Equipped with a loaded 50 SPF sunscreen spray in one hand and a fully-charged camera in the other, I was more than ready to tackle today’s challenge: trekking up an obscene amount of steps and tanning to the point I looked visually unrecognizable.
After consecutive days of classes and company site visits, a day comprised entirely around visiting tourist attractions was much needed to change the pace of things.
So, we first met in the hotel lobby at 6 am and set off, taking a two hour bus ride to a wildly popular tourist hot spot called Vung Tau. Along the way, I was able to observe many shocking revelations about the various different communities in Vietnam that one wouldn’t find in Ho Chi Minh City. Drifting away from the city, we gradually watched our view around us shift from a congested developing area to neglected farmland and rundown shops.
Along the highway from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, it became very clear that regions outside of the city were going to be drastically different. For one, there were an abundance of rice fields, marsh lands, and even slums beside the roadway. On some occasions, you would find farmers wearing their straw hats tending to the crops and applying treatment to the soil around them. Even though I have driven past my fair share of farmland back home, for some odd reason it is an entirely different experience when you’re in a foreign country and viewing it from a different perspective.
As we got farther out, small shops and restaurants began stretching for miles as all you could see out your window were these battered torn structures remarkably still standing in place after all this time. With that said, business is packing in these places as motorbikes and Vietnamese would populate the area and cause a hold up for any passerby hoping to just drive through without any hassle. Maybe it is because I am Vietnamese, but I had a soft spot for these people who were just going about their daily lives and surviving through such tough conditions; they didn’t ask for it but are making it work.
Speaking of which, the Vietnamese people that we saw out and about in these lower-end communities were indeed most likely lower-class since the clothing they wore were less “fashionable” and they looked much darker than the Vietnamese you would interact with in Ho Chi Minh City, suggesting they spent more time outside than the city folks. Of course, I could be wrong and have just mistakenly profiled and entire group of people.
When we arrived in Vung Tau, our first sightseeing location was to the Jesus Statue. I had no idea what exactly we were going to do there except that we were going to have to walk a lot. Boy did I wish I packed sneakers because the amount of steps we had to take to get to the statue was out of this world (I swear there are at least 1000 steps). By the time I got up there, my quads were burning in pain and I was literally sweating like a pig. At least I got a good workout that morning.
Anyways, the view along the way made everything worth it because every so often we would stop at some overlook and take as many photos as we could before we had to catch up with the remaining group again. It really was breathtaking being up that high and seeing the city around you from afar. Especially up on the Jesus Statue, the view was to die for. I highly recommend anyone interested in visiting Vietnam to at least check out the Jesus Statue if they want amazing pictures and a greater sense of spirituality because the environment was truly serene with locals constantly giving us their blessing.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing at Vung Tau beach and in the Imperial Hotel’s outdoor pool area. Combining the hotel’s luxurious decor and cool ocean breeze, today was honestly one of my favorite days yet. Although Vung Tau is like any other resort town back in the states with numerous hotel chains, restaurants and stores throughout, what makes it standout from the rest is because of personal reasons.
As I have stated before, one of my main incentives for choosing Vietnam was due to my personal agenda of connecting with my origin and gaining insight into my parents’ past. When I told my parents that we would be taking a day trip to Vung Tau, they immediately recognized the name and gave me stories of them when they were young at Vung Tau. Thus, when walking along the beach and making imprints in the sand, I couldn’t help but imagine my parents as their younger selves running loose on the beach without a care in the world. It has been far overdue since the last time they set foot back onto the beaches of Vung Tau. Had I not told them, their memory of this precious point in their lives would have been forgotten forever.
Particularly seeing other Vietnamese families at the beach with their children, a huge wave of emotion took over me as I fought the tears rolling down my cheeks. I have always valued my family first when it comes to anything, so getting the opportunity to see other families in Vietnam finally allowed me to put myself in their shoes and envision a life I would have had here. Sitting alone on the beach and deeply breathing in the fresh air as I stared out into the horizon allowed me to collect my thoughts. It allowed me to fill up missing gaps I had of my parents’ childhood and create new pieces that would fit into my life that is an ongoing puzzle needing to be solved.
Until next time friends