Looking like something drawn from the nightmarish imaginings of the latest Stephen King thriller, the Ho Thuy Tien abandoned waterpark, Hue, Vietnam is an eerie monument to an unrealised dream.
Since closing its doors in 2006, just two years after its unveiling, the park has fallen into a state of disrepair and the exact reasons for closure remain shrouded in mystery. Today, it is a crumbling playground for adventurous backpackers impervious to health and safety risks and eerie warnings of supernatural goings-on.
You won’t find its name on any maps either. Its exact location in Hue remains a close-guarded secret passed on over card games and tales of motorcycle journeys off the beaten track.
Cursed waterpark fails to keep afloat
Located just 8km south of the ancient city of Hue, the Ho Thuy Tien waterpark was built by the Hue Tourism Company in 2004 for a total cost of 70 billion dong ($30m) and was tipped to be the region’s go-to tourist attraction but was never completed. Ownership was later transferred to the HACO Company in 2013 with proposals to rebuild the site as an area for eco-tourism, only for these plans to again stall and never reach full fruition.
It remains unknown why the project failed and why it continues to remain undeveloped. Built in an area renowned for its Buddhist pagodas and illustrious temples, including the tomb of Khai Dinh, the 12th Emperor of Vietnam, some locals believe it to be cursed.
Perhaps a commercial project of this magnitude was always doomed to failure when you consider the culture and modest means of the local Vietnamese people.
Exploring the ‘dragon’ waterpark
As you enter the park from one of the dusty trails, the three-story dragon perched on top of what was meant to be an aquarium in the centre of the lake stands out as the park’s most alluring feature. Like everything else in the park, it is completely coated in graffiti and mossy undergrowth, as it slowly decays and succumbs to the elements.
For avid adventurists, a climb to the top of the dragon’s mouth through the rusted stairwell rewards you with stunning views of the lake. Descend into the basement with caution through the smashed glass to see the empty tanks where sharks and other aquatic animals were once held.
In the distance, water buffalos graze the fields to provide food for locals and stand in sharp contrast to the lifeless man-made construct. How ironic it is that the dragon, the Vietnamese symbol of prosperity and power, should be one of the enduring features of the park. Other attractions to explore include swimming pools, abandoned villas, a concrete car that looks like the Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and an amphitheatre with a capacity of 2,500 seats, most of which have now caved in. Find one which is solid and you’ve got yourself a great view for lunch.
The winding water slides make only for tepid excitement as the algae-filled pools are littered with throwaway Coca-Cola bottles and chocolate bar wrappers, presumably purchased from opportunist vendors making the most of the park’s status as an ‘unofficial must-see attraction’.
If you should meet a crocodile…
It was these treacherous conditions that blighted the existence of native crocodiles that, like the waterpark, lay to be forgotten in the filth of the murky waters. Thankfully after backpackers reported the terrible conditions of these creatures to the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) they have since been removed and transported to a wildlife park in the North of Vietnam.
Accessing the waterpark
An update about the park was published in February 2018 declaring the park to be dangerous due to the poor state of the buildings and that entrance would no longer be permitted.
A security guard now watches over the front gate and prevents anyone from entering. Differing access points to the site are now discussed but it is popular knowledge that loyalty to health and safety can be dissuaded for Dong. Payment to the sum of 10,000 Dong (under a Dollar) is likely to suffice.
Vietnam’s unofficial must-see attraction!
Draped in graffiti and overgrown forestry, this weary waterpark is fast succumbing to the elements and might not be around much longer. Walking around the grounds it’s not hard to imagine what joy and excitement it could have brought but has instead been replaced with an eerie sense of a time forgotten.
If you’re looking for a day’s exploring off the beaten track of temples and pagodas it’s definitely worth paying a visit during your time in Vietnam. Revealing the waterpark’s exact location would not be in keeping with the mystique that surrounds it. But if you’re heading to Hue, strike up a conversation among backpacker circles and you’ll undoubtedly get some directions scribbled on a beer coaster thrust in your direction. The rest is up to you… Hire a motorbike and explore!
Love Urbex? Check out more abandoned places in Southeast Asia here.