Stepping off the plane in Hong Kong at 7 p.m. local time, extremely jet lagged and blurry-eyed, we were approached by a man wearing a surgical mask, who appeared out of nowhere and zapped Jude in the head with what looked like a radar gun. 

After momentary confusion/disbelief/outrage we saw that his job was “Temperature Control”; he was making sure Jude wasn’t feverish, as part of the government’s efforts to prevent another SARS outbreak.  Everyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport is subject to infrared scanning by automatic sensors, but young children apparently get individual zapping as well.

Overall, the flight with Jude couldn’t have gone better.  He didn’t misbehave, and spent a lot of time reading his books and watching Mickey Mouse videos on the in-flight entertainment system.  Most important, we didn’t make any enemies with the people sitting around us.  In fact, the woman sitting behind us, who didn’t speak any English, actually put some unidentifiable piece of candy-looking substance into Jude’s mouth, which I had to pull out immediately in case it contained nuts (Jude is allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts as well).

Our first night in Hong Kong was, bluntly, brutal.  We are staying with our good friend Rahul who lives in the Mid-Levels district.  Getting to Rahul’s place around 9 p.m. (and having not slept for over 20 hours), I decided to go out with him and another friend who lives in Hong Kong, Joe, for a late dinner and some beers.  Bliss and Jude sensibly stayed home.

Rahul and I got back home just before midnight and I fell asleep almost immediately, and would probably have stayed asleep for 12 or more hours had I been travelling sans-child.  Jude had other plans.  From 1:30 a.m. or so, he was up sporadically.  At 3:45 a.m., he was up for good.  We tried to coax him back to sleep with singing and bottle upon bottle of milk.  He wasn’t having it.  The 15-hour time difference was catching up with him.  We played our trump card: the Elmo Potty video.  Jude watched it on repeat until 6 or so, when his parents finally got up as well.  (As an added bonus, the next day, and for the first time in several months, Jude pooped on the potty.  Thank you, Elmo!)

We had wanted to do something more culturally significant on our first day in Hong Kong, but instead took the childcare path of least resistance by heading for Hong Kong Disneyland.  We figured that adrenaline and amusement-park thrills would keep us all going despite our lack of sleep.

The train to Hong Kong Disneyland

We enjoyed not only the Park, but the trip to the Park as well.  Jude’s love of escalators is well documented, and Mid-Levels is connected to the Central district, where the subway is, by the world’s longest escalator.  So that was fun.  Second, the sparkling clean subway system is a marvel, especially compared to the filthy, underfunded New York subway system.  Hong Kong Disneyland even has its own short subway line, and the hand-grips and carriage windows are Mickey-Mouse shaped.

The Park itself doesn’t have a lot to recommend for adults or older children (especially given that on the day we visited the Park’s only roller coaster, Space Mountain, was closed for repair), but for Jude it was perfect.  There are many gentle rides with no height requirements, and lots of entertaining Disney imagery everywhere.  Jude is a big pointer-outer of nouns, and especially nouns of interest.  “Mickey Mouse!” was a constant refrain, even if he was only appearing on someone’s hat or a napkin.

Meeting Mickey in person, alas, was a bit of a disaster.  We waited in line for over an hour for the pleasure, dripping in perspiration all the while (humidity in Hong Kong in early September is no joke, and the situation is pretty dire when you’re in a shade-less environment, penned in with other Disney fanatics).  The anticipation mounted as we got closer to Mickey, and his co-celebrity, Minnie.  Jude demanded to be on my (sweaty) shoulders to get a closer look, as families had their photos taken with the mice.  “Minnie, hey Minnie!” he exclaimed.  Park employees kept coming up to us while we waited and handing Jude stickers emblazoned with a variety of Disney characters, mostly unknown to Jude, who until that morning knew only Mickey, but was quickly coming up to speed on Minnie, Donald and others.  When our turn finally came, Jude freaked.  He bawled loudly, much to the amusement of everyone else in line and the nearby employees.  Why did all the other kids respond so positively to Mickey and Minnie, while Jude did not? As parents, these are the kinds of questions that can keep you up at night.  In any event, the resulting photo is hardly going on the mantle.

ALL HONG KONG PHOTOS: here

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