Vũng Tàu is a small port city that is a couple of hours away from Ho Chi Minh. I came here with my Vietnamese girlfriend to pay homage to the iconic Jesus statue. This white figure with arms widespread has become one of the most recognisable landmarks of Vietnam in recent times. However, no visit to Vũng Tàu is complete without trying the equally-famous seafood at Ganh Hao restaurant.
Getting to Vũng Tàu
The easiest way to get to Vũng Tàu is by taking a bus from Ho Chi Minh airport. A luxury limousine bus service departs regularly from the airport for around $15 Singapore dollars a ticket. Check out the bus timetable here. The journey time is just under 3 hours depending on traffic.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Mercure Hotel along Hạ Long, which is the main beach strip. You’d hardly guess it was a chain hotel with its unique Europeanesque design. The hotel is a sprawling stretch of cream-coloured banisters, leafy trees and romantic balconies overlooking the beach. Our rooms were located on the top level, which proved to be a good work-out for our legs. This old fashioned building has no elevators!
The hotel also has an in-house beauty parlour. We enjoyed a very relaxing foot massage during our stay for a reasonable price.
The Jesus Statue
Visiting the iconic Jesus Statue was the highlight of my trip. From the Mercure Hotel it was an 8 minute walk along the beach front to get the base of the summit. We entered the summit park through a decorative entrance flanked by stone cherubs and bright pot plants.
The incline was gradual at first and we did not lose breath climbing the first few rounds of stairs. We eventually reached a small vantage point from which we could see a sweeping view of the seaside below. This is the half-way mark!
From here on out there is a steep staircase to ascend. As we urged our legs to keep climbing we beheld the majestic Jesus looming in front of us. It was an awesome sight to see the son of god with white arms outstretched against a vivid blue sky.
After 20 minutes of walking we finally reached the peak. We were completely out of breath but the view was fabulous. For daredevils who want any even better view and aren’t afraid of heights, you can climb up inside the statue. There is a dangerously steep, winding staircase that brings you to a balcony at Jesus’ shoulders. The sheer height made me feel dizzy!
Ganh Hao Seafood
We worked up a big appetite after climbing all those stairs up and down to see the Jesus statue. So we hopped in a taxi to go to Ganh Hao seafood restaurant. Ganh Hao is almost as famous as the Jesus statue himself. The place is always packed to the brim with Vietnamese holiday makers so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Their official website is written in Vietnamese (didn’t I tell you the locals love it) but there are contact details available on Trip Advisor. Otherwise ask your hotel to make the reservation for you.
Ganh Hao restaurant is located right on the beach. We sipped on some fresh coconut water to begin with as we enjoyed the cool breeze. We ordered mornay oysters, prawn salad and fried rice crackers as an appetiser. The salad was a standout-dish, chock-full of pickled roots and crushed peanuts, which complimented the juiciness of the prawns.
We followed this up with more seafood (of course). For main course we shared some barbecue cuttlefish that was marinated in a special zesty sauce. The grand finale was a big bubbling pot of seafood soup. The soup tasted similar to a clear tom yum, containing fresh lemongrass and ginger, along with fat chunks of white fish.
We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the beach to help digest our meal before hopping on a bus back to Ho Chi Minh.
Vũng Tàu is a lovely seaside town that you can easily visit from Ho Chi Minh city. If you are keen to see the Jesus statue and enjoy a seafood lunch, one night is all you need here. However, many Vietnamese locals visit Vũng Tàu for a longer beach holiday stay.