Suôí Tiên Park

24th December 2018

Suôí Tiên Park was the only major park on our trip to Vietnam that wasn't playing looped Christmas music over its PA system, earning the place significant bonus points in my book. I've never been particularly fond of the song that backs Disney's It's a small world, but today it came as a relief akin to eating Michelin-star cuisine after several days of non-stop airline food. Over the course of our visit we heard a wide variety of other themes from The Mouse, as well as a thoroughly unexpected left field selection of Bingo Was His Name-O localised into Vietnamese.

Plumbing

Some years ago the park retired its original Mini Roller Coaster in favour of a somewhat larger model that retains the same name as its predecessor. The new generation Mini Roller Coaster (#2550) is memorable chiefly for its support structure, which looks like it was assembled from surplus bathroom plumbing supplies. This impression is reinforced by the fact that it rests on top of polished tiles that have been joined together with grout. The ride has a single five car train seating twenty passengers, which handles the track fairly well; there is a slight rattle, but nothing unmanageable. I'd have preferred lap bars over the rather bulky over-the-shoulder restraints, but on the positive side I can report that these had no impact on the overall comfort level.

In recent years the park has been gradually enclosing what for ease of description I'll describe as the main midway, a lakeside area at the southern end of the facility where the majority of the mechanical rides are installed. Today work was underway on a roof segment directly in front of the Secret of Sorcerer Forest powered coaster, though fortunately the ride was open; a member of staff was keeping an eye on things and called out a command to pause welding every time a visitor came close. We bought our tickets then headed down a long dark corridor to a boarding platform, where a member of staff guided us to our seats with the aid of a torch. We were then dispatched into a stretched oval with airtime bumps that was almost certainly the same as the Flying Dragon at Đầm Sen Park. That being said, the experience was taken to another level entirely by superbly detailed dark ride theming that surrounds the track on all sides. We were given two laps, and I'd gladly have gone back for more.

The park's largest coaster had yet to open for the day due to maintenance work, and though staff told us that it would be thirty minutes this advice was evidently the local equivalent of the Spanish word mañana. We decided to work our way around the other attractions on our list while we waited, starting with the Cối Xay Thần Gió (Windmill), a continuously moving forty car Ferris wheel. From ground level it looked like the cars should hit one of the newly built roof sections, but once on board we were able to see a delightfully improvised solution: a groove cut out of the structure ensuring a few centimetres of clearance. There were virtually no photo opportunities from the heights, but there was a pleasant breeze that helped the time pass quickly.

One unexpected and rather neat discovery was Công Viện Pháp Thuật Harry Potter, a two thousand square metre walkthrough that featured the characters from the Wizarding World inside an elaborately themed haunted house. Some of the renditions were immediately recognisable, such as the house elves, while others were much less so, a problem that the designers rectified by having name labels in both the local patois and English. Our journey took us through all seven books (or for preference, all eight movies) with each area being signed separately. Taller readers should be aware that there are two points where ghosts fly across the ceiling at head height; be ready to duck when you see one coming. There was also a vibrating plate on the ground towards the end.

Harry Potter

Though it is bad form to make fun of questionable English translations, the rules posted at the attraction entrance were sufficiently entertaining that I feel compelled to reproduce them for posterity. Number five was a particular favourite, and valid advice for everyone. The final word of number eleven could be turned into a directive with the simple expedient of an exclamation mark, and I know quite a few enthusiasts who would gladly interpret it that way.

  1. The height is 1 m 4 or more than, buy the adult ticket.
  2. The height is 1 m 4 or less than, buy children tickets. Every person holding a ticket. Please regard that the tickets were torn and did not return, do not change people.
  3. Compliance with regulations on safety which instructed in each region.
  4. Not perform the patronize that can danger for yourselves and everyone around.
  5. Implementation of healthy lifestyles and civilized in public.
  6. Polite. Do not touch the exhibits and equipments in the area visit.
  7. Do not perform patronizes to vandalism the environment around.
  8. Customers are responsible for baggage, jewelry to visiting "The Wizarding Park Of Harry Potter".
  9. Customers who have high blood pressure, weak hearts should not visit "The Wizarding Park Of Harry Potter".
  10. Customers are not allow to carry weapons, explosive substances and smoking is not allowed to visit "The Wizarding Park Of Harry Potter".
  11. Not being in a state of intoxication, alcohol.
  12. The elderly, the disabled, children must be accompanied while on the tour.
  13. Note: In crowded places, please be careful precautions with thief steal pocket on tour.
  14. In cases when the staffs discovered customers do not allow the rules. We would be allowed to intervene to protect for yourselves and everyone around.
  15. We sincerely thank your cooperation.
  16. We wish to visit full of interesting and fun. Goodbye and see you again.

Our next stop was at the Lâu Dài Tuyết (Snow Castle). This proved to be a disappointment; we'd hoped to find a collection of elaborate ice sculptures along the lines of what we'd seen a day earlier at Đầm Sen Park, but the elaborate exterior turned out to be a front for a small room with just one item of interest: a tube slide on ice with a height differential of around two metres. The staff insisted that we wear park-supplied boots inside, depositing our shoes in supplied boxes – but they wouldn't let us leave anything else behind; my somewhat dog-eared park map was politely but firmly handed back to me. The temperature inside was too cold to last for more than a minute or two without gloves, and as a result I gave up after a single descent.

We then made our way into a building that reminded me very much of Vogel Rok. Fairy Phoenix Palace is a gentle boat ride navigated by round rapids-style boats that wobbled dramatically as we boarded. The operator insisted that we remove our hats, an outwardly bizarre regulation that suddenly made sense when a ghostly creature dropped from overhead. The interior had several sections: a blood red landscape with stalagmites and a volcano, a multi-coloured portion that I'd describe as generic dark ride forest, and a deep blue portion with vaguely humanoid apes. There may well have been a storyline somewhere, but we were content to enjoy the scenery without it.

Vogel Rok

We exited to the sound of a whirring noise in the distance that indicated that the High Speed Roller Coaster was open at last. We wasted no time, and soon after we'd acquired our tickets and climbed up the spiral ramp to the boarding platform. Back in 2012 the ride looked to be in need of refurbishment, which it apparently received: the track had been recently repainted, and the seven car train had been re-themed using imagery from GReddy Racing, a somewhat abstruse choice given that the marque currently has no authorized dealers in Vietnam.

The ride itself was fine if undistinguished, being a fairly typical example of a Jet Coaster. As ever the lift hill took an absolute eternity, though the cause today was slow moving tyre drive motors rather than the slippage I wrote about in my previous report. From my front seat vantage point I could see each set starting to move around a second before the train reached them. The overhead restraints had no locking mechanism, but they were heavy enough to stay in place provided they were not pushed, making them perfectly adequate in a part of the world where people take full responsibility for their actions. At the end of our lap the staff encouraged us to unbuckle our seatbelts and disembark while the train was still rolling slowly towards its parking position, a novel experience that I've not come across before.

The Mystery of Ancient Treasures was closed today, and thus our final hit became the Unicorn Forest, a crime-and-punishment walkthrough that had nothing whatsoever to do with unicorns. I found myself reminiscing about the Nothing To Do With Toast video from my childhood, an obscure piece of Irish history that will make no sense whatsoever to the majority of readers (be they Irish or otherwise!). The entrance is at the top of some steps, albeit for no obvious reason as guests immediately walk back down to ground level where the various scenes have been installed. Each is decorated with a gravestone labelled in Vietnamese providing some context. The headline Nói hành xử các tội ("Speaking of criminal conduct") is listed before each offense, such as Alcohol Selling, Conspiracy to Poison People, Jealousy, and Rape.

 

Just Kidding Theme Park

24th December 2018

Just Kidding Theme Park was a late addition to our trip plan, shoehorned in after I happened to read about its grand opening on Facebook. It was far too new for us to be able to pinpoint it on satellite imagery, having only just opened, so instead we gave our tour company the published address and best guess coordinates, an empty space behind a shopping mall in District 12. These proved to be spot on; on arrival I discovered that I'd inadvertently pinpointed the Mini Swing imported (along with quite a few other attractions) from niche Italian manufacturer Eltel Park s.r.I.

The star attraction in the park is the Locust Roller Coaster (#2551), a family coaster of a design that we'd never seen before. We were unable to identify a manufacturer, but concluded that it was almost certainly of Asian origin for two reasons: TECO-branded motors, and the fact that the name Locust would tend to have negative connotations in English. The layout consisted of a climbing right turn, a descending right turn, and an airtime bump through the middle of a fiberglass pumpkin slice, and the themed six car train negotiated it with the aid of three strategically located tyre drive units. The cornering ability wasn't great, but the speed wasn't fast enough for this to be a real problem. Our tickets covered three laps, and the staff gave us a second set at no extra charge.

Locust

 

Công Viên Biên Hùng

24th December 2018

Biên Hùng Park is a public park set around a lake in the city of Biên Hòa, a few kilometres south of an active VPAF Air Base, and roughly twenty-five kilometres northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived shortly after 4:00pm, and though the various attractions were not open it was obvious that they would be in due course, as staff members could be seen performing clearning and startup tasks. Bruno and Anita set off on a mission to find some food, though they returned empty handed apparently because the only places that they found were also preparing for the day's business.

After an hour or so all but two of the machines were lit up and active. The first exception was a Miami with the curiously functional name of Vòng Xoay Hai Chiều, which according to Google Translate means two-dimensional rotation; this ride was under active maintenance. The other was the roller coaster, which looked rusty but in operational condition. We'd seen someone sweeping out the track area during our wait, which we figured would not have happened if the ride was out of service, and given that we decided that our best bet was to ask someone when it was due to open. The response was right now, with the person we asked walking back to our target with us with the appropriate key.

Roller Coaster (#2552) was a Sấu Con installation with a double height helix and a mostly flat track piece, similar to the credit we'd ticked off two days earlier at Thỏ Trắng. This installation didn't quite have the same kick as its brother, possibly due to it being eight years older, but it tracked better than its outward appearance would have suggested. There was no perceptible airtime, but we did enjoy respectable lateral forces at the base of the descent. We rode twice, once in the front and once in the back, enjoying three laps each time.

 

Nguyen Van Tri Park

24th December 2018

Nguyen Van Tri Park is located just two kilometres away from Công Viên Biên Hùng by the northern bank of the Đồng Nai river. We arrived to a sight not calculated to please travelling enthusiasts – a coaster train stalled outside of the ride station – but several members of staff could be seen working on things. While we waited we decided to tempt fate by acquiring some street food, and in due course ended up at a seller whose motorbike had a built in fryer and raw material fridge. I can't speak for the hygiene standard (assuming that there was one!) but I can report both that the mystery victuals tasted wonderful and, more importantly, that we suffered no ill effects afterwards.

Mystery

In due course we were able to ride the Roller Coaster (#2553), a single helix Sấu Con design that despite its diminutive size was arguably the most thrilling coaster of the day thus far. The acceleration out of the station felt almost like a low speed launch, going from zero to perhaps ten miles per hour in a fraction of a second, and the forces in the helix were far stronger than I'd have predicted before boarding. The staff were absolutely thrilled when we bought a second set of ride tickets; one suspects that that doesn't happen with all-adult groups all that often.

 

Center for Cultural District 12

24th December 2018

We'd dropped in on the Center for Cultural District 12 earlier in the day but it was closed at the time, and a member of staff told us to come back after 5:00pm. It was quite a bit after that when we walked through the gate to find the park heaving with people. Much of the crowd could be explained by a live music performance taking place on a concert stage, but there was a queue for most of the rides, including the Roller Coaster (#2554) which was being operated today with military efficiency. The hardware was the same as the coaster we'd ridden just two hours earlier at Nguyen Van Tri Park, though this version felt even faster thanks to us having a full train. We were given four laps, and the next group was already on its way round less than a minute after we'd disembarked.