The Pleasures of Vũng Tàu

Vũng Tàu is Ho Chi Minh City’s nearest seaside mecca. Every week-end it is filled with thousands of holidaymakers fleeing to its long sandy beaches and breezy air from the big city.

It was equally very popular with the French colonialists who called it Cap Saint Jacques and built their villas there.

Vũng Tàu is also the centre of Vietnam’s off-shore petroleum industry which also explains the presence of a considerable community of Russians who work in it.

We had to take the bus to get there. I say “had to” because there is a rather more pleasant way of reaching Vũng Tàu and that is by hydrofoil. Unfortunately, due to an accident when a hydrofoil caught fire last February (no deaths luckily) the service has been temporarily withdrawn.

Some people say that because a new express-way has been opened this year, radically cutting travel time between HCMC and the seaside, the aging Ukrainian hydrofoils are no longer needed and, besides, cost twice as much as the buses. Be that as it may, it could have been fun to go down the Saigon River on one of them since there would have been chances to have insights into traditional river-side village life.

Regarding the expressway, it was amazingly gardened – the central reservation went on for many miles continuously with beautiful flowers and topiaries. I wonder how many people are employed to manicure it.

In Vũng Tàu we met up with an Italian friend who, married to a Vietnamese lady, and with two lively children, has lived here for many years. Originally a teacher in a technical college in Venice, he was attracted to this part of the world by the chance of participating in project involving blind children. C’s contribution was to start up Vietnam’s first computer course for the blind. These are some of the photos he took of his pupils some years ago:

And this is the website of the association:

http://www.saomaiedufund.info/

We hired a motor scooter and, following C, we toured around Vũng Tàu. First we saw the front beach and rode up a peaceful hill where there is a lighthouse and a terrace with lovely views.

We continued up another hill overlooking the mouth of the Saigon River where there was a small Buddhist temple and various animals including pigs and monkeys. We stopped here to eat some delicious papaya.

Going to front bay we stopped at the very lively (and smelly) fish market which was a hive of activity as the latest catch was being unloaded, sorted and dispatched. I wish I could distinguish half of the species involved…

Incidentally, the town is also the centre for the production of the great Vietnamese fish-paste and many sheets of fish were being dried to produce this delicacy.

We stopped at C’s house in a delightful part of town for some refreshment:

Before returning with our bus in the evening we tried out a pizza at David on the seafront. I was wary about eating a Vietnamese pizza but I needn’t have worried. The owner and chef turned out to be from Florence (rione di San Lorenzo) who married a Vietnamese, and the pizza itself was superbly baked in a wood oven and tasted like the best ones I’ve tasted in Italy.

There could have been no more pleasant end to our stay at Vũng Tàu before boarding the bus than to savour that “David Special”, sip the cooled white wine and enjoy the quick tropical sunset over the bay.

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3 thoughts on “The Pleasures of Vũng Tàu

  1. As ever very interesting especially the Venetian who has adapted computers to be used by the blind now I find that a most useful contribution to society and would be interested in learing more about this it is a very important application I suppose that the letters are converted into those very difficult Braille language letters which is ok for the blind who already have learnt this but I am not convinced if that is the case for a seeing person with sight loss that this would work for ordinary people who go blind in their latter years as Braille is a most difficult language to master being just raised dots in different formations and a variety of permutations as a linguist I have tried just the simple 1 and 2 on the lift at our local walking wounded doctors practice and just to get the hang of that upset me as it is really really very difficult I suppose over time not so but even so time is of the essence in these matters and I at present will endeavour to excercise the eyes with a view to try and see if this ever happens in the future due to the oncept of MD.

  2. Who said that there is no fish in the sea look how many baskets loaded with fish however I do hope that they are farming their fish else it will be difficult to replenish the seas is such quantities are fished on a daily basis! I love those warm evening colours along the seaside seams nice and warm too here reached a mere 9 I expect it to be at least 19 out there seems if I understood correctly that the temperature is a constant 19 throughout the year that seems just marvellous. Well I love the oriental feel of the beach promenade with the nice lighting and the bouganvilles the palm trees the white houses remind me of the Greek ones. The monkeys and the wild boar unafraid of humans with their little ones trailing behind are so cute the papaya looked nice and inviting and refreshing a true oriental touch and flavour as are all those so called exotic fruits you showed us the other day normal for out there everyday eating special for us in Europe! Then to end the day with an Italian pizza cooked by a Florentine well I never wonderful and rather surrealistic I suppose fulfills the nostalgia factor for the Italians living and working out there in Vietnam!

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