Being a seaside town, Vung Tau revolves around seafood. Don't assume, however, that the flipping fish in front of you is from the sea -- Vung Tau hosts a couple of rather large fish farms. On Thuy Van St (Back Beach), large seafood restaurants sporadically stand on the seafront. Portions are generous and standards hardly differ, it's best just to take a lucky dip. On the other side of town, Cat Bien is a restaurant of similar ilk. The vast menu contains any kind of mollusc, fish and crustacean you could wish for -- and maybe some you wouldn't. A specialty is BBQ fish wrapped in foil -- we had the grouper -- and dipped with some muoi tieu chanh (salt, pepper and lemon juice mixed together), it was mighty fine. Just one thing here, prices are high.
Possibly the most popular dining venue in town is Hai San Song. Vietnamese tourists flock here due its reputation, price and location -- weekends are especially heaving, but not in stressful way. This place is a little out of town, follow Quang Trung St out of town to the North for about 1.5km. The restaurant is housed directly on the shoreline, with good views out across the bay where you can see the container ships trafficking in and out of the estuary that leads to Saigon. On the top of the inevitably wide-ranging seafood menu, the prices are exceptionally good value.
Back in town, Le Dung is a kind of seafood 'takeaway', where you can order your preferred dish to be prepared on the spot and then thrown in a box for a beach side picnic.
By now, the taste of squid and shrimp are probably becoming a little overbearing, but don't worry, there is a smattering of western choices in town too. Ali Baba is the one and only Indian restaurant in town, and just across the road is a branch of the Vietnam-wide Good Morning Vietnam, the Italian option. Along the front of 'Front Beach' is the Pig and Whistle, which has a restaurant above its seedy looking bar area. Despite the name it looks nothing like a pub, but the menu would suggest otherwise -- it has everything from fish &chips to steaks to pies. Further along the road, opposite the ferry terminal is Ned Kelly's Eureka Inn. Another good destination for anything that may remind you of home, this place is run by an Australian expat and some interesting photos of Vung Tau in the 1930s and 1960s adorn the wall. Ned Kelly's seems to play Aussie Rules all day long on the TV, and there's also a pool table to entertain you. Still further along the road, now past the ferry terminal is Tommy's Bar. This is a more relaxing cafe style environment, with some comfortable outside seating. They have daily specials, Western and Vietnamese food, and in true Aussie style, 'Beer under ice at all times'.
In terms of nightlife Vung Tau has a seedy reputation, and once you've wandered around for a while, you'll see why. A large number of bars with exotic names and a couple of 'Discotheques' masquerade as girly-bars/clubs.
For the majority not interested in this kind of activity, options are limited. You could choose to meet the crowds of resident expats who gather in the aforementioned bars of Ned Kelly's and Tommy's, and more than likely some other tourists as well. At the Vung Tau Beach Club (opposite Sammys Hotel) you will find the windsurfers and kitesurfers who are in town. Other than that, you may want to try a Vietnamese night out at one of the insanely popular coffee shops -- try Blue Star on the beach road on Friday or Saturday night for an example of Ho Chi Minh City-style posing at its best.
Another option is of course to make your own entertainment. Vung Tau has miles of wind swept promenade (front beach) and deckchair seating (back beach) to chug a beer and enjoy the sound of the ocean.
Ali Baba -- 7 Nguyen Trai St. T: (064) 510 685.
Blue Star -- 140 Ha Long. Daily: 09:00 -- 22:00
Cat Bien -- 38 Quang Trung St. T: (064) 819 033. Daily 07:00-:22:00
Good Morning Vietnam -- 6 Hoang Hoa Tham St. T: (064) 856 959. 10:00-23:00
Hai San Song -- 3 Tran Phu St, T: (064) 551 555. Daily 09:00-22:00
Le Dung -- 16 Tran Hung Dao St.
Pig &Whistle -- 14 Quang Trung St. T: (064) 511 424. Daily: 07:00-23:00
Ned Kelly's -- 128 Ha Long St. T: (064) 510 173. Daily: 07:00-Late
Tommys -- 94 Ha Long St. T: (064) 853 554. Daily: 09:00-Late
Vung Tau Beach Club - Gate 2, Ocean Park, 8 Thuy Ban St. T: (064) 526 101.Daily: 09:00-Late