Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park is a Vietnamese water-filled fantasy land, located rather unromantically next to a rubbish dump 15 kilometres South of Ho Chi Minh City. Suoi Tien, or “the fairy stream,” is the world’s first water park devoted to Buddhism, specifically the Southeast Asian animistic form of Buddhism. The animism works well for the theme park; instead of Mickey and Daffy, Suoi Tien has chosen the Dragon, Unicorn, Tortoise, and Phoenix as its sacred animals, used thematically throughout the massive water park. Furthermore, workers in golden monkey outfits roam the park taking pictures with visitors and causing “mischief.”
The park focuses on Vietnamese history, folklore, and of course on the Buddha himself. Among the parks many features are an oversized golden dragon whose mouth contains a neon haloed shrine to Buddha, avenues lined with pillars in the shape of giant elephant tusks, a swimming pool surrounded by a massive concrete facade of dragons and a giant rotating frog sculpture at the entrance. Particularly delightful are the twelve story face’s of the Buddhist sages - with water slides emerging from their beards.
Children might enjoy a dog or turtle shaped boat ride around the island pavilions. But, beware the cutely-named Palace of Unicorns which contains a surprisingly gory house of horrors within. Perhaps the strangest and most unnerving feature of the enormous park is the crocodile kingdom. A pond with over 1,500 live crocodiles, visitors are invited to feed them with raw meat attached to fishing poles.
The whole thing is quite impressive and constructed on a huge scale. Although, the lax safety controls -acres of wet, slippery concrete, low hanging stalactites in the cavern water slides, and the bay of crocodiles- remind you that you are not in Disneyland anymore.
Know Before You Go
A 20 minute taxi ride from downtown Saigon, although from 2014 it will be accessible from its own subway station.