Local Custom & Slang
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Far from the glittering bustling seaside resort it is today, Vung Tau's origins are humble: between the 14th and 15th century, Vung Tau was a swamp area only regularly frequented by European trading ships, thus the name Vung Tau or "anchorage". Moving to the late 1700s, Malay pirates established base and became a threat to Vietnamese trade, with royal troops finally ousting the invaders and given the land as reward. In 1859, the first use of cannons from Phuoic Thang Fortress, situated on Vung Tau's Front Beach, to repel French invaders were on Vung Tau. Despite this, one of Vung Tau's historical landmarks that stands today is a mansion built by then-French governer of Indochina Paul Doumer. Another interesting mark of Vung Tau is a 32-meter tall statue of Jesus on Nho Mount, built by the Vietnamese Catholic minority in 1974, and still remains as one of the tallest Christ statues in Asia. While the city's significance as a shipping port has diminished over time, Vung Tau is Vietnam's sole petroleum base of offshore rigging that supports the country's economy. Despite the industrial sound of this, Vung Tau is also the site of resorts, theme parks, bright festivals and natural wonders that draw tourists by the flocks on hydrofoils, eager to enjoy, party and soak in the atmosphere of what was once ordinary marshland just south of Ho Chi Minh.
The climate of Vung Tau is generally hot and humid, given it is a seaside resort. The dry season ranges between November to April, with temperatures peaking at April itself. Temperatures range from 27°C to 29°C around this period.
The rainy season of Vung Tau ranges from May to October. Although rain is rare in Vung Tau, this is when the weather can be exceptionally humid from noon to 3pm, but also the ideal period for sunbathing. Temperatures can range from 24°C to 30°C around this period.
Hiring a private car or cab is definitely recommended if comfort is on your priority; whether you are travelling from Ho Chi Minh Airport (Vung Tau has a small airport but serves no commercial flights) which is a whopping 90 kilometres away from Vung Tau itself, or travelling around the city itself. Besides the obvious convenience of the taxi cab, traffic peaks from Friday to Sunday with commuters from Saigon cutting through Vung Tau, making it a much safer and more comfortable mode of transport should you be caught in a jam.
Taxi fares vary from whether you are travelling to Vung Tau or around the island; negotiate for a flat rate when dealing with the former and it would set you back with a reasonable 1,000,000 VND. For the latter, rates can range from 10,000 VND to 13,000 VND per kilometre.
The common method of travelling to Vung Tau, hydrofoils come to and fro from Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh. While this mode of transport has a history of dodgy safety records and serious accidents; service was reinstated in December 2014 after a year-long cease to revamp the hydrofoils, and further tragic incidents ceased, although most travellers still report the boats looking worn-out and old. While this mode of transport is definitely more reliable than before, do still exercise caution should you choose it.
The Ho Chi Minh port is situated at the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Elisa floating restaurant, just south of the Khanh Hoi bridge. Adult fares are 200,000 VND while child fares are 100,000 VND. Do take note of the hike on weekends and public holidays: 250,000 VND for adults and 120,000 VND for children.
The Vung Tau port is located on Ha Long Street, at the city's west coast. Look out for a KFC or Lotteria fast food joint, or a long line of taxis awaiting disembarking travellers. Fares are the same for the Ho Chi Minh port: 200,000 VND for adults and 100,000 VND for kids, while public holidays and weekends are 250,000 VND for adults and 120,000 VND for kids.
As visits to Vung Tau can balloon on weekends, it is advised to book way in advance especially if you are doing a roundtrip. Should you do otherwise, trying to purchase a return ticket in Vung Tau would be futile as they are always sold out and sellers would approach you with tickets at exorbitant prices.
Another reliable mode of transport, buses can take you either to and from Ho Chi Minh City, or within Vung Tau itself. One of the most reliable companies is the Phuong Trang (Futa Bus) company, which offers complimentary onboard water and Wi-Fi and direct hotel drop-off. Kumho Samco is another reliable choice, which serves direct routes to Ho Chi Minh's main Mien Tay or Mien Dong bus stations and Vung Tau's which is at 192 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street.
Fares for the Phuong Trang company costs 95,000 VND for a 3-hour journey, while fares for the Kumho Samco company are 80,000 VND for a similar 3-hour journey.
It is recommended to take a leisurely cycle down the coastal roads in the early hours,with scenery and fresh air to enjoy without the crowds. Besides the aforementioned peak traffic from Fridays to Sundays, the roads will be choked with touters on bicycles and motorcycles handing out flyers and business cards, so do ride safely.
Prices vary; but they can start from as low as US$1, or 23,000 VND.
Instead of rental agencies and shops, you can rent motorcycles at Vũng Tàu hotels and guesthouses as well. While this can increase the reliability of the vehicle, it can also do the same for the rental rates. Take a quick shop around the block to scope out a few options before deciding on the cheapest. A motorcycle is the medium between a car and a bicycle: making it suitable for the roads and still extremely mobile.
Rental rates vary as well; but they can range from 100,000 VND to 250,000 VND.