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Vietnam Report - Part 3: Ho Chi Minh +1s

gavin

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For the Christmas holiday, we decided to head to a beach resort while squeezing in a few final creds for the year. I’d been meaning to travel to Phu Quoc for a while, an island off the south coasts of Vietnam/Cambodia, and direct Hong Kong flights had recently been reinstated. We went quite fancy with the hotel, figuring we’d be spending a fair bit of time in it, but it was decent value for money really, especially when you’re splitting costs. I’ve paid a lot more for a lot less elsewhere. We got to the hotel in the evening, had dinner, and woke up to this view in the morning.

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We had three days here: 2 days for park stuff and a day to just laze around the pool/beach. We decided on Sun World for the first day. To get there, you have to start from an area called Sunset Town, a somewhat tacky recreation of an Italian village, and take a massive cable car to another small island, Hon Thom. We’d bought a package that included return cable car tickets, park/waterpark and a lunch buffet, all for about £25 each.

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The park itself is more of a water park really, with a coaster and another couple of rides. We’d toyed with the idea of doing the water park, but decided not to bother. I kind of wish we had though since it looked pretty good. We did the observation tower first, which gives you an excellent view of the cred.

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I hadn’t seen Roaring Timbers running by that point, but it was just because the park was so quiet. It was very decent, but lacked airtime due to having not really warmed up. It rattled a fair bit as well, but in a way that gave that “woodie" feeling rather than actually being rough. I got 5 rides in – 2 back to back at first and then another 3 later in the day before we left. By that point, it had warmed up a bit, but still didn't feel like it was hitting its full potential. They also had the front row blocked off for some reason, no idea why and I didn't bother to ask.

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The shot/drop tower was closed, but whatever.

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We had a quick walk to the beach area, which was ok but somewhat spoiled by construction of a hotel/resort complex right next to it. The plans al look pretty impressive.

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And that was basically it. It’s a weird one really. There’s something quite special and exclusive about building a substantial wooden coaster out on a tiny tropical Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia, accessible only by cable car or boat, but if you’re not also doing the waterpark, there’s nothing else to keep you there very long. The cable car in itself is really the major attraction here, holding some rather tenuous Merlinesque record or longest triple cable cable car or some such nonsense.

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We got the cable car back and had a wander around Sunset Town, all of which is owned by the Sun Group. I’d had no idea it was even there before we got thee for the cable car. It was all very weird. It’s actually quite big, with lots of “Italian” streets running parallel on the side of a hill, but is mostly a complete ghost town. There are a couple of hotels, including a new Hilton, but most of the buildings, and there a lot of them, seem mostly empty.

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Another attraction was the “kissing bridge”, a bridge which went nowhere but was actually quite cool to look at. There was also some big show here at night, but we weren’t going to hang around for that.

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From there it was just back to the hotel via a supermarket to stock up on drinks/snacks since there was nothing in the immediate hotel vicinity. A decent, fairly chilled first day.
 

Hixee

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I'm heading down to Phu Quoc later in the spring, and this park (plus the one 'up north' of the island) are on the cards. Looks very cool!

Did you buy your tickets in advance? And how did you get from your hotel down to the cable car station? (may also follow a question about how you get to the northern park too later)
 

gavin

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I booked the tickets (for both this place and the one up north) using Trip.com (or maybe one of them was Klook?). You can just scan the QR codes directly from those apps with no need to go to ticket windows.

To get around, use Grab (works like Uber). There are various shuttle buses, much moreso with VinWonders, but when Grab is so cheap I didn't even bother looking into them other than using one to get from the safari park to VinWonders since it was right there as we were ready to leave.
 

Hixee

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I booked the tickets (for both this place and the one up north) using Trip.com (or maybe one of them was Klook?). You can just scan the QR codes directly from those apps with no need to go to ticket windows.
Ah nice one. Thanks.

To get around, use Grab (works like Uber). There are various shuttle buses, much moreso with VinWonders, but when Grab is so cheap I didn't even bother looking into them other than using one to get from the safari park to VinWonders since it was right there as we were ready to leave.
We use Grab regularly in the Philippines - can't be arsed with the grief of any other faff these days. Glad to hear it works well there too. Thanks. :)
 

gavin

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The next day was Christmas Day. A tropical island doesn’t feel very Christmassy anyway, so might as well go to a park.

VinWonders was in the far north of the island. We were staying quite far south, so the taxi took us about an hour. Vinpearl is the other major park operator in Vietnam, along with Sun World. Both companies are basically just huge property developers which have also branched out into theme parks. In Phu Quoc, Vinpearl has pretty much taken over the north of the island while Sun World has done the same at the far south end.

Anyway, as well as the theme park, Vinpearl also has a zoo/safari park, so we bought a combo ticket online and started there. I didn’t take many pictures since the collection really was just very generic zoo animals, but it was surprisingly really decent. A lot of zoos in Asia aren’t particularly pleasant, but this one could easily hold its own with the better European and American zoos. The safari section was impressive for the sheer numbers of some of the animals. They must’ve had 20+ rhinos, for example, all in a huge, multi-species paddock.

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There were free shuttle buses around the different areas of the whole Vinpearl complex, so we jumped on one of those to get to the theme park, VinWonders. Upon arrival, it’s clear that this is much more major park than Sun World from the previous day. There’s a large entrance plaza, followed by a covered “main street” kind of deal which leads onto a central castle. They’ve clearly gone all out with this one to make it feel like a “proper” park.

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We started off with the family boomerang. There were very few people around, so they were holding off a bit on dispatches. With most rides, we’d get to the station and be told “5 minutes”, which was absolutely fine and made sense. Usually, a few other people would arrive in that time, but if not, they still sent the ride off after those 5 minutes.

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From there, it was onto the star attraction, Wrath of Zeus. This opened at the park in 2020, but this is actually one of the oldest “new” Vekomas since it was originally built for a park in Ho Chi Minh City which never happened, so was sitting around in pieces for a couple of years before turning up here. It’s currently the only Firestorm model, but there’s apparently another one for a Chinese park which may or may not ever open.

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It was, predictably, very good. Unfortunately, the top hat is pretty neutered by the trim brakes, so it really crawls over that. It's not a great start, but what follows is excellent.

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Around the back of the castle was an entrance to a shooting dark ride. It was a combination of sets and 3D screens, with the shooting parts being the screens. ‘twas ok. I like it when they shove stuff in theme park castles though.

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I did the Intamin halfpipe by myself. I wasn’t overly ecstatic, but it’s been an while since I’ve done one of these, and this one was at least really smooth.

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Another ride type I hadn’t done for years, so gave it a go. It was s**te though. The handles/wings were locked, rendering the whole thing quite pointless.

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One of the most impressive attractions was their Vekoma suspended coaster, which is entirely indoors and very well-themed. Well, the queue line and station are well-themed. The ride itself has some excellent lighting and is all very shiny, but doesn’t quite match up.

The queue line seemingly had 2 preshows, but since it was so quiet, they weren’t running them and just had the queue open to walk right up to the station.

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I really like this coaster model anyway and think it’s vastly underrated, but enclosing the whole thing and giving it theming/lighting and a soundtrack (IMA Score? Sounded like it) really elevated the whole thing into quite a special attraction.

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Right as I took this picture, there was a roll back. I’ve still never had one on any coaster. It was closed for a while, but by the time we rode the ferris wheel a short time later, we could see them testing it again.

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I did the water ride. There was actually a minimal queue for this, so I had to wait a whole 10 minutes. You can’t see it very well from off-ride, but that smaller, dry drop coasts back uphill into the water channel giving strong “is it a cred” vibes. When I went to log my rides on Coaster-Count, it was included on there, so I’ve ticked it off for completeness, but haven’t included it in my personal count.

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After I got off, there was some temporary issue causing boats to stack up on the lift.

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From the Ferris wheel, you can see the is-it-a-cred drop more clearly.

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Onto the Ferris wheel then, which was fu**in’ massive and gave excellent views over the park.

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On the other side, you can look down on the old park. Rather than develop/build over it, they’ve strangely just abandoned it and built an entire new park right next to it. I guess it leaves a decent amount of room for expansion.

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Next to the wheel is another one of the park’s signature attractions, a large aquarium shaped like a turtle. It was very impressive, especially since it’s just part of the theme park and included in the price. It’s the sort of thing I’d have expected to be a separate attraction built outside the park and ticketed accordingly.

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All that was left was a rapids ride, which we skipped, and a kiddy area, which was bigger than I’d expected and had a variety of themes including Western and Egyptian.

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There’s another cred here, but with a weight limit. A picture on RCDB had the limit at 50kg, so I’d thought there was no chance, but they’ve now upped it to 75kg. I was around that weight in the summer, so could’ve probably ridden it, but I’m back at my winter-don’t-give-a-s**t weight of around 83kg now. Totally would’ve kept the weight off if I’d realised. Boooooooo!

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There was a kind of crappy simulator ride which felt very old-school Fantawild. You stand on a platform which moves a bit with a 360 projection around it. There were some small houses with fairytale scenes in them, and an Alice in Wonderland walkthrough which starts in an old English house and leads outside to the “rabbit hole” in a tree and goes on from there. It was pretty good and an unexpected surprise of an attraction.

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We stuck around for the castle show. I didn’t take any pictures, but it was seriously impressive, with projection mapping, fountains (and water screens used to amazing effect) and possibly the biggest fireballs I’ve ever seen in a theme park attraction. Absolutely world class.

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I thought this park was excellent, and a definite step above the other parks I’ve done in Vietnam. They’ve clearly gone for a proper world-class park. It’s just unfortunate that they’re seemingly not getting the visitor numbers to match. By Vietnamese standards, it’s expensive, though reasonably priced when compared to Europe/USA and the whole island is geared towards tourists anyway. I paid around 45 quid, but that included the zoo/safari as well as the theme park, plus a meal voucher. The water park is also included with the theme park, but we didn’t use that. When you consider the aquarium as well, it all comes in at pretty decent value.

It was a bit of a pain in the arse trying to get a Grab (Uber equivalent) at park closing, so we just decided to walk the 25 minutes to an area called Grand World, which is also owned by Vinpearl. It’s basically a restaurant and shopping area (with lots of vacant buildings) themed, again, to Italy. It’s all just a bit weird, both Vinpearl and Sun World have built these “Italian” towns at total opposite ends of the island. I don’t get the thought process behind that. This one was here first though.

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There’s a bit of polishing off to do with this report later – some crappy +1s - but that’s the meat of it done.
 

gavin

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There’s a bit of random faff left for this report, but it includes a handful of +1s, so in the interests of completeness, and procrastinating at work, I’ll hammer it out.

We had a third day in Phu Quoc and just designated it a pool/beach day. I’m not a massive beach/pool person, but I can appreciate it to some extent. I’d also caught a cold the previous day, so a day of f**k all worked out well. Did cocktails at the hotel roof bar and that was Phu Quoc done.

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The next day, we took a short flight to Ho Chi Minh city and spent 3 nights there. I’d been before, but couldn’t really remember much about it. There are a couple of decent-sized parks in / close to the city, but I’d done both and they’ve each only added a crappy kiddy coaster since. If I’d been by myself, I might’ve done them.

Since I was last there, this huge building has gone up with a fancy residential area around it, all owned by Vin Pearl. I like hotel rooms in tall buildings, so we stayed there.

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The next day, we took an afternoon tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Again, I’d done it before, but didn’t really remember much about it. Meh. I think I’d been quite impressed last time, but that was a very long time ago and I hadn’t travelled much by that point. Now, I can see things for the tourist traps that they are.

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There was a +2 to be had at a small city park. Luckily, the minibus back from the tour was going right past it, so we jumped out there. The name translates as White Rabbit Park (there a few with that name around Vietnam – no idea if they’re connected) and there were two very similar coasters, both from a local company called Sau Con. One was their “one-loop” model (one helix) and one was their “two loop” model, which was the same thing but slightly taller in order to fit in an extra helix. Solo rides for these two (3 laps on each, which was very unnecessary), and then out and back to the hotel.

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The next day was just a general tourist / sightseeing day. I’d done all of this before, but only had a few vague recollections as we were walking around. There’s not a huge amount to see in HCM City, but everything is fairly concentrated around one area, District 1. I’m not going to bother explaining anything, just dump a bunch of pictures.

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When we got back, we just had a bit of a walk around the park next to the hotel, mostly just to get a decent view of the building we were staying in.

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Our flight back the next day wasn’t until the late afternoon, so we had some time to kill after checking out of the hotel. Considering there was a cred there, it, surprisingly, wasn’t my suggestion to go to the zoo, which was only a short drive from the hotel.

There was supposed to be a Sau Con 2 Loop coaster there, the same as one of the coasters from a couple of days prior, but it had been replaced with a Sau Con 3 Loop coaster, which has another helix added instead of straight track back to the station. Yay for the “discovery” and yay for completing Sau Con’s entire coaster catalogue in the same city. Evidence of my pathetic solo ride can now be found on RCDB.

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And that was it. All in all, it was a really decent trip. I generally like Vietnam (despite HATING Hanoi on my first visit, I appreciated a bit more later), and both Sun World and VinPearl are doing decent things and continuing to grow. In terms of South East Asia, it’s probably the best country for parks even though they're pretty spread out around the country. Yeah, Singapore has Universal Studios, but that’s it. Malaysia? Not really.

Vietnam. Yay.
 
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