An empty Disneyland – Vietnam’s hidden theme park

Puberty is awkward. Some parts of you grow at an alarming rate, while others stay stuck in the past. Of course once everything catches up you will be a beautiful butterfly, but until then you have years of strangely proportioned growth.

The Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc is smack-bang in the middle of a pubescent onslaught. Developers and investors are sprinting before they can walk, (or even stand up) and are slowly turning this once humble, dirt-road island into a westernised, resort-infested, commercial jungle – complete with its very own Disneyland.

Although acres of dirt exist where new resorts and shopping complexes will eventually be, they’ve actually already finished the Disneyland bit.

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Ride in the foreground: “The Tornado”. Four person super-slide

Welcome to Vinpearl Land. Water park/amusement park/aquarium complete with its own princess castle. It’s all a part of the Vinpearl five-star resort, which features a 27-hole golf course.

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27 seems excessive when the whole point of golf is to play as little as possible…

This impressively daunting entertainment wonderland seems out of place on the predominantly simple, working-class chunk of land it sits upon. All the brainchild of a Vietnamese billionaire, it’s amazing to see what sheer wealth can do to a few acres of land.

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Vinpearl five-star resort is pictured in the background

Here’s the thing.

The park is practically empty.

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Crowds lining up for the lunchtime Nickelback set

Besides you, your mates, the staff who operate everything, and possibly 30 other people who have also discovered this place, you have a super-park to yourself.

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Don’t all crowd the picnic table at once now

My two friends and I were alone on massive, state of the art rides that were designed for 20 or 30 people. Until this place, I had never gone on a ride and just spoke out from my seat “lets go again!” for the operator to send us into the air once more.

We did every good slide in the water park about three or four times. We sat in the bumper cars for about an hour just driving around giving each other whiplash. We felt like celebrities who had rented the whole park to themselves to keep the plebs out.

I actually found it pretty creepy. It felt abandoned, empty, and soulless. Moving between rides without the sound of others laughing or yelling made for this strange and airy vibe. The castle doubled as a lonely bar that felt like the place you’d find yourself if your ex-wife just got custody of the kids.

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Me and all my friends

Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing not waiting a second for the rides, and going on them a bunch of times. We had a great day, it just took me a while to work out that no matter how good the facilities of a place are, it’s the people that give it soul. Three confused travellers and a handful of others were not enough. We just pondered how much money they were losing every hour to keep the place going.

I would still recommend this experience if you can make it. In a few years I’m sure the waves of families will fill the resorts and cause the chaos expected at flash amusement parks. Until then enjoy the awkward, pubescent stage of this island and have a day at Disneyland to yourself.

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A timeline of unfortunate events (the pissbag story)

Total travel days passed: 77

Total days in Vietnam passed: 3

6th March 2016 – 2:24pm
Reading my book in the park. Atmosphere is sunny and peaceful despite the chaos of the city in the background. Waiting for friends to go to the museum with. Out of nowhere I go to pass gas and almost follow through. Like to the point where you need to check. Close call. Proceeded to bathroom to find out last night’s Indian food didn’t agree with me at all.

3:02pm
Vietnam War Museum. Cool as tanks, depressing as hell graphic photos. Running to bathroom every hour.

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5:30pm-10:30pm
Burger King dinner (bad, bad, greasy, choice for my predicament) followed by meeting up with more friends. Not feeling good, I leave and walk back to the hostel for an early night.

10:30pm-2am
Although the other six people in my dorm were out, could not sleep. Shivers, fever, still upset stomach, frequent bathroom visits. No sleep.

2am-3:07am
Only decent sleep of the night…

3:07am
Awoken by a person coming back from their night out in my dorm. He’s got a girl with her. Intentions were clear, they were about to break the unwritten rule of backpacking: don’t fuck in the dorms. (Do the honourable thing and take them to the showers instead.)

3:15am
Five very loud and drunk people also staying in the dorm barge in. Yelling, laughing, basically being loud and obnoxious asshats. They seem oblivious to the person (and whole freaking hostel) trying to sleep.

3:42am
Amidst the drunken ramblings and general douche-baggery, another extremely intoxicated and vocal human enters. Let’s call him Gandalf (due to his massive beard.) Gandalf is the rudest of them all. He turns on the light, and yells about me, not to me: “who is this guy? Actually I don’t care I don’t know him” much to the amusement of his friends.

4:10am
Gandalf rallies his fellowship of fuckwits for some marijuana.  He extends his invitation to me. I decline. Eventually they leave to smoke.

4:12am
All leave except the first couple, who proceed to take advantage of the slightly slimmer numbers in the room and get it on. I drown out the bed squeaking with the help of my ipod and Mr Leon Bridges. I try rest my eyes.

4:26am
I leave to go bathroom because I am still on struggle street with my guts. Who do I find naked, boning in the bathroom (not even locked in the shower but over the sink! Goddam…) but the couple from my room. They then make a dash for the shower. I use the bathroom on the next floor down.

4:40am
After settling back into bed, the fellowship returns. Just as loud. One says to me “you picked the wrong hostel.” No no no sir. You and your friends are just dickheads.

5:05am
Can you believe it, everyone gets quiet and tries to sleep! The silence sounds so good after two hours of putting up with their shit. I don’t fall straight to sleep, which turned out to be a good move.

5:33am
Gandalf, without warning, amidst the silence, just stands up. Walks over to my side of the room, and proceeds to piss all over my bag.

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Shock, disbelief, and fury whirled inside as I jump out of bed yelling. I’m about to slap a bitch. Instantly Gandalf seems sorry as if he snapped out of a drunken sleep walk. He claims to not remember doing it. The rest of the room wake up. I am too outnumbered to lay a hook right above his stupid beard. I grab his towel and spend the next 20 minutes cleaning Gandalf piss from my bag.

5:56am
The sun is on its way up. Despite arguably the worst sleep of my life, it’s hard to ignore the humbling colours of a new day. I catch my breath as I prepare to try sleep for the 10th time. Unless a number two is coming, I think the worst is over.

5:58am-9:17am
Sleep.

Only to be startled by none other than Gandalf, holding a few dollars. “I am so sorry man. However much for laundry, here you go.”

10:44am
“Hi can I please change rooms?”
Reception: “Why you want change room?”
“I didn’t really get along with my roomates.”

Travelling is mostly fun. But it goes from 0 to 100 real quick. Real fuckin quick. One minute you’re almost asleep, nek minnit you awkwardly walk in on a naked couple who should have locked themselves in a cubicle. Or you think everything will finally be OK, and then someone urinates on the very vessel that carries your life’s possessions. Right in front of you.

From now on the sweet sound of silence will never go unappreciated. Mildly considerate people I cross paths with will never go unappreciated.

But most importantly, a neutral-smelling bag will never go unappreciated.