We needed some sun! Living out in the sticks is fine but there's nowhere we can really go to enjoy the sun when it shines without attracting rather more attention than we want!!
The solution - Vung Tau. This is the nearest beach resort town to Saigon and accessible by a hydrofoil in an hour and a half. Sadly they don't run late enough in the day for us to go straight from work so we took the bus instead. From Mien Dong bus station we headed out of town in a minibus at breakneck speed swerving in and out of the traffic all the way. It was breathtaking, nay, frightening, and our knuckles were certainly white for a lot of the time. We got there in two and a half hours but I would have gladly had an extra 30 minutes in the minibus and travelled in a less exhillarating fashion!!
Vung Tau has two beaches, imaginatively named "Front Beach" and, yes, you've guessed it, "Back Beach". We opted for the latter because it is much quieter without the pubs, clubs and pick-up joints of the former. In fact, on Friday night, it was dead! None of the
Tran Quoc Tuan
Born in 1228, he commanded the Viet armies who repelled the Mongol invasions!
seafront restaurants seemed to be open and we ended up drinking cheap beer on plastic stools in a side street. It was good fun and the owner of the shack was very friendly.
The following day we went for a walk. The hotel staff thought it was strange that we would want to go for a walk when there are taxis aplenty outside. They steered us in the right direction and we took the main road straight across the peninsula to Front Beach. Our destination was the port so we could book seats on a hydrofoil back to Saigon the next day. We were very lucky as we got seats 95 and 96 on the last available boat. they only hold just over a hundred so we were very close to having a return minibus journey.
From the port we walked along the promenade all the way back to Back Beach. Along the way we passed a few Buddhist temples, a very posh hotel, a few less salubrious bars and a huge statue of Christ up on the hill. Apparently it is bigger than the one in Rio!
The hotel sold us a ticket for a seafront
swimming pool with a 50% discount. We thought this was a bargain because the beach was packed and we didn't really fancy it. At the pool we ended up in an argument with the attendant. Our 50% discount also meant we could only stay for 50% of the day! We negotiated a bit more time and proceeded to move a couple of sunbeds out of the scorching sun and into the shade. He didn't like that - you are not allowed to move the sunbeds. We argued for a while and he still said no but we moved them anyway! He wasn't happy and at 3pm he was very insistent that we leave even though we had bought lunch there. We were unimpressed!!
In the evening we took a taxi to Front Beach where loud music booms from the bars and restaurants and girls sit tantalisingly outside dodgy looking establishments. We settled for a place without booming music. Sadly, once our food arrived the booming music began! We asked the waitress if the music could be turned down a little so we could enjoy our meal. Apparently it isn't possible to do this. We ate quickly and left feeling
a little grumpy. Returning to Back Beach we went to the same shack as the previous night and enjoyed a few beers without headache-inducing music. We had a flashback to Cairo (when we were caught up in a raid on a teahouse with tables and chairs illegally in the street) as a flurry of activity removed all evidence of an encroachment into the street and motorbikes were moved so it looked like nobody had ever enjoyed a beer in the gutter. The police soon arrived but their pick-up truck left empty handed. Within about 20 minutes plastic chairs and tables were back on the street.
On the Saturday we had caught a little too much sunshine so on Sunday morning we went for another walk. On our map there seemed to be a small inland lake nearby. There was but it smelled a little unsavoury and we didn't want to think about what was floating near the edge. It's a shame because it looked like it had a lot of potential. Instead we continued our walk to the impressive war memorial and the nearby temple.
For lunch we returned to our friend with the plastic chairs and had
some Vietnamese noodles. Why is the sight of a foreigner deftly eating lunch with chopsticks such an interesting sight? Well, if that's what it takes to keep them happy, we can oblige and it was very cheap and delicious.
We then had to make our way back to the port to get the hydrofoil to Saigon. It was unremarkable mostly because the windows are too dirty to see out of. Maybe it was picturesque but we really don't know! Back in Saigon one of our regular taxi drivers (yes, we have regular drivers now!!) picked us up and took us back to Binh Duong. On the way we saw one horrific accident which we still can't explain the physics of. We also saw a very lazy woman who had bought a push bike but couldn't be bothered to ride it home. Well, that's what it looked like to us!!
Vung Tau was nothing special but it was a nice break. We'll probably be back because a change really is as good as a rest.
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