Even by bicycle, the beach is really close to Saigon. Technically, Saigon even has a beach, since Can Gio district belongs to Ho Chi Minh City administration. But today we will focus on a more set up for tourists and that many people who live in Saigon know for sure: Vung Tau. About one hour away by the hydrofoil boats that recently resumed operations after a ban due to a fire last January, or a bit longer by motorized vehicle, it is worth going there by bicycle and spend a couple of days relaxing by the sea.
It’s around 90 kilometer from Saigon city center, which is easily done for riders with an acceptable level of fitness, since there are no big hills. The only one is the Phu My Bridge, that you have to climb and descend before getting the Cat Lai ferry. It will still not be strictly the countryside, but you will avoid the big traffic from highway number 1 and the distance is shorter. After a few kilometers along the Ton Duc Thang road, you will have to turn right and follow the road AH 17. Here you will have to go across some big towns and industrial areas, until you reach Ba Ria City 40 kilometers later. You can already smell the sea, but it’s still not there. Maybe it’s a good idea to stop for lunch before the last ten kilometers to the sea, here you can finally relax.
Although it is often dismissed by many foreign tourists, Vung Tau has a lot to offer. Known as Cap Saint Jacques during the French time, this coastal city gives Saigoneers some fresh air and rest from buzzing Ho Chi Minh City. Thousands of locals go there during public holidays, so it’s good to avoid those days if you are looking for some peace. You can climb to the Christ mountain, a local version of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf mountain, from where you have stunning views of the bay. Or you can try more unconventional ideas, like watching the greyhound races at the Lam Son stadium, one of the few venues where gambling is allowed for locals. If you want to see other animals than greyhounds, Ho May ecotourism may be worth a visit. Or if you are tired from the trip and all you want is relax, go to any seafood restaurant downtown, seat down, order a beer and enjoy the local specialties.
If you have the energy, you can also keep cycling. You can choose to go from Ba Ria to Loc An through rice fields, or to follow the coastal road from Vung Tau through Long Hai. The road keeps going northwards along the coast, the beginning of a new adventure if you have the time and the energy. But this will be the topic of another post…