About the project
When the 20-year Viet Nam War ended in 1975, Viet Nam’s economy was one of the poorest in the world. Today, it is one of the stars of the emerging markets universe, rivaling China with its economic growth of 6-7%. Relying also on a large demographic of under 30s, the leisure industry has boomed accordingly. The last decades have given birth to fascinating theme parks on the edge of surreal and plain kitsch. Take the Sui Tien Park just outside Saigon, a Buddhist themed Disney World, where everything is grandiose and painted in bright colors to recall the legends of the Nine Golden Unicorns or the Fairy Phoenix. Spreading over 55 hectares it is mostly deserted during the week, operated by hundreds of green uniformed employees cutting grass, sitting at the queue-less counters, patrolling on their bikes – their gestures becoming an attraction on their own. There is a feeling of constant expansion: new areas are added, the sounds of jackhammers echo in the distance, giant frogs get repainted, heaps of brick rise. One hour from da Nang you’ll find the Ba Na Hills at 1487 meters above the sea. The longest cable car system in the world will lead you there; once on top you’ll find yourself immersed in what looks like a medieval French village. Gothic architecture in the jungle. The latest attraction is the Golden Bridge, a bridge suspended by two hands made of fiberglass and wire mesh, aiming towards the sky. Professedly with an old and worn appearance to look authentic. Sometimes it is simply the selection of materials that is fascinating: in 2016 the Clay Tunnel in Dalat opened. All the sculptures in the park are handcrafted from dark red clay and basalt. Same goes for the waterfall at the Tea Resort in Bao Lac, with the mud imported from Phan Tiet. Not all parks are a success, however, the Hồ Thuỷ Tiên Park had to close down some 10 years ago becoming an off the road attraction. Walking through the abandoned waterpark feels like a vision from the future, its imposing dragon guarding the lake, slowly decaying under the impact of the natural elements.
Marco Gehlhar was born in Munich, Germany. Raised from a German mother and an Italian father, both photographers, he grew up between Florence and Berlin. Through the years, he developed his own esthetic vocabulary curating photographic exhibitions and working together with great photographers such as Kurt Markus and directors such as Nicolas Winding Refn. Today his personal projects focuses on such topics as religiuos faith and the eerie.