Vung Tau has the nearest beaches to Ho Chi Minh, about two hours away by bus, so it is the destination of choice for a weekend getaway for those who live in the city. I knew about this but wasn’t expecting such huge crowds anyway.
I arrived at Vung Tau over the weekend and I found a lot of people on the beach. By the time I arrived was later than 5 pm and it seemed like all Vietnamese were in the same place as me. Vung Tau is not a traveler’s destination in Vietnam, so Western faces will not be seen easily. I had no idea where to stay, so I decided to stay near Front Beach. The hostel where I stayed was 15 minutes’ walk away from this beach and was empty. Empty of foreign tourists as I saw many other Vietnamese. I had a 14-bed dorm for myself.
Front Beach Vung Tau
At dusk during the weekend, Front beach is full of people like I’ve never seen in my life. Vung Tau looks nothing like a place to relax. At least this beach. But this might actually be the best beach in Vung Tau to watch the sunset. The sun sets on this side of the bay, that’s why I believe Front beach was so crowded. It was not possible to lay on the sand or whatsoever due to the number of people. Vietnamese don’t wear bikinis so everybody was fully dressed while having some sea baths. The Vietnamese don’t go to the beach to get tanned. In fact, they love white skin just like the majority of Asians. And maybe, for this reason, beaches in Vung Tau during the hottest part of the day don’t have many people.
Usually, tourists find this white skin obsession silly, because in the West we want to be tanned. But, if we think about it, the logic is the same. We buy products promising an enviable bronze, so why wouldn’t Vietnamese buy whitening body lotions? And the goal is the same: show signs of a good life. In the west, tan is synonymous with beach life; In Vietnam, having white skin is proof that you don’t work in the fields. Anyway, I sat on the staircase that separates the sidewalk from the sand and enjoyed the sunset among all the screams and yells of the crowded beach.
I do not recommend a visit to Vung Tau during the weekend as the confusion is massive, and relaxing will certainly not be happening. As I was there on weekdays, I saw the difference in the number of people. And trust me, the difference is huge! If you want to enjoy Vung Tau, it is best to visit on calmer days and those are the weekdays. During the week Vung Tau is so calm and empty that it doesn’t feel the same anymore.
Nghinh Phong beach Vung Tau
Vung Tau has several beaches, and my favorite was Nghinh Phong, a tiny beach with very few people. Most of the people are concentrated on large beaches. In Nghinh Phong I was able to relax and soak up the sun: I was one of the few people on the site and the only one with skin showing. I think that this beach disappears during high tide. As it was so empty, I decided to go and enjoy the silence. Still, there were some men fishing and groups of school kids ready to ruin the silence and taking photos for hours with a professional photographer. This must be a popular place for pictures as they brought a lot of accessories and different clothes. Even a bride and her groom showed up for pictures. This place was getting busier as the day was passing by.
The major crowds are concentrated on Front Beach, ideal for the sunset, and Back beach, which has such a large expanse of sand that I only saw it when visited Jesus Christ’s Statue, the biggest attraction of Vung Tau.
Jesus Christ Vung Tau
Jesus Christ’s Statue of Vung Tau is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. It consists, as the name implies, of a statue of Jesus of great dimensions, erected in one of the highest points that the city has. And from this mountain, the view is very charming.
To get there there is an official entrance that consists of a staircase decorated with more statues alluding to the Christian religion, but I did not know of their existence, and I went there by the less conventional way.
I walked from my hostel, that was near Front beach, to the Jesus Christ statue, which was quite a walk, but worthy. I followed a track on maps.me that lead me between small houses and a very steep path, very rocky. I was actually glad that I took the less conventional way as because of that I got to see another view. A view of the largest Vung Tau beach, Back beach, and Hon Mieu Ba, an island that gets isolated during high tide but that during low tide can be reached by land. I saw it both ways. I had no idea about this place so I was very happy once I found it. The seawater has many different tones of blue and the view from here is very beautiful. Not many people were here either. This place is called Đoi con Heo – Vũng Tàu.
After it, I followed my way to the Jesus Christ statue, the highest point of the mountain. The view up here is not that great. In fact, I didn’t have a view as the place is covered by trees that are in bloom so I actually didn’t mind them. These many trees here are very pleasant as the sun is excruciating and the shade is very welcome. There are dozens and dozens of stone stools at the top so I sat to finally have some rest and enjoy the calmness of the place. The very top was very quiet and relaxing.
From the Jesus Christ statue, I could also see the Vung Tau View Point down there. Another beautiful sight. Views from this mountain are pretty cool!
I went down by the opposite side. Although there are still some stairs, this path is better than the less conventional. It was after going down by this side of the mountain that I realized that this is the good access to the statue. It was once down that I discovered the Nghinh Phong beach that is just by the entrance to Jesus Christ statue.
Vung Tau temples
Apart from beaches I also visited some temples the accompany the street along the coast. They are almost empty and are a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the scent of blooming plumerias. I have never seen so many blooming Plumerias trees together, so I keep Vung Tau in my mind as a very good smelling town.
The city is also great for some seaside walks as there are actually good sidewalks where you can walk on. If now, I would have stayed closer to the Back beach or Bãi Biển Thùy Vân as I later realized this is where most parts of tourists stay. It is more crowded for sure but also offers more night entertainment. Also, the beach is huge so I wouldn’t miss a place to lay my towel on.
Where to stay in Vung Tau
If you intend to have some beach days, near Back beach is where you should stay. Front beach barely existed during high tide and it’s not a place for sunbathing.
But, I didn’t come to Vung Tau to lay on the beach. The true reason why I came here is Con Dao, an island not so far from here. Still, Vung Tau is a great Ho Chi Minh getaway.
Here is a short video about Vung Tau: