First of all, before you read any further, click on this link to the official Dai Nam Park website which should open in a new window/tab. The music (which will automatically start playing) is heinous in the best possible way. I encourage you to let it play obnoxiously loud and then read the remainder of this post.
If you’re reading this in the distant future, that link might be dead. Fear not! I downloaded the song and have put it here as a backup:
Isn’t it glorious? If you’re a little distracted, I completely understand. Just bask in it for a minute or two.
Secondly, sorry about the title of this post. I couldn’t help myself.
Dai Nam Park, or Đại Nam Văn Hiến as it’s actually called, is a large tourist complex about 40km north of Saigon. We had no idea it existed – evidently few foreigners do – and realised that it happened to be really close to the city we’d randomly decided to spend a few nights in – Thu Dau Mot. The complex is enormous at 450 hectares (if you can’t imagine how big 450 hectares is, it’s roughly 161 IKEAs all dumped next to each other), and hosts a theme park, a fake beach, a zoo, and a cultural zone with replicas of famous Vietnamese temples.
So we packed our swimming stuff, sunscreen, waterproof camera case, and arrived at the complex at 9.30 a.m. It’s official opening time is 8 a.m. I figured the earlier we got there the less queues we’d have to deal with, but it turned out that arriving early didn’t matter. When we got to the complex there were no other patrons. None. At all. Parking was easy; the ambitious car park stretched out for almost a kilometre and all the spaces were empty. The spot where we parked our motorbike had about 30 other bikes that probably belonged to the employees.
The entry fees to the park are all over the place. That nightmare can be found HERE. Essentially, you have to pay an entrance fee, then if you want to go to the zoo and the beach you have to pay an extra fee for each, then you have to pay for each individual ride at the theme park. We screwed up majorly and didn’t bring enough money. We could pay for the tandem bike rental and the beach, but we couldn’t visit the zoo (although it’s unlikely we would have done that anyway) and we could only go on two of the rides. We had to be sure to choose the best two.
There is an episode of South Park called ‘Cartmanland’, in which Cartman inherits $1 million and buys a theme park just so he can have it all to himself. Well, that’s what we experienced. There was nobody – nobody – at the theme park apart from us and the workers. When we approached a ride, somebody would jog over in case we wanted to buy a ticket. If we moved on, they’d return to playing on their phones. We approached the biggest roller coaster in the park – one with two loops and a corkscrew. If we could only afford one more ride, then this would definitely be it. They were painting it when we got there, but stopped and turned on the whole thing just for us. We took the front seats, naturally.
Soon, we made it to the beach. There wasn’t any sand, but there were two large swimming areas – one fresh and one saltwater – and a couple of slides. The freshwater section also had a wave pool. For the first hour we were the only people at the beach. The workers turned on the wave pool and the water slides for us. Eventually, six Vietnamese people showed up.
After swimming we headed to the Golden Temple, which is a museum that displays Vietnam’s various dynasties. The temple is set inside a man-made mountain range that is a replica of the famous Halong Bay, and is thought to be the largest fake mountain range in the country.
By the time we decided to leave, there were probably about 20 other people at the golden temple. Aside from the fact that it was a Thursday and it wasn’t during school holidays, we have no idea why the complex was so quiet.