My Disney Top 5 - Things to See in Epcot's China Pavilionby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Here's the crazy thing about me and Walt Disney World that people have trouble believing; there's still plenty of things I haven't done. Despite the 15 years of trips, the 10 years of writing about Disney on the Internet, the T-shirts, pins, the basement full of stuff and the borderline obsession I have with the place, I simply haven't done it all. That mere fact also happens to be one of the things that I love most about the place. We haven't stayed in every hotel. We haven't eaten in every restaurant. Believe it or not we still haven't seen every single attraction! Not to say that we're not pretty close. It's a very short list and I may finally complete the Walt Disney World journey and see every single thing, but I highly doubt it and that's just fine with me. For example, I don't see myself ever making it into the Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom. It's just never appealed to me. I know I should. I know it's a classic, but I've never had the desire. The same goes for the legendary Hoop Dee Doo Revue. How can I call myself a Walt Disney World fanatic when I've never paid a visit to Fort Wilderness to see this venerable classic? Well... I can and I do... and I'm still not planning on seeing it on my next trip and I don't think these omissions jeopardize my aficionado status.
What does this all have to do with the next stop on my tour around Epcot's World Showcase? Well, last time here on MousePlanet, I talked about Norway, so that must mean it's time to walk next door to China. China is an amazing pavilion, but it also happens to be one that I seem to spend very little time in. So, let's just put the following pieces of information out there straight away. I've never seen the China film, Reflections of China. I have yet to dine in the sit-down restaurant, Seven Dragons and as a matter of fact, I've never even eaten at China's counter service restaurant, The Lotus Blossom. Am I a Chinese food fan? You bet I am. I grew up in Queens, for goodness sakes. There's great Chinese food everywhere and Chinatown in Manhattan is just a short train ride away. Perhaps that's why I've never eaten in Epcot's Chinese restaurants. I never seem to have a hankering for Chinese when I'm down there especially since I can get it all the time here at home. I imagine you southern Californians out there feel much the same way about dining in Epcot's Mexico pavilion. And I'm not sure why I've never seen Reflections of China. I've seen the Canada film and enjoyed it. I just never seem to catch the films in France or in China.
So, what is there to see and do in the China pavilion that I can talk about? Plenty. Let's get to it with my Top 5 things to see in Epcot's China pavilion.
5 – The Joy of Tea
This is an overlooked gem of a food stand in World Showcase, in my opinion. I'm a big iced tea drinker and while Morocco's mint iced tea wins the crown for best iced tea in Disney World, the Joy of Tea's Jasmine Iced Tea comes pretty close.
And that's just the start. Try the strawberry oolong tea smoothie on a hot day for a tasty cool down. The curry chicken pockets are awesome, and there are some truly interesting grown-up drinks with wacky names like Canto Loopy and Tipsy Ducks in Love. Grab a frosty bottle of Tsing Tao beer and sit by the lagoon to watch the acrobats, and you'll be pretty happy that you stopped at The Joy of Tea.
4 – The House of Good Fortune
Every time I walk into China's main shop, House of Good Fortune, I comment to myself how much more time I wish I spent there. This is truly one of World Showcase's most unique shopping establishments.
The architecture along the Street of Good Fortune welcomes you into the sprawling shop where you'll find a lot less Mickey and a wide selection of authentic Chinese gifts and crafts. You can find everything from traditional Chinese garb, to rugs, to jade jewelry, and so much more. The collection of Chinese teas and teapots is extremely impressive. Once again, much like The Joy of Tea, I think this is a widely overlooked establishment in World Showcase and definitely worth your time. There's so much more to shopping in China than straw hats and those awesome puppets.
3 – Inside Shanghai Disney Resort
While I do miss the Tomb Warriors exhibit that used to reside in the House of the Whispering Willows Gallery, I was pretty psyched to see this look at the newest Disney international theme park. I'm a sucker for concept art and models of the Disney Parks, and this exhibit certainly delivers on that front.
I especially love the model of the Tron Lightcycle ride vehicle. It just gets me more thrilled that this ride is actually going to be coming to the Magic Kingdom soon. Keeping with the whole overlooked theme of my other choices on this list, each time I've toured through this gallery, whether it was the Tomb Warriors or Shanghai Disney, I've pretty much been alone. Guests just don't seem to find the time to stop here.
2 – The Temple of Heaven
The true centerpiece of the China pavilion is this magnificent structure set gracefully behind a beautiful Chinese garden. The details in this building, modeled after the actual temple in Bejing that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are quite amazing, both inside and out.
The combination of striking colors, intricate wood carvings, and tile and stonework make this one of the most impressive structures on Disney property. Venture inside and admire the 12 pillars representing the Chinese calendar, and the four pillars symbolizing the four seasons. Don't forget to try out the incredible acoustics under the dome. I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that. If you don't, just head into the temple and whisper under the dome. Spend some time admiring this incredible spot and see if you agree with me that The Temple of Heaven might just be the most impressive building in all of World Showcase.
1 – The Gardens
I've tried not to sound like a broken record over the many years and many, many articles that I've written about visiting Walt Disney World, but the following sentiment always rises to the forefront in my work. When you slow down and let the details of Disney soak in, the place really begins to come into focus. Nowhere is that more evident than in the gardens of the China pavilion.
Historically, Chinese gardens are meant to inspire their visitors to experience deep thought and tranquility. That's a pretty tall order for a theme park wouldn't you say? And yet, when you stroll through the reflecting ponds and gardens in front of the Temple of Heaven in Epcot you really can leave the hustle and bustle of the park behind and can actually get lost in your thoughts. It's a treat to experience that and, once again, the garden's beauty and purpose seem to be lost on the majority of guests. My family and I have experienced many a quiet, tranquil stroll through these gardens and we're usually by ourselves. And that's alright with me. It's one of the nicest places in Epcot to spend some quality time slowly soaking in the atmosphere. Don't miss it and don't rush. Stop on the bridge and let the tranquility overtake you.
So, even though I haven't seen the main attraction in China, or eaten in either of its dining establishments, I think I've been able to experience quite a lot in this beautiful and tranquil pavilion. My goal at Walt Disney World has never been to eat in every restaurant, ride every ride, and see every attraction. My goal has always been escapism. I leave the real world behind and escape into the world of pirates, princesses, and spaceships. I visit other places both real and imaginary and revel in the endless possibilities that are presented to me. Someday, I suppose I'll see the China film and eat in the restaurant, but even if I don't, I can wholeheartedly say that on a walk through the gardens or the temple, I've definitely experienced the best that China has to offer in World Showcase.
That's it for China. Next time we're moving on to one of my true Epcot favorites, Germany. As always, let me know your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.