Vung Tau – a holiday destination in Southern Vietnam
During our trip to Saigon we were looking for a holiday destination with access to the beach. The first choice was Phu Quoc Island for which you have to take an airplane from Saigon. This was not an option for us because we already had enough flights during that trip to Asia back in 2018. Therefore, the second natural choice was the coastal city of Vung Tau located 2 hours drive south-east from Saigon. This was a very interesting experience to us because we were just few Europeans in the entire city of some 500 thousand inhabitants. I did not experience it so far in South-Eastern Asia. Although Vietnam is welcoming tourists from abroad and opening its borders more and more by implementing several enhancements like e-visa system, the place is still not so popular holiday destination as compared with other countries in the region.
Beaches of Vung Tau
Front Beach – the smaller one located in the city centre. It offers much less opportunities for relaxation, much more for dining, hanging out etc.
Contrary to what the name is suggesting, the Back Beach is the wide, sandy, kilometer-long beach that fronts South China Sea. It is naturally beautiful although not always very clean because the local people leave some waste after their picnics and the municipal services do not clean the place regularly enough. Nevertheless the situation is improving from year to year. The water is clean although the color looks a bit muddy. This is not due to the dirt but rather to the adjacent location of the Mekong’s Delta. We are quite sensitive to unclean waters and we did not have a problem to enjoy the swimming in the sea quite regularly. The key to find a good place to relax on the beach is to find a good beach club. Although the entire beach is public, the coastal zone (between the beach and the road) is occupied by dozens of beach club. You just need to pick up a good one😄.
Imperial Beach Club
After having checked several beach clubs in the area we eventually found the one belonging to the Imperial Hotel. It was actually the only one meeting our expectations. All the remaining ones looked tired and quite poor. The Imperial Beach Club was the only one matching 5* European standard. Except of the nice design of the club and the comfort provided, the staff was taking good care to keep the adjacent public beach very clean. It was a pure pleasure to relax there. Nevertheless, the comfort has its price. The single entry is some 12 euro per person unless you are the guest of the Imperial Hotel who enjoy free access. The word “single” is very important because the club prevents its guests to leave for a cheap lunch outside and you have to take the lunch in the club to avoid double entry charges. Anyway, the food in the beach club restaurant is very good and the prices are comparable to middle class restaurants in Thailand.
Actually, we found only two hotels in the city offering high-class accommodation in European terms, the Imperial Hotel and Pullman. We were checking price options incl. the access to the beach club and we opted for Pullman Vung Tau. First of all Pullman, which is just 5-7 minutes walking distance from Imperial, was a bit cheaper than Imperial, access to the Imperial Beach Club included. Moreover, Pullman was closer to shopping, money exchange etc. Last but not least, Imperial looks noble but also a bit tired at the same time although the room comfort and cleanliness is certainly there. At Pullman I loved its lobby, interior design, dynamic impression looking out from every corner. Last but not least and due to the fact that there are not so many international tourists in the area, Pullman gets busy on the weekends only when Saigonese workaholics come her formweekend getaways. Otherwise, it is quite calm, empty and spacious.
It is very difficult to find sightseeing offers in Vung Tau. We asked at the hotel’s reception two times and eventually they picked up an old leaflet from the bottom of the drawer showing the local tour offers, probably left by someone long time ago. We picked up the city sightseeing tour and it was a very good choice because in a city of 0,5 million inhabitants there must be always something to see and explore. This was of course the case of Vung Tau as well.
First of all, we were brought to the Jesus Christ monument, the third tallest in the world after Swiebodzin in Poland and Rio de Janeiro. After climbing some 700 steps we got there 😳. Beautiful gardens surrounding the hill and the stunning views on the city where you can admire its unique location on a small peninsula put between the Mekong River and the South China Sea. It was perhaps not the best idea to do this sightseeing trip on the weekend when the city is full of “refugees” from Saigon.
From the statue we were brought to the Lighthouse. The impressions were not that spectacular except of wild cotton trees along the road. Never seen before.
The White Palace – the getaway residence of Vietnamese kings and the French governors has lost some of its glory in the meantime. The facade is quite tired but the place still very impressive. Inside of the villa the visitors can find the original interior design and the furniture used by Vietnamese kings.
Temples Niet Ban Tinh Xa and the Whale Temple
Mauzoleum Tuong Dai Liet Sy
located on the large square opposite to Pullman Hotel. The memory place to the victims of the Vietnam war. Actually, a park with all conditions to meditate about the past.
The House Down Under
one of the most remarkable city’s attractions that is not on the top of TripAdvisor’s recommendations. Must-to-see when in Vung Tau. Actually, a simple coffee hous in the city centre that allows to experience the reality in a different way. Against a small fee of course.
Discovered on our own
Ho May Park
this is the large entertainment area located on the hills of Vung Tau with the access by cable car. The entrance fee (including cable car) is quite high (400,000 VND = 17 euro). Therefore, the place is not very busy except on weekends.
I wouldn’t call the place the attraction no. 1 in Vung Tau, however, when staying for 11 days in the city, it might be a nice pause between the hours on the beach.
The amusement and entertainment park consists of several attractions including the statue of smiling Buddha, beautiful lakes, amazing greenery, swimming pools, paradise garden etc. We spent some 2 hours there and we don’t regret.
Clearly number one for spa treatments and massage in Vung Tau. Located in a beautiful villa on a hill, it ensures the Thai quality of treatment. Every taxi driver knows the address. No prior appointment needed – at the end of the day there are not many Western tourists in the city 😜.