Daring new day trip on offer in Ho Chi Minh City
Paul Massad, owner of Push Climb gym, climbs a wall on a course he designed. Starting in July, the gym is offering climbing trips to destinations like Buu Long Park.
It's a perfect Sunday in Buu Long Park.
The sun bounces brightly off a broad lotus lagoon and dragon flies of all colors rest on the warm rocks of this former quarry about 30 jam-packed kilometers outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Paul Massad, 21, pokes his head over the edge of the highest cliff in the park and tells a Venezuelan pre-teen to trust him he knows what he's doing.
The girl declines in a miniature nervous breakdown, as her heels teeter over the edge of a 60-meter drop.
Below, eighteen tired expats drink beer and eat bananas on a tarp in the shade of a huge tree. They have been climbing all day and seem to hardly notice the small drama playing out at the peak above.
"Mirame," her father calls down to her, from Massad's side. "Don't look down."
Massad joins the brave father in a chorus of Spanish encouragement. After a fifteen minute standoff, she eases her tiny body back into the abyss and abseils her way to the bottom in tiny horizontal hops.
Her panic gives way to delight and finally boasting.
Her father follows down the cliff, striking a brief Spiderman pose just before touching down.
After quickly packing up their picnic, everyone piles into a small air conditioned bus bound for HCMC.
"This has been awesome," Massad tells the bus, before excusing himself for a nap.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit the gym:
Sky Garden 3
Phu My Hung, District 7
Day pass: VND150,000
One hour pass: VND70,000
For further information call or write Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org
012 6472 2134
Last November Massad used US$20,000 he had saved while teaching English to Korean businessmen to open Push Climb - a 500-hold indoor climbing gym in Phu My Hung.
After conducting some research online, Massad sketched the pitched climbing wall, cushioned couches and central crash pad.
Laura Allen (an Australian marketing manager who twice scaled Buu Long's highest and smoothest cliff face) regards Push Climb as the most challenging climbing in the south.
"I was dying," she said, of her last visit to the gym.
Which is exactly the point.
Massad says he designed the entire thing himself to focus on ropeless, low altitude "problems" short sets of difficult climbing movements designed to build strength and intensity.
He learned to climb as a high school student living with his family in Juno, Alaska.
Short and muscular, Massad's eyes pop as he speaks of future plans.
"It's an obsession," he says of his gym."
He plans to take a three-month hiatus from his Public Relations classes at RMIT to expand the business and offer more outings.
Starting July 2, he says, Push Climb (essentially Massad, his brother and two employees) will make three-day trips a week to Buu Long Park to lead climbing trips. The cost for the all-day trip is VND600,000 including food, water and climbing equipment.