HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, January 5, 2012


One of my assignments for the February issue of AsiaLIFE magazine was to go play paintball at a place near the airport and get a story out of it. So, on Tuesday I rounded up a few friends and met the mag's head photographer before we all drove out there together. The place is called Sung Son Sai Gon, and it's in Tan Binh District, which is above District 3, where I live.

The website for the paintball arena had a little map on it that made it seem like it would be easy enough to find. Not quite. The address is 18D Cong Hoa, a major street that I use fairly regularly. When there is a letter after a number it usually means the place is down an alley. There was no alley at 18, so we kept going. We quickly got into the 100's, and began simply going down every alley we passed. We finally found a sign advertising Sung Song at the entrance to a small street, and turned onto it. Weirdly, there was a gate manned by armed soldiers a few hundred feet down.

We stopped a little ways in front of the gate and looked around. There was another sign for paintball, pointing through the gate. Vietnamese people were driving through unmolested, so we started to drive forward, but one of the guards gave us the hand-waggle that means "I don't feel like dealing with you." It was clear we weren't really welcome here. We thought that, surely, a business wouldn't be in an army base, so we tried a few more alleys.

A Vietnamese friend of mine that was also looking for the arena called the place, and they said foreigners aren't allowed in. But we knew of foreigners that had played before after booking in advance. So we, let them know we would be back at 2pm on Thursday, and drove home.

Today, we all went back to the same gate. The guards (who looked like they were 12) looked as if they were about to have a stroke with a group of white people hanging around. My friend called the paintball place and two staff members quickly showed up on a moto. They told us we would have to park our bikes at a building outside of the gate, and a car would then take us through. I thought this was all quite ridiculous, but one of the guards had a very big AK-47, so none of us felt like chancing anything.

So, we parked our bikes and piled into the provided car. The vehicle pulled up to the gate and one of the guards, even though he had watched us get in, motioned for the driver to back up. He did, and one of the staff members got back out and went to talk to someone. It was beginning to feel like we were at a border crossing between two unfriendly countries, not just some gate in the middle of Saigon. Whatever was inside that gate, they did NOT want us to see it. One of my friends kept asking me to tell them that I'm a journalist, but I figured that would make them even more paranoid.

Finally, after about ten minutes, the car was waved through. And I immediately saw why they were so nervous about letting us in: we passed tennis courts, some old walls, and a few buildings that looked like schools and barracks. I probably shouldn't even be mentioning such top-secret facilities, but it's too late now. Have a field day, Wikileaks.

We were dropped off at the paintball arena and all went well from there, although we were careful to make sure that it was OK for the photographer to get a few photos, since everyone was acting so Cold War-ish. Once we finished we were bundled into a different car (this time a black Lexus SUV) and whisked back outside of the gate. We were starting to feel like heads of state. Or maybe hostages.

This is all evidence of the Vietnamese government's bizarre paranoia when it comes to minor things. For example, the traffic here is beyond comprehension, but don't you DARE take pictures of the Party headquarters downtown. Yes, it's a gorgeous old French building, but I don't give a shit! (Seriously, guards will whistle you away if you even stop in front of the building. Imagine their horror on Christmas Even then, when thousands of people were enjoying the decorations in the area. Ha!)
Hard to yell at me when there's 4,000 people doing the same thing, isn't it?
Numerous similar examples abound, and it just seems silly to me. Sure, I understand the need for security at military installations, but must the guards be so dickish about it? We showed up at that gate in athletic clothing and tennis shoes. In broad daylight. Probably not spies, just saying. Of course, this also begs the question of why on earth anyone decided to put a paintball place in an area where foreigners need advance permission, and probably some luck, just to get to.

Still, it was a lot of fun, and an hour of splattering each other with paint, and all of the equipment, cost less than $20. Just be warned: if you're not Vietnamese and want to play at Sung Son, plan ahead, and use your Vietnamese friends.
Coming to a magazine near you


  1. saigon paint gun is a whole new sport bamboo is very suitable for the current exercise judgment,nature man of passion,drama,though only and agility,improve teamwork helps us have a good physical
    fare is 50.000vnd/1/1h play; including guns and uniforms ,referees,one.500 ammunition price USD/1 tablet
    there are 3 types of guns :RAP2-RAP3-RAP4
    Pleasure to serve you with a team of staff dedicated caring fun thanks