Heat rises from my face. Sweat drips and trickles past my temples. We deliberate, shall we turn back?
For hours we had been looking for the waterfall we trekked to two days earlier. After an epic two hours of rough terrain we stumbled into the next village. What has taken us the best part of the morning is an easy 20 minute walk along the main road.
We sat and ordered lunch in a simple local restaurant. After we felt rested, conversation turned back to the elusive waterfall. The temptation to plunge into cool mountain water was a hunger that could not be satisfied as easily as our empty bellies. It was hot and we wanted release. Our decision made, we decided to go just a little further up the only main road we hadn’t been down yet.
After another 20 minutes we found a higher river. My heart skipped. With a new found energy I bounded up the path and walked quickly along the precarious edge of a rice paddy, one foot out of place would mean tumbling over a precipice into the river one side or sinking into knee deep mud the other.
Following the narrow path over boulders and onto a ledge, I found it; a patch of river higher than the village. Down stream women washed clothes. Up stream two boys played at fishing. Peeling my muddy shoes and socks off, I could not wait a second longer. I was in. The water was so refreshing on my feet. I waded further, climbing boulders until I found a pool wide enough and deep enough to swim in.
As I lay on my back and let the current gently pull me further into the pool I felt it: One of those moments when life is perfect. I looked up and could tell Alex felt it to. This is it – in this moment – this is why we seek. This is what keeps the wanderlust alive in our veins. We wander to seek. To seek places like this. And in seeking we wonder. And in this moment I wondered at just how wonderful life can be. And how blessed I was to be. Just be.
Carved into the island of Hòn Tre, this fascinating theme park, water park, aquarium and zoo is Vietnamese billionaire Phạm Nhật Vương’s pet project. Feeling like a rather disjointed Disneyland (the park even has Disney-style music playing as you walk around), it’s a fascinating visit on many levels, and a must if you are visiting Nha Trang.
Vinpearl Land Admission Price
With admission prices currently at 800.000 vnd (roughly $35usd or £26 – keep up to date with the latest prices, here), the cost of Vinpearl Land may seem a little daunting to those travellers on a budget. Don’t let this put you off however, as the park really is packed with plenty to do, with more and more attractions opening each year.
How to Get to Vinpearl Land, Nha Trang
You could make things easy and get a taxi, the cost is roughly 62-70K VND if you get Grabtaxi.
For the more adventurous (and budget conscious), get the bus. For just 7000VND you can grab the number 4 bus, which runs every 15 minutes 5:35am to 7pm – someone has made a Google custom map of the route, here (bear in mind that this route is in reverse, coming back from Vinpearl). The bus says ‘Hon Xen = Nguyễn T-Thuật = Vinpearl‘ on the front. You can catch it anywhere on Nguyễn Thiện Thuật road, we caught it next to the Vietcom Bank at number 48 – just look for the blue bus signs.
Hail the bus and get straight on. Someone will approach you to ask for money for the bus, give them the 7000VND per person. It takes around 30-45 mins.
Potential Scam Alert
Just a word of warning – when we took this bus it stopped just short of the entrance to the park. A woman clad in green got on the bus and shouted “Vinpearl Land tickets!”. They claimed that you cannot buy tickets at the park itself, which is not true. We didn’t go for it so we are not sure how much commission they would add on top. AlthoughNathan Vandermost claims that these tickets are legitimate and cost the same as the park’s ticket office – so it’s entirely up to you.
Perhaps it is a way to avoid queuing at the park (when we arrived, there was no queue at all) at busy times. If in doubt, ask the person selling you the tickets here how much they are and compare this with Vinpearl Land’s price on their official website.
Get in via the normal entrance, it’s hard to miss. The staff in the ticket booths speak English so you should have no problem getting in. Pay in VND or use a debit or credit card (international cards accepted).
Make sure to grab a free map as it will help you get around.
Your bags will be checked before getting on the cable car – you are not allowed to bring in your own food or drink (including water!). This said, our bags were not thoroughly checked as I hid a bottle of water at the bottom and got it through just fine.
Vinpearl Land’s Cable Car
We were warned that during peak times the queue for the cable car can be anything up to 1 hour – although according to Wikipedia, the cable car system can ferry 1000-1500 people per hour. We managed to get straight on however, as we arrived relatively late in the day and with poor weather.
The cable car is great fun and lasts around 10 minutes.
Bubbleland (Waterpark) and Watersports
Safari/Zoo (King’s Garden)
Blooming Hill – Biodomes and Giant Ferris Wheel
Theme Park (Rollercoasters etc)
When you hop off the cable car, Vinpearl Land’s wide, open spaces beckon you in. But where to go first?
The Waterpark (Bubbleland)
We decided to head straight to the waterpark, which is found at the south west side of the park. It takes a bit of navigating, but use your map and look for ‘Bubbleland’ on the signs, and you will get there in no time.
Enter the waterpark and queue up to get a locker key – costs a small fee + a 10,000vnd deposit fee in case you lose the key – which can happen. Make sure you fill in the deposit slip they give you straight away and keep it safe or else you may not get your deposit back. All the lockers are squeezed in tightly together in a small space, so you may have to navigate some close quarters interaction with people!
It’s a bit of a walk to each ride, and the grippy plastic flooring they put down can be quite painful on the feet so it might be a good idea to wear flip flops. If you do, you will have to leave them at the bottom of each ride. There are a few reports of people stubbing toes and getting cuts whilst walking around, so do be careful.
The waterpark’s rides are split up into two sections: the ‘Amusement Ride Zone’, and ‘Family and Children Games Area’.
Amusement Ride Zone
This is where the real fun starts.
Be aware that certain slides are open at certain times (this was the case when we were there, as the park was not very busy). When we arrived most rides were open apart from the Space Hole.
6-lane multislide, Kamikaze slide and body slide, all are fast and fun. You will certainly get a face full of water on these!
This 2-person slide’s near-vertical drop at the beginning is hilariously intense!
The dreaded Space Hole! Out of our party of four, only one of us didn’t come out with a minor injury! After a slow and winding start, the Space Hole accelerates and you hurtle into the bowl at some speed. The entry into the bowl is accompanied by a drop of about 2 feet, which, quite frankly, hurts. The ride finishes with you slowly losing speed around the bowl, before very ungracefully sliding backwards (or upside-down) through the ‘black hole’ at the bottom of the bowl into a plunge pool. Definitely one to experience – but you have been warned!
Family and Children Games Area
After all the thrills above, it may be time to chill out and relax. Take the Family Rafting Slide – you will have to carry a huge, six person ring across the park, and onto the ride’ s elevator.
The Wave Pool is worth checking out too, and there’s a kid’s pool for the little ones.
Don’t forget the Lazy River! Float around slowly in the chilly water, and try your best to capsize your friends’ rings without the lifeguards seeing.
Beach Sport Games
Make sure to check out Splash Bay, which is an inflatable assault course set up just out beyond the park’s rather nice beach. It’s inclusive and free to use with your ticket. It’s a great bit of fun and an awesome way to get some exercise and embarrass yourselves falling over time and time again.
On the beach you can also hire a jetski – 500,000vnd for 15 minutes on the faster jet ski, or a water hoverboard.
The Water Park is fun for a few hours, but after a few bumps and bruises, it may be time to get some food at the cafe near the lockers. Prices here are relatively expensive, but just about right for a theme park! You can get a mixture of Western or Vietnamese fast food here.
Zoo (King’s Garden)
Head straight up the hill, via the series of colourful escalators, and you will find yourself at the King’s Garden. Here you can explore the various ‘worlds’ and see flamingos, birds, monkeys, giraffes, lions and plenty more. We didn’t particularly enjoy this part of the park as the enclosures seemed a little on the small side.
One of the newest additions to the park (completed in 2017), this area is West of the King’s Garden and is a botanist’s dream. Dotted with biodomes (think Eden Project in Cornwall) that include everything from a desert dome filled with cacti, to jungle and even a temperate zone with rose garden! Finish off your time in this area at the Sakura Cafe watching the Koi or at the Classical-inspired Viewing Tower, with views over the North Beach.
The Ferris Wheel
Finish off your trip around Blooming Hill on the iconic ferris wheel. Another recent addition, it’s hard to imagine the park without this 120 metre tall wonder, Vietnam’s biggest ferris wheel (and in the world’s top 10 largest)! It’s an ideal way to see the park and all the way across to Nha Trang.
The Main Theme Park – Titan Peak
From bumper cars and bungee trampolines, to the (rather short) Mine Adventure, Evolution and ‘Rollercoaster’ coasters, to the somewhat more thrilling Revolution, Sky Drop, Giant Sky Chaser and Pirate Ship, there’s some quite fun, if not a bit mild, classic theme park rides to be enjoyed.
You must have a go on the Extreme Launcher, a great ride that has you careening down the mountain (near the Vinpearl Land sign) on go karts on rails. You have control of how fast you go. It’s a popular ride and you may get stuck behind slow people (like me). Look out for the two cameras and strike a pose – you can collect the prints afterwards for a fee.
There are plenty of performances going on around the park. The Mermaid Show is definitely worth a watch in the Aquarium. Keep up with the show times, here.
There are also daily performances from resident trained dolphins. We didn’t go and see it as we don’t agree with that sort of thing!
In many ways a symbol of modern Vietnam, Vinpearland Nha Trang certainly has plenty to offer. For the admission fee, there’s plenty included. Besides the chance of a minor injury in the Waterpark, Vinpearl seems to be very safe, and well up to international standards. The knock-off Disney songs, empty open spaces and simplicity of the park adds to the charm of the place, and puts it firmly in Vietnam’s must visit places!
Hike Length – Roughly 11km round trip, Hike Time – 5.5 hours including 1.5 hrs rest at the bay Entry Fee – Free, but permission ticket required from National Park Office Provisions – Take water and lunch/snack
Con Dao Hiking – The Đầm Tre Walk
Easily one of the most beautiful and secluded Con Dao Hiking options, it’s worth going up to the north side of the island for this walk, which will have you stomping along beaches, hiking through dense jungle with giant black squirrels and crab eating macaques, then finally rewarding you with a serene coral filled bay all to yourselves.
Get an Entry Ticket at the National Park Office
You need to get a permission ticket in order to enter the hike to Đầm Tre. This is still the case at the time of writing in 2017. We went on this hike without one as we were incorrectly instructed by our guesthouse host that we did not need one, but upon arriving the ‘Ranger station’ at Đầm Tre, we were checked for the tickets. Fortunately, they took pity on us and let us go through, but we don’t recommend that you try your luck.
Grab the tickets for free at the office on Vo Thi Sau road just north of the main town. Search for ‘National Park Department’ on Google Maps.
Check the Tide
The timing of your walk will be dictated by the high tide. This is due to the airport’s runway, which struts out into the sea on Bãi biến Dong, the beach that you will be walking across before starting the hike into the jungle. At high tide this section of beach will need to be swum or waded across – not recommended especially in rough seas. Check this website for the tide times on Con Dao.
Aim to start an hour or so after the tide starts going out.
Where to Start The Dam Tre Hike
You can park your motorbike close to Poulo Condor Resort. If you are coming from town there is a right turn close to where the beach begins, it’s a dirt track that leads down to a rocky path to the beach on your right. We parked our bike at the top of this rocky path. It was safe here. See our map for reference:-
Bãi biến Dong Beach – 2.5km
Walk down the rocky path onto the start of your journey to Đầm Tre. You will have to cross a stream on your left to get onto the main beach. Walk along the beach for around 2.5km and take in the sea air, watch locals searching for shellfish, and you may even see a plane landing or taking off.
When you eventually get to the far north side of the beach, the entrance to the hike is on the top left side – look for the park singage.
The Jungle – 3km, roughly 2 hours
Now begins the steep upward climb up the hill and into the jungle. This route is paved all the way – watch your step on some of the stones, as it can be slippy. There’s only one path so it’s impossible to get lost.
Keep an eye out for giant black squirrels and lizards. There are also occasional jumping stinging insects on the walk. They bite through clothes – and hurt just as much as a mild wasp sting – so watch out.
Towards the end of this section of the walk, we came across a few shy crab eating macaques, but they weren’t disturbed by our presence.
Arriving at Đầm Tre
You eventually begin your descent, and when you see buildings, chickens and people you have arrived at the ‘ranger station’, though it looks a great deal like someone’s family home. Here you will have to present your tickets – they will ask for them. You can use the toilet facilities here, and the people are friendly.
Walk through the ranger’s area and turn left before you get out into the field. If you start walking towards the cliff and into fisherman’s shacks you have gone too far!
Swim and Snorkel to Your Heart’s Content
Setup on the rocky beach and go for a swim out in the corals. The water here is quite shallow at the low tide, make sure you bring some footwear as there is plenty of sharp coral and oyster shells to cut your feet. Get out towards the mouth of the bay to find the coral that is alive and teeming with fish!
We spent about 1hr 30 in the bay – though we were chased out by a storm so you may find yourselves there for longer.
Back – 2 hours again
Have your lunch, say goodbye to the rangers and chickens, and head back into the forest. If you have timed it right, you should arrive back in time to walk past the runway section of the beach. If not, then it’s time to get a little wet!
All done. Why not celebrate your adventure with a nice beer or some food at one of the restaurants on Bãi Đầm Trầu, which is the beach on the other side of the runway.
Found south of Ho Chi Minh City, this isolated yet highly accommodating island showcases some of Vietnam’s most pristine and untouched tropical waters, beaches and quiet roads – all steeped in hundreds of years of fascinating history. As a way of celebrating our recent visit to the island, we’ve put together a quick summary of why you should visit one of Vietnam’s final tourist frontiers.
1. It’s off the beaten track
With return airfares over the 4 Million VND (£126, $176USD) mark, flights going on small turboprop planes a handful of times a week, and the only alternative an infamously rough ferry, getting to Con Dao isn’t as convenient as most destinations in Vietnam.
2. A relaxed way to get into motorbiking in Vietnam
Con Son’s roads are quite smooth and relatively free from potholes, and more importantly – quiet. A world away from the insanity of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, it’s a great place for those who want to get to grips with riding a motorbike in South East Asia. Just watch out for snakes! Make sure your insurance covers you, and it might be best to get an international driver’s license – our UK readers can find out more about that, here.
3. The near-pristine wildlife and snorkelling
For those looking to go snorkeling in Vietnam, the main island of Con Son has an abundance of shore reefs which are still thriving. Just grab a snorkel and get out there – the left hand side of Dam Trau beach next to the airport is a good snorkeling spot. Dam Tre Bay, at the end of the Dam Tre Hike is another good and isolated area.
You can also see the giant black squirrel, crab eating macaques, turtles (which use some of Con Dao’s beaches to lay eggs), dolphins and sometimes dugongs. Make sure to only leave your footprints behind on the island – don’t leave waste and rubbish behind.
If you want quiet tropical beaches, then Con Dao is your place. Not all are quite the quintessential, turquoise watered tropical beaches which you might find in Phu Quoc or South Thailand, but gorgeous ones none the less. Con Son has six accessible beaches. Our favourites are Bai Dam Trau in the north and Bai Lo Voi in the town.
5. Local cuisine
There is street food to be found along the promenade (banh mis and vegetable fritters). There are plenty of restaurants in town, and lots of cheap, fresh fish.
6. The history
Like Phu Quoc, Con Son used to be a prison island. Hosting political prisoners during the French colonial era, and then North Vietnamese during the American (Vietnam) War, it was home to the infamous Tiger Cages, which you can still see today in the museum on the island (free admission).
All in all, Con Dao is a rare beauty, ideal for those who seek peace and quiet, wildlife with a fascinating lick of history. Its remoteness makes it all the more charming. So what are you waiting for?