Making the best of our last days in Ho Chi Minh City, we visited Suo Tien Cultural Amusement Park on Saturday. It took a few attempts to find it as Google Maps led us astray (this has happened several times in Vietnam). Our first Uber dropped us off in the middle of a random alleyway. We looked around perplexed at the cramped side-street and wondered how the giant amusement park we had a read about online could be squeezed in here. We had to take a second Uber, and to finally show the driver an image of the park before we made it to the right place. It’s about 20 minutes outside the city.
It was worth all the trouble! We had loads of fun. We paid 100,000 dong each ($5.50) to get inside, and then each of the various attractions within the park also had a separate fee, ranging from about 30,000 dong to 200,000 dong. Even with the extra fees, our visit did not cost much – especially when I think of how much money I’d drop at a comparable amusement park back home.
The cultural aspect of the park comes from the décor, which is inspired by Buddhism and Vietnamese folklore. We walked past massive dragon-buildings, towering turtle columns and phoenix statues, and Buddhist visages looking down at us from above. It felt like I was in a huge outdoor temple filled with rides and games for kids.
We had come primarily for the waterpark, called Tiên Dong Beach. The kids had a blast going down the waterslides and playing in the pools. After all the splashing and swimming, we didn’t have much energy left for the rest of the amusement park, but we still gave it a cursory walk-through.
We paid to dip our bare feet into a fish pool for a “Massage By Fish” – the fish eat the dead skin cells off your feet to clean them and improve your circulation. We’d seen this before in Japan and Korea. It’s supposed to be good for health, but it feels so weird to have the fish nibble on your skin – somewhere between very ticklish and a little painful. The kids enjoyed sticking their feet into the pool, shrieking and laughing, pulling them out, then repeating the whole process.
Peter and I also walked through the Harry Potter Haunted Castle – and as a Harry Potter fan I was indeed horrified. It was a pitch black haunted house with flashing lights and scary sound-effects. Along the route, there were glowing signs with random objects or characters from the Harry Potter books, like Mandrake or Remus Lupin or Tom Riddle’s Grave. My favourite one was a towering evil Dobby with glowing red eyes.
The park also has an area with rides, which we walked through briefly, but didn’t try as the lines were very long. It turned out that Saturday was National Persons with Disabilities Day, and this area of the park was packed with crowds – most of them kids with physical or cognitive disabilities who I assume could enjoy the park for free. We’d read some negative reviews online of these rides, and I think if you are expecting high-tech rollercoasters you’ll probably be let down. The rides did look a bit dated and worn, but I think in a whimsical way, and the kids looked like they were enjoying themselves.
There are other areas of this massive amusement park which we didn’t even get to – go karts, a fairyland, a playground area – I’m sure if we were staying in Ho Chi Minh City longer, it would warrant another visit.