Feb 19 2013
The coastal city of Vung Tau, a relatively short hydrofoil boat ride from Saigon proper, makes for a relaxing weekend trip from the bustling city. Although it’s most popular for its somewhat average beach, a way to get a taste of Vietnamese local life is to head downtown to watch the greyhound races at one of the only legally sanctioned gambling venues in Vietnam.
While we should point out that we wouldn’t normally go to see dogs race, it’s a hugely popular event in Vung Tau and attending a night here is a sudden immersion into the real life of the city — and this is one of the only dog tracks in Southeast Asia.
Every Saturday and Sunday night from around 19:30, Lam Son Stadium, a football stadium now home to around 800 greyhounds, sees 450-metre races kick off every 15 minutes until around 22:30. The dogs reach speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour.
Being perhaps the most exciting event in town, the area around the racetrack is usually packed with spectators, all crammed around the track to catch a glimpse of the dogs. Two kinds of tickets are available: 50,000 VND gets you general admission while 100,000 VND gets you VIP seating. The VIP area is an air-con space on the top floor of the grandstand, offering a better view of the track.
To start, each dog, dressed in its finest racing silk, is paraded onto the track so spectators and punters can size them up. The dogs are then loaded into a kennel, where they wait until the doors open and a fake rabbit zips by. The race itself is short, with the dogs covering the distance in roughly 30 seconds, but the excitement is huge as the crowd roars for the duration.
To place a bet on one of the races, head to one of the booking areas scattered around the track. The easiest bet is to simply pick the winner of the race, but to spice things up you can try picking the top two race winners, called an Exacta, the top three, a Trifecta, or the top four, a Superfecta. Whichever bet you choose, you will be issued a small ticket, which you can then wave wildly in the air during the race.
A race book is available for 5,000 VND with information about the dogs running in each race, such as past performances and their weight. The minimum bet is only 10,000 VND, so you can have a flutter without needing to sell your watch to a pawnbroker at the end of the night. If you pick a winner, bring the ticket back to the window and collect your cash.
Lam Son Stadium
15 Le Loi, Vung Tau
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