12 Feb 2018 – Hue, Vietnam
Tonight was the second night I spent in the street level bar of my hostel in Hue, Vietnam. It was also the second night I spent drinking a pitcher of beer with a German guy and our friend the Canadian Hedon Cowboy.
Let’s call the Canadian Cowboy….Nate. Come to think of it, I never exchanged names with ‘Nate’ the three days we spent in Hue. This is not at all a surprise considering the circumstances at this particular stop in the journey.
Nate had blonde wavy hair that came down just past his ears and almost to his neck. He looked like David Spade in Joe Dirt with a sprinkling of Matthew McConaughey. He also acted this way…if that even makes any sense.
“Dude, check out me on top of the dragon’s head. Some lady yelled and waved at me to get down but I just laughed and waved back at her. You’re not supposed to go up there but I still did! Hahahaha!”
There was no doubt everyone within a 15 minute walk could hear anything he ever said. You’ll come to know our friend Nate better in the future.
Ho Thuy Tien – Mystery Water Park
Ho Thuy Tien water park is located just outside of Hue, Vietnam. It was allegedly built in 2004 and abandoned just a couple of years after it opened. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information other than that available at presstime.
Ironically, it is (allegedly) more popular 14 years later than it ever was while it was open. Most visitors here are backpackers that are told about the park by other backpackers…as was the case for myself at the time.
A couple of people I had met the evening of my arrival in Hue ventured into the park the following day. My first priority was wandering around The Forbidden City, as this is generally the main reason for anyone’s visit to Hue.
No MotoBike? Take a Taxi
Located outside of the city and hidden in the woods, the abandoned water park was built around Thuy Tien Lake. The walking time from the actual city of Hue to the park was nearly two hours.
After sleeping in unreasonably late to recover from the previous night’s Vietnamese New Year’s celebrations, eating and doing some minor chores, it was already after 1pm. Clearly, walking was not a feasible option with time being an issue.
So, I hailed a taxi in the street. The all-green taxis are by far the most trustworthy in Vietnam. If someone has a different experience or opinion, please let us know.
The driver had absolutely no clue what I was referring to when I said “waterpark.” He still had trouble understanding when I said “Thuy Tien Lake” at first. After a close examination of the map on my phone a couple of times, he finally understood and we were on our way out of the city.
This was my first time using a metered taxi after over one month in Asia. It was actually entertaining to watch the numbers slowly tick up at a completely reasonable rate after reading so many horror stories.
As we got outside of the city, away from any development or sensible tourist destinations, the driver asked me again where we were heading.
“Thuy Tien Lake??”
“Thuy Tien Lake!”
He looked bewilderingly confused at why we were going to this random lake, but was friendly and seemed not to care otherwise.
Approaching the Hidden Gates
As we turned onto the small road leading towards the lake, any sign of human life disappeared and we were completely surrounded by the forest.
Passing through a couple of curves, the gates to the park now appear upon the horizon. On either side of the gate are about six motorbikes, most of which are idling with one or two riders on each.
The driver slows way down but continues to approach the gates. He is clearly completely confused as to why the hell we are back in the woods, approaching a closed gate with a security guard.
“Okay great” I start to say while beginning to open the door. He starts to wave at the security guard and continues moving closer to the closed gate, as if the guard will open it for us.
“No no! Good here, perfect! Thank you!” Hand gestures are used as he knows very little English.
He seems completely bewildered as to why he’s dropping off a foreigner in the woods next to a closed gate with a sign that reads “NO VISITORS.” All of this happens while a security guard is staring right at us.
I start to get out and pay, and before I can ask him the question myself, he says “What time come back?”
“….4:45…Four forty-five.” We repeat 4:45 to each other verbal and in hand gestures, and point at the ground a couple of times. This is apparently how you communicate essential information with language barriers.
Big Green Taxi
I start to walk away from the van and directly towards the security guard, money in my hand already.
He jumps up from his post with very urgent manner and facial expression. He waves no violently, waves me away, does a throat cutting motion, and whatever else was possible to completely demolish my spirit at the moment.
There are about nine Vietnamese kids anywhere from 13 to 20 years old that have been staring at me while smiling and giggling to some extent ever since we pulled up in the enormous van.
In fact, I didn’t even realize the driver was still in the process of turning embarrassingly obvious taxi van around.
Perhaps riding a large lime green van out into woods to intentionally trespass on an abandoned complex in a foreign country….with the country’s most professional taxi company…wasn’t the most discreet move in human history.
However, it’s not as if nobody else knows about this damn place. What are all of these kids doing here? What about all the photos and articles I had already seen on the internet? Clearly not a big deal.
The Waiting Game
As the van drove off and disappeared down the road, I turned and looked at the security guard one more time. He immediately looked back at me and violently shook his head. All of the Vietnamese kids were still sitting on their motorbikes, clearly waiting for something to happen.
Well shit. Does he just want us to wait here for….someone?
A few more minutes pass by and I decide to sit my ass down. There is a small edge of platform pretending to be a sidewalk that exists by the guard gate.
Obviously, there is nothing better to do right now. Start walking that two hours back? I don’t f***ing think so. I’m at least going to sit here alone for a few hours.
The Vietnamese kids on their cool motorbikes occasionally look over at the lone drifting foreigner and smile, so of course I smile back. After about 15 minutes of us all sitting there doing absolutely nothing, I hear some motorbikes in the distance coming down the road. It only makes sense that its their friends that we have all been waiting for.
Two different bikes pull up, and each one of them is carrying a different Aussie. Clearly not their friends. They immediately pull up to the gate and loudly ask to be let inside…not even flashing any bribe money.
The security guard vigorously says no, but also kind of laughs this time. They ask again a bit more firmly, and he just keeps looking back at them like they’re crazy.
One of them immediately gets on the phone, and begins talking loudly with an anxious and urgent tone.
“We can’t go inside the park! There’s a guy here! Yeah I know! I thought we could get inside but there’s a guard telling us no!!”
They both fired up their bikes and start to speed away only 30 seconds after arriving. The Vietnamese kids are giggling and I am now as well.
Sometimes, it just pays to sit down and be patient, even when there’s absolutely no logic behind it. After all, rule number one of travel (and life) is what? “Nothing ever makes sense.”
Just a couple minutes after the two Aussies left, the Vietnamese kids spoke maybe two words to each other, and then fired up their bikes and left one at a time down the road as well.
Now I was left sitting on the curb alone with no one around as the last bike disappeared over the hill of the road.
As if perfectly on cue…my security guard friend yelled out “OKAY…OKAY…NOW!”
I got up and started walking toward him with the money slowly. He was smiling, still with a sense of urgency, and rapidly waving me towards the gate.
Our buddy Nate told me that he gave the guard 20.000 dong….but I saw no reason to give less than 50.000 dong ($2.17). After all, he was doing all of us quite the favor…
As I ‘discreetly’ handed him the money and continued walking forward, he started frantically blurting out “Motorbike-motobikeMOTOBIKEMOTOBIKE!!”
He started the motorbike just before I could even see it, as he had it hidden behind a concrete post, ready for takeoff. I was not even seated when the guard fully opened the throttle and rocketed down the broken concrete walkway.
Embarrassingly enough, this was my first time even riding on a motorized vehicle of any kind with only two wheels. Honestly I can’t think of a better place to lose your motobike virginity.
The security guard was, naturally, Vietnamese. This meant that he, also naturally, was a very skilled motorbike driver. All of the giant holes in the ground, and the fact that we were driving on a stepping stone sidewalk that had been lying dormant for 15 years meant nothing to him. It meant a hell of a load to me, especially as we swerved around holes as big as the bike by mere inches.
Finding the Dragon
We pulled up to the lake and the driver abruptly stopped the bike. Around 500 feet in the distance was the legendary dragon head that I had been hearing way too much about for almost 10 hours of my entire life.
“When you leave?”
Thinking of what I told the taxi…and how long it would take to walk back…..”4:35”
Not only did the security guard assist me in trespassing into the property…he even offered complimentary scenic shuttle service to and from the central area of the park! Clearly he was an excellent business man dedicated to his service.
I began walking around the lake and towards the dragon. Some other people online have described this place as an adrenaline rush and eerie…but this was not at all what I felt at first.
It felt more like a beautiful and peaceful landscape…frozen in time and in the process of being reclaimed by nature. It was completely surrounded by woods and located inside of its own clearing entirely around a lake.
Of course, I had been in large busy Asian city after (slightly less) large busy Asian city, breathing in dust and fumes for the past five weeks. The fact that this area was devoid of any humans and located in the forest easily made it much more peaceful.
Walking across the narrow bridge and up into the body of the lonely dragon, there was an aura of mystery about the area.
Inside of the Dragon
Underneath the dragon there were several aquariums along with walking tunnels which lead up into…whatever the dragon used to be.
A few other sources on the internet will tell you that there is still water inside of the aquariums, but this is definitely outdated bullshit as you can see…
Walking around the area of the seemingly useless dragon, it is pretty obvious that I am far from the first person to come here. There’s probably been thousands of others here at this point, curious explorers happy to spray paint random gibberish all throughout the insides of the dragon.
Okay, there is definitely a bit of a bizarre eerie as well as a somewhat displaced and inappropriate nostalgic feeling while walking around by these smashed aquariums.
Flashbacks in Time
Several months ago we were in Orlando, Florida visiting some of the outlier parks in the Disney area. There were many aquariums to view in some areas of the parks in between major attractions.
All I could see in my mind were groups of young kids with their faces pressed up against the glass while waiting in line for whatever this dragon guy did. Little kids throwing temper tantrums, parents carrying babies, and sibling smacking the shit out of each other.
More than anything, the laughter of children and parents together. Now all that’s present is crumbling construction and senseless graffiti on the walls.
Over 5,000 days had passed since families gathered here to enjoy themselves. Now the facility has become a big graveyard of happy memories, slowly succumbing to the decaying process of nature.
Now it’s time to go find the water slides. I was told it was far away from the dragon, and there was obviously no information on the non existent map or even on satellite view.
The only course of action was to just start walking in one direction. After about five minutes, it was clear I was heading the wrong way and apparently into someone’s backyard or farm.
I turned around and moved back towards the lake, following the decayed footpaths prolonged curves.
Passing through a corner in the forest, I saw three guys that looked awful familiar.
“Well we didn’t expect to see you here Mate!” it was the three Aussies that had arrived at the hostel the previous night.
“Yeah we took a cab here too. No f–king clue how we are going to get back.” the ringleader with pierced ears said.
They told me that the water slides were where they just came from, and it was about ten minutes away. The auditorium was over 20 minutes of walking from our location.
Perhaps this is the reason why the park failed. Nobody wanted to walk for an eternity between the parks two actual attractions.
Upon arrival at the water slides, I excitedly climbed up the stairs as if I was actually about to slide down one of them.
That’s when I truly felt the eerie presence of this mysterious place.
Yes, I could see and feel it. It takes a bit a of an imagination, but I’m sure you could as well. Not too long ago, this was a child’s paradise. The happy place of many children indeed.
I had flashbacks of my own childhood waterpark paradise. Many years ago my parents took us to Arizona in the summer when it was murderously hot.
There’s some amazing waterpark resorts in Phoenix for great prices in the summertime. If you are a parent you should definitely consider taking your kids there.
I remember one other kid and I tried to see who could go down one of the slides the most. On just this one day I think we slid down the waterslide over 70 times.
I realized that flashback was almost 15 years old….nearly as long since this park had been abandoned. There have to be at least a few grown children who are still having wonderful memories of this place.
Maybe this place was even the highlight of their childhood. I’m sure there were several Vietnamese kids who spent the entire day racing each other on the three slides…over and over and over again.
In the blink of an eye, the kids have grown into adults and the park has been decaying for over 5,000 days. I thought about whether anyone who came here as a young kid has visited it as a young adult. I wondered if the parks I went to were still fully functional.
My god people…where does the time go!?
I briefly contemplated sliding down one of the slides into the disgusting murky water. Remembering that there was the potential for there to be crocodiles, I chose not to slide into the water.
If you were somehow unaware, crocodiles are capable of rapidly turning human bodies into fine pastes and digesting them with alarming ease.
On that note, the crocodiles were allegedly removed about a year ago. Also, I could stop myself half way down the slide if I wanted.
Still, there was absolutely no humorus benefits in sliding down with no friends around.
Around age 11 I decided it would be a good idea to slide down a wooden ramp. Many a large splinter was deeply inserted into my asschecks, a small price to pay for the benefit of your friends.
There were no railings of any kind around the platform for the slides, which gave the scene an extra sprinkling of eeriness.
The Auditorium for the Junkies
After I had enough dramatic reminiscing of shit that may have never even actually happened….I started to make my way towards the “amphitheater” which everyone seemed to talk the most about.
This probably because it didn’t exactly seem to fit in at all. Perhaps it was an area for animal shows?
The auditorium itself was about 14 rows high, if that makes sense. There were bathrooms located underneath, and what would seem to have been a tiny concession stand.
Before I could get too close, I noticed some youngins on top of the auditorium leaning over the edge towards the ground.
“Anyone down there!? Anyone below?! Clear below!!”
They proceeded to drop a massive block of hard plaster 40 feet off on the edge onto the ground below.
Okay, now that the stupid bullshit is over, I can go into the performance ring.
First, I went and looked at the decaying bathrooms. Amazingly, the urinals and nearly everything else was still perfectly intact.
All of these hooligan assholes that had been here breaking shit and writing on the walls…somehow after 15 years they missed all of the beautiful porcelain toilets.
I began to let my mind wander and imagine the past yet again. 15 years ago, someone was standing here taking a piss while there was a show going on above them. Perhaps they had drank a few beers and it was time to break the seal.
Maybe this particular urinal was a child’s paradise. Groups of children would stand here together and see who could piss the fastest, just like when we were in school.
I wondered if any of the now grown adults have memories of their childhood and taking a piss at these uri—okay, I’m done, I’m sorry, sick mind over here.
Inside the Performance Ring
I walked into the showcase ring, auditorium, whatever the hell this place was, and for the moment there was no one else around.
I climbed the steps to the top and looked around. The place was made of concrete and was solely steps, similar to a college football stadium. On the concrete steps were the most pointless and uncomfortable seats.
Some other kids appeared yet again, and one of them ripped up a broken seat and tried tossing it into the water.
Limping Across Vietnam
The ‘stage’ of the stadium ass-looking thing was some sort of pool, which made it seem even more like it was a place where they had dolphin or underwater monkey shows of some sort.
Suddenly, a guy with crutches came limping through the tunnel into the arena. (How many names will we call this place?)
I couldn’t believe it, it was Finn from the hostel. Somehow this bastard managed to get all the way out here with a smashed up leg on crutches.
This young Aussie gentlemen had a motorbike accident a couple of weeks ago (as did about two dozen other people I met while in Vietnam), and since then a girl (who happened to be a nurse) he had met was tagging along with him and his crew and taking care of his leg.
“It’s much better mate, I’ve been able to put some pressure on it today. Oh no way I didn’t walk here, took a taxi. Not sure how we’re getting back.”
The other younger kids who threw the plaster of the edge came back inside the colosseum and started throwing all kinds junkshit into the former dolphin-monkey jumping ring. I had not seen them anywhere until here, unlike everyone else who appeared at this park.
“Abandoned places are meant to be fucked up, mate!” This is far from the last time I would hear these two say this. They were probably no more than 19 years old.
Soon, everyone was ripping seats to take their own shot into the pond. Mine flew way to the right and then almost all the way back, like a giant shitty boomerang.
One kid hit the water with a dead shot, probably because he had practiced with about 15 other seats already. One single throw was enough for the rest of us.
“Abandoned places are meant to be fucked up!”
Last Stop for Sunset
It was rumored that one is able to get an amazing photo of the sunset over the top of the dragon’s head. Enough with the chair throwing and plaster smashing, I said my goodbyes to Finn and his nurse and started to head back to the beginning.
Just as I was walking past the old restrooms underneath the bleachers, I saw the two plaster throwing hooligans carrying chunks of concrete larger than basketballs.
Oh boy, what are these goofs going to do now?
Right then, I saw them smile at each other and walk into the bathrooms together. No….
Just then, I experienced what may as well have been the universe itself shattering.
The incredibly unbearable sound of exploding porcelain produced a severe ear ringing sensation unmatched by a car race or a jet engine. My neck even snapped and my vision blanked out for a split second.
The sound echoed throughout the empty park and the woods for nearly four seconds, which is a very long time for sound to be echoing in the woods.
Walking back into the bathrooms, I honestly couldn’t believe that the toilet urinals were now completely destroyed.
The cherished memories of drunk people taking a piss under the stadium…were now completely destroyed and lost forever. Fifteen years of absent decay and I happen to be standing here the very second two hooligans destroy the porcelain goddesses.
I started to walk away and chuckled to myself a few times. As I got further away from the stadium and was about to cross a very small arch bridge over a stream, I could see and hear a motorbike buzzing full speed towards the area.
It was our security guard friend. He buzzed up to me, and gestured urgently towards the direction I was already walking and shook his head, without slowing down.
I turned back around to see where he was heading, and he pulled right up to the kids still at the stadium. He turned off his bike for just a moment.
“LEAVE!! HURRY!!” I could clearly hear him yell in the nearby background to the kids. A few seconds later after seeing a brief inaudible discussion, the guard jumped back on his bike.
I continued walking forward, albeit it a bit faster than before. As I was crossing the bridge, the guard pulled next to me and then stopped directly in front of me facing forward, impling to give me a ride.
Perhaps I should get on the bike.
So I got on the back of the bike as common impulsive sense dictated at the moment. Away we sped off through the park, and straight to the front of the entrance gates.
It was only 3:50pm, my taxi was not supposed to come for another hour…if he would even come back at all of course.
Walking. Walking is so great for your health, and does not require too much effort. So I began to walk, and I walked the entire two hours back along the side of many roads to get back into the city, and eventually the hostel.
It was almost 6:15pm by the time I finally sat down again, after making some scenic stops along the river on the way back. There were some New Year activities happening. “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!“
“You walked all the way back? What’s wrong with you!?” —about 12 people.
…I mean it wouldn’t be so horrible to do something healthy on this trip.
While I was eating some delicious crispy noodles and sharing beers with soccer on the TV yet again, the Hedon Canadian Cowboy was suddenly bursting out laughing, almost to the point of tears.
He was tapping on my arm and slapping at me while continuing to cackle wildly.
“Hey man! Those guys you were talking about! Those guys you said smashed the pottys!! Hahahaha! This is them!! They’re the ones that smashed the toilets!!! HAhahahahahaha!”
Yet again, I heard a familiar voice call out….”Abandoned places are meant to be fucked up mate!”