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Introducing Vung Tau

A popular escape from the city for expats and locals alike, Vung Tau has long been overlooked by travellers from HCMC as they rush up the coast to Mui Ne or Nha Trang. Perhaps not for much longer thanks to the beautiful new coastal road connecting Vung Tau to Phan Thiet and Mui Ne via idyllic and empty beaches. Vung Tau rocks at weekends when HCMC exiles descend in numbers, but it is relatively quiet during the week. Vung Tau’s beaches have been a favourite of the Saigonese since French colonists first began coming here around 1890. It’s changed a bit since then and is now big and brash, with a somewhat seedy underbelly, as the infamous case of UK glam rocker Gary Glitter highlighted during 2005–06. Lots of retired Anzac servicemen have washed up here over the years, ensuring this is almost Vietnam’s answer to Pattaya.

Known under the French as Cap St Jacques, Vung Tau is on a peninsula jutting into the South China Sea, about 128km southeast of HCMC. The beaches here aren’t Vietnam’s best, but Vung Tau is a convenient beach fix from HCMC via the memorable hydrofoil ride. Oil is big business here, so the horizon is regularly dotted with oil tankers, and the industry has attracted a surprisingly large population of Russians to the city, who also make up a significant percentage of the tourists.