOOD

This is the fun part, right? One huge part of visiting the parks for me has always been the food – which is probably 80% why I love Tokyo Disney so much (the milk tea popcorn, yum!). Sorry to disappoint, but Shanghai’s food game isn’t as strong as Tokyo’s. That said, there were some interesting snacks and cute food which tasted as good as they looked. One warning though, the food really is, objectively, expensive.

Peking duck pizza! I admit I got this because it was Mickey shaped and it was cute, but who can say no to Peking duck pizza?? I got the set with a drink and a vanilla icecream, which set me back 95 RMB (approximately S$19). The pizza was a tad oily but it was warm and the peking duck, cheese and silvers of cucumber made this a really decent pizza – it did hit a spot. I only wished that hoisin sauce was used to up the fusion level of this. Char siew (glazed honeyed BBQ pork) and pineapple pizza was also spotted at the counter.

Lavender soft serve – a Spring seasonal treat. I was pleasantly surprised by this as this was objectively speaking, one of the better soft serves I’ve had. It doesn’t melt so quickly that it’s a race against time to finish it (I can take my photos in peace and still enjoy my ice cream, that is such a luxury), and the lavender taste is not too subtle. The soft serve was thick, creamy and an absolute treat. What a great find. Pro-tip: Go just before parade time and grab a seat at the patio of Il Paperino to enjoy the parade (at a distance)!

Turkey leg – Disney = turkey leg. This was also expensive at 80RMB (S$16) per pop, and a 15 minute wait for it. I don’t usually eat turkey (let’s face it, no Asian does) at home, and was pleasantly surprised by how Shanghai Disney managed to cook this. This turkey leg will make for messy eating as it is slathered in honey glaze, reminiscent of char siew, but they helpfully provide disposable gloves for easy eating. The lady in front of me bought 2 turkey legs and sold them off to people at the back of the line for a profit of 10 RMB per turkey leg. More on that later.

Groot bread!! Cute to look at but that’s about it. Get something else instead. The Mike Wazowski bread or the Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll looked promising!

Btw, the only Starbucks in Disney is located in Disneytown. We took a midday pitstop to get an ice latte – it is extremely easy to get to Disneytown as it is directly connected to Disneyland, near Il Paperino. And yes, the staff understand English – we ordered in broken mandarin (“我要一个iced latte,加一个shot”, which translates to I would like an iced latte with an extra shot). So incredibly satisfying – it’s amazing what an extra shot does to a Starbucks iced latte.

THE HUMANS

Ah, yes, this. Let me put it simply – there will be (a) touts, (b) line-cutters, (c) no personal space, and (d) plenty of shoving. It’s just the way it is. All the other blogs which I read said there wasn’t much of (a) to (d) above, but honestly, I disagree. During my first ride of the day, I witnessed a mother letting her son pee into a bottle. During that time, there were also touts in the line selling Minnie headbands for 10 RMB per pop, and they accept WeChat Pay and Alipay – extremely enterprising IMO. At the same time, lots of people were shoving and there usually is one person who will ask you to let them pass through as their friends are up front in the queue and they would like to join them. What I usually do is pretend that I don’t understand Mandarin and cut them off by blocking their path or queueing with my arms stretched out. Alternatively, I told them not to cut my line and then stood my ground so they would always be behind me. There will be lots of bumping against you while in line as there doesn’t seem to be a concept of personal space. That’s fine, just stand your ground.

At Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular, guests are first all held in a holding area where there is a pre-show skit. This is entirely in mandarin. I think I understood about 50-60% of it as the actors spoke really fast and I suppose my mandarin is questionable.. anyway, once the skit ends, doors to the theatre open and guests all SWARMED into the theatre and I kid you not, to fight over the best seats in the house. I found a good spot, sat down and promptly had someone appear from the row behind me, climb onto my row to take the tiny spot available beside me and in the process, almost clubbed me with his huge, black backpack. So I did the most logical thing, I shoved him. AND HE STILL GAVE ME SIDEEYE. I rolled my eyes and told him that he was being completely inconsiderate (“太没有公德心了!”) and he obviously, ignored me and pretended he didn’t speak mandarin.

When it gets around to parades… this is where it gets tricky. Chinese people are like sharks, they can smell blood in water. Meaning that, if you leave a space empty, it will be taken in the next second. So for the fireworks, I’d suggest scoping out a spot at least 45 minutes in advance. And HOLD. YOUR. GROUND. Do not disappear, and do not let anyone “pass through”. All spaces in front of you, however small, will be taken. For us, some dude wanted us to give him space to pass through so that he could stand in front of us. You gotta be kidding me bro. We just ignored him and didn’t move an inch.

One more thing: people smoke. Everywhere. For the uninitiated, Disney has a non-smoking policy in parks and has designated smoking areas for smokers.

I think this should be enough for readers to understand what we went through during our day – I haven’t even covered the scuffle which Tdy and I witnessed during the parade.. needless to say, it was dramatic and egregious, as usual. I think I’ve made my point in the incidents covered above.

THE END

Objectively speaking, Shanghai Disney is a pretty exciting park that I’d like to return to fully enjoy and soak everything in! Hopefully the opening of Toy Story Land will alleviate the wait times of other rides. This is definitely not the best park Disney has, but it falls right in the middle of my definitive ranking of Disney parks, just behind the Tokyo parks and WDW. For Disney fans who have not yet made the pilgrimage to Shanghai Disney, and have the means to do so, you must visit. I would recommend getting a 2-day pass so you can cover the park at an easy pace over two days.

However, I don’t think I will be back to Shanghai Disney anytime soon. While I like this park, I don’t think I can handle dealing with the people – it is incredibly stressful and you always have to stand your ground or watch out for someone who is looking to cut your line or take your space. I suppose you can choose to ignore it (I tried!) but it really is easier said than done. Still, Disney fans should visit because this is a good Disney park. Just happens to be the least magical, in my opinion, though I must stress that this is no fault of Disney.

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