Today, we started driving to the resort town of Vung Tau at 6am for our beach day. In Vietnam, because it is closer to the equator than Pittsburgh, it gets light earlier, so when my alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning, it was already sunny outside which made getting up much more bearable. As we drove, I got to see much more of the surrounding area of Ho Chi Minh city. It was very interesting to see the different rural and semi-urban areas that we passed. Not too far outside of the city, we passed rice farmers with the traditional cone-shaped straw hats, and cows wandering around the side of the highway. Much of the area that we passed seemed vaguely suburban, but it was sometimes hard to tell because of the vegetation along the sides of the road. Sometimes, you could see shanty-like structures within the vegetation, and there were many vendors selling goods out of their motorbikes from the side of the road. Many of the buildings and small towns that we passed seemed to be in disrepair. Vung Tau seemed similar in some ways to other resort towns I’ve seen. It had a similar walkway along the beach, and private resort beaches separated from the public beaches. However, there did not appear to be as much a tourist influence as in other resort towns. On the way there, my Vietnamese friend told me that for some unknown reason, every Saturday night, dogs walk the streets of Vung Tau. I couldn’t tell if she was saying that this was a random occurrence or if it was a planned, weekly event, but no matter what it was a funny factoid to learn.
After two hours of driving, we stopped and hiked up either a large hill or a small mountain to the Jesus Statue, taking many pictures along the way. At one point, we were trying to take a group picture and a group of small Vietnamese women came over to us and went around, shaking all of our hands. They kept hovering around us, and we really didn’t know what they wanted because they didn’t speak English, and our Vietnamese friends didn’t understand their dialect. Eventually, we just continued trying to take our picture, and then they started posing a couple steps down from us, and we realized that for whatever reason, they wanted to join us in the picture.
After we successfully climbed the small spiral staircase to get to the top of the Jesus Statue, we walked back down and the bus drove us to the resort. It was the perfect beach experience, minus minor stinging from the very salty sea water. The resort had a beautiful infinity swimming pool, surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs and umbrellas. It was such a picturesque setting and so nice to spend the day with friends.