Vung Tau

Introducing Vung Tau

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Connected by hydrofoil to Ho Chi Minh City, and therefore a default weekend bolt-hole for its stressed-out inhabitants, VUNG TAU is a scruffy, and slightly seedy, but likeable place. “The Bay of Boats”, as its name translates, is located some 125km southeast of Ho Chi Minh City on a hammerheaded spit of land jutting into the mouth of the Saigon River. Once a thriving riviera-style beach resort, the city’s offshore oil industry and steadily growing port have transformed it into a more business-oriented conurbation, though residents of Ho Chi Minh City still flock here on weekends, when hotel rates rise. Locals are fond of swimming on the town’s beaches, but they’re all second-rate despite recent attempts to clean them up. However, the boardwalk along Bai Sau, known to seasoned expats as “Back Beach”, remains a pleasant place for an evening stroll, and perhaps a light seafood meal; “Front Beach”, where the ferries arrive, has more traffic and less appeal.

Vung Tau is Ho Chi Minh City's closest beach resort, and can be reached by a picturesque hydrofoil ride down the Sài Gòn River or by a rather circuitous highway route. The water is not terribly clean, but the town with its fishing fleet and outdoor restaurants is colorful and relaxing. Thousands flock there on Sunday afternoons to jump into the surf with most of their clothes on. Bai Truoc (Front Beach) is most popular.

Those suffering from burn out during an extended stay in Ho Chi Minh City will enjoy Vung Tau during the week, when it is relaxed. Be sure to visit the White Villa, the restored Governor’s residence. A hike at sunset to the giant statue of Jesus atop Nui Noh will reward you with a fabulous view.

If you can organize enough people for a hired car or even a mini-bus, head instead for Thuy Dong, a private beach a few kilometers north of Vung Tau. The water is clean, and the owners provide chairs, tables and umbrellas. Pack a picnic for the two hour drive from HCMC, but save room for cold beer and piles of steamed crabs you can order beachside.

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