Vietnam 01/23 – Sun World Ba Na Hills + Asia Park
The flight out that night was uneventful and before long we touched down in Da Nang for the next leg of antics.
A short grab took us to the next hotel which was supposed to be better than the previous – it wasn’t, and was supposed to have views of the Dragon Bridge – it didn’t, but it was functional.
A reasonably early start the following morning allowed us to book yet another grab out to the Ba Na Hills in time for the first cable car of the day. It was on this journey that we met our first true legend of a driver. The vibes were good from the start as he sang along to his playlist of Boney M’s greatest hits. He had a reasonable grasp of English, showed genuine interest in our trip and eventually in helping us for the duration of the stay which, crucially, allowed us to cut out that terrible middle man of an app. As a well-connected man, he also knew someone that worked at the ticket office for the park and rang ahead to check whether it was busy/whether there would be queues (it was dead). We exchanged Whatsapp details and were instructed to let him know an hour before we wanted to leave, so that he could pick us up. The return journey would be cheaper this way, and he would make more money without grab taking their share – win win.
Day 3 – Sun World Ba Na Hills
As the first of the branded, chain parks in Vietnam, I was rather taken aback by how stunning this place was.
The whole entrance plaza has a very polished and attractive vibe and you can almost get caught up in the wander through the deserted faux village that leads to the first cable car station.
This isn’t just any cable car, it’s apparently just over 19,000ft long, reaches an elevation of 4,900ft and takes about 20 minutes from end to end. It holds various records, but they’re all rather muddied by words like non-stop and the stipulation of the number of cables involved, just like certain rollercoaster records.
Point is, it’s big.
It just keeps on going, to the extent you can’t even see where you started.
The climate changes on route and suddenly we were in the clouds.
At the point at which you alight, there’s a small hub with an indoor area that leads to the first outdoor attraction of the resort – the golden bridge with the big hands. It was quite eerie at this time of day with visibility so low and virtually no one else around, but definitely very cool.
To get to the main body of the attractions, yet another cable car must be taken to reach even greater heights. Upon exiting that one, an escalator or two leads guests up to this central plaza. Off and down to one side is the primary ‘amusement’ area which is located back indoors.
As the name would suggest, this is home to a 5D Interactive Theatre – the one where you sit on the horseys and shoot bandits. It was par for the course, with the main disappointment being that the interlude moments where it shows people’s faces and who is doing well wasn’t working properly.
The 4D across the way holds these six-seater simulator things, with a film about rocket cars. A very Phantom Menace pod race inspired sequence of events.
Adventure to the Centre of the Earth doesn’t quite live up to other iterations in the theme park world.
The little cars trundle through predominantly darkness and flashing lights while you shoot at nothing in particular.
This 3D 360° Cinema was even more naff, perching on swivel stools on a motionless platform (so not a dark ride), surrounded by a screen that was showing some horror rubbish. I found the imagery just doesn’t work in this environment – if you’re the subject of the scary events, rather than a third party you can at least empathise with, and then nothing happens to you with each and every scare that then has to end, shrug itself off and lead onto another one, then what’s the point? Goon points, that’s what.
Back to Jurassic was a better dinosaur walkthrough.
Not trying to be something it’s not.
Having efficiently cleaned out this indoor section, headed outside to see that the various Alpine coasters on offer were not ready yet, presumably because you couldn’t even see the stipulated 20m in front of you at this time of day.
Not even sure how, but stumbled onto a funicular railway here that took us over to the newest section of the park. Annoyingly, after virtually having the place to ourselves for the first hour, several massive tour groups showed up at this point and proceeded to tailgate us into every queueline.
A ridiculous castle structure at the other end of the railway is home to just two newer attractions at present.
The inside is so elaborately decorated and yet void of anything of significance, it almost defied belief and the contrast of the intricacies against the utilitarian escalators was quite something.
One of the attractions is Rạp Mắt Bay, a simulator channelling a flying theatre. The station has a bit of a steampunk transport hub type vibe where we were all bustled through some batch doors and into the vehicle. It then proceeded to break itself, with various walkie talkie calls being made and a bizarre episode in which they asked a larger gentleman to swap places with someone within the same bench ‘for a better view’.
Eventually it fixed itself and we were off, soarin’ over various sights and sounds from around the globe. The vehicle moves forward and seemingly off the edge of the platform, towards the screen, to achieve this, which is quite an effective immersion. The other sensory aspects are really rather good. There’s mist, fog, heat lamps, lighting and a decent soundtrack, all complimented by a relatively intense set of movements from the vehicle at certain points, particularly if you’re seated towards the edges and corners.
The bad? The media. I just didn’t get on with the fact that everything is a low-end digitally produced version of real life locations. It was highly noticeable to me that this just meant the scaling of landmarks was off and the level of detail was far inferior to that of something photographic. When you swoop along the Thames and realise half the bridges are missing or wrong, certain buildings look crude, the London Eye isn’t even circular and that there’s just no depth to a sprawling metropolis, it takes me right out of it. I guess that’s the one thing that made the Futuroscope version clever – if you’re gonna render it, sprinkle some fantasy elements in there.
The only other thing here is a massive 4D cinema, the Moon Junction Theatre, with the fun novelty of being required to wear shoe covers to stop you messing up their nice furniture.
It was all very familiar brands in this one, a Mack Media film about that monster family, in English, featuring Europa Park Easter eggs and some Crazy Bats. Quality.
After taking in the luxurious surroundings (construction, get excited), it was time to head back up the funicular to the main hub and see what was what.
With still no signs of activity at the Alpines, I asked a member of staff what was up and they said things should be running in about an hour or so.
To pass the time until then we took a wander around the more scenic and architectural aspect of this bizarre but kinda brilliant place, before stopping off in a cafe for some sustenance.
The estimate turned out to be pessimistic as by the time we arrived back at #1 ‘Alpine Coaster 2‘ (they used to have more elaborate names according to RCDB, but these appear to have been scrapped), a reasonably hefty queue had formed. Sadly they were only running a single side of this one and confirmed that they wouldn’t open the other. Around 20 minutes later we were strapped in and made our descent to the field at the bottom. The views are of course pretty stunning, but there’s not much going on in the layout department. The main drawback of this is that most people just end up on the go-slow in order to savour the moment, even though they’re continually instructed not to.
Over at #2 + #3 ‘Alpine Coaster 1‘, both sides were running and the wait was even more significant. But we’re here now, gotta suck it up. This layout was actually slightly better, but even more hampered by poor guest etiquette.
Confusion happened next as we went round again and reached the split point. Both queues had gone down a fair bit after the initial rush and we specifically asked the guy there if we could go to the other side. He said no, we’re clearing that one out, go the other way, so we bailed out and stepped back to watch for a second. A mere ten people later, he started loading guests into the side we wanted. We followed back in and gestured once again, being immediately waved in the right direction without even a hint of recognition. Bizarre. +2.
This marked the end of everything that needed achieving, single alpine spite aside, so I sent a message to our new best mate that we’d be heading out soon.
On the way down we stopped off at the bridge again for another look. Though it wasn’t that much clearer of a view out over the hills, the amount of people here now was a bit much. Overall I really enjoyed this place though, it’s very different to basically anything else out there. Just needs some proper rides now, which it seems they are building right this minute, so definitely one to watch.
Our guy messaged back and said that he wouldn’t be able to make it in time, but had sent a friend in his place, along with a photo for us to ID him. I double checked that the friend would be happy to take us straight to another park, which was confirmed. We found said friend and were soon our way to
As somewhat more of a city park, the simply named Asia Park, also owned by the Sun Group, often doesn’t open until late afternoon and then runs on into the night. Our designated hours were 15:00-22:00, though in low season matters were complicated further by everything operating on alternating timeslots. Coaster A would run from 15:00-16:00, 17:00-18:00, while Coaster B would open from 16:00-17:00, 18:00-19:00 and so on. While all very well, this information was only presented at the very entrance to each ride, meaning a lot of aimless wandering around, backtracking and last minute planning within the somewhat limited time spans.
Ended up at sort of the main event first, at a time when #4 Paradise Fall just happened to be re-opening. While not the biggest coaster here, the Intamin family launch coaster held a bigger appeal to me than most other things on offer in the region.
Upon sitting down in the front for the first train of the new time slot, it proceeded to do an Intamin and break. We were sent back through the air gates in order to witness an engineer arrive, tell the staff they were doing it wrong, despatch two empty trains to prove the point, and then leave.
Once seated again, we were catapulted off at a decent rate into that Blue Fire looking first element. It’s an unusual one, sideways floptime in quadbike trains isn’t your average coaster sensation, though from there it just doesn’t have much pace or layout to back anything up. The scope of the ride is just too limited, so it’s a bit something and nothing for the type. Oh well, one step closer to set complete.
The oddity that is Highway Spite has been plagued with issues ever since it was first installed here, though I had sort of got the impression that the worst of that was behind it. Nevertheless it was closed, so no steps closer to set complete.
What appears on the surface to be just another mine train clone is apparently slightly custom. #5 Port of Sky Treasure rode well and had some fun little pumps here and there. Dare I say it was the best ride in the park? That’s a sad thought.
On the subject of sad thoughts, we headed over to the Vekoma Junior to find that the train was parked on the lift hill. It was broke. They were working on it though, there was hope.
Cheer up, the views here are pretty good.
Until the sight of an SLC slides into view.
To be fair to #6 Queen Cobra, it earned the proud title of my new favourite SLC, out of a good 30-odd by now. While still far from a good ride, the vest restraints and bearable comfort levels complimented by the night ride and some rather awesome and unique visuals in the front row made for a reasonably special experience.
There are patches of brilliance in this place.
Headed back over to the last cred to see if they had made any progress, and they had! The ‘it’s broke’ sign had been replaced with the usual timeslot sign. In half an hour or so, in theory, it would reopen.
So we jumped on the Sun Wheel for some views.
Not the best of conditions for photos with the scratched walls and over-engineered cages, and the on board music appeared to be running on radio, cutting to static for the duration of the high altitude parts.
Upon exiting, a humble staff girl with an Ipad approached us for an on the spot survey. I was overly generous in the moment, choosing only to bring up those points about the Ferris Wheel amongst a sea of praise.
The praise may well have been justified. As promised, #7 Garuda Valley was running like a legend once we reached it again, closing out the day on a high.
Until I remembered that there was another cred just outside the park, within walking distance.
Children’s Cultural Houses
Oh, how I had been looking forward to experiencing my first confirmed Vietnamesely manufactured coaster the previous day. We slapped down our dong at the desk and hopped aboard this without a second thought.
It very nearly killed me.
The lateral force as #8 Roller Coaster descended the spiral is off the charts, and I was wedged to the point that I couldn’t brace for it, bearing the brunt of every single lap with intense pain to my lower left rib cage and internal organs. Again and again it cycled, while I was slowly dying and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Who’d have thought Dragon Slayer would lose its title of second worst coaster experience in the world after such a short period of time, to a children’s coaster no less.
I came off severely bruised and not happy, feeling the after effects of discomfort for the remainder of the evening, and in waves for most of the rest of the trip. It wasn’t even funny (it is now). What a stupid hobby.