Hồ Mây Park is located in Vũng Tàu, a port city located on a peninsula to the south-east of Ho Chi Minh City. Google Maps told us to expect a three hour drive from our hotel next to Saigon Airport, but that estimate was evidently conservative; our driver got us to the area in two hours and fifteen minutes. Those who don't fancy subjecting themselves to the slightly demented local traffic conditions for that length of time have the option of taking a boat, and this is remarkably convenient for coaster enthusiasts; as of this writing the dock for Greenlines is directly adjacent to the cable car that leads to the park.
The park is located on a plateau at the peak of Núi Lớn (Big Mountain), a 250m high peak to the west of the city. It is open from 07:30-23:00 on weekends, though the various attractions within have a much shorter operating window, which today was from 08:00-18:00. The cable car let us out next to a passenger shuttle which we boarded, though readers may find that it's as fast to walk the roughly ten minutes from the station to the ride area. Doing this also gives you a chance to visit the imaginatively named Restaurant Number 1, which offers a wide variety of uncommon meats such as Boar, Goat, Ostrich, and Porcupine. We managed to arrive right after a large school group, and decided to pass on that basis; perhaps next time.
We were asked to sign a rules sheet and waiver before boarding the Alpine Coaster, a requirement that we subsequently encountered again at the go-karts (which were eminently missable). The only unusual regulation was one not calculated to please enthusiasts: for health benefits, visitors are limited to 3 times of continuous participation on the thrilling games. There was a drop of perhaps thirty feet out of the station that kicked things off nicely, and from that point on the routing followed the terrain, twisting and turning along the way. There was no automatic braking, and the corners were banked to a higher degree than more modern Wiegand installations, resulting in an old-school thrill that was everything an alpine coaster should be.
Our first ride was absolutely fantastic, and we couldn't wait to go back for a second. Sadly that descent was interrupted half way down by a slow rider, and the third was even worse as we caught up with someone moving at walking pace less than fifteen seconds after leaving the station. There were ten cars in convoy by the time we reached the end, with all bar the oblivious troglodyte in the lead car baying for blood. The one saving grace was that the track was a short one; had the same thing happened on Tobotronc we'd have been stuck for hours. It was tempting to go back for a fourth run in defiance of the signage, but we decided that it was time to move on.
The park has precious little else of interest for travelling theme park connoisseurs. We passed a bit of time on the Ultimate Slide, a Neveplast Tubby with four lanes, two with a steady descent and two with airtime humps. I liked the latter better, though it wasn't an experience I'd bother queuing for. We also stopped at Drift King, a set of battery operated karts that were supposed to be able to drift around corners, though they were too slow for there to be much chance of that. There were three flat rides, all of which looked to be locally built: a pirate ship (out of service today), chair swings, and a Polyp, none of which caught our eye. In the end we did a lap of the park to make sure we hadn't missed anything before heading for the exit.
Thỏ Trắng Vũng Tàu
23rd December 2018
We had no information about the Vũng Tàu branch of Thỏ Trắng when we were planning our trip, and given that we decided to call past just before noon on the off-chance that the various rides would be open. Unfortunately we were out of luck; it was immediately evident that there was nothing happening, and moments later we discovered a sign indicating that the park would not be open for several hours. It wasn't practical to wait around with other stops planned for the evening, and as a result Roller Coaster became the second missed credit in as many days. Readers planning their own trip to Vietnam should bear in mind that virtually all of the smaller parks in the country operate in the late afternoon and evening, and while some open earlier on weekends all published hours are best considered approximate.
Just Kidding Family Fun Fair
23rd December 2018
Just Kidding Amusement is one of the newest entrants into the Vietnamese amusement park business. The company started out in late 2017 with an activity center at Thao Dien, but has since expanded with two additional outlets: a standalone amusement park in District 12 and the Just Kidding Family Funfair at the SC VivoCity shopping mall in District 7. The various attractions were closed for an extended lunch break when we arrived, so we decamped into the nearby mall to find some food. We ended up at a branch of Meiwei, a superb local Dim Sum chain where your choices are steamed directly at your table; I'd heartily recommend it to anyone retracing our steps.
In due time we made our way back outside to the ride area, where we found a collection of ten separate family attractions, the vast majority of which appeared to have been sourced from Italian manufacturer SBF VISA. There were only two of interest to enthusiasts: a drop tower (that was under maintenance) and the Family Coaster (#2549), a standard layout Big Apple. The train on this installation had both seat belts and unusually restrictive T-shaped lap bars. I found that I couldn't quite shoehorn myself into the front half of a car, but fortunately the back had plenty of room, allowing me to enjoy three laps.
Đầm Sen Park
23rd December 2018
Our fourth and final stop today was at Đầm Sen Park, a lakeside park in District 11 of Ho Chi Minh City that I'd visited as part of my first trip to Vietnam back in 2012. We'd ordered our day to take advantage of the 08:00-21:00 opening hours listed on the park web site, and as such it was a rather unpleasant surprise to discover that the area with the big roller coaster and haunted walkthrough was scheduled to close some three hours earlier at 18:00. It was pure luck that ensured that we arrived early enough to dodge that particular bullet; those arranging their own trips should plan accordingly.
We had little option but to begin our visit with the Roller Coaster, a Large 3 Ring Coaster from Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment Manufacturing that has the curious distinction of being the oldest of the ninety-five operating installations from that company. As expected it was not a good ride; the train handled the initial drop and vertical loop without too much trouble, at least from my seat in row two, but the double corkscrew that followed was haphazard at best. My shoulders took the brunt of the punishment as my full body weight landed hard on the overhead restraints, and though the comfort level wasn't as bad as it could have been I was still content to stop after one lap.
On my last visit to the park Spinning Coaster featured blue supports and blood red track. Since then the latter has faded into a pale and distinctly shabby orange, even as nature has gradually reclaimed the edges of the ride area. This was most obvious today from the set of bunny hops adjacent to the lift hill, as our car collided with a number of oversized leaves that overlapped the track. This moment added excitement to what was otherwise a fairly generic ride, memorable chiefly for having the standard Golden Horse combination restraints: seat belts, lap bars, and backup chains. We managed more spinning than usual for the genre, though that isn't saying all that much.
Our third stop was at the Flying Dragon, a powered oval with two airtime bumps on one side. When first installed the track sat almost at ground level, as can be seen in the early photographs on RCDB, but this changed at some point around 2010 when replacement supports were constructed to raise it five feet into the air, presumably to avoid problems with flooding. The provenance of the hardware is unknown as of this writing, though my feeling is that it is almost certainly a locally built copy of a Zamperla design; both the track and the train have similarities to the standardmodelDragon.
The best coaster in the park (not that there's much competition!) is a ride that I'm affectionately referring to as the Big Melon. The imaginatively named Children's Spiral Coaster is a Beijing Shibaolai Junior Coaster that uses the standard Wacky Worm layout with no trim brake on the drop. The train is quite spacious, and though the figurehead on the lead car looks a little squashed one can forgive that. The ride area includes a fiberglass apple, several bugs, and a melon slice set directly over the descent where the train is at its fastest. The result is a surprisingly good ride; the train moves over the top section at a higher than average speed, and an unchecked descent results in pleasing lateral forces in the final turn.
The park has put a lot of effort into the theming of the Haunted Castle walkthrough. The ride building has the appropriate dramatic facade, and though it is only on one level the exterior has been decorated with a number of multi-storey turrets that have been painted in a medium dark shade of blue. In front stands a dead tree, numerous skeletons, oversized spiderwebs, and a black horse and carriage that doubles as a convenient photo point. The interior features a mix of detailed scenes with some basic fun house effects, including a rotating barrel and floor segments that move from side to side in dramatic fashion. The presentation was for the most part good, though it was a little disappointing to see three separate scenes that were out of order, with no lighting or motion.
Another not-to-be-missed attraction is Băng Đăng, an ice house that was one of the better examples of the genre I've come across in my travels. There was a motorised rail at the entrance with a selection of heavy jackets that were colour coded for different heights, along with information about a cleaning procedure that we couldn't read. Once inside we were treated to recreations of local landmarks, seasonal theming, and sculpted animals that were created over a month long period by a team of twenty sculptors from Harbin (China) assisted by a further fifty local engineers and technicians. The interior was chilled to -10°C, which was sufficiently close to an Irish summer day not to bother me (!), though the differential with the outside was pretty dramatic; after we left it took a good ten minutes before our camera lenses and glasses stopped fogging up.
The last hit of the night was Đu Quay Đùng, an enormous Ferris wheel. This had forty cramped cars that were mostly enclosed, though there were bars where the windows should have been that were spaced far enough apart to allow for photography. The heights provided a decent enough view of the lights of Ho Chi Minh City, but it was too dark to see all that much of the park, with all of the roller coasters disappearing into the background; enthusiasts who like their aerial shots would do better to ride during daylight hours.