Beaches and Bikes

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
Green Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 16, 2012

We had a smooth 3 hour bus ride to Vung Tau, a city of about 160,000 people on the South China Sea that's popular with Saigon residents as a weekend retreat.  We had booked with Phuong Trang, one of the more reliable bus companies in Vietnam as we’ve been told by many locals.  Our 80,000 VND (~$4) fare even included a free taxi from the bus station to our hotel.  After settling in, taking some time to enjoy the sea view from our room and a quick lunch, we hiked to the top of a small mountain where a giant 32 m tall statue of Jesus stands.  Remind you of anywhere else in the world?  We climbed up a narrow spiral staircase to get to Jesus’ outstretched arms where we saw beautiful views of the city and the sea.

For dinner, we decided to go to a seafood restaurant recommended by our hotel and ranked #1 on Trip Advisor.  Ganh Hao is the largest restaurant that either of us has ever set foot in.  We were led in through one entrance and felt like we walked a city block before we got to our open air table overlooking the water.  We enjoyed a whole fresh sea bass cooked with onion and ginger, accompanied by rice paper wraps, vermicelli, herbs and vegetables as well as a fried vermicelli with seafood dish for ~$22 including drinks.

After gorging at the buffet breakfast the next morning, we hit the beach to digest and relax.  Chaplin was in his element.  Back Beach in Vung Tau is wide and mostly hard-packed sand.  The water was shallow, slightly rough and murky.  Still, we enjoyed alternating riding the waves (bodysurfing) and sunbathing.  Someone had to keep an eye on our belongings.  A number of friendly Vietnamese were somewhat enamoured with Jason and approached him to say hello.   One boy in particular rode wave after wave with me and after heading back to the beach it was soccer time.  A game of 4-on-4 broke out and by the end of it I was definitely feeling the heat.

The free hour was a long enough ride along the waterfront and through town on the tandem bike with a flat front tire from our hotel.  We decided to scope out a place for dinner on foot and lucky for us we found several seafood stands lining the street opposite our hotel.  We had grilled whole fish, prawns and the most delicious scallops served in the shell with butter, green onion and crunchy peanuts.  This dinner included the most expensive two bowls of plain rice we’ve had at $2.50 – definitely 'tourist’ prices.

The next day we planned to check out Long Hai beach about 25 km away and the best way to get there is by motorbike.   After ditching a manual bike we rented an automatic from the hotel... much easier to ride.   Jason quickly reacquainted himself with motorbike driving and Sylvia enjoyed the ride.  Things got a little crazier in town when we had to turn left in front of a hundred or so oncoming bikes.  We stopped in at the bus station to check on the options for getting to Mui Ne the next day and the gas station for a $3 fill-up.  With Sylvia navigating from the back we managed to stay on track despite several roundabouts and unfamiliar territory.  Long Hai beach was another nice stretch of sand with a fishing village at one end and upmarket hotels at the other. 

After a quick stop for seafood pho and a chat with an expat we made our way further up the coast.  Around a bend we found a beautiful shoreline.   Others clearly agreed because a bride and groom were having their photos taken there.  Further still we saw a sign for Minh Dam, a cave site mentioned in our guidebook, so we took the turnoff and drove up the steep hill.  With the help of the restaurateur / parking attendant we found the caves, but were too scared to descend the rope with no one else around.  Another path led up to a lookout with beautiful views of the coast.

On the way back, we decided to take on the traffic in town to get to the coastal road for a sunset ride.  Jason felt a strange sense of calm while weaving through the myriad of motorbikes, taxis, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, much like he does when cycling through traffic in Toronto.  And the ride was worth it, with the wind in our hair and the sun falling from the sky over fishing boats bobbing in the water.

The next morning we took advantage of our 24 hour rental with a few more motorbike photo ops.  Then it was time to pack up again and catch another bus.
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jennifer larson on

Hey, it is so much fun to see you two enjoying yourself ....................regardless, the guy got it through..........I am so proud of you!!


MCG on

Love the shades!

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