Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vung Tau -- Great Beaches, Petro Port, Great Food and WONDERFUL FAMILY HOSTS

All of us at the local tasty cafe for sea food and friendship
Vung Tau is a beautiful, medium size (about the size of Long Beach, CA) city located on the South Sea Coast 2 hours from HCMC by 9 passenger van.  The driver follows National Hiway 1A out of HCMC to the northeast and then we turned south on a newly built thruway as nice as our's in California. We passed through small cities, agricultural areas, and several shrimp fields, a major enterprise in the area.  When we arrived in Vung Tau we grabbed a small taxi from the private van station to Thi's home where her mom greeted us and quickly served us with a  lunch featuring local dishes including octopus, squid, shrimp, chicken and local  fresh vegetables.
Big Buddha overlooking Vi Bac Mountain and the bay at Vung Tau
 After eating and talking for a while Thi and her mom walked us around to our hotel two short blocks away.  It was a very nice: clean, comfortable, our own bathroom and only $18  per night (You can live/vacation inexpensively in Vietnam in the smaller cities and country areas and even in the big cities if you are willing to go "three star").  We had a little nap and then took a long walk up a local mountain Vi Bac that overlooks the bay at Vung Tau where we saw lots of fishing boats and oil tankers and container ships in the port.  We were impressed by the industrial activities and eager to talk with Thi's father who works in the Petroleum Industry.
Hey, its a beach.
The mountain climb turned out to be quite rigorous and by the time we got up and down it was time for dinner with the whole family since Thi's dad was home from work. We had dinner out at a local restaurant a few blocks from our hosts' home -- the picture upper left shows our group at the restaurant.

We got a good rest Saturday night after our mountain climbing and on Sunday morning went out to read books and drink coffee (below left) before going to the beach.  We also got into conversations with local neighborhood folks who were relaxing with coffee. 

The beach pictures barely do justice to the gorgeous, restful town and the people.  The area where we swam was very clean and not too crowded in mid-morning.  You might note to the right a beach umbrella,  table and as many chairs as we wanted were rented for $5 a day.  We were only there for maybe an hour but it was a good deal!  After a refreshing swim in a warm sea with pretty active surf, the tide was coming in.  We hung out on the beach for a while and then returned to Thi's home for another lunch with Thi's artist mom (she embroiders beautiful painting-like wall pieces), sisters and baby brother.  

Then after another sea food and chicken lunch we went back to grab some reading time at the coffee shop we had visited in the morning.  Thi and her family (her father was still at work -- overtime) relaxed at home with the typical early afternoon nap.

Sunday morning Coffee and Book reading time
The indoor-outdoor cafe/coffee house was a perfect place to relax during the couple of hours during "siesta time" for other people.  We were an oddity, not taking a nap during the afternoon.  Late afternoon Thi's father got home from work and we all got to enjoy a traditional fresh seafood dinner before we headed back for HCMC and the University.  We had beer to go  with our meal and afterward before leaving we had a drink of a favorite liquor made with mushrooms with a smooth but strong content.  To enjoy it more I had a second round with Thi's father and we both called out our mot, hai, ba, Yo as we downed our shots.  Then it was travel time.  Thi's Mom escorted us over to the van station.  I rode behind mom on her motorbike and just had a great old time as she transported me to the station.  The others walked!

The van ride back to HCMC was in the dark of night on a sometimes rainy highway and we passed one accident site where at least four motorbikes had crashed but we didn't see any casualties but having been a bike rider I just know it might have been serious.  The van would stop here and there to pickup or drop off a passenger.  In the seat in front of us were two women from Poland who had been vacationing in Vietnam for about a month and were returning home.
A Sunday morning street life shot in Vaung Tau

 The shot below is at Thi's middle school where we visited and enjoyed the company of not just Thi but of a class of students who were there on a Saturday preparing for a special exam. The other school picture is of Leanna and Thi by the statue of  scholar Vo Trung who the school is named after.

Leanna, Thi and Scholar Vo Trung

Mom and Daughter Thi at restaurant.
Talking with the students at the middle school

Proud poppa and his 18 month old son!
Leanna and two of Thi's sisters.

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