Saigon isn’t the most kid-friendly city in the world. There are certainly lots of kids in the city but very few places seem to cater to them. Most theme parks and water parks in the city, or country for that matter, have dangerous elements. So I was surprised to find a safe and kid-friendly park in a visit to a theme park on the outskirts of the city, the Buddhist-themed Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement Park.
A fairly long drive down the Hanoi Highway, about 45 minutes and 300,000 VND by taxi, the Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement Park breaks out from its surrounding area with its mountain, large ferris wheel, roller coaster and grandiose entryway. Pulling up to the front of the park gives you a quick taste of what you’ll see inside: large, over-the-top Buddhist statues and decorations. A large frog in a fountain surrounded by giant elephant tusks guards the front gate.
Once inside, the depictions related to Buddhism don’t stop. Immediately upon entering the park you’re greeted by a 20-metre long dragon and at almost every corner you turn you will see another giant monument.
Besides looking at religious symbols, several other things are worth seeing in the park. The most popular spot is probably the water park, and in fact mostly kid oriented. A large water park play area is for kids as well as a few tame water slides, at least compared to others in Vietnam, at the sides and rear of the water area. The whole area is decorated as a large mountain, complete with a giant face carved into the side.
There are also rides and games in the park. A new feature is a paintball area, where 100,000 VND gives you an hour-long paintball extravaganza complete with gear, guns and paint. If you’re scared to paintball, or you don’t want to get dirty, there is a laser tag area. Most of the rides are geared toward kids — they’re mostly smaller rides — except for a very large ferris wheel and roller coaster, but even the bigger rides aren’t particularly fast or scary.
At the back of the park things have more of an animal theme. A crocodile farm is supposedly home to almost 1,500 of the reptiles. You can not only look at and feed the crocs but, um, also buy a baby crocodile from their farm to start your own crocodile farm back home.
A dolphin and sea lion show is held every couple of hours — it was actually surprisingly okay. The animals seemed to be well kept and they performed some incredible feats, like jumping through a hoop of fire and hitting balls into the crowd with their tails.
Unlike Vinpearl Land, where the entry fee is high but all-inclusive, to get into Suoi Tien you only have to fork over 60,000 VND. The catch is that once you’re inside, any ride or building you want to enter will cost an additional fee. A dip in the water park is an additional 60,000 VND while a peek into the crocodile farm will be an extra 10,000 VND. Overall, even if you do everything, the total price is pretty low plus you’re prevented from having to pay to go into some of the less exciting places like the ice palace, where the inside temperature is -18 degrees. It is a long drive to get to the park but, especially if you’re looking for something to do with the kids, it should make for a decent day trip.