Located 8 km (5 miles) from the centre of Hue is Ho Thuy Tien lake, the home of Vietnam's abandoned dragon themed water park. Exploring the abandoned water park was officially closed to the public in February 2018, but don't let this stop you from going.
Funded by a state-owned enterprise, the Hue Capital Tourism Company and announced to begin construction in 2001 with a budget of 70 billion Vietnamese Dong ($30 mill USD), Thuy Tien Water Park was conceptualised with dreams of promoting Hue and attracting more tourists to the region.
The vision was to provide a space with a diverse range of attractions including an aquarium, gardens, amphitheatre, animal exhibitions, a cultural village, food courts, gaming areas, accommodation and a water park featuring swimming pools and water slides.
The incomplete park first opened its doors to the public in June of 2004 and due to its minimal functionality the water park did not create the financial turnover expected and as a consequence had to shut its doors after only a few months in operation.
Due to pressure from banks and investors in 2013, ownership was transferred to a company called HACO, which had a dream to restructure the site for eco-tourism, including restaurants, spas, accommodation, arts, a convention centre, and a space for outdoor events, however these plans also failed, resulting in an unfinished and abandoned water park.
Many locals believe the land to be cursed as the park is built in an area famed for its impressive temples, pagodas and the tomb of the 12th Emperor of Vietnam, Khai Dinh.
Exploring the abandoned water park was officially closed to the public in February 2018, but don't let this stop you from going. If you come across the security guard while entering you can offer him a small amount of money/ bribe him which will allow you to gain entrance. Thanks to my local guide doing all the talking, I was only charged 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (0.65 AUD / 0.45 cents USD), although I have heard some travellers say they paid up to 100,000 Vietnamese Dong ($6.20 AUD / $4.30 USD), others have said they entered for free.
I decided against a group tour when exploring Hue and instead I organised a private tour through Vietnam Backpacker Hostel. I travelled there on the back of a local guides motorbike and was very lucky to arrive at a time when no other tourists were present as I was able to enjoy exploring the entire water park to myself.
The crocodiles that once inhabited the park were reported to the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) by visitors and this resulted in the croc's being removed and humanely relocated to a wildlife park in North Vietnam.
Enter the Dragon
Upon arriving at the park via the dirt trail that surrounds the empty lake, you walk across a bridge leading you to the giant 3-story dragon, the water park's most impressive feature. In its glory days, the dragon was built to house the reception, aquarium and viewing deck.
As you ascend through the building to reach the mouth of the dragon, you walk up 3 levels of winding stairs decorated to appear as though you're inside the body of the dragon. You pass through rooms that have fallen into complete disrepair, scenes that were once filled with such optimistic dreams are now littered with broken glass, hold pools of dirty water and have walls covered in graffiti.
The Dragon's Mouth
Once upon a time (even in recent times), when visitors arrived on the top floor they were greeted with a stunning view of the lake when peering through the jaws of the dragon. With the lake almost completely drained, I could only imagine this view. Instead, I was greeted with a panoramic view of grass and trees as far as my eyes could see.
Walk back down the stairs and exit the door to your right and you will enter an overgrown garden full of wall carvings, statues of sea creatures. Continue through the garden and walk through the shark's open mouth to reach the rear bridge. Following this bridge leads you to the trail to the derelict water slides.
The Water Slides
The water slide section of the park consists of 2 areas. One pool with 3 larger water slides and a kiddies section with mini slides for children, both pools filled with brown murky algae water and scattered rubbish left by previous visitors. You can try your luck and slide down into the dirty pools, I know people that have done this and somehow didn't fall ill afterwards, but I wouldn't recommend this.
I spent so much time walking around the dragon and water slides that I didn't get a chance to visit the abandoned amphitheatre situated on the north of the lake, however, I was happy that I'd made it out of the building without falling over on the slippery floors as I'd had several close calls.
I was able to see the amphitheatre on the way out as we drove past it, however, I would have preferred to sit there and have lunch. After all of the time I have spent in Southeast Asia over the past 2 years, this is one more telling reason of why I should have learnt how to ride a motorbike by now so I could enjoy the day at my own leisure.
To be honest the experience was a little eerie, great, but eerie, especially when I ventured beyond the Dragon and arrived at the water slides. Every drip I heard, every noise I heard, in the back of my mind I thought I was going to stumble across other people or a crocodile. But there were none. After 1 and a half hours, I was still the only person there.
If you're all templed out during your visit to Hue and looking for a different experience I would definitely recommend a visit to the abandoned water park.
Generally 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (0.65 AUD / 0.45 cents USD) but be prepared to pay more. It all depends on the security guard.
Ho Thuy Tien Water Park Location
Hồ Thủy Tiên
Thua Thien Hue