Saigon isn’t the most kid-friendly spot in world; but you can find a few parks plus one place worth checking out is entirely for kids, and it’s within walking distance from Pham Ngu Lao: District 4’s Kizciti.
Kizciti is basically a miniature city for kids between the ages of three and 15, where they have the opportunity to live the life of an adult. You’ll find anything here a city would need to function, shrunken down to size for children –everything from a fire and police station to a bank and newspaper.
The twist to Kizciti is that, just like in real life, kids here have to earn Kizo, Kizciti’s currency, before they can play the city’s games or buy its ice cream. And, just like real life, to earn Kizo the children must work. Each child is given a small bracelet, which is used to track the amount of currency they hold, and then they can go around town, basically door to door, earning and spending their Kizo.
Activities are basic but enjoyable. For example, at the fire station, a child will be dressed up as a fire fighter, loaded into a small fire truck and driven to the other side of Kizciti where they will put out a “fire” with pressurised water hoses. Then they load back up and return to the fire station five Kizos richer. To earn another five Kizos, they can deliver the local Kizciti paper. With 10 Kizos they can now visit the ice cream shop, where seven Kizos buys one lucky kid the chance to make their own single-scoop ice cream creation. This is then repeated throughout the 30 or so activities in the city.
The park really caters to Vietnamese children, but that doesn’t mean that children must speak Vietnamese to enjoy the city; most of the staff speak at least basic English and most signs are also translated. It’s really more about the concept than the instructions anyway, with most tasks being simple to follow; if you can get over the initial shock of not being able to understand the instructional videos, your kids could have a blast.
Kizciti is perhaps less enjoyable for parents, as they must watch the activities from the unair-conditioned city streets, although they’ll get a kick watching the scores of children working various jobs. (Our favourite are the kids hustling other children for credit card applictations while wearing suit jackets.) But parents can retreat to an air-con restaurant in the centre of Kizciti.
From Pham Ngu Lao, the park is easy to find. Head across the Nguyen Thai Hoc Bridge into District 4, take a right onto Hoang Dieu and follow the signs at the end of the road. Avoid some of the heat and a majority of the school crowd by coming later in the day; things slow down at around 15:30 when the groups of school children leave. Weekends are also a less crowded time to go, again as there are fewer school groups, but it’s slightly more expensive, at 220,000 VND compared to the 180,000 VND weekday price.
By Max Murta.