Charlie Michio Turner

Waterboom quietly reopened this May in Tharkayta, a 3000 Ks taxi ride from downtown. Clean and modern, mirroring western water parks.

Myanmar Business schools will use the Grand Opening of Yangon Waterboom as a case study on the importance of ‘soft-openings’ for years to come. Mechanical failures left pools and slides filled with a brown liquid that warranted speculation if the water from the Yangon River had been filtered at all. It looked like another Myanmar project that cut corners around hygiene and safety.

That has all changed. Waterboom is back in business with water looking nothing like the photos from the infamous March opening.

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Whatever amount was spent on the new filtration system, the investment paid off. The water is clean and clear while not being over-chlorinated. No rashes or balding were reported after a day’s swim. No betel nut stains, litter or grim on the park grounds either. Call it Yangon Waterboom 2.0.

Empty For Now

The spotless water park probably is not be too hard to maintain considering there are few customers to make it dirty. No more than a 100 people were present in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, this is in a venue that could easily accommodate a thousand. An empty park may be bad news for the investors of Waterboom, but great news for customers who can avoid waiting in line. If you’ve had the dream of having an amusement park to yourself, this maybe the time to live it out.

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Without the threat of a queue, even adrenaline filled teenagers could casually walk back up their favourite rides after coming down moments earlier. Slides that require multiple persons left individual riders waiting for another soul to make their way to the top. Lifeguards would reluctantly join no one else came just so the raft had enough weight to make it the bottom.

To be fair, there are other reasons why Waterboom may have trouble attracting customers besides their rough start. After all, it is the beginning of the monsoon season and will the official Facebook page invites “splashing under the rain”, the park has closed in the past because of bad weather

Then there is the price, 25,000 Ks for entry, 4000 Ks for a small locker, which prevents the majority of Myanmar families from coming. The cost is undoubtedly high, but with zero lines, anyone could 11 slides a dozen times over if desired.

Signature Slides

The Dr. Seussian funnel rides that define the Waterboom skyline are the most memorable slides in the park as they are the most harrowing. These are the Tornado (considered the most intense), Boomerango and Python. It is best to go down in groups of four, each member facing one another in the inflatable raft, with the feet of the person across nestled in your groin. Some may find the intimate arrangement best shared with friends. You can go down in pairs instead, but the more weight means you go faster, which is not only more thrilling but also prevents your raft from getting stuck- not the end of the world, but it happens.

Once you get through the narrow tube, your crew spills into the funnel where you roll like a marble from side to side to the point where you’re looking vertically down at the person facing you. The fact that your own grip is the only safeguard from falling out the raft can be a bit overwhelming. A young Burmese woman continued to shriek well after the ride was over until a lifeguard coaxed her back to reality.

The Tornado and other funnels slides place a lot of trust in the composure of the riders, but the rides all felt safe with no indications of bad structural integrity. ‘Made in 2013’ was etched into two rustic looking sides covered in white stains. These may have been lime deposits or salt markings from the dark days of March.

Final Verdict

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The new Yangon Waterboom not only thoroughly filters their water but also the outside world, which is probably a sign of a successful amusement park. The bubble that is Waterboom pops before hopping down a towering slide, the wooden fishing boats and large scale construction sites are a reminder that you are still in Myanmar.

Anyone who was intrigued when first hearing about Waterboom, and who has the money, should visit while the park remains under a cloud of public skepticism. You could exhaust every western indulgence within a span of three hours before the crowds begin to come, assuming they ever do.

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Charlie Michio Turner
Charlie is the Editor for MYANMORE. Instagram @charliemichio

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