Suoi Tien – a Buddhist-themed amusement park – is by far the best thing in Saigon, and a reason to visit to Vietnam in its own right. It is, in a word, stunning. I have never been to a more magnificent themepark anywhere in the world , outside of the Disney parks in Tokyo – which it probably equals. An amazing achievement for a country like Vietnam. Even more amazing is that the park is so little known to foreign tourists. Its not in any of the guides, and I didn’t meet a single other person who had been there. In a whole day there I didnt see another white face.And yet, how could you miss this…?
It is centred around a huge, surreal swimming pool where two 100 metre waterslides in the shape of dragons splash into a lagoon between two cliffs carved into sages heads’, with psychadelic colored flower-trees spraying mist into the air.
From here, you can climb up, up, to twelves storeys above the ground, up wet slippery cocrete steps (lax Asian safety standards!) inside the head, which is shaped into a weird, airy, echoing caves painted in psychadelic colors. From there, you can look down:
The park also has an astonishing wealth of other attractions. You really need two full days to do it justice (as opposed to one at Angkor Wat!) I was pretty systematic, but I still ran out of time to see the wonderful-sounding “Strange Things in Nature” pavilion. But I did see;
Huge golden lions and tortoises – check the figure on the far right for scale!
You can walk into the mouth of an huge golden dragon, to where a neon-haloed Buddha sits.
The “Palace of the Unicorn” below – sounds cute, doesnt it? – where you unexpectedly descend into a pitch black, freezing corridor filled with ear-piercing, high-volume screams to see the torments awaiting sinners in hell (much like Tiger balm gardens in Singapore).
A delightfully kitsch aquarium with painted-on underwater scenery;
There is an ancient Egypt exhibition…
…which, did I mention, is in the mouth of a concrete elephant?
…and theres more!
A Mardi Gras-esque parade, where all the dancers wore masks (presumably to cover their shame!)
An assortment of gargantuan dog/turtle and dragon-shaped pavilions, in swan-boat filled lakes
Avenues lined with tusks
Hedges in the shape of teapots
Robots that dance to Vietnamese pop music
A crocodile farm where handlers poked live crocodiles with bamboo poles and happy punters fed them chunks of meat from strings
And this giant statue of a frog with a coin its mouth. Which revolves.