I suggested Vung Tau / Saigon as an easy trip from Phnom Penh on that other thread..
And here's why..doktor_d wrote:An easy cheap out of country trip from Phnom Penh is Saigon. About 6 hours by bus. $14-19 one way. A decent room in a guesthouse in Saigon can be had for $12-20 a night w/air-con, fridge, hot water, tv..
From Saigon, Vung Tau is only $8-10 per person / 1h 50m-2h 20m away with bus on the new express highway. Decent rooms can be had for a little as $7-12 a night. Beer is cheap. Food is cheap. There's a decent number of attractions in town. The beaches are ok.. Though in some areas you'll find just as much trash scattered around as on some Cambodian beaches. But the beach around Vung Tau surf club is pretty clean and decent looking.
Motos can be rented for $10 a day. If you drive regularly in Cambodia you'll have no problem driving there. No license needed but you have to wear a clownhat at all times or you will get stopped.
International drivers licenses are not valid in Vietnam, so driving a moto without a valid Vietnamese drivers license voids your insurance.
But hey, at least you have the choice of whether you want to take that risk or not. I'm all for the freedom of choice.
I'll start with some history from wikipedia:
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the cape that would become VÅ©ng TÃ u was a swamp which European trading ships visited regularly. The ships' activities inspired the name VÅ©ng TÃ u, which means "anchorage". The French Indochinese government named it Cap Saint-Jacques ("Cap Xanh Giáº¯c", in Vietnamese). The cliff of VÅ©ng TÃ u is now called MÅ©i Nghinh Phong (literally meaning "Cape of breeze welcome").
VÅ©ng TÃ u was originally referred to as Tam Tháº¯ng ("Three Boats") in memory of the first three villages in this area: Tháº¯ng Nháº¥t, Tháº¯ng Nhá»‹, Tháº¯ng Tam, within the province of BiÃªn HÃ²a under the Nguyá»…n Dynasty. Under the reign of king Gia Long (1761â€“1820), when Malay pirates built a base here and subsequently became a danger to traders in Gia Äá»‹nh city, the king sent his army to crack down on the pirates. The pirates were ousted and the troops were given the land as a reward. 10 February 1859 marked the first use of cannons by Nguyá»…n's army, when they fired at French battleships from the fortress of PhÆ°á»›c Tháº¯ng, located 100m from VÅ©ng TÃ u's Front Beach. This marked an important period in Vietnam's war against French invaders in South Vietnam (then called Cochinchina). In 1876, according to a decree by the French colonialists, VÅ©ng TÃ u was merged in BÃ Rá»‹a county per Saigon's administration. During the 1880s there talks about moving Saigon's port facilities to VÅ©ng TÃ u, but this came to nothing due to Saigon's better infrastructure.
On 1 May 1895, the governor of Cochinchina established by decree that Cap Saint Jacques would thereafter be an autonomous town. In 1898, Cap Saint Jacques was merged with BÃ Rá»‹a county once again, but re-divided in 1899. In 1901, the population of VÅ©ng TÃ u was 5,690, of which 2,000 persons were immigrants from North Vietnam. Most of the town's population made their living in the fishing industry. On 4 April 1905, Cap Saint Jacques was made an administrative district of BÃ Rá»‹a province. In 1929, Cap Saint Jacques became a province, and in 1934 became a city (commune). The French governor of Indochina, Paul Doumer (who later became President of France), built a mansion in VÅ©ng TÃ u that is still a prominent landmark.
During the Vietnam War, the 1st Australian Logistics Support Group was headquartered in VÅ©ng TÃ u â€“ as were various United States military units at different times. VÅ©ng TÃ u also became popular for R&R, amongst in-country US personnel.
After the war, VÅ©ng TÃ u was a common launching place for the "Vietnamese boat people" fleeing the communists. On 30 May 1979, VÅ©ng TÃ u town was made the capital of VÅ©ng TÃ u-CÃ´n Äáº£o Special Administrative Zone. On 12 August 1991, BÃ Rá»‹aâ€“VÅ©ng TÃ u Province was officially founded and VÅ©ng TÃ u town officially became VÅ©ng TÃ u City.
I've been to Vung Tau a couple of times and it's going to be a place I'll return to whenever I need a quick trip out of Cambodia to a quiet beach town.
I usually just book a ticket from one of the travel agencies on Pham Ngu Lao. This trip there were no hydrofoil boats due to a ban after an accident earlier this year, so I had to take the bus. This turned out to be a very good option as the new express way had recently been opened.. I bought a two-way ticket for $18.
I showed up at the travel agency 30 minutes before departure and had breakfast while waiting. When the bus arrived, on time, someone from the travel agency took me to the bus and took care of everything.
The bus trip took about 2 hours and the road was fantastic. On arrival in Vung Tau there was a minibus waiting to take people to their guesthouses for free.
I usually stay somewhere around the "back beach" area.. as it's the one of the two beaches that actually looks like a beach.
Front beach (BÃ£i TrÆ°á»›c) - Báº¡ch Dinh (Villa Blanche) can be seen next to the huge white building just left of the centre of the picture
Trash @ front beach - Like the beaches in Cambodia, some areas are riddled with trash.
Back beach (BÃ£i Sau) - I read somewhere that the sand was imported from Nha Trang(?)
There are plenty of taxi's around but I decided to rent a motorbike. Vung Tau is a little big to be walking everywhere IMO, but I guess a bicycle would do if that's your thing.
Most guesthouses and some pubs rent out motorbikes. From what I can understand, they rent from the same place. After a quick phone call a Vietnamese guy arrives on a motorbike (with a loan helmet), you hand over your passport + $10 (200.000 Dong) to the guesthouse owner/pub owner, and you have the bike for 24 hours.
to be continued..
For pizzas I'd recommend David Pizzeria
David Pizzeria - Great wood fired oven pizzas
For ice cold beer, football in a proper sports pub with air-con I'd recommend Lucy's sportsbar
(picture snagged from google)
For day time drinking.. Matilda's pub ain't a bad choice.
Matilda's Pub - Usually full of Australian/NZ war veterans and expats (pic from official website)
Plenty of Vietnamese restaurants all over the place as well. Both proper restaurants and street food stalls. As is bakeries, cafes and just about anything else you'd expect to find in a larger city.
Startling!doktor_d wrote:Plenty of Vietnamese restaurants all over the place as well.
One of my favourites is the old bunker on the way up to the Jesus statue. Turn left on Thuy Van onto Phan Cu Trinh, look for "HEM 220" on the left side of the road.. It's a tiny road going all the way up to the Jesus statue through a small shanty town.
(Map is not accurate - Just to give you an idea! Vung Tau surf club is further up on Thuy Van street on the right hand side. Going the other way, you'll find the official entrance to the Jesus statue (TÆ°á»£ng ChÃºa GiÃªsu KitÃ´). But you'll have to park the moto downstairs and walk all the way up.
After the shanty town you'll find yourself on this bumpy road.
Great view of the city from the road going up to the Jesus statue.
There are several spots on this mountain where you can find old french bunkers, forts and cannons. Most in really bad shape, and none listed as tourist attractions. There's not even any signs or indications that any of it's there. You wont find it unless you look around and explore..
Just before you get to the top, you'll pass this. To the left of this building you'll see some stairs. There's an old French bunker there.
The stairs on the right leads up to a huge cannon above the bunker and a water reservoir. The bunker itself is empty and it's pitch black in there. I didn't have a flashlight so I had to use the phone to see where I was going. I was in flip-flops and cargo shorts so I had to watch my step.
Got a Beng Mealea vibe from the tree vines hugging the bunker walls..
Inside the bunker there wasn't much to see. But it was still in pretty good shape.
The cannon is just above this room.
Huge spider on the wall beneath the window.
This is the huge cannon on top of the bunker
This cannon was a little harder to find.. It's further down the road before you get to the bunker. Take a right at the fork in the road.
The Jesus statue at the top of the mountain.
There are some more old cannons at the foot of the Jesus statue and also some old ruins. I walked down some stairs to take pictures..
But only got this one before some soldier started shouting at me from inside a house (there were some uniforms hung out to dry outside) and a guard dog came running at me barking like mad! I stood still and lowered my camera.. the dog didn't attack, but stopped about a half meter from me and was extremely aggressive. Barking loudly.. baring his teeth. I slowly turned around and walked down the road away from the place and it followed me all the way barking like mad.. At one point i felt it was going to jump me and I turned around quickly and confronted it and it backed off a meter, then I slowly walked on and it kept following me barking aggressively all the way til this sign :
There was no such sign upstairs so I had no idea it was a restricted area. But it was really early and quiet and I was the only tourist there so maybe they hadn't put it up yet? I don't know..
Anyway.. I took the hint and avoided that area. Later I drove down to the main entrance where you can walk up to the Jesus statue.
The restaurant adjacent to it is now closed and all stripped down. And the beach area is dead quiet. Not a person there..
Used to be a very popular beach.
EDITED: for grammar.
There was noone around. Only monkeys, birds, snakes, insects and lizards. It was eerily quiet actually.StroppyChops wrote:Nice reporting, doktor_d. You weren't challenged about roaming around the placements - nobody cared?
Báº¡ch Dinh (Villa Blanche), Along Tráº§n PhÃº Street. Built by the French (1898-1916) as a summer holiday house of French Governor General Paul Doumer. The building was named Villa Blanche after his favorite daughter. The name Villa Blanche or Bach Dinh coincides its appearance, for that season, the local people call it Báº¡ch Dinh (White palace). Later, some Indochina-French Governors used this summer house occasionally so itâ€™s also called â€œVilla du Gouverneurâ€ (Dinh Toan Quyen). Both Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu used it as well for recreation and holiday. It made the name Dinh Ong Thuong (Palace of Lord appear). Villa Blanche is located on the slop of Big Mountain, along Tran Phu St., at 50m above sea level. The outside walls were decorated with beading and the Hellenic statues. This was also the location where the French colonialists placed Thanh Thai Kin under house arrest. He belonged to the last feudalistic dynasty in Vietnam and fought against the French before exiling him to Reunion Island off the coast of Africa (1909-1910). From its balcony there's a panoramic view of Front Beach and opposite the Villa at the foot of that mountain is Hai Nguu islet with a stone rock shaped like a water buffalo wallowing in water. Next to Hai Nguu at the seaside was the helicopter yard. Today Villa Blanche exhibits hundreds of antiques collected from Cau Islet-Con Dao and is the culture destination attracts hundreds of tourists every day.