Vung Tau, Vietnam
Vung Tau is at the mouth of the Saigon River at the southern tip of Viet Nam. Vung Tau enjoys a spectacular location on a peninsula, with ocean on three sides, and the light and sea air makes it a refreshing break from sultry Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
Vung Tau is a remarkably civilised-looking city of broad boulevards, imposing colonial-era buildings and accommodating the tastes (and wallets).
Historically few travellers ever bothered to visit the city, but new transport connections have put Vung Tau on the map. Hydrofoil links from central HCMC are now excellent, and the new coastal road to Mui Ne via Ho Trang offers a tempting, off-the-beaten-track route. I took a taxi from HCMH to Vung Tau which cost 1,400,000 VND and the drive was 3 hrs.
Built by the French, this 1910 lighthouse boasts a spectacular 360-degree view of Vung Tau. From Cau Da Pier on Ð Ha Long, take a sharp right on the alley north of the Hai Au Hotel, then roll on up the hill. Although Jesus and the lighthouse look temptingly close, it is not possible to walk or drive directly between them, as there is a military base in the hills here.
The White Palace was the beach resort built for the French Governor General of their Indo-China adventure that lasted about 150 years. There are displayed a number of 15th Century Portuguese cannon from old warships that protected their Far East Colonies such as Macau as well as a large French Colonial style building on this strategic site. The White Palace displays a detailed signboard complete with forty historical maps.
It costs just VND 5000 a ticket to get in to have a look at this beautiful old building with a great deal of history behind it. Big room and high ceilings and a great display of old Chinese pottery.
And then a coffee and cool down under the shady trees along the sea front. Well worthwhile!