I spent the morning in my Airbnb deciding what to see in Hue, Vietnam. I saw that there was an abandoned amusement park on the outskirts of the city, so I decided to go there. Why go to another museum or temple when I could visit an apocalyptic park?
I walked downstairs and Jack’s parents gave me an automatic motorbike to drive. It was the same one that died on me two blocks away the day prior. It seemed to be fixed, so I took off. It only had one side-mirror and it was so loose that the wind kept knocking it out of place. The labels where the key was inserted were rubbed off from wear and tear, so I had to play around with it to figure out how to turn the engine on and to open the seat.
I drove to Nina’s cafe for lunch. It was a restaurant that a former coworker, Julia, recommended. It only cost $6.88 USD and it was delicious! The food was fresh, flavorful, and filling. I even ordered a pastry with ice cream inside for dessert.
After lunch, I drove about 20 minutes to the abandoned water park. When I pulled into the parking lot, there was a barrier blocking the entrance that also blocked the view of the park. Two guys were there and tried to charge me $20,000 dong ($0.86 USD) to park. There was a couple getting on their bike and driving away, but nobody else was around. I drove up the street just about a minute away and saw motorbikes pulling over and parking on a small section of dirt.
A man came over and put a chalk mark on my bike and asked for $10,000 dong ($0.43 USD). I told the man no because this was clearly a guy who was making money off tourists for no reason. I texted Jack to ask if this was normal and if I should pay. While I waited for a reply, I talked with a European couple who paid the fee. Then someone else drove up. I noticed that the man forgot that I never gave him money, so I just started walking down the trail.
The trail immediately wound its way through a forest. There wasn’t anybody around and there were no trail markers either. I assumed it would take me to the park eventually. After 15 minutes, I started to get lost because the trail had a few options. Overgrown bushes made it difficult to see which path was frequented most.
Finally, a couple from China caught up to me and we decided on a route together that seemed to be the best option. On the way, we passed a couple going the opposite way and they confirmed that we were on the correct path. I separated from the other couple and shortly after, the trees cleared and the park emerged.
There was a large lake with a path going around it. The first ride that I saw was a huge dragon structure in the middle of the lake. There were a couple of women on the grass selling drinks, but once I passed them, there was hardly anybody around.
I was in love! I walked on the bridge towards the dragon and couldn’t believe this existed. As I got closer, I noticed the broken glass and spray paint everywhere. The menacing dragon was sitting on top of a dome building overlooking the lake.
When I first entered, there was a counter that clearly would have been where workers took tickets. Then I noticed a spiral staircase. It was still light outside of the structure, but as I walked inside, it was pitch black.
I used the flashlight on my phone and it was creepy. The couple was wandering around, but mostly in different sections. As I walked down the hallway inside, I noticed the aquarium theme. There were windows separating different tanks where it appeared sea life had once lived. The glass was broken, but it remained intact around the frame.
The whole place was so fascinating! Vines were growing around the structure and in unexpected places because it had been abandoned for ten years. I love apocalyptic movies, but they often fail to show how much nature would take over. I got to see firsthand how nature would continue to survive even though no humans would.
I climbed a staircase and as I approached the top, it became a narrow spiral. I heard voices at the top, so I kept going. When I arrived at the head of the dragon, there were a few French people hanging out and taking pictures. They were drinking beer that they had in their backpacks. They told me that the path goes all the way around the large lake and there are more rides.
After taking pictures, I found the path around the lake and started walking. There was a guy in his late 20s who was slightly ahead of me, so we kept randomly running into each other, but other than that, I had the place to myself. Most people just stopped at the dragon and left.
The real feel was 103° F (39° C) that day and extremely humid. I was sweating like crazy, but I didn’t care because I was loving the environment. The walk was beautiful with trees all around. I passed a man who was collecting sticks and loading them on the back of his motorbike.
I arrived at a set of large slides that led to a pool. Spray paint, dirt, and overgrowth engulfed the area. The pool had moss growing in it and there were rumors that an alligator lived in it.
It all looked so eerie. I imagined what it must have been like when it was operating. Kids would have been playing on the playground equipment and swimming in the pools. Their faces would have lit up as they slid down the slide and splashed into the pool. Now, it was just a dirty, broken mess. There was a spray-painted picture of a needle on the side of the pool and it reminded me to watch my step for needles that might be infected with HIV.
I continued around the lake and passed a space shuttle virtual reality machine. Then I arrived at the outdoor stadium. It was huge and difficult to get inside because of the many tree branches and broken glass on the ground. I stood in the middle of the stadium and looked around. It looked like there was a pool of water as the main feature. Maybe for animal acts? Or maybe a water puppet show?
Blue plastic square pieces were fastened to the concrete ledges for seats. Several were missing and tall grass grew all around. I stood there and said, “And the crowd goes wild!” as I envisioned what it would be like to be performing in front of a crowd that size.
I continued walking around the lake and saw statues and a stray dog. I had to walk back through the woods to get to my motorbike and when I arrived, sweat was pouring down my face and chest. My shirt was so drenched, there was no hiding the fact that I was a hot mess. The man collecting money for parking said, “It’s hot outside huh?” Embarrassed, I replied, “Yes!”
I drove back towards the city and there were large trucks on the road that would expel a huge cloud of dark smoke when they passed. It hurt my eyes and I would cough as I drove through the polluted air. Sometimes, water would hit me and I could only hope that it was water from the trees above. By the end of the day, my legs were covered in soot and grime. My sweat made it stick to my body. I was starting to understand why some people wear masks.
I drove to an arena that was in Jack’s book, but it was closed due to construction. Then I stopped at a coffee shop and bought a coffee, tiramisu, and a bottle of water for $4.04 USD. I cooled off in the air conditioning before continuing. Next, I drove to the riverfront and walked around. There were nice boats lined up and a woman rushed to me. She wanted to sell me a ticket for $200,000 dong ($8.60 USD). I passed because I thought she was trying to rip me off. Shortly after, another woman approached me and offered the same boat ride for $100,000 dong.
As I waited to board, I talked with a young couple from the Netherlands. They had traveled for a week in Cambodia and were spending three weeks in Vietnam. We boarded the boat where there were rows of plastic chairs that held about 30 people. The boat went out into the river and then just stopped. A group of beautiful young women stood on the platform and sang some songs, but they did not seem to be enjoying their job. There were lots of other boats on the water just sitting there too.
Once the singing was done, we were each given a candle in a small bowl of paper to set it out on the water and make a wish. Once that was done, we were back to shore. It was a total waste of a boat ride.
After wishing the couple from The Netherlands well on their travels, I decided to check out the night market. There were pots of brightly colored food ready to be sold at some of the stalls. I couldn’t tell what the food was, and eating purple, neon green, spongy looking things wasn’t going to happen.
There were little trinkets laid out on rugs, people playing music for money, and a man painted in gold doing an act. It reminded me of the characters on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There was even a booth for throwing a dart at balloons.
I found a restaurant by the water and after ten minutes of waiting, a server asked to take my order. When I tried to order food, he said, “Oh sorry, no chef.” I left because I needed dinner. I found the DMZ Bar and Restaurant and climbed the stairs to the third floor that overlooked the streets below. I sat at an open-air bar that looked out to the street. I could hear dance music playing at bars and dance clubs across the street. I really wanted American food, so I ordered a burger. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste like a burger in the U.S.
I walked back to my motorbike and looked at my phone for directions back to the Airbnb. I enjoyed driving a bike there. It was chaos, but I liked the thrill. Once back at the Airbnb, I FaceTimed my mom and went to bed. Technology helped me stay in touch with loved ones back home, something I was really grateful for.