I first heard about Hồ Thuỷ Tiên, an abandoned waterpark in Vietnam, from another backpacker.
Sitting in a cramped dorm room in Hoi An, Vietnam, he told me that we “had to go”. The park was in Hue, a small city a couple of hours north, and my partner and I were headed there next. We were intrigued. He told us it would be easy to get there, just rent a scooter and punch “Ho Thuy Tien” into Maps.Me (if you don’t use this offline map app already, download it now!).
After 2.5 months of traveling Asia, my partner and I had now wholeheartedly embraced the “chillout” phase of our travels, in which packing our days with tourist attractions (re: pagodas, food tours, temples, bar crawls) was no longer the objective. Instead, we spent our days wandering streets and markets, searching for new foods, driving scooters around the countryside, enjoying afternoon siestas, and the occasional curb-side beer. Driving out to a mysteriously abandoned waterpark? Totally up our alley. And it was decided that we would explore Ho Thuy Tien.
We did some research.
Though it was never actually completed, Ho Thuy Tien waterpark opened in 2004. Three million USD were put into it by the Hoi An Hue tourism company before its funding was cut. The half-finished park flopped, and so it was shut. It didn’t appear on maps, or in Lonely Planet, or on TripAdvisor.
But Ho Thuy Tien was soon revived by the traveling community. Backpackers tell each other by word of mouth about the abandoned Vietnamese waterpark, and share a location pin to help each other find it. And now, this three million dollar water park had morphed into another kind of attraction: one for alternative travelers in search of post-apocalyptic vibes.
Exploring Ho Thuy Tien
One rainy morning in Hue, we got ourselves a scooter for 5 USD and some ponchos for 60 cents. Donning our face masks (pollution!), we put navigation into the hands of Maps.Me (proper millennials). The drive to Ho Thuy Tien waterpark was an easy 25 minutes with only one wrong turn and one road block (cows).
We arrived at the towering, crumbling, grey gates that proclaimed: Ho Thuy Tien
We’d found the abandoned waterpark.
A Vietnamese man was standing there beside his motorbike. We’d be warned that a local would charge an “entrance fee” of 10,000 dong (60 cents). We paid the man and drove into Ho Thuy Tien towards the park’s lake, gasping as the scene unfurled. So calm, surrounded by palm trees and jungle. As we drove alongside the lake, the dragon came into view. The lake is the CenterPoint of the park, surrounded by attractions and rides.
The building shaped like a dragon was meant to be an aquarium on the inside. But today the aquarium is just an eerie dragon-lord, whose crumbling façade is incredibly fitting as it oversees the Ho Thuy Tien lake.
As we approached the dragon we saw a bride and groom and caravan of photographers. While exploring the abandoned waterpark the evidence of other voyeurs was everywhere. Locals come to picnic, to share beers, to swim, and yes, to shoot wedding photos. Exploring Ho Thuy Tien wasn’t the alternative, off-the-beaten track experience that we had assumed it would be.
Ho Thuy Tien waterpark and tourism
But Ho Thuy Tien waterpark was interesting nevertheless. What happens when we abandon our man made worlds? Nature takes it back. While exploring Ho Thuy Tien we discovered that the glass aquariums within the dragon are smashed. Moss and vines are creeping in and the jungle is swallowing the whole park.
Instead of it’s intended commercial profit, Ho Thuy Tien generates a couple dong for the local villagers. Instead of commercialized entertainment, Ho Thuy Tien offers adventurous, unpredictable exploration. Instead of a commercialized interaction with nature, Ho Thuy Tien shows us the power of nature. Allegedly, the local media of Hue repeatedly suggests that the park will be rebranded as an ecotourism attraction. Little do they know, it already is. Ho Thuy Tien waterpark is an incredible post-apocalyptic oasis which is destined to return to the guide books.
But in what capacity? Time will tell.
If You Go to Ho Thuy Tien
You’ll need to rent a scooter to access Ho Thuy Tien waterpark. If you aren’t comfortable with driving in Vietnam, you can pay a taxi driver to bring you. Expect them to quote a high amount.
Download Maps.Me or Google Maps (offline) so that you can navigate without Wifi or service. Ho Thuy Tien is outside of Hue city, and so mobile data may not be as reliable.
If you are keen on taking some post-apocalyptic photos at Ho Thuy Tien waterpark, you’ll want to head to the park early so that you beat the “crowds.” We did not encounter many people on our visit, but, as the park gains more visibility as a tourist destination, this will change.
Bring snacks! In total, your day will be a couple hours, and of course there is no food for sale in the waterpark.
Wear proper shoes. Because much of the paths through Ho Thuy Tien are overgrown, wearing good shoes is necessary to