Night birds (1)
I am not (really not!) a beach goer, so I visited the city when I was not at the conference, “discovered” some Buddhist temples, visited the marked, got lost in the small streets. . . tried to photograph the local life. . . dreamed in the streets,. . . things I like. And I also was out at night, and had some . . . eeeuuuhhhh. . . . . , how to say? . . . interesting encounters, sorts of local customs, which, if I do not “approve”, (writing “not approving”, I mean, I have no value judgment to express about that custom, I just have the feeling that “special tourists” are promoting this sort of thing, and I do not belong to the species which practises that sort of “tourism”).
However, I think that these night bars give much more character to a place than the standardised- franchised “clean” places (like Starb. . café, Hard ro. . café, and all that sort of Mickey Mouse standardised brands which colonise the planet. . . . . ) you find in many cities of Vietnam and elsewhere in South east Asia; this is real life in some way, and, I found my visit in two of these places quite interesting, unexpectedly. . . . . . and in fact, if these bars are not “innocent”, it is not that bad as I first feared. And, finally, this is “heritage” from the American troops which were here for R&R!
Is it not difficult to resist when such a lady says “welcome”, as written on the door behind her, with a great smile? I stayed outside and the girls, not busy, were very kind posing for the curious foreigner, sitting on a big motorbike (picture 2), posing as groups, (picture 3), or demonstrating friendship or solidarity (picture 4). It was one of these places, with red light, of course (picture 5)! I did not “visit” inside one of these, but walking further, I finally decided to have a look inside another of these “establishments” (next “tip”).
The oldest Pagoda: Linh Son Co Tu Pagoda
This pagoda is not very spectacular when you discover it from the street, but is said to be the oldest of Vung Tau area, rebuilt in 1919, after the French occupied the land and built their houses. . . . .
A very nice tower with a lotus flower motif on the roof, with hundred of gold painted Buddha (Main picture ) statues is the most remarkable sight of this temple, with very elegant dragons above the entrance. A small garden at the back with lotus flowers is a nice place to have a rest for a while.
Inside are a number of statues of deities with rich paintings, where worshippers bring their gifts and burn incense sticks (picture 2), a Buddha with a painted halo (picture 3), a strange warrior with a long red tongue (picture 4) and many other statues; these painted statues are impressive; the main altar (picture 5) is not less impressive with its numerous gold plated statues.
It is really worth to visit inside for some time, watch people and be impressed by the rich decoration of this pagoda which, from outside looks just common until you see the square tower and its roof; you then want to go inside. . . .
Topophilia: Vung Tau.
Jesus Christ ! And On A Mountain.
If you go do it on a Vung Tau mountain you can partially escape the Conradian horror that has become capitalist Viet Nam.
The horror that is the motorcycle horn, the squawking beep. The horror that is the taxi horn. A racket made by the working class male muppet in car, showing off with his ego on overdrive, horn. The horror that is a public bus with the intrusive racket of an air horned cell phone tune.
Viet Nam. It is the death of the bicycle bell's beautiful tinkle. A sad death by ten million Yamaha, Honda and Mercedes cuts. Belezebub's himself could have ridden into town on the internal combustion engine.
But if you jump into a cable car and waft yourself up to the relatively quieter haven in the "Cloud Lake and Ecotourism - Big Mountain - Vung Tau City" then you can reclaim back at least a dozen or so decibels.
The thing is that to most overseas visitors to Vung Tau it is the Jesus up on a mountain ( a la Rio ) that gets all the publicity. I can understand that. As, whatever the plural is of, Jesus go the Vung Tau Jesus version is definitely a "kmee look at that up there" sort of Jesus. Massive. Arms outstretched, nice hands (not suasage fingered), trimmed nails, biblical beard, caring eyes, hollow cheek bones and trim body - not worked out but neither chubby - very Charlton Heston.
How they got the wheelbarrows of cement up there begs belief.
But get this. The Vung Tau Jesus, and the hill it's on, doesn't even get a mention in the Post Socialist tourist blurb for the Khu Du Lich Sinh Thai Van Hoa - Ho May - Nui Lon TP. Vung Tau (that's the Cloud Lake Cultural and Ecotourism - Big Mountain - Vung Taua City, for those not paying attention earlier).
"Big Mountain - Small Mountain. Mother nature has bestowed upon Vung Tau with two mountains: Big Mountain, also known as Mountain Tuong Ky has a height of 250 meter above sea level, an area of 7 million meter square. Small Mountain, also know as Mountain Tuoung Phung, is 170 meter above sea level with an area 4 million square." (Their grammar and spelling, not mine.) "Cloud Lake cultural and ecotourism is situated on the top of Big Mountain with an overall area of 300,000 square meter."
Got that? Big Mountain is obviously, to those in the statistical know, pretty big when it comes to the square meters.
They're also pretty chuffed with getting up there. "Station No. 1. The cable car starts from Station No. 1. It's considered the most beautiful cable car station in Viet Nam. Ends in Station No. 2, the top of Big Mountain."
When you get off the cable car, you can get a dollar can of Tiger in the cafe next to the statue of Uncle Ho. He's done in gold. A gold colour. And off in the distance you can look over at what looks a pretty p.issy mountain in comparison, the one with Jesus on. Doing his Rio.
Here's what the brochure has to say about Jesus' mountain... ...nothing. Instead we get more on Big and Small Mountain. "Because their unique location so that no one was allowed to approach these mountains. As a until today, Big and Small Mountain still remain mystery to everyone." They lost me on that one, but I'm getting the gist. The big mountain that they are now building a theme park on and on which they are constructing a dobbing great laughing buddha "Tuong Phat Di Lac / Maitreya Buddha" and the small mountain on which they've plonked their cell phone aerial mast is what the chiefs in charge of tourism would have us visit first.
still to finish and edit
Beach Town Vung Tau
We got here by hiring a taxi driver for 36 hours from a local travel agent we happened to pass by in Ho Chi Ming City. The vehicle was an Opel Sedan with aircon and very comfortable.
This is a nice and quiet resort town with good seafood restaurants.