As a Westerner, my idea of an amusement park is one that includes stomach churning roller coasters and endlessly long lines wrapped around every corner. However, Vietnam’s parks are a little less desirable so it’s best to not expect too much. Suoi Tien is about an hour and a half outside of the city and was the destination for my school’s first field trip this year. The kids informed us this park is usually only visited by people in the countryside and is not as much fun as the parks within the city. I decided it would be best to see for myself though and try not to let their input deter me.
When we arrived, the first activity was a tram ride around the park to help get our bearings. The first thing I noticed was how empty the place was. Even on a weekday, major amusement parks I have been to elsewhere still have lots of people around, but we appeared to be almost the only people there. This isn’t a big deal though, it means shorter lines and the chance to see more of the park. Our school had pre-paid tickets for everyone so I was determined to ride these first. We got off the tram at the High Speed Roller Coaster so it was the perfect place to start. I was a little apprehensive when I got on because the shoulder harnesses didn’t actually lock in place. so the only thing keeping me in the coaster was a rusty seat belt fastened diagonally across my chest. I had watched several cars go through already and no one went missing so the odds were in my favor. Also, there were no loops or any sharp turns for that matter so the seatbelt would hopefully be enough. Needless to say I was successful in keeping myself on the ride.
*You may be smiling now but you better hold on tight!
The next ride was Escape From Witch Castle, a “very scary ride” , according to the students. I was skeptical, mainly because it doesn’t take much to scare these kids, 10 seconds from any American horror film would give them nightmares for years. So I joined the group of students walking in and was met by an animatronic zombie with glowing eyes and flailing arms, which had been set off by the motion sensor at the entrance. This sent the kids into a frenzy, which only made me laugh. I slowly made my way down the dark hall with a 6th grader latched to my arm for dear life. We passed some more zombies but mostly it was just a pitch black hallway with some spooky music playing. At the end there was a haunted train ride, which zooms in circles inside a small room filled with spooky trees, zombies, and laser lights.
*The hauntingly misleading entrance.
Next was the Ferris Wheel, a classic amusement park ride. Upon close inspection, the ride seemed sturdy and unlikely to fall apart so we got on. My favorite part about Ferris Wheels is the view from the top and from this one you could see the whole park and out into the countryside.
Walking through the park, I often found myself by towering statues of stereotypical Asian figures, though they often appeared to serve no purpose. Often times they were awkwardly placed to fill space and add the to mystery of the park.
In the afternoon we attended the sea lion and dolphin show. I was hesitant at first, Vietnam does not have the highest standards for taking care of animals so I was afraid I might see something disheartening. Thankfully the opposite was true and the animals looked happy and well taken care of. The show included the usual, jumping through hoops, spinning in circles and such. It was when the dolphin jumped through a ring of fire that I started to question the trainer’s ethics, but it was still impressive none the less.
But my two favorite oddities had to be Ring The Golden Bell and The Ice House Palace. At Ring The Golden Bell, you ring a golden bell next to a pool filled with large fish. The fish, having heard the bell, begin to gather. At this point you buy a bag of fish food for 10,000 VND ($0.50 USD) and pour it in the water, causing the fish to pile on top of each other in an attempt to eat. At every amusement park I’ve been to in Vietnam there has been some variation of an “ice house” or “ice palace”, but the one at Suoi Tien is by far my favorite. Not only is there sledding, but techno music blasts from the speakers while neon laser lights flash all around the room.