THOUGH the skies were starting to darken, signifying a subtle shift towards nightfall, they were still having the time of their lives. Nevermind that these 12-year-olds were approximately 1,500 miles away from their homes in Malaysia. Aliff Adian Ahmad Fariq, Mirza Firas Mohd Fahmy, Muhammad Brian Eiman Bonni Zachman, Muhammad Nabil Sahril and Nurnaimi Syadiyah Nairol Nadzri were in one of the happiest places on earth — Hong Kong Disneyland.
Running enthusiastically towards the entrance of the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, the members of Team Junior Einstein, paused a while to talk to fellow traveller Mathana Nair Sreedaran from another team.
“Want to go for the runaway train ride?” asked Muhammad Nabil to which Mathana answered, “No, thanks. I’ve already tried it.”
Then Mirza Firas quipped in, “Us too!”
“How many times have you gone for the ride?” Mathana asked out of curiosity.
“This will be the seventh time,” Aliff Adian replied saying that it was a fantasy that had become a reality.
“You guys are crazy!” exclaimed Mathana as the thrill-seeking bunch happily raced each other towards the heart-stopping ride of Grizzly Gulch, making full use of their time while they were still in Disneyland.
Two months ago, the team from SK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) Petaling Jaya, Selangor had clinched the grand prize of the Star-Pizza Hut Tale Spin Contest 2013 for the primary category. Along with two other groups — Team Stainless Steal and Team Taletellers which emerged winners in the Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary categories respectively — it was obvious that the students were thoroughly enjoying their well-earned reward: an all-expenses-paid, four-day three-night prize trip to Hong Kong.
The long-standing Newspaper-In-Education (NiE) contest had come up this year with the newly-introduced Tale Spin 2013 storyboard concept. The national competition for both primary and secondary school students required participants to illustrate their stories in comic form and include at least one moral value in it. It also required the secondary school students to incorporate a crossover character and cliffhanger.
For the primary schoolers, the trip to Disneyland was undeniably the highlight of the whole trip. “I wish I could stay in Hong Kong. Then we can go to Disneyland every week!” Muhammad Brian Eiman said wishfully.
When asked about their favourite rides there, names of the more exhilarating ones — RC Racer, Big Grizzly Runaway Mine Cars, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop and Space Mountain – were thrown about.
“When you’re at the top of the track, you feel like you’re going to get a heart attack!” Mirza Firas said, barely containing his enthusiasm for the gravity-defying RC Racer ride.
“It was so much fun!” added Nurnaimi Syadiyah, the gutsy lass from the predominantly-male Team Junior Einstein. Together with the rest of the group, they had gone for the RC Racer ride for no less than six rounds.
Teacher and chaperone Lean Mei Li took it all in stride. Though faced with the tough challenge of keeping an eye on them, her pupils were conscientious and punctual in keeping to the trip’s activity line-up.
For Team Stainless Steal from SMJK Perempuan China, Pulau Pinang, Penang, whose members include Cheah Mi Chelle, Christine Loh Pei Ying, Ng Sherlyn, Ooi Yi Lin and Samantha Ng Qian Rou, they were simply glad to be on a holiday.
“We usually go on trips with our families, but this time it’s just us and our friends,” said Yi Lin.
Their teacher Chuah Sim Swee had followed previous winners of the Star-Pizza Hut contest (then called Mag Inc) a few ago years ago to the same venue and thus knew how to maximise their time spent in Disneyland. They tried as many rides as possible and managed to visit 16 different attractions by the end of the day.
Captivated by the stellar performances in Disneyland, the students eagerly exchanged notes on how much they loved the shows.
“The Golden Mickeys show was really good, and quite nostalgic. The songs they performed reminded us of our childhood,” said Christine. “There were songs from Mulan, The Hunchback of Notredame and Beauty and the Beast.”
“The performers were very coordinated during The Golden Mickeys. They had to change outfits really fast too!” Mi Chelle added.
Expressing delight for another show called the PhilharMagic, Mi Chelle said, “It was so real. When the food came out, we could even smell it!”
Though Mi Chelle had been to Resorts World Genting, Malaysia and Universal Studios, Singapore, her very first roller-coaster ride was on this trip.
While going on the more thrilling rides, some of them took the chance to shout out the names of their favourite artists.
Sherlyn, who owns a Disney autograph book that she purchased when she was only nine from Disneyland in the Unites States, has been collecting autographs by favourite Disney characters ever since. At the park, she managed to meet the elusive Tinkerbell (a character from the movie and book Peter Pan) and was able to add on her signature to her autograph collection.
“I finally got to see Tinkerbell!” she quipped happily.
“This trip is definitely a reward for our hard work. We spent a lot of time putting everything together,” added Sherlyn, as team members recounted their pains and effort in getting their project together.
Having sat for their PMR examinations not too long ago, the girls were also anxious to know the date their PMR examination results were to be released. It was over lunch on the third day of the trip that they tried looking at Facebook for news.
“There’s wi-fi here!” Samantha announced as soon as she made the discovery, and after which everyone proceeded to check their mobile phones.
Apart from Disneyland, the trip also took the tour group to various attractions around Hong Kong. On the first night, they braved chilly winds at the Avenue of Stars and caught a spectacular laser light performance there.
The second day was dedicated to Disneyland and on the third day, the tour group was taken to visit various attractions around Hong Kong including Bauhinia Square, Aberdeen, Repulse Bay, Victoria Peak and the Hong Kong Museum of History.
The last stop, however, seemed to be the most anticipated attraction — the all-famous Mong Kok Ladies Market.
At dusk, the street market was brightly illuminated with fluorescent lighting and exuberating neon signs.
Team Taletellers from SMK Bukit Mewah, Seremban had a field day as they sifted through the stalls looking for reasonably-priced souvenirs to take home.
“There are a lot of people. There are so many more lights and it’s also much bigger than Petaling Street,” said Stephanie Liew San San, referring to Malaysia’s very own Chinatown.
“The retail operators here are mercenary when it comes to getting shoppers to buy their products.”
However, having watched most of the movie productions by Disney, the best part of the trip to her was still hands-down Disneyland.
Team members Amelia Kwan Su Yin, Edania Ridzmann and Mathana, all aged 17, shared the same sentiments and although this team was the oldest compared to the others, it did not deter them from having a blast at Disneyland.
“We liked the U-shaped RC Racer ride because it’s the most exhilarating one!” Amelia expressed.
“Oh, and we love The Golden Mickeys too! That was really nice,” she added excitedly, as the girls mulled over whether the perfectly toned abs of a live Tarzan character in the performance was in fact real.
As for Mathana, he favoured the magical ride at Mystic Manor. Without the need for three-dimensional glasses, its amazing music and special effects made the experiences – bugs crawling out of the sarcophagus of a mummy, Tiki God deities blowing darts inches from your face and a cracking window – all very believable.
“We were so reluctant to leave Disneyland!” Edania revealed.
Throughout their journey at the park, their teacher Shamala Devi Ramasamy not only accompanied but followed them on every ride.
Prior to entering the park, she had vowed that she would follow her charges on all the rides they went on. “I hope I come back in one piece!” True to her words, she went for all of the rides.
She commented that this was a great opportunity to spend time with her students, who have just completed Form Five, before they parted ways to pursue tertiary education.
Do you have what it takes to be our next grand prize winners? Open to primary and secondary schools, be sure to catch next year’s Tale Spin contest and stand a chance to win from an array of attractive prizes.
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