I have a confession to make: I don’t think I like big cities. Seeing as I grew up in Pennsylvania, I’ll always choose nature over concrete. Despite this, my conflicting emotions have always drawn me toward living in larger cosmopolitan centers.
6.5 years in Chicago.
2.5 years in Seoul.
9 months in Auckland.
6 months (and counting) in Saigon.
Although I wouldn’t exactly consider Auckland to be a booming metropolis, it *is* considered to be the largest city in New Zealand. At any rate, as you can see, I’ve been living in big cities for 10 whole years. TEN! Throughout the years, I’ve always needed to recharge my batteries within nature on a semi-regular basis. I took regular road trips out of the city when I lived in Chicago. I hiked most of Korea’s major mountains and spent most weekends outside of Seoul.
While I’m admittedly enamored with Saigon, this city has its downfalls, too. The air quality of this city is horrific; the noise and overall grit can be unnerving. The rain has been relentless and I’ve gotten quite sick a few times due to a combination of all factors.
There also aren’t a ton of viable options for day trips outside of Saigon. Luckily, Vung Tau is an excellent choice for a quiet weekend getaway; there are plenty of things to do in Vung Tau as well. There’s actually a bit of cool history about this little town. Until recently, it was known as a hotspot for the backpacker crowd – aka filthy. In an effort to brighten and tidy up the town, the government banned street vendors from selling food or drinks on the beach and implemented hefty fines on litterbugs.
It’s seemed to work out quite well, as the beach town has been one of my favorite spots in Vietnam to date. It’s nothing fancy, but there are some pretty sights. Here’s a list of things to do in Vung Tau.
1. Have a picnic and walk along the pathway at Bai Truoc
This little gem is centrally-located, but it’s still uber quiet during the day. Unlike in Saigon, visitors can chill in the grass and read a book or enjoy a picnic. It’s located along the seaside; the water isn’t in the best condition to swim in this particular part of town. Even so, it’s an ideal location to start the day with a nice walk along the palm-lined pathway while enjoying fresh cut mango.
2. Climb the stairs to Tuong Dai Chua Kito Vua (Christ the King Monument)
You will literally never need to visit Rio de Janero after your trip to Vung Tau. In all seriousness, it’s well worth seeing for the views alone. It’s also an incredible butt workout for those of you hoping to gain bunz of steel. Most importantly, there are lots of cute dogs and cats awaiting visitors at the top, which made the experience 100 percent worth it for me. There’s also a sweet looking older gentleman at the top of the stairs who clearly used to take photos of couples for a living using his camera. I felt bad as James and I overlooked his sign and snapped a [pretty terrible] selfie on his iPhone, but what can ya do? I’d like to think I’ll support the man next time.
3. Order a pizza at David’s
If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I hunt down pizza pretty often. This place was recommended by a friend as she’d been a few times and it lived up to its hype. The restaurant itself is cute and cozy; we sat upstairs and ordered some wine and relaxed. I was super impressed with the selection; fresh gnocchi, polenta, and hand-rolled linguine were among the options. James opted for a lasagna, whereas I ordered a simple Margherita pizza. I’m pretty much obsessed and I think it’s safe to say David’s serves up some of the best pizza in Southeast Asia.
4. Step back in time at the White Palace
Somewhat hidden atop a mountain overlooking a lovely garden blossoming with fragrant frangipani trees sits the White Palace, a remnant of a bygone era. Like much of Vung Tau, this former French palace is a quaint and peaceful hideaway. While there is a great deal of history to see, most of the interior goes unexplained as there is no translation for the items’ significance. It’s still worth taking a peek, though!
7. Take the cable car up to Ho May Park
I didn’t visit the park during my visit, but I’m pretty sure it is everything I imagine it to be: perfectly cheesy. Ho May Park is a hilltop amusement park equipped with artificial lakes, carnival rides and swan boats for those of you interested in upping your #SwanGoals game ala Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris circa 2016. It can only be accessed by cable car, so you’ll be sure to get an awesome aerial view. Two birds with one stone!
8. Get back to Ho Chi Minh City via ferry
While this doesn’t necessarily fit into the category of things to do in Vung Tau, it’s certainly worth a mention. The ferry dock is located in the heart of town and departs several times throughout the day. There are currently two different companies operating fast boats between Saigon and Vung Tau: Greenlines and Petro Pacific. Although I don’t have experience with the latter, I’ve been told the Greenlines option is the most reliable as Petro Pacific often runs late or cancels ferries.
Those on a strict budget may not like the fact that the ferry is nearly twice the price as bus fare, but I find it’s more the more comfortable and scenic option. Nothing like a way to wrap up a quick weekend jaunt than a relaxing boat ride back into town?
Prices for the Greenlines ferry:
- Adult: 250,000vnd (one way)
- Adult over 62 years: 180,000vnd (one way)
- Child 6-11 years old: 120,000vnd (one way)
- Child under 6 years old: free
Whichever you choose, each of these are excellent options to spend your time in this sleepy town. Enjoy!