We went to the seaside resort town of Vung Tau. (say vumm tao) It lies near the mouth of the Saigon River, and though it is on the tip of a peninsula, it feels like an island. The easiest way to get there is by hydrofoil. These boats-on-water-wings boogie along at 40 mph or so, are air conditioned, and run on a regular schedule. (Sorry I couldn’t get a decent picture of one up on its wings.) The trip takes about 1 ½ hours – and is actually fairly boring. For the first ½ hour, the scenery is still harbor stuff – cruise ships dropping off hordes of tourists and more freighters gliding under the suspension bridge that connects the port with the agricultural Mekong delta area to the south. Once out of the Saigon port area, there isn’t much to see – just tangled mangrove swamp on either side of the river.
Arrival is at a beautifully designed terminal, replete with a KFC outlet and the usual hordes of taxis and xe om drivers. (Say zay ohm – it is a motorbike taxi. They are unregulated and the drivers can be quite aggressive in trying to attract tourists.) Vung Tau is a little different from most of the tourist areas of Viet Nam in that it is mainly for Vietnamese tourists. That isn’t to say that foreigners don’t visit Vung Tau, but the majority of the visitors are Saigonese who come out for a short vacation. Many foreigners in Vung Tau work in the oil fields just offshore.
Beaches – that’s what brings the crowds to Vung Tau. Families playing in the gentle surf, flying kites, and maybe renting a jet ski or other small boat - not much different than you would see elsewhere except the Vietnamese ladies don’t sun bathe. It is the mark of beauty to have pale skin, not a deep tan.
What would a vacation be without nice restaurants? They abound, most of them with a nice ocean view. We enjoyed grilled lobster at this outdoor eatery, dawdled over our food and talked about plans for the rest of the trip before we got into a taxi for a trip around the area to see the sights.
It is a pretty place. When the French owned Viet Nam as a colony, many of them came to Vung Tau (which they call Cap St. Jacques) and their influence can still be seen in the large numbers of Catholic churches. I wonder how the priest keeps the attention of his flock with such a beautiful view of the beach and ocean. Not to be outdone, the Buddhists have a beautiful pagoda right next door. I’m not sure which place is photographed more.
Wanna be an adventure traveler in the exotic country of Viet Nam? If so, Vung Tau will not be on your itinerary. Not much “adventure” here – just a nice resort town to relax in.