Living in Vietnam for more than 8 months now, I could say that this country is not done yet surprising me with its stunning and charming places. I could honestly say that I have never expected Vietnam to be this lovely.
Just last weekend, a Vietnamese colleague and friend, Rosie, invited me to her hometown in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province. This place is just two hours away from Ho Chi Minh city and could easily be reached by bus, van or even motorbike. And yes, even though it’s just near the city center, I didn’t have the luxury of time to visit this small province before. Not until last weekend. All thanks to my good Vietnamese friend who was kind and hospitable enough to invite me to her place.
On the road to Vung Tau
When the clock struck 6:00 last Friday, me and my friend hurriedly turned off our computers, got our stuff and went straight to the ground floor and waited for a cab that will take us to the bus terminal going to Vung Tau.
It wasn’t actually a bus but a van that brought us to Vung Tau. A smooth, comfortable less than 2 hours ride for only VND 80,000. There was one stop-over on the way for those who want to go to the comfort room or buy something to eat.
We left Ho Chi Minh city around 7pm and we arrived at Rosie’s house in Vung Tau around 8:30 pm. While approaching the town proper of Vung Tau, I kept saying to my friend that that was not how I imagined Vung Tau to be. Before I had my eyes laid on this small town, I imagined Vung Tau to be very rural — like grass fields on both sides of the road, traditional wooden houses, not much people on the streets, and all the countryside images you can think of.
But the Vung Tau I saw last weekend was way different from what I’d imagined. The town is more like a small city within the suburbs but very vibrant and full of life. You wouldn’t even feel you are away from Ho Chi Minh city, except for some areas where you can only see the sea and mountain.
For a starter, my friend’s house is really gorgeous! It’s the type you usually see on TV series. It’s a modern Vietnamese house with really yummy colors. I even joked Rosie that her house is like a big ice cream for me.
The next day, my friend and her parents toured me around the town and tried various types of Vietnamese food I fondly call “Vung Tau hits.” I tried Banh khot for breakfast and Rosie’s mom’s special version of mon cuon or rolled in rice paper dish, and cha ca or fish cake. Then for dinner, we had seafood hotpot that’s really ngon (delicious in Vietnamese)! And before we capped the night off, Rosie and her friend even let me have that Turkish ice cream and the banh bong lan (cheese cupcake) I’ve been raving to have! It was such a tummy-filled night!
A memorable trip
The whole day might not be enough to see all the wonderful tourist spots in Vung Tau and experience swimming on its beach waters, but nevertheless, it was a tour worth having. Aside from the fact that it was a free tour– all thanks to Rosie and her family — I was able to see Vung Tau from the local’s perspectives. I actually felt not a tourist that time but more of a visiting relative from another part of Vietnam. That was what Rosie and her family made me feel that time. They were so welcoming, warm and hospitable. Perhaps, that was what made this trip really memorable. It might just be a usual tour along the countryside of Vietnam, but the people who welcomed me there made a lot of difference.
That short Vung Tau trip made me appreciate Vietnam more, especially its people. It made me see the Vietnamese people in a different light. It was also a good chance for me to really get to experience the local’s way of life and how the local family treat each other. I realized that the Vietnamese and Filipino families are not really very different when it comes to how they value their families. Both countries give high value to family relationships and have a really close ties among the members. If not for the language difference, I would have felt that I’m actually just spending time with my close relatives.
Vung Tau may not be as stunning or as famous as the other tourists destinations in Vietnam, but it definitely charmed my heart with its simplicity and laid-back feel. Moreover, the people who welcomed me there and let me in their humble abode made me realized how blessed I am to be able to experience another culture and be treated like I’m actually a part of the family. This trip is definitely one for the memory box:-)