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Vung Tau

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Vung Tau (Vũng Tàu) is a city in Southern Vietnam, about 125km from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Its close location to Saigon and its beauty and fresh air makes it a very popular destination for weekends.

Understand

Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city area lies on a peninsula which is separated from the mainland by a gulf river called Co May river.

History

During 14th and 15th centuries, the cape that would become Vũng Tàu was a swamp which European trading ships visited regularly. The ships' activities inspired the name Vũng Tàu, which means "anchorage". The Portuguese navigators passed Vũng Tàu many times and named it after Saint Jacques. The French invaded Vietnam afterwards and called it Cape Saint Jacques. The cliff of Vũng Tàu is now called Mũi Nghinh Phong (literally means “Cape of greeting the wind”).

Vũng Tàu was originally referred to as Tam Thắng ("Three Boats") in memory of the first 3 villages in this area: Thắng Nhất, Thắng Nhị, Thắng Tam. It was within the province of Biên Hòa under the Nguyen dynasty.

10th February 1859 marks the first use of cannons by Nguyen’s army, when they fired at French battleships from the fortress of Phước Thắng, located 100 m from Vũng Tàu's Front Beach. This marked an important period in Vietnam’s war against French invaders in South Vietnam (then called Cochinchina).

In 1876, according to a decree by the French colonialists, Vũng Tàu was merged in Bà Rịa county, a part of Saigon administration (French: circonscription de Saigon).

On May the 1st 1895 the governor of Cochinchina established by decree that Cape Saint Jacques would thereafter be an autonomous town. In 1898, Cape Saint Jacques was merged with Ba Ria County once again but was divided again in 1899.

In 1901, the population of Vũng Tàu was 5,690, of which 2000 persons were immigrants from North Vietnam. Most of the town's population made their living in the fishing industry.

On April 4th 1905 Cape Saint Jacques was made an administrative district of Ba Ria province. In 1929, Cape Saint Jacques became a province, and in 1934 became a city (commune).

The French governor of Indochina, Paul Doumer (who later became President of France), built a mansion in Vũng Tàu that is still a prominent landmark in the city.

During the Vietnam War, Vũng Tàu was home to the Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular spot for in-country R&R for U.S. combat troops. After the war, Vũng Tàu was a common launching place for the Vietnamese Boat People fleing the communists.

On May 30th 1979, Vũng Tàu town was made the capital of Vũng Tàu-Côn Đảo Special Admistrative Zone.

On August 12th 1991, the province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu was officially founded and Vũng Tàu town officially became Vũng Tàu city.

Economy and society

The city is located in the south of Vietnam, and is situated at the tip of a small peninsula. It has traditionally been a significant port, particularly during Vietnam's period of French rule. Today, the city's importance as a shipping port has diminished, but it still plays a significant role in Vietnam's offshore oil industry. Vung Tau is the only petroleum base of Vietnam where crude oil and gas exploitation activities dominate the city's economy and contribute principal income to Vietnam's budget and export volume.

Vũng Tàu is home to 210,000 people, in which 1250 are Russians working as specialists in the oil industry.

Climate

Located in Southern Vietnam, Vũng Tàu has only two seasons in a year :

Get in

By bus

Vũng Tàu is connected to the mainland by Highway No. 51 (Quốc lộ 51), which runs from Biên Hòa City. Travelers take Highway No. 1 northwards to Bien Hoa. After crossing Dong Nai River bridge and arriving Vung Tau Intersection (Ngã Ba Vũng Tàu), turn right.

The fastest way on bus to Vung Tau is taking a high speed coach both at open tour and daily bus at Mien Dong Coach Station (Bến Xe Miền Đông). Comfortable 16-seat cars with air-conditioners. New trip every 15 minutes. It has one break station on half-journey. Duration : 2 hours.

Rạng Đông also serves Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kontum.

The same as Rạng Đông but with larger cars. New trip every 15 minutes. Thiên Phú is newbie to the route to Vung Tau.

Reliable inter-provincial bus service in Vietnam, esp. Southern Vietnam. Operates every 30 minutes. The journey from the bus depot in Ho Chi Minh City to the bus depot in Vung Tao takes approximately 2.25hrs during the day. A bottle of water is provided to every passenger. Using the toilet at the bus depot at HCMC costs 1000VND.

Operated every hour. Seats are reserved by telephone only. If you are in Vung Tau, you are picked up wherever you want.

By Hydrofoil

"Tàu cánh ngầm" aka "Hydrofoil fast ferry" in Vietnam is a quick way to get to and from Vũng Tàu. Taking the Hydrofoil is a good way to see the commerical maritime areas as the boat runs through the Saigon River to the sea. After one hour and 15 minutes, Vũng Tàu peninsula appears with its two mountains (conveniently called "Big Mountain" and "Little Mountain") at the waterfront. This is a little more comfortable way to get to Vung Tau rather than taking the bus. It's a little more expensive at 160,000 VNĐ/person (US$9.5). On the weekends, be sure to get your tickets at least a day early. You will be lucky to get a ticket if you wait till the day of.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are rather expensive in Vũng Tàu. Prices are 30% higher than Saigon companies, especially along the beaches. Major companies are Gili Taxi, Petro Taxi and Mai Linh.

By motorbike

As an ordinary Vietnam urban area, Vũng Tàu has plenty of xe ôm (motorbike) drivers who are professional (and unfortunately seek out foreigners). Tourists coming to Vũng Tàu may find out that traffic is slower here, especially during the week. As of December 15th, 2007 all riders in Vietnam are now required to wear helmets an this is strongly enforced. As such, the driver should supply you with a helmet. If he doesn't - find another one, as you'll be the one stuck with the fine. Remember : always agree on a price before you set off.

By double-bike

Xe đạp đôi or double-bike has been popular among youth and teenagers of Vung Tau. You can see groups of at least four riding along the windy and green streets and along the coast. A standard double-bike can carry 3 people in which 2 take the ride. You can rent a double bike at the Bãi Trước (Front Beach) Area beside Nhà thiếu nhi (Children Cultural House) or on pavements along the Bãi Sau (Back Beach) near hotels area.

Walking

Vũng Tàu is rather small in size, so don't hesitate to take a walk. Recommended ways are : Bacu street (the city's downtown), Đồ Chiểu Street (food center), Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị Square, Công viên Bãi trước (Front Beach park) and pavements along the coastline. The only drawback; foreigners are constantly sought after by motorbike drivers, especially if walking alone.

See

First built in 1907 on the lower peak of Small Mount, it burned kerosene in its lamp. In 1911, it was rebuilt to 3 meters in diameter and 18 meters in height, and moved to the higher peak where it stands today.

The Vũng Tàu Lighthouse projects light as far as 35 sea miles (64.75 km) and is equipped with telescopes to follow and direct ships at sea.

Next to the platform, 4 old French cannons (about 10m long and weighing several tons) were once used to defend the area from naval attacks.

The lighthouse affords a panoramic view of the whole of Vung Tau and is a really interesting site. No ticket is needed, but tourists are required to pay 4,000 VND per visit.

Aka Thang Tam’s Local Gods Communal House, is a special feature in Vũng Tàu. According to legend, it was built in the Minh Mạng dynasty (1820-1840) as a place to worship the three men who set up the 3 villages of Thắng in Vũng Tàu. Visit this site to discover the story of the three men who led three villages’s inhabitants to Vũng Tàu and started a new way of life. The architecture is particularly interesting around the Tam Quan gate, the sanctum, the public commune, the meeting room and the scene for military opera stage that is skillfully engraved.

The sanctum is roofed with yin-yang tiles and is in the shape of “a couple of dragons joking upon the moon” and the pillars are engraved wit the shapes of dragons. This commune stores twelve pieces of sanction of Nguyễn dynasty.

On the right of Thắng Tam commune is the Whale tomb where there is a set of great bones of whales picked up from 100 years ago and on the left is Ngũ Hành Temple (5 elements of the space: metal, wood, water, fire and the earth).

A stone obelisk on a hill-top, located on the way to the sea, the Martyr's Memorial hill is said to be the biggest traffic circle in Indochina. A cool hang-out place for lovers.

The enormous 28m figure of Jesus gazing across the East Sea with outstretched arms is located at the southern end of Small mountain.

Built in 1971, this Giant Jesus rests on a 10m high platform. The interior of the statue is hollow and contains a spiral staircase of 129 steps, ascending from the foot of the statue to its neck. The two shoulders of the figure are balconies, each able to accommodate up to six people, which offer a splendid view of the surrounding landscape.

This is the largest sculpture in the Southern Vietnam. Recent construction of a pathway has made the 30-minute hike up the mountain more pleasant and the panoramic view from various vista points along the way is magnificent. Definitely a must do!

Niết Bàn Tịnh Xá and Thích Ca Phật Đài are most popular among the pagodas and temples in Vũng Tàu.

Built by the French (1898-1916) as a summer holiday house of French Governor General Paul Doumer. The building was named Villa Blanche after his favorite daughter. The name Villa Blanche or Bach Dinh coincides its appearance, for that season, the local people call it Bạch Dinh (White palace).

Later, some Indochina-French Governors used this summer house occasionally so it’s also called “Villa du Gouverneur” (Dinh Toan Quyen).

Both Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu used it as well for recreation and holiday. It made the name Dinh Ong Thuong (Palace of Lord appear).

Villa Blanche is located on the slop of Big Mountain, along Tran Phu St., at 50m above sea level. The outside walls were decorated with beading and the Hellenic statues.

This was also the location where the French colonialists placed Thanh Thai Kin under house arrest. He belonged to the last feudalistic dynasty in Vietnam and fought against the French before exiling him to Reunion Island off the coast of Africa (1909-1910)

From its balcony there's a panoramic view of Front Beach and opposite the Villa at the foot of that mountain is Hai Nguu islet with a stone rock shaped like a water buffalo wallowing in water. Next to Hai Nguu at the seaside was the helicopter yard.

Today Villa Blanche exhibits hundreds of antiques collected from Cau Islet-Con Dao and is the culture destination attracts hundreds of tourists every day.

Do

Swimming

Seaside status makes Vung Tau a nearby paradise for Saigonners. There are four beaches in the city center located in different positions.

Located on the center of Vung Tau and stands between Big and Small Mount. Restaurants, kiosks, and hotels are close to the beach. Front Beach is connected through a small park called Front Beach Park. As this lays on the tourist center of the city, most people come here to visit the park and view the sunset.

Bãi Sau aka "Thùy Vân Beach" is the only standard beach for tourism in Vung Tau. It is 3 kilometer long and streches from the Small Mount to Paradise Park. All beaches here are free although you may cross some "water park" to get to the beach. There are services for keeping your belongings, usually 15,000 VND each person. Fresh water bathe costs 8,000 VND. Sea parachute with canoeing available all day.

Small beach located along Hạ Long street, by Small Mount.

Small beach located on the western side of Big Mount.

Bãi Dứa and Bãi Dâu are actually beaches along Mountains, thus you must go downstairs to get to the waterfront. There's less sand and no safeguard.

Buy

ATMs

Almost all banks' ATMs are available in Vung Tau. Most of them are located in commercial roads such as Lê Hồng Phong, Ba Cu and Trưng Vương Square.

Here is a list of banks and their ATM locations

Visa and Mastercard are also accepted with a minimum fee of 50,000 VNĐ to 70,000 VNĐ for each withdraw.

Eat

Bánh khọt

An ideal place to enjoy your breakfast is at "Bánh khọt". The restaurant is always crowded on weekends.

A small bánh khọt restaurant run by a family. Not all tourists know it due to its location in a busy street but they find tastier fish sauce (nước mắm).

Restaurants

Well-known midrange restaurant for Vietnamese meals and variety of seafood. Tiger Beer and Pilsner Urquell available.

Well-designed landscape

Largest indoor restaurant, ideal place for parties. Special food include ssashlyk (Russian fried pork) and Russian salad.

An area of four pavement restaurant beside each other. Come here to enjoy the Vietnamese hotpot in different styles. Hotpot is a must in every Vietnamese parties and group meetings (with 3 people and more). Beer is encouraged.

NINE Cafe - Restaurant - French Bakery

9 Truong Vinh Ky - Vung Tau Open from 6.30 am to 10 pm A new place open by the former owner of Plein Sud . Open all day long from 6 am for continental breakfast , coffee , lunch and diner . You can have there a simple expresso while seating outdoor , get some food, enjoy the happy hours or buy some fresh bread ( french traditional baguette , Loaf) , or get one of those home made ice cream ( 100% natural ). Wine cellar with a large world selection . Happy Hours from 3 pm to 7 pm . Mediteranean Restaurant with French and Italian Specialities .Price start at 24.000 vnd . Colonial House and tropical garden with a great view on the golf . Home made delicious Ice Cream and a very large selection of imported wines . Wood pizza oven and home baked french bread . Pizzas , BBQ , Fish , Imported Meats . Home delivery .Free Wi Fi access .

Italian restaurant with a wide selection of pasta, wood fired pizza, seafood and wine and Italian desserts. They also have fresh bread, coffees. Home delivery available.

A cheap beer garden frequented mostly by locals with snacks and seafood. Breakfasts too.

Drink

Happy Hours from 3 pm to 7 pm . Indoor or outdoor .

Coffee

Little icecream spot with soft music. Well-known for 20 years.

Sleep

Budget

Vung Tau features the largest cheap guesthouses and hotels in Vietnam. Rooms range from electic fans and public bathrooms to air-conditioned with hot water. All located in Thùy Vân Street, in front of Bãi Sau (Back Beach) at the foot of Small Mount. Lowest prices from 120,000/room (on weekdays) to 200,000 VNĐ (weekend).

Midrange

Situated in front of Bãi Sau, Tháng Mười has 92 comfortable bedrooms with cable TV, airconditioners and minibars... Just a few walks to the beach. Prices range from 300,000 VNĐ - 500,000 VNĐ.

Splurge

International 3-star Hotel, one of the most beautiful and luxurious Hotel in Vung Tau, located in the strategically tourist place (the Back Beach ) with private beach. Only 200 meters to the Paradise golf course and 5 minutes access to the central City. Offers 133 guest rooms and suites with air-conditioner, satellite television, IDD telephone, high speed internet access, mini bar, in-house music, dressing table, bath-tub.

The 4-star Palace is located in the heart of Vung Tau.It has 94 guest rooms and provides a variety of comfortable accommodations that match a wide range of business and travelers needs. The Palace Hotel is also the ideal venu for seminars, conferences, banquet group dinners and cocktail parties. Its restaurants offer extensive a la carte menus of award-winning Vietnamese, Asian and Western cuisines. Private dining rooms are also available. The main hall can accommodate up to 800 banquet style and includes bars and coffee lounges. There is a Casino within the Hotel premises. An adjourning Bar at the Casino allows relaxation and listening pleasures to the evergreens of the '70s. Rate per night range from 65 - 165 USD.

Get out

Emergency numbers

The city hospital is "Lê Lợi" Hospital (22 Lê Lợi Street. 832667). Tell the taxi "benh vien" and he'll understand.

Contact

171 (178) + 00 + National code + Area code + Phone number. Note : This method is not available with cellphones.

Related Information




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