After a few days full of classes and company tours, today we were able to take a little break from academics with a trip to the gorgeous coastal city of Vung Tau. On the way to this destination, however, it was interesting to note some of the towns and communities we passed through.
For the majority of the trip, we observed rural farming communities and their sprawling rice fields. It was a drastic difference from the urban environment I’ve quickly become accustomed to, but the nature was beautiful and it was fascinating to get a quick look at rice farming, a practice that is solidly at the heart of Vietnamese culture. Besides these tiny villages, we also passed through a few small urban areas as well. These, however, were very similar to many of the areas of Ho Chi Minh City that we have visited so far, so they did not really stand out much to me. Lastly, I was surprised a bit by what I saw once we finally arrived in the city of Vung Tau. As a resort town, I was expecting to see many large hotels and commercial business areas all throughout the city. While this was true of many parts of the coastline and beach front properties, beyond that stretch of land the urban area was quite downtrodden. In fact, just a few blocks away from our hotel was a large collection of slums filled with tiny shacks that looked as though they could collapse at any moment. This stark contrast was surprising to me, as this was not the type of “resort town” I was expecting to find.
Once we got the long two hour drive out of the way, our first activity upon arriving was to visit the immense statue of Jesus that overlooks the city of Vung Tau from its perch high on a hilltop. After climbing up the eight hundred and eleven steps required to reach the top, we were immediately stunned by the enormity of the statue, as well as the panoramic views of the city. It then got even better, though, as were able to actually climb up through the statue and ultimately get to look out from the outstretched arm of the Lord himself. While my fear of heights made me a little uneasy throughout the process, it was still a truly unique experience.
We then descended back down the peak and, after a quick bus ride, arrived at our next destination, the Imperial Beach Club. We spent the rest of the day here enjoying the ocean, the pool, and the delicious lunch served to us by the club itself. Despite the sunburn that no one was able to escape, it was truly a wonderful day of relaxation and bonding as a group.