Travelling with Kids – Vung Tau, Vietnam

2014-12-04 09:46

“That was the last time!” are Lynn’s words as we step out of the orange mini-bus into the main road of the laid back fishing town of Vung Tau. The driver, smiling warmly, climbs onto the mini-bus’ roof and hands us our backpacks. “Are you sure?” I ask. “It wasn't that bad of a ride.” Three hours ago we’d set out from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and by this time, our 10 year old was as tired as a shift worker after a triple shift in the Orkney mines. The 32 degree Celsius heat with 90% humidity didn't help her feel any better either!

Our trip began 25 hours earlier in Cape Town. It’s always the same; Cape Town to Johannesburg, a short layover and then, a flight to some obscure destination. This time, we are traveling to Vung Tau in Vietnam. The closest airport to Vung Tau is in Ho Chi Minh City.  There are many names used to describe Ho Chi Minh City, including 'The Paris of Asia' and the 'Pearl of the Orient', but for me, it will always be Saigon.

As a freelance writer, I've visited Saigon and other parts of Vietnam before, but never Vung Tau and never with my family. I met my wife, Meiling 15 years ago on one of my first trips to Taiwan. Lynn was born 5 years later and the rest, as they say is history. It was much harder getting into Vietnam a decade or so ago. Visa restrictions made it almost impossible for South Africans to get a visa. Fortunately, the communist days when a Vietnam visa was only for an American soldier or a select few is long over. A quick Google search listed dozens of “Easy Vietnam Visa” websites. I picked a website and completed the online form. Four days and R900.00 later, Meiling, Lynn and I received our visa approval letters by email. We were on a plane the next day.

I was eager to get to Vung Tau and find out more about this charming sea town of 210 000 people. During the Vietnam War, Vung Tau was home to the Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular in-country recreational spot for US troops. After the war, Vung Tau was a common launching place for boat people fleeing the communists. It is very easy to get to Vung Tau from Ho Chi Minh City. There are several “very helpful” people waiting outside the terminal building very eager to take you in their taxis. These drivers are renowned for taking advantage of unexpecting tourists. The safest way to go to Vung Tau, is by mini-bus. We paid R180.00 for the three of us for one-way seats. Not bad considering that Vung Tau 125 km South-East of Ho Chi Minh City.  

The other way of getting to Vung Tau is by a fast ferry service which, when in operation, is a great way to see the muddy banks and riverside shacks of the Saigon River.  I am sure our 10 year old would have enjoyed the ferry ride much more than a mini-bus! Unfortunately though, at the time of writing, the ferry service has been suspended due to some "safety issues" which need to be resolved.

It’s not always easy travelling with children. Give some parents a choice between traveling with children or with a pride of hungry lions, and they'll choose the lions nine times out of ten, but that is a total different story that I’ll leave for next time. 

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