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Ho Chi Minh City can get stressful, loud and polluted, so at times an escape is warranted. Just south of the city lies Vung Tau, a great beach destination. Leave the stress behind and enjoy a weekend of respite while enjoying some sun, sand and seafood.
Vung Tau is a fantastic option for a weekend getaway – it’s easily accessible, has many activities on offer and to top it off, plenty of delicious seafood. For over 600 years the city has been a popular seaside destination, starting off as a local trading port. During the Vietnam War, it was a popular rest and recreation spot for Western troops and this relaxing reputation remains today.
Vung Tau is known for its beaches, and there are four worth exploring: Front Beach (Bãi Trước), Back Beach (Bãi Sau), Pineapple Beach and Paradise Beach. The last three are more suitable for a swim, water sports, or just lounging with a pina colada, whereas Front Beach (the most popular of all) is a little polluted.
However, there is a lot more than just beach. A giant statue of Jesus Christ represents the city in most guidebooks, and this is the most popular point of attraction in the city. To get there, it takes a 847-step climb up Núi Nhỏ mountain, which makes for a great morning workout. On the other side of the hill lies Vung Tau’s lighthouse, said to be the oldest lighthouse in the Vietnam, built by the French in 1962. Heading there requires you to head back down and then up again from the other side, so make sure to keep at least half a day to see them both.
Thanks to the influx of tourists, an eco-tourism park has sprung up in recent years. With an entrance fee of VND $400,000 (USD $17.20), you will be able to take a cable car to and from Hồ Mây Culture and Ecotourism Park and enjoy unlimited rides on bumper cars, go-karts and roller-coasters – there’s even paintball and archery.
Being a seaside destination, Vung Tau has plenty of must-try seafood dishes. Two of the most popular are the little seaside pancakes called bánh khọt and stingray hotpot, lẩu cá đuối. The markets in Vung Tau are also full of seafood. Check out Chợ Hải Sản, Trần Phú fish market, or Xóm Lưới, each offering endless varieties of fish, clams, snails, crabs, prawns. The restaurants there offer live tanks where you can choose what you want, agree on a price, sit back and enjoy. You can even bring the raw ingredients to one of the stalls within the markets and ask them to grill, boil or fry the seafood for you.
If all this sounds interesting, consider visiting Vung Tau from November to mid-February, when you can avoid the downpours. This is the ideal time to visit, despite Vung Tau having fairly constant temperatures all year round. The hottest months are April, May and June, so best to avoid those.
Getting there is also quite easy – there is no hassle of having to book flights or lengthy ferry trips. There are a couple of options. The bus is the cheapest, at about VND $90,000 (USD $3.80). There are various operators, and buses leave every 30 minutes or hour, so you don’t need to book in advance. Culture Trip recommends Futa bus and Kumho Samco.
A faster way to get to Vung Tau is by Hydrofoil – these take only about an hour and half. The pier in Ho Chi Minh City is by the HCMC museum and the tickets will cost you between around VND $220,000 (USD $10.00) one way. It is advisable to book your spot ahead of time.
Of course, the final option is to book your own private driver and car or rent a motorbike and drive there yourself. The drive is quite an adventure too, and weekend rentals for motorbikes are available for reasonable prices. You can even use the bike to get around the city itself.
Vung Tau offers accommodation for all types of travelers for all budgets. You can find budget hostels to luxury resorts scattered down the coastal road. For those looking to splurge, Lan Rừng Resort & Spa with its own strip of beach and world-class seafood restaurant will suit you well. For budget travelers, Culture Trip recommends booking at Gecko Hostel. Clean and comfortable, you’ll find your needs met.