Vung Tau has historically been an important sea port for Vietnam, especially during the French rule. It was also a strategic military base during the Vietnam-American War. Interestingly, Vung Tau was one of the epicentres of the Indochina Refugee Crisis in the late 70s because of its access to the sea and its proximity to other countries in South East Asia. This area was the launch point for many of the ‘Vietnamese Boat People’, the local residents who fled to neighbouring countries after the end of the war. Despite its controversial history, nowadays Vung Tau is a small, yet bustling, coastal community and an important centre for Vietnam’s off shore oil drilling industry.
Only 2 hours outside Ho Chi Minh City, many locals visit Vung Tau as a quick beach getaway. If you have been to many international beaches, the beach itself in Vung Tau may pale in comparison as it can often be dirty and littered. That being said, Vung Tau is quite the charming town with plenty of other activities to fill your day besides a beach visit. There are small mountains that surround Vung Tau and are a quick hike up. If hiking is not your thing, there is a gondola ride up the biggest mountain for a great view of the bay. And if you’re a foodie, Vung Tau is a great place to try out local specialties like ‘banh khot’ that can be hard to come by elsewhere.
Details: To get to Vung Tau by bus or coach, many of the open tour bus companies run 12- to 16-seater air-conditioned vans which run every 15 to 30 minutes and drop you off in the centre of the town. Many of them will even give you a free bottle of water for the trip. Alternatively, you can hire private transport vehicles from the main taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City (MaiLinh and Vinasun) or your hotel can easily arrange a private car for you. The drive takes roughly 2 hours. Until recently, there was a very convenient Hydrofoil that ran between the harbours of Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau but a fire on one of the vessels in February has suspended all hydrofoil travels.