Young Star

Haunts in Hong Kong

UNWRITTEN - Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan -

With less than a hundred days to Christmas, festive spirits are in the air. Already, songs about mistletoe and snow are clogging the airwaves as folks anticipate the most loved season of the year.

But while the Christmas cheer has now seeped into everyday music, the decorations all around are not yet of jolly old Saint Nick and his flying reindeer, but of jack-o’-lanterns and creepy ghouls.

Before the red and green of the Yuletide holidays take over, malls and subdivisions are first splashed with the orange of Halloween in October.

A tradition that started in the United States, Halloween has grown in popularity overseas, even here in the Philippines. Where once only a few villages hosted Trick or Treat events, most subdivisions, offices, schools, and shopping areas now hold the candy extravaganza in addition to Halloween-themed shows, parties, and contests, complete with props and costumes.

Dressing up as vampires (the non-glittery ones), mummies, and ghosts is good fun for kids and adults alike. I’m a big fan of this orange-colored month. Candy, costumes, parties — treats all around — what’s not to like?

However, there are some people who prefer the “trick” side of this haunted season, and while there are many truly scary stories during this time of year, it is not enough for them. Halloween is usually only as scary as the next Shake, Rattle and Roll movie.

For those looking for the thrill a horror film gives and more, you don’t need to go to Hollywood for that adrenaline rush, because a different experience can be found right on the shores of a nearby Asian neighbor.

Hong Kong is another location that has been bitten by the Halloween bug, where the pumpkins aren’t always smiling and the werewolves don’t fall in love with mere mortals. They have costume parades, just like in the Philippines, paper witches and plastic skeleton decorations, too. But they’ve taken the one night of truly horror-filled festivities that is Oct. 31 and stretched it to a whole month of spooky fun.

Hardcore horror fans will enjoy the horrific experience in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. With over 400 different “ghosts” wandering around the facilities, there is no shortage of nighttime scares.

A dead police officer on roller skates might jump out from the bushes, while an innocuous-looking trash bin might suddenly start following you around after you throw your garbage in it. There are white ladies, vampires, mummies, and chainsaw-wielding maniacs wandering about, too!

The ghosts were enough to scare my little scaredy-cat self, but Ocean Park had much more to offer — eight haunted houses more to be specific.

At the main gate, screaming can be heard from the three houses at the waterfront side of the park: Campus of the Living Dead, High Street Madness, and Occult Lab, each of them having a distinct theme and different ghastly inhabitants.

Upon entering the Campus of the Living Dead, I was pretty confident; once inside, I was almost ready to call it quits after just a few minutes in the school ghost stories-inspired house. Unfortunately for me, I was told that I couldn’t go home without trying some of the other houses at Ocean Park’s summit.

I took the new Ocean Express, the train connecting the lower half of the park with the upper half, instead of the cable car, which used to be the only way to reach the summit from the waterfront.

At the top, I was ushered into the Purgatory Express, which was voted as the best haunted attraction in the “Haunted House Design Competition.” After going through it, all I can say is I can never look at a train the same way again. Again, I was ready to pack up and leave, but the park guide said that I really had to try the Pang Brothers’ Recycle House, which some say is the scariest of all the haunted houses.

Based on a horror movie by the Pang Brothers, Recycle is a brief walkthrough. Truly, the 10 minutes I spent there seemed like the longest in my spineless life. I think some of the performers inside took pity on me because I was really shaking and crying like a baby.

But after all the tears, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t have time to enter the other houses: The Ghastly Minshuku, Police Station No. 13, and The Forbidden Mall. I saw the houses’ facades and they looked awesome! I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully that night, but the screaming with friends, the adrenaline rush, the laughter (and embarrassment at being such a wimp) was definitely worth it.

There are also shows such as The Golden Ghost Award and Hell’s Next Top Model scheduled throughout the Halloween period. Souvenirs and a special dinner menu are also available.

For kids, Ocean Park has Jack O’Town where Trick or Treat programs are hosted earlier in the day. The nighttime attractions are generally not recommended for children, according to a park official.

A more kid-friendly Halloween experience is offered in Hong Kong Disneyland, where the Glow in the Park Parade is held every night. A show of Disney characters and creepily dressed performers take to Main Street, USA within the park to march, dance, and awe the crowd.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse, along with Donald and Daisy Duck, and Chip and Dale greet the park guests in their glow-in-the-dark costumes, while dancers and acrobats perform on the streets and on Halloween-inspired floats.

Hong Kong Disneyland also has a host of scary attractions. The Space Mountain roller coaster is transformed into Ghost Galaxy, where apparitions and other ghouls add to the heart-thumping fast-paced ride.

There are three haunted houses inside the park. Demon Jungle is a jungle-themed house inside Adventureland. Main Street Haunted Hotel is filled with ghosts in every room.

I only had time to visit the third, and apparently scariest, of the three haunted houses — Alien Invasion. Don’t dismiss the sign at the entrance of this attraction that reads: “This is a scary ride.” Now I don’t know if I really am just a wimp, but it really was very scary, especially when the aliens started chasing me. They’re like dogs; they smell fear.

There are available Halloween tours that feature these rides and the parade, plus an exclusive Disney character “meet and greet.” For the camera bugs and not-so-camera shy, there are exclusive booths and areas for photo opportunities with Halloween costume-clad Disney characters.

Halloween food and merchandise are, of course, hawked all over the park.

A special fireworks show that will be held on certain nights should not be missed. The fireworks themselves are impressive, but it’s a really magical experience once it has been synchronized with the Disney music.

Once the night is over, guests can check into the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel or Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, which are conveniently located within the Hong Kong Disneyland area.

While all of the Halloween madness happens at night, during the day you can go to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum at the Peak Tower on Hong Kong Island.

Just getting there is already interesting. The Peak Tram is one of the world’s oldest funicular railways and is one of the ways to reach the Peak Tower.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll greatly enjoy taking pictures of and posing with the wax likenesses of Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp inside the museum. Political and historical figures such as US President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Mao Zedong, Mohandas Gandhi, and the English royals are also featured.

Another area of the museum is filled with figures of sports icons like golf sensation Tiger Woods and NBA star Yao Ming. Similarly, there is a room where the Beatles are jamming with the reincarnated Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.

Of course, this being Hong Kong, there are also Asian movie stars in the museum’s lineup — Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Bruce Lee and Korean sensation Bae Yong Joon.

Halloween is never a distant idea during this season, because everywhere, there are horror-themed attractions. Aside from the wax museum, Madame Tussauds also features a mini haunted walkthrough called “Scream: Escape the Asylum,” a dark, creepy walkway where there are both wax figures and real people. The tricky (and really, really scary) part is when what you presume to be mere wax forms suddenly begin to move and chase you.

In the Peak Tower where Madame Tussauds is located, there are also shops and restaurants to visit. A must-see is the Viewing Sky Terrace at the very top of the Peak Tower. From there, a fantastic view of Hong Kong can be seen.

With so many places to go, and Hong Kong being a small island, it is hard to believe that there are more places and new attractions popping up. One such place is Noah’s Ark on Ma Wan, a private island.

Noah’s Ark is not Halloween-themed, but it is a very educational park that can be quite enjoyable for both young and old guests. The Park Garden makes for a good stroll and the animal sculptures dotting it make the walk more scenic and interesting.

There is also an Ark Museum inside the, well, ark that features different types of ark depictions, as well as information on how Noah’s Ark could have been built.

The whole month of October is dedicated to Halloween treats in Hong Kong, culminating in the Lan Kwai Fong Halloween Street Party and the Nightmare on Avenue of Stars from Oct. 30 to 31.

There is something for everyone in Hong Kong. With our own All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, it may be difficult to find time to enjoy the Halloween season. But with a month-long celebration almost next door, and affordable (and comfortable) air travel from Cathay Pacific Airlines, there is no reason to miss out on the spooky fun.

Whether you’re into the treats or the tricks of this Halloween season, “Haunt” Kong is the place to be.










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