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Vietnam’s most popular amusement park with travelers seems to be one that has been abandoned. Once teeming with life, all that is left now is a set of broken attractions with overgrown vines, rust and graffiti on them, as well as murky, algae infested waters. If you’re ever in Hue, rent yourself a motorbike, head down south for a few miles through country roads, and you will arrive at this post-apocalyptic dreamworld.
Ho Thuy Tien lies just five miles outside Huong Thuy town in Hue, by the Thuy Tien Lake. This abandoned water park hidden in the jungle has now become popular with the odd backpacker who is enamored with the idea of exploring something off the beaten track, and of course, the rumors of crocodiles who once lived there.
The ambitious plan for the park was to create something for the whole family, with amusement rides, water slides, pools, aquariums, performances, souvenir shops and restaurants, using a hefty budget of three million USD. In 2004, despite not being complete, the park opened to the public and didn’t make the splash that was hoped for.
Now the park remains the same way it was left, almost as if abandoned in a rush, and nature has taken complete control over it. The park is overgrown with weeds that are getting wilder and unmanageable, sometimes requiring your hands to tear them apart for you to get a closer look at signs. There is an eerie Jurassic Park sort of vibe going on, but with grazing cows instead of dinosaurs.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted by the guardian of the park, an intimidating three-storey, full-bodied dragon perched on a spaceship-type aquarium. Its coils are wrapped in a protective manner around the domed structure that is now covered in rust, peeling paint and graffiti.
The dragon’s scaly body forms a staircase, and visitors can walk up to a spectacular viewing area and take in the stunning view of the Thuy Tien Lake from behind its teeth.
If you look down, all you will see is your reflection on the murky water below. Inside the aquarium, the tanks still have water, but the fish are long gone.
The amphitheater with hundreds of seats was where entertaining performances were to be held. What remains now resembles something straight out of a horror film. As you walk around, you can imagine some sort of disaster striking while a show is being held and everyone running out in a panic, dropping their takeaway cups of soda and bags of popcorn.
The rest of the park is no different. The cracked water slides are fun to walk through and are accessible by a set of stairs built around changing rooms.
While you walk around, it’s too easy to picture a creature waiting to lurch at you from behind the palm fronds, or a Velociraptor parting tangled weeds with its claws and hissing at you with a forked tongue.
Take it easy as you walk around, and do not rush for two reasons: there are a lot of interesting things to take in, and you can prevent yourself from getting injured by paying closer attention to cracks and branches.
Until recently, Ho Thuy Tien was also home to three crocodiles, who were fed by locals or the occasional visitor, but have now been removed from the park and reinstated in a wildlife rescue park.
It’s not so hard to imagine what Ho Thuy Tien could have been—a lively park full of laughter and active kids with parents running after them, splashes from water slides and applause from performances floating through the air. But unfortunately, the reality isn’t so, and it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. The future of the park remains uncertain, and for now, just take it in as it is, and enjoy exploring something that is far different from your usual temple or museum.
To get to Ho Thuy Tien, write down “Công viên nước Hồ Thuỷ Tiên” on a piece of paper, and show it to a taxi driver. If you are driving alone, follow the map linked below. Once you arrive, you will have to pay a measly entrance fee of 10,000 VND (0.44 USD) to the security guard at the park.