Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Chinese culture is filled with superstitions about numbers, with 888 considered to be a powerful number of wealth. That is why the Beijing Olympics were staged on 8 August 2008, the eighth day of the eighth month of an eighth year. Similarly, the main ballroom at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is exactly 888sqm. There are 2,238 crystal lotuses adorning the hotel’s Crystal Lotus Chinese restaurant because in Cantonese the number sounds like the phrase “to easily generate wealth”. The obsession continues with the number four, which is unlucky to the Chinese because it sounds like the word “death” in both Mandarin and Cantonese. So you may notice that the elevators in Hong Kong’s Disneyland have no number four, because the floors in all of the buildings skip from three to five.
Other items that are missing are clocks in the gift shops (so no Mickey watches!), because in Cantonese and Mandarin “giving a clock” sounds like “going to a funeral”. Green hats are not available to buy (sorry Peter Pan!) because of a Chinese expression that a man wearing a green hat is cheating on his wife (the relatives of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats in ancient China). What you will see is a lot of is red, a lucky colour according to Chinese culture. Look for liberal uses of painted accents on the buildings on Main Street, USA.
When you are done counting, have a dim sum lunch, something Hong Kong is famous for. If you want to try dumplings with a Disneyland flavour, go to the Crystal Lotus restaurant where the dumplings and steamed buns are formed in the shapes of characters from Disney films, such as Duffy the Disney Bear (a character that exists only as a product, but who is very popular in the Asian market), Chicken Little of the eponymous 2005 film, the three-eyed Little Green Men from the Toy Story movies, and of course those mouse ears in the form of Mickey fried shrimp and root vegetables, Mickey seafood glutinous pancakes, Mickey red bean honey pudding and Mickey green tea jelly.
There is also ample opportunity to take a picture with Mulan, the animated character from Ancient China, whose actor can be found posing in Fantasy Gardens, the park’s dedicated area for taking photos with Disney characters.
After excitedly entering Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, visitors are greeted with an arcade that features a small replica of the Statue of Liberty – a gift from France to America in 1886, making it a fitting introduction to Europe’s only instance of this American theme park. The covered arcade is one of two on Main Street, replacing the open spaces of its counterpart in California, and offering essential cover from the cold and rain that typically hits Paris.
As you venture further into Disneyland Paris, you will see other changes. Gone is Tom Sawyer’s Island – a staple of the US theme parks – since the character is little-known in Europe. Instead there is Discoveryland dedicated to European visionaries, such as Leonardo da Vinci with the Orbitron attraction, a rocket ship ride in the style proposed by the Italian inventor; and Jules Verne with Les Mystères du Nautilus, an attraction that lets visitors walk through the rooms of Captain Nemo’s submarine, as featured in Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The great artists of cinema are revered in CineMagique, a theatre show unique to Paris, featuring French director and actress Julie Delpy on screen with synchronized live actors. And the character Remy, a French chef rat from the Disney cartoon Ratatouille, will be given his own ride in 2014, titled Ratatouille: Kitchen Calamity, complete with an attached restaurant to match the cartoon’s fine-dining kitchen.