After spending a few days getting settled into dizzying Saigon (which you can read about here), I was in need of an escape from the city and the water was calling my name. If you find yourself in Saigon, there are a few fantastic day trips in the vicinity, including the Mekong Delta and Vung Tau – two destinations located on or near the water. Water serves as a central part of sustaining life in Vietnam, and I found myself instantly more relaxed after visiting both of these areas.
Floating Fish Restaurant
On our way to Vung Tau, my fellow Remote Year participants and I stopped at a local fishing village for lunch, where local fishermen were busy drying the day’s catch out in the sun.
We took a boat out to a floating fish farm and restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch of beautifully cooked fish.
Standing on Jesus’ Shoulders
After lunch, we headed towards Vung Tau – a popular weekend escape for local Vietnamese located on a peninsula surrounded by ocean (the South China Sea) on three sides. The city is surprisingly sophisticated with wide boulevards, nice roads, large resorts, and colonial era buildings. After the Vietnam/American War, Vung Tau became one of the key launching places for Vietnamese boats fleeing Communism. Today, the area is the largest crude oil extraction center of Vietnam, with oil tankers dotting the horizon.
One of the highlights of the trip was a climb up to the 105 ft (32 meter) Christ the King Statue at the top of Mount Nho, built by the Vietnam Catholic Association in 1974. Catholicism represents roughly 7% of Vietnam’ religious makeup, brought by Portuguese Catholic missionaries in the 16th century. You are able to climb the statue via a 133 step staircase in the middle of the statue to stand on Jesus’ outstretched arms for spectacular, panoramic views of Vung Tau and its surroundings. After our hike, we spent the afternoon enjoying the beach and a beautiful sunset dinner.
Coastal Living – Mekong Delta Style
After a wonderful day at the beach, a few Remote Year participants and I went to the Mekong Delta, a 15,000 square mile region of southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of rivers and channels. The delta is a force of nature, housing over 1,000 animal species, 17 million people and supplying a quarter of Vietnam’s agricultural products. Over 54% of Vietnam’s rice is also grown in this region, sustained by the water flowing over the flatlands.
Here is a short video from boating down the delta.
We had the opportunity to witness living on the Delta firsthand, passing by many of the waterfront homes along the river and even stopping at a fruit stand, anchored in the middle of the delta. According to our guide, her fruit stand is a thriving business, and we got to taste many of the exotic fruits Vietnam has to offer, including jackfruit, dragonfruit, mango, and guava.
As part of the tour, we stopped along the shore to visit a local fruit orchard and candy production facility where they made rice puff ginger candy and coconut peanut butter candy – both delicious and all natural.
A few of my Remote Year friends also tried their hand at catching fish in a tributary. I’m adventurous but had to decline that one!
My favorite part of the day was touring a nearby tributary in a wooden river boat, pushed by a woman and her single oar.
Urban Oasis in Saigon
Once back in Ho Chi Minh, my roommate, Michelle, and I decided to check out a local spa called La Maison de L’Apothiquaire Spa & Retreat. It’s one of the best, if not the best, spa experience I have ever had. We signed up for a half day spa package, which included a full body treatment, facial, manicure/pedicure, use of the spa facilities including sauna/steam room/pool, pick up from our hotel, and lunch…all for a whopping $100 USD. This is expensive by Vietnamese standards but a similar experience in the U.S. would have cost hundreds, if not thousands!
Next, I’ll share my experiences from being on the road in Hue and Hoi An.
5 Ways to Fit More Water into Your Life
- Visit your local beach for the day, or fly to one for the weekend
- Take a river cruise
- Go fishing for the day
- If all else fails, visit a local fish restaurant for a taste of the sea
- Drink more water:)
How do you incorporate water in your life?