With a very early morning, we left for Vung Tau at 6am. Prepared for a 3 hour drive, I listened to some music and looked out the window, trying to get a little nap in after the morning wake up. It took about half an hour just to get out of HCMC since the Vietnamese work day starts a little earlier than ours in the states, so we hit rush hour traffic.
Once we finally got out of the city, the transition from developed metropolis to jungle huts was almost instantaneous. HCMC has no suburbs. Once the city ends, the rice paddies start and the modern luxury ends. I was taken aback at how quickly and drastically the change happened. I knew that in the 3 hours in between a major city and resort town, there would be some remnants of third world level of living but it blew my mind how much of a stark difference there was between the city and the immediate surroundings. There were a lot of road projects and construction being started closer to both HCMC and Vung Tau. Most of the last hour was a ride along the highway with only about a block’s of shops off the main road. The actual shops, restaurants and commercial buildings were pretty low resolution, just basic concrete cubes, but the temples and pagodas were incredibly intricate along the entire route to Vung Tau, which shows how much the Vietnamese value their tradition and religion.
We entered Vung Tau and pulled off the side of the road. I woke up to people exiting the bus and I had to ask where we were. We had arrived at the largest statue of Jesus in all of Asia, Christ of Vung Tau. Walking up 847 to the top, along the way there were dozens of stunning statues of biblical figures like Moses and the 12 Apostles.
Just before reaching Christ’s feet, a stunning statue of Mary holding Jesus off the cross took my breath away.
Once getting to the feet of Jesus, I had to take my shoes off in order to enter and get up on his shoulders. The last set of steps were hot, sweaty and tight, but the effort was worth it. Looking out over the ocean and city of Vung Tau completely astonished me. The gorgeous view above the rest of the world could not have been any better. I got back to the bottom of Jesus and I put my shoes back on. The surrounding grottoes at the base of Christ’s feet had many more interesting statues and photo ops. There was even an old artillery gun right next to Jesus that seemed very out of place but was also very cool.
Walking back down the 800+ steps and getting back on the bus, it was time for the resort in Vung Tau. The resort was a lot smaller and more laid back than those I’ve seen pictures of in the US, but was very similar to the resort I went to in Mexico over winter break. Vung Tau was actually very similar in size and development level to Ixtapa, Mexico in that the resorts are very high quality but smaller, but the town is less developed.
After enjoying a delicious meal, a dip in the South China Sea, and playing some tips in the pool with the boys, I took a little time to myself to read on the beach. But once I really started getting into my book, a thunderstorm rolled in and rained out the last hour of our day. Once the bus arrived we headed back to the hotel, where I grabbed a quick shower and some pizza. Don’t know what else is in store tonight but might just be a little more relaxing in the hotel. Very excited for the Cu Chi tunnels tomorrow!