There I was, dangling upside down, at least 20 stories above the South China Sea at Vinpearl Island Amusement Park, eyes scrunched shut, belly clenched in terror, gripping the metal bars strapped across my chest with what I hoped could be classified as superhuman strength.
In those minutes where I was uncertain if I’d make it off alive what was clearly the scariest amusement park ride in SE Asia, I had a few thoughts break through the fear; some notes to self, as it were:
- Find out if Vietnamese amusement park rides are required to meet safety standards. Do they check the bolts? Safety Harnesses? Ack!
- NEVER go on a ride before you have seen it action. In fact, if you say to yourself, “I wonder what this ride does and why there’s no line for it?” you should probably NOT blithely climb aboard.
- Under no circumstances – no matter how wet it was, how cold the night air, how long your skirt – are you to remove your bathing suit bottoms prior to getting on a ride that in turn dangles you UPSIDE DOWN and leaves you that way for what may well be an eternity
And so, clearly I survived. I have little memory of what actually transpired as I shut my eyes for most of the ride, and was unable to speak, or answer Ayaz’s periodic murmuring: “I sure hope your stomach is feeling better for this one.”
Such was my intro to one of, oh, 6 total rides at the Vietnamese amusement park – apparently the Disneyland of the region. The entire experience was wonderfully surreal: a cable car ride (the longest overwater cable car in the world!) to get there, growling tiger statues with menacing teeth along walkways, evil-looking Sphinxes with glowing eyes, people swimming fully clothed, a lazy river that went from langorous to terrifying upon entry to a darkened, faux skeleton-filled tunnel of doom, the 6 rides – none of which operated simultaneously (ah, the swings don’t start up for 15 minutes, guess we’ll ride the rollercoaster next), a merry-go-round filled with unusual animals like pandas and water buffalo.
We had made our way to the wacky island after deciding to toss culture to the wind in Nha Trang and blow off some steam for the afternoon. And truly, while I’m sure the nearby Cham Towers would’ve been lovely to see, this was damn fun. It embodied my favorite elements of this trip: totally strange and quirky view into another culture, hilarity at nearly all turns, and mostly filled with locals. I mean, you know you’re not at the Jersey Shore boardwalk when you’ve had the option to climb aboard a merry water buffalo.
When I described the day to my sister, she pondered it all and aptly declared, “Well, it sounds scary, yet alluring. Like Communism.” I laughed. Yup.
And there it is.