Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vung Tau: Part One

At Gavin's request, we took a little holiday to the beach for his 26th birthday.  We decided on Vung Tau, a small, oil-rich seaside town an hour and a half away from Saigon by hydrofoil.  Although we had heard many negative things about the quality of the beaches and cleanliness of the water we decided to check it out for ourselves.
 After a pleasant trip on the slim boat, we arrived at our destination.  Subsequently, we hired a bike for the duration of our stay ( newer model of our Saigon steed), checked into our bare-bones hotel, and headed out for the first of many epic seafood meals. 
 We split a fired tofu dish for an appetizer and feasted on a whole crab and a massive pile of shrimp for our main course.  Fun with crustaceans ensued...
 And, of course, we had a few celebratory Saigons!
 After lunch, we decided it was high time to take a dip.  With the South China Sea a stone's throw from the restaurant, we tumbled down the forgiving hillside and dove straight in. Although the sea water is normally thick with garbage and the beaches littered with trash, the winds were to our favor and some of the locals told us the water was looking much better than normal.
Once we had dried off and sobered up, we took a drive around the town and beach front.  There sure was a lot to see!  Some of the highlights included a massive stone Jesus Christ that is perched atop the "Small Mountain".  (The Vietnamese are akin to the Turks in that their naming of geographical features is extremely literal.) God's son is 32 meters high, 6 meters taller than the giant J.C. that looms over Rio.  He sees all.
I also liked the massive Mary.
And the Buddhist temple was rad as well.  I loved all the birds.  The man watching over the temple told me with a series of hand gestures that they later release the birds.  Not really sure when or why, but it seemed pretty neat.
All the fishing boats were also amazing to have a look at.
 My ever-patient driver waiting for me after hopping off the bike a million times to take pictures!
Since it was Gavin's special day and all, we decided to treat ourselves to a spa treatment at one of the local resorts.  We opted for a steam room and sauna excursion followed by hour-long massages.  It felt so nice to be pampered!  We finished up just in time to catch the sunset.
We finally headed to a sidewalk seafood stall recommended to us for dinner.

 We had our pick of several different types of fresh seafood, plucked from the depths just hours before.

 After choosing a healthy octopus and a plump mackerel, the chef prepared our feast on her makeshift barbecue.
The grilled octopus was braised with a spicy, chili sauce and was tender perfection epitomized.  On the other salty hand, we weren't so keen on the fish, mostly because they neglect to gut it before they cook or serve it, leaving the customer to pick his way through dark flesh and mushy bowels.
We also munched on quantities of unpictured quail eggs, steamed peanuts, and shrimp spring rolls bought from the local street vendors.  Gavin's birthday celebration continued after dinner, as we bar hopped, shot billiards, and rubbed elbows with the locals. (Vietnamese and local ex-pats as well as a few travelers with their working girl partners.)  Our night ended around midnight where it began at the beach side restaurant for a late night dip in the warm seas and some dried squid.  Gavin drunkenly claimed it was his best birthday ever right around this time.


Jo Ann said...

Crabs and beer -- doesn't get any better than that!

Carol said...

Like playing your music while I read about your adventures. I marvel at you eating squid and octopus and oysters AND scallops and even shrimp Nell...what has happened?

Nellie said...

mom- I must admit that I fib a bit when I say 'I' eat all these crazy foods. I tried a bit of shrimp a few weeks back, and it repulsed me. I had octopus once in Vung Tau and had to spit it out. I didn't eat the oysters. I am into squid, as long as it's fried (which we've only gotten once here). I like to make it look as though I eat some of the seafood pictured, but in fact Gavin consumes 99% of it. I do love my crab and now scallops as well.