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Vung Tau

Vung Tau is a resort town in the province of Dong Nai 125 km from Saigon. The town is a long strip approximately 14 km long and 6 km wide. Where the southern tip of town meets the ocean stand two famous mountains Nui Lon (Truong Ky) and Nui Nho (Tao Phung) or Large mountain and Small mountain.
Historically, Vung Tau used to be part of Bien Hoa. The first settlements in this area occurred during the reign of King Gia Long. During this period, there were many Malay bandits in this region. They often enter the area through Song Be entrance from the ocean. This created a threat for merchants in the Gia Dinh area.

King Gia Long sent three garrisons of troops to the area to quell the disturbance and to clear this area for settlement. A few years later, the bandits were driven away and in 1822, King Ming Mang rewarded the three officers who led the army to this region. The soldiers were allowed to retire and brought their families to this area to make a living. The first three successful settlements in this area were under the leadership of the three officers who originally led the troops here. Thang Nhat (first win) township, Thang Nhi (second win) township and Thang Tam (third win) township were led by Mr. Pham Van Dinh, Mr. Le Van Loc, and Mr. Ngo Van Huyen respectively. Ever since then, this area is known as Tam Thang or Three Wins. The name Vung Tau came about because the geography in this area also forms a natural bay where many merchant ships would stop to seek shelter. In time, this area became known as Vung (puddle) Tau (ships). Another name for this area is Cap Saint Jacques or Au Cap in French.

Vung Tau is the first seaside resort for the elite in Vietnam. The first hotel, the Arduzer, was built in the 1870's and was a spa for the French leadership at the time. Over time, many more bungalows and vacation homes were built by the well to do of Saigon. Today, Vung Tau has many large and modern hotels on its 3 main beaches. Vung Tau is also known for its abundance of pagodas and temples, most of them lean against the mountains and face the ocean.

A serpentine road 6 km long hugging Small Mountain starts from Bai Truoc (Front Beach), passes by Nghinh Phong (Windy Point) and leads to Bai Sau (Rear Beach). Named Ha Long (Descending Dragon), the winding road goes up and down along the shore, offering a spectacular view of the skyline and refreshing ocean wind. Facing the ocean on three sides, Vung Tau is windy all year round and has 2 distinct seasons, rainy from May to October and dry from November to April. Average temperature is 28 deg. C.

Another winding road 10 km long circling Big Mountain starts from fishing village Ben Dinh, passes through Bai Dau and ends at Front Beach. Traditionally a weekend get-away spot for city dwellers from Saigon, Vung Tau has also a significant fishing industry. With oil riggs only 70 km off shore, the city is a center of services for the exploitation of gas and oil

Thich Ca Phat Dai Pagoda

One of the largest pagoda in Vung Tau, this pagoda attracts pilgrims from the whole country. The pagoda is located 20 km from the center of town and sits on the north face of Nui Lon mountain. In 1957, Mr. Le Quang Vinh built a small temple at this site and called it Thien Lam Tu. In 1961, a larger temple was proposed by the many Buddhists in this region. Work commenced on July 20, 1961 and was completed in 1963. Various statues along the stairs leading to the pagoda describe the history of Buddha: Thích Ca Mâu Ni at his birth, his introduction to Buddhism and his becoming a Buddha. Thich Ca Phat Dai pagoda is made famous by its large and serene environment and its statue of Buddha, 6.2 m tall and in the meditation pose Kiê't Già, perching on a pedestal 4 m high shaped like a lotus.

Niet Ban Tinh Xa - Temple of Nirvana

Niet Ban tinh Xa is also known as Chua Phat Nam or the Pagoda of the Lying Buddha. The pagoda is 3 km from town and sits on the side of Nui Nho mountain facing the ocean. Work began on the pagoda in 1969 and was completed in 1974. This is probably the most beautiful pagoda in Vung Tau for its many intricate architectural details and the granite work around the pagoda. There is a flag tower standing 21 m high in front of the temple covered by ceramic tiles. Perching atop the tower is a Lotus, signifying Buddhist purity. There are 42 steps leading to the Lotus signifying the first 42 pages of the Buddhist Sutra which made their way to Vietnam in the 2nd century. The main area of the pagoda is built in the likeness of the garden in which Buddha entered Nirvana. Here lies a 12 m statue of Buddha overlaid with marble. The gate of the garden is guarded by two gods, Ong Thien (God of Goodness) and Ong Ac (God of Evil). Standing in wait below the sleeping Buddha is the likeness of his closest disciples. To the rear of the temple is the boat Bat Nha built of concrete to signify Buddhism as a craft in which mankind can escape Be Kho or Sea of Sorrow. In the upper level hangs the giant bronze bell Dai Hong Chung 3.5 m high and weighing 3.5 tons.

Statue of Jesus


On top of Nui Nho mountain stands the statue of Jesus overlooking the southern point of the peninsula and facing the East Sea. The statue is 30 m high and was built in the early 70's. The statue is hollow. The inside is illuminated by light coming from 6 windows, 3 in the front, 3 in the back, that are shaped like the chinese character Tho (longevity). A spiral stair of 129 steps leads to the head. This is the largest sculpture in the South of Vietnam. Recent construction of a pathway has made the 30-minute hike up the mountain more pleasant and the panoramic view from various vista points along the way is magnificent.

Bach Dinh - Villa Blanche

Bach Dinh or the White Mansion was built during the French occupation. The mansion sits at the bottom of Nui Lon overlooking the East Sea and is one of Vung Tau's major landmark. Work on the mansion began in 1898 and was completed in 1916. At the time, no expenses were spared as the amount of work and manpower involved in laying the road leading to the mansion were done almost completely by manual labor. Commissioned by French governor Paul Doumer, this mansion has served as summer retreat for Emperor Bao Dai as well as vacation home for vietnamese heads of state. The mansion is 50 m above sea level and is designed in the style of 19th century French architecture. The grounds of the mansion still show signs of a once glamorous lifestyle of the French governor who commissioned this building. The garden has an open air dance floor and many statues and details of Greek mythology. In terms of historical significance, Bach Dinh was where King Thanh Thai of the Nguyen Dynasty was under house arrest before he was finally exiled to Reunion island in Africa.

VUNG TAU BEACHES

Bai Sau - Rear Beach

Bai Sau is also known as Bai Thuy Van. This stretch of beach is located in the southeast side of town and is about 10 km in length from the base of Nui Nho. The most popular beach in Vung Tau, it is packed with Saigonese every weekend during the summer months. Teenagers arrive on scooters (3 hrs travel), locals by mini-van or bus (2 hrs) and affluent tourists by hydro-foil boats (1 1/2 hr). The sea is calm during the rainy season but there are frequent periods of high winds and big waves during the dry season. Strong undertow currents make swimming dangerous in some spots.

Bai Dua - Pineapple Beach

Historically known for its wild pineapple trees and black rocks, Bai Dua is located at the foot of Nui Nho Mountain. It is the smallest of the four major beaches in Vung Tau but very popular for its calm waters and its majestic sunset. Bai Dua is also known as Huong Phuong beach. Visitors come to this rocky cove for its tranquility and cleanliness.

Bai Truoc - Front Beach

Bai Truoc is also known as Bai Tam Duong. Tam Duong means "searching for the sun". The beach is located between Nui Lon mountain and Nui Nho mountain. From afar, the beach is shaped like a crescent moon, and along the beach, there are many coconut trees. Not a clean beach for swimming, it has many kiosks, open-air restaurants and bars and it is the beach closest to urban Vung Tau.

Paradise Beach

In 1994, a taiwanese conglomerate paid a large sum of money to the vietnamese government for the right to build a theme park with private beach on the northern end of Bai Sau. This beach, not too aptly named Paradise Beach, is open to the public but requires an entrance fee. Everything here costs twice as much as at the other beaches. It is populated mostly with group tourists from other asian countries.

Bai Dau

Bai Dau is situated 3 km northwest of town. It is a small, rocky beach but its water is calm, shallow and very clear. Known as "foreigners' beach", it is frequented by travelers who want relaxation. Vietnamese visitors also go to Bai Dau, but for a different reason: to eat at "Cay Bang", widely recognized as the best sea-food restaurant in Vung Tau

Hon Ba

Hon Ba - Islet of the Goddess, just off Nghinh Phong tip between Bai Dua and Bai Sau, can be reached only on foot when the tide is low. It has the shape of a tortoise and is home to a temple built by fishermen in honor of the Goddess of the Sea.

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