Located on the coast 100 kilometres south east of Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau is a popular weekend getaway for Saigoners to escape the heat and stresses of the big city. Two to three hours by road, or one hour and 30 minutes by hydrofoil (the boat conveniently departing very close to District 1), traffic, noise and pollution are replaced by sea breeze, fresh seafood, surf and sand.
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Meaning “bay of boats”, Vung Tau sits on a hilly promontory of land that juts out into the ocean. On the eastern side is the star attraction Back Beach (Bai Sau), a three kilometre stretch of sand catering to the needs of Vietnamese tourists: sun loungers, umbrellas, jet ski and tube rentals, seafood, beach toys and beer for sale. On the western side is the smaller, more local and low-key Front Beach (Bai Truoc). This is also where many small boats harbour. A long coastal Riviera-esque promenade connects the two making for a pleasant sunset stroll – clearly the French had their hand in shaping the city.
Once a French beach getaway known as Cap Saint-Jacques in colonial times, Vung Tau metamorphosed during the Vietnam War when it was used as R&R by American and Australian servicemen. The seedy reputation never left. While it’s certainly not Pattaya, Vung Tau does have bars aimed at single men looking to “unsingle” themselves. That said, it’s a part of Vung Tau that’s easily avoided and the big business these days is the city’s offshore oil industry and Vietnamese families on holiday.
There are two faces to the city. On the weekend and public holidays, the beaches are packed, the promenade is lively, restaurants are bustling and hotel rates skyrocket. Expect accommodation prices to as much as double and for all the good places to be full – if you plan on being here during the weekend, book ahead. A mass exodus on Sunday empties the city and it slips into a lazy slumber until Friday rolls around and the rush starts all over again. Travellers can net great deals on hotels during the weekday. If you want to dodge the crowds, avoid ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 600 words.)