I am embarking on my first ever taxi ride in Vietnam and although the hotel called the taxi, panic was simmering below the surface. When the driver starts asking questions that I don’t understand, I thrust the piece of paper with the hydrofoil ferry address on it at him, hoping that he’s asking for the address. Seems he was and a short while later we arrive at the street, but where number 5 should be, there is nothing but corrugated iron fences surrounding what used to be a row of shopfronts. The driver perseveres and a few numbers along, we appear to have arrived at the docks or at least a driveway with a sign that has a picture of a boat on it. I pay the driver 51,000 dong and grab my bags. Common sense leads me to walk straight ahead towards the water and I finally see a red sign with Vina Express written on it. I follow the signs like a breadcrumb trail until I come to a small box office next to a cafe. I am in the right place. Now I wait.
There are other people here, a couple with an unmistakeable Aussie accent, feeding and cuddling a stray cat, a can of Tiger beer at his elbow (it’s 9.30am), a couple of cyclists and other assorted couples.
HCMC’s hydrofoils have been shut down for years after a space of at sea mishaps which included numerous fires. They have only just been relaunched, but this is possibly not a longterm plan. My uncle usually takes the bus. So I hope this trip is all good.
The hydrofoil hums away dockside, and I’ve gotta be honest, it looks a bit dodgy. At least there seems to be plenty of lifejackets.
Being a Thursday, the ferry to Vung Tau is not busy. Vung Tau is a seaside destination for HCMC locals you see and most visitors are day-trippers. Apart from that its populated by ex-pats, Vietnam vets and oil-rig workers.
I pop down a Kwell and pray to the seagods to give me a smooth ride. The boat takes off pretty much dead on 10am. Being such an old beast, the boat is incredibly noisy and I found my earphones to be a blessing. I look around the boat, noting the brocaded turquoise curtains which would have been fresh and new at one stage but like a 70 year old man who struggles to maintain and repair everything himself with whatever he can find around the house rather than pay to get it fixed properly, they have been left out of the maintenance schedule. And there’ll be no good photos out of these plastic scratched plastic view holes. The trip is smooth and uneventful though and in just 1 hour and 20 minutes, my first glimpse of Vung Tau appeared through the grotty, scratched windows.
My uncle is waiting at the end of the jetty with his girlfriend, Moon, and after hugs and hellos, we sit down at the dockside restaurant for some beers and lunch. I find out that the ferries are 20 year old Russian things.
After lunch, we catch a taxi to the apartments where I will be spending the next few nights. The grounds of the Sunshine Residences are lovely with flowering frangipani flowers and a sparkling blue swimming pool. The room is simply furnished but contains most of what I’ll need, the rest we take care of at a local department-style supermarket.
I have the afternoon to relax and unpack my desperately dirty clothes which I put aside for the washing service tomorrow. Dinner is at Gahn Hao, a seafood restaurant set overlooking the beach. The food, which Moon selects for us, is simple and tasty, not to mention extremely well valued compared to Australian prices. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos (extremely unlike me!) so here’s one I
stole ‘borrowed’ off Gahn Hao’s website…
As you can see, it’s quite the pretty little setting. I like what I’ve seen of Vung Tau so far and wonder what this quiet little island has to offer. Tomorrow I’ll will find out.
Note: subsequent to this trip, the old Russian hydrofoil ferries were removed from service and replaced with new Pacific Express boats.