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Friday, 22nd January 2016

The waterpark that is being reclaimed by nature

A waterpark that was never destined to attract large crowds of visitors has become an unexpected hit with some travellers to Vietnam. Ho Thuy Tien was abandoned in 2004 before it was completed and prior to any official visitors had paid their admission fee and enjoyed its slides and pools.

Now, the waterpark, which is located in the town of Huong Thuy in the central Vietnamese province of Hue, is being visited by a different kind of traveller. Those that go out of their way to see Ho Thuy Tien do so precisely due to the fact that it has been abandoned.

More than a decade of disuse has seen the once pristine pools filled with murky water and the surrounding natural landscape taking over. Palm trees have grown up around the site, entwining themselves around the slides and through steps, almost reclaiming the area, which is slowly becoming overgrown.

At the centre of the waterpark is a huge structure, built to resemble a dragon and denoting where the spaceship-like aquarium still stands. The dragon is an important symbol in Vietnamese culture denoting nobility and power and is said to be immortal, but in the case of Ho Thuy Tien, it does not seem to have brought such traits. The dragon’s paint is peeling and rust is starting to take hold.

Blogger Courtney Lambert was quoted in The Daily Mail after a recent visit: “The guardian of the three-story aquarium is an intimidating, full bodied dragon sculpture; its scaled coils wrapped protectively around the space ship’s walls in a menacing embrace. A massive head and mouth gapes at the top, creating a spectacular viewing area where visitors can stare beyond the lake and park from behind fat, jagged incisors.”

For a long time, the pool at the aquarium was home to three crocodiles, but after being brought to the attention of conservation charities, these reptiles have been relocated to a wildlife park in the north of Vietnam. They had survived on the food thrown to them by the local population and tourists keen to visit this unusual sight.

Comparisons can easily be made with the temple complex at Angkor Thom in neighbouring Cambodia. Here, the edifices were abandoned for centuries and slowly nature began to take hold once more. Roots can be seen growing down over walls, as the jungle and manmade area no longer respect each other’s limits.

Efforts were made in 2013 to reopen the park, but whether these plans were ever serious is unknown. Perhaps nature had already gone too far in reclaiming Ho Thuy Tien that it was not feasible to reverse the decay and the waterpark remains closed to all but the curious traveller to this day.

Related news stories:
What does the Laotian flag symbolise? (17th November 2015)
The history and importance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (13th August 2014)
How Vietnam got its flag (3rd November 2015)
In focus: Vietnamese cuisine (24th September 2014)
A method to the madness of Saigon, or Ho chi Minh (11th May 2015)