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Subject: Vietnam - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 3/5)

This article was archived around: 21 May 2005 20:58:21 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: travel/vietnam-guide
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Archive-name: travel/vietnam-guide/part3 URL: http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam Posting-Frequency: quarterly
VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide Located in South East Asia, Vietnam starts to emerge as a major tourist attraction. Vietnam has two main cities, the political capital Hanoi and the economic capital Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon). Apart from these cities, Vietnam's countryside also offers many beautiful attractions. Places An Khe Buon Ma Thuot Cantho Cat Ba Island Central Highland Chau Doc Cholon Chua Huong Con Dao Cu Chi Cuc Phuong National Parc Dakto / Tanh Canh Dalat Danang Do Son Dong Ha Haiphong Halong Bay Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City Hoa Lu Hoi An Hue Kontum Lao Bao Long Xuyen Mekong Delta Myson Mytho Nha Trang Ninh Binh Phan Rang Phan Thiet Phong Nha Caves Phu Quoc Pleiku Quang Ngai Rach Gia Saigon Sapa Tay Ninh Vat Sat Tourist Parc Vinh Long Vinh Moc Vung Tau General Information Geography Map of Vietnam Climate People Events Visa Embassies Border Crossing Money Mail Telephone Internet Access Hotels Food Diving Health Transportation Flying Train Roads Bus Minibus Car Motorcycle Bicycles Cyclos Tours Travel Guides Boats ************************************************************************** VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser http://www.pmgeiser.ch http://www.pmgeiser.com http://www.mineralwaters.org http://www.dussy.ch ************************************************************************** INTERNET HOTEL AND TRAVEL GUIDES New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos: HONG KONG http://www.pmgeiser.ch/hongkong JAPAN http://www.pmgeiser.ch/japan MACAU http://www.pmgeiser.ch/macau SWITZERLAND http://www.pmgeiser.ch/switzerland "Classics", FAQ of rec.travel.asia CAMBODIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/cambodia CHINA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/china LAOS http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos MYANMAR (BURMA) http://www.pmgeiser.ch/myanmar TIBET http://www.pmgeiser.ch/tibet VIETNAM http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam Hotel guides INDIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/india INDONESIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/indonesia MALAYSIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/malaysia NEPAL http://www.pmgeiser.ch/nepal SINGAPORE http://www.pmgeiser.ch/singapore THAILAND http://www.pmgeiser.ch/thailand ************************************************************************** BOOKS For books, please have a look at the online version at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam ************************************************************************** MYTHO http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/mytho.htm With a population of 100'000, My Tho is the capital of Tien Giang Province, a region famous for its orchids, coconut palms, and fruit. The city was founded in the 1680s by political refugees from Taiwan. The economy of the area is based on fishing and the cultivation of rice, bananas, citrus fruit, coconuts, longans, and mangos. Sights My Tho Church Built almost a century ago, today two priests, two sisters and several assistants minister to much of My Tho's 7,000 Catholics. The pastel yellow and white church is on the corner of Nguyen Trai Street and Hung Vuong Boulevard, a 5 minute walk from the central market. It is open to visitors every day from 4:30 - 6:30 am and 2:30 - 6:30 pm. Central Market Sprawls over a large area from Le Loi Boulevard down to the river. The streets are filled with stalls selling everything from fresh food and bulk tobacco to boat propellers. The river is the best spot to observe life in My Tho. Vinh Trang Pagoda Built in 1849, the pagoda displays a mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and colonial architecture. It is now a beautiful place, with no signs of the touristy stuff described in the Loney Planet guide. Even the awful Ho Chi Minh statue has been removed. Tan Long Island Tan Long Island is renowned for its longan orchards. It can be reached with a 5-minute boat trip from the dock at the foot of Le Loi Boulevard. Wooden fishing boats of the type used by the 'boat people' to flee Vietnam, line the thick palm-fringed shores of the island. Island of the Coconut Monk (Con Phung) Ong Dao Dua, the 'Coconut Monk,' established a bizarre open-air sanctuary on this island for his followers shortly after the end of WW II. Snake Farm About 6 miles (10 km) from town at Dong Tam there is farm that raises snakes for the strong healing powers of their flesh and gall. ************************************************************************** NHA TRANG http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/nhatrang.htm This is the main beach town in Vietnam. Sights The cultural sights, the Cham towers and the Pagoda with the giant sitting buddha were nice, but there were so many beggars that one couldn't really enjoy them. Also, it is advisable not to go at a time when there is a cruise ship in the harbour. Entrance is VND 5000. About 500 meters upriver from the Cham towers is a shipyard. The staff there is friendly enough to let people wander around and see how ships are constructed in a traditional way. Be friendly and do not take this courtesy as granted, in most western country people would not be allowed into a shipyard. The fishing village south of Nha Trang is nice, but there are a lot of souvenir shops. The oceanographic institute is worth a visit. Boat Tours There are some people offering a boat trip for USD 7. This trip is very good value for money. Starting in the morning (around 8:30) you are taken to a place where you can swim and snorkel (use of equipment is free). Near noon we drove to a second place and while we went for some more swimming and snorkling (although since the equipment is poor and there is not enough for all people you should bring your own), a excellent lunch was prepared. There were crabs, shrimps, several kinds of fish, vegetables, noodles, everything fresh and delicious. The lunch alone would have cost much more than the price of the trip in a restaurant. In the afternoon we stopped at a beach on an island where a buffet of fresh local fruit was built up. Of course we had some more time for swimming. On the way back we stopped at a small fishing village. The usual return time is 16:30. Diving Nha Trang offers excellent places for snorkelling and scuba diving. Some 70 islands and rocky shores are easily accessible witha boat. Depth is usually less than 20 m, with little undercurrents. Up to 12 m there are all kinds of corals, later its sand and rocks. Coral fish shine in beuatiful colours. Don't expect large swarms of fish, since overfishing reduced their numbers. There are nearly no wracks, because metal is valuable and salvaged as soon as possible. The best time for diving in Nha Trang is between February and October with air temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees, and water temperature between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.Equipment can be rented from several places, e.g. the Bao Dai Villas. There are several dive clubs where you can get information and rent equipment: Center of Diving Tourist Services (Trung Tam Dich Vu Du Lich Lan), Tran Phu Boulevard Coconut Cove Resort, Opp40 Tran Phu Boulevard, Tel 825390, Fax 824214 The Sailing Club, 72, Tran Phu Boulevard, Tel 829946, 813788, Fax 811223. Has a Padi instructor, Mr. J. Stein Octopus Dive Club, 62 Tran Phu Boulevard Bao Dai Villas Climate Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Sunrise C 20 22 26 28 30 30 32 31 28 26 20 19 F 68 72 79 82 86 86 90 88 82 79 68 66 Afternoon C 24 25 28 29 32 32 34 34 30 28 22 22 F 75 77 82 84 90 90 93 93 86 82 72 72 Rain mm 230 130 110 60 40 45 135 120 125 170 320 300 humidity % 68 60 59 58 56 57 65 63 63 64 71 70 Transportation A car costs USD 30 to USD 46 to rent, depending on where you rent the car, quality, distance you intend to travel, bargaining luck, etc. A motorcycle costs around USD 5 to 7 for 8 hours. Fuel is not included. The airport departure tax is VND 10000. Hotels Reserve your hotel online at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/nhatrang.htm. Restaurants Nha Trangs speciality is seafood. It is comparatively cheap and everywhere fresh available. Recommended is the Van Canh at 54 Phan Chu Trinh. This family restaurant offers excellent food and good, friendly service. (Lotta and Johan) Banana Split cafe is a good travellers cafe. Note that the cafe next door, to the left, previously called 60's bar, thought the secret of success was in the name, and changed 60's bar to... Banana Split cafe! When we were there, all the people were in the real Banana Split, and the owners of "fake banana" yelled at passing tourists to get customers. (Banana Split is at 58 Quang Trung Street) A cheap, friendly place is Quan An 98 at 98 Hoang Van Thu. They offer mostly delicious noodle soup. Another good place are the restaurants on the sea shore oposite Haiyan hotel, but they are definitely much pricier. An excellent restaurant is Hoan Hai at 6 Phan Chu Trinh, Tel 823133. The prices are reasonable. A nice place is the restaurant just next to the jetty in the fishing village south of Nha Trang. The vegetarian restuarant mentioned in the lonely planet guide near the circle market cooks an excellent (and exotic) Banana Flower. The only place with some kind of night life in Nha Trang is the Lizard. ************************************************************************** NINH BINH http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/ninhbinh.htm Ninh Binh is a good place for an overnight stop on the way between Hanoi and Hue. Sights A small walk of a quarter of an hour up the small mountain to the Bich Dong Pagoda lets you enjoy a nice view of Hoa Lu. Some people may want to charge you VND 10000, but this is only for the boat. The Tam Toc Caves are worth a visit. It is only 12 km from the village, so you can rent a bike for some VND 5000 to 10000. Another possibility is to combine the caves with a boat trip to Hoa Lu. The boat is VND 25000. Cuc Phuong makes for good walking. Hotels The Than Thuy's Guest House at 128 Le Hong Phong Street offers simple but clean double rooms for USD 8. Its owner speaks English and German, having spent four years in Germany. He is very helpful giving advice on what to do and which places to avoid. There is a restaurant attached. ************************************************************************** PHAN RANG http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phanrang.htm Phan Rang offers not more than the Po Klaung Gerai Cham towers. They are about 7 km outside the town towards Dalat. Admission is VND 5000. A ride on a motorbike should be about VND 5000, after hard bargaining and one way only. Usually, the tourist minibusses stop on their way between Dalat and Nha Trang. Hotels The Khach San Phan Rang at 354 Thong Nhat Street near the bus terminal offers terrible rooms for USD 8. The Huu Nghi at Thong Nhat Street has rooms for USD 15. Tel 22721, Fax 22722. There are several hotels with rooms for USD 30 or more. ************************************************************************** PHAN THIET http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phanthiet.htm Phan Thiet is a town of abou 100'000 inhabitants with a large fishing industry. Located 20 km from the ocean, the Ca Ty river near the town is full of fishing boats during the fishing season in summer. The fishing industry causes the pungent odor caused by the production of Nuoc Mam, the famous fish sauce. Sights There is not much to see in Phan Thiet. The main reason to come here is to play golf. A nice place is the fishing village just next to the river. Beaches Bai Rang The most beautiful beach in Phan Thiet is some 15 km northeast of the city. Two famous landmarks bear the names Da Ong Dia (Boulders of the Earth God) and Suoi Tien (Celestial Stream). Mui Ne Sand Dunes More famous are the Mui Ne Sand Dunes and Mui Ne Beaches, 12 km to the East. Golf The Ocean Dunes Golf Club, designed by Nick Faldo, offers 6746 yards of seaside dunes. The course has 72 par. The course is owned by a US company. Hotels Reserve your hotel online at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phanthiet.htm. ************************************************************************** PHONG NHA CAVES http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phongnha.htm The Phong Nha Caves, also called Troc Caves, are located in Quang Binh province. So far, 14 caves have been discovered in the area. The whole system measures several thousand meters of underground passageways and includes a wide variety of stalactites and stalagmites. The main hall is about 1450 m long and consists of 14 halls. The system has the longest underground river in the world. During the 9th and 10th century, the Chams used the caves as a Buddhist sanctuary. There are still some Cham altars and inscription to be seen. Local Vietnamese still use these sites, as they do at many other Cham locations. ************************************************************************** PHU QUOC http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phuquoc.htm Only a few tourists venture this far in Vietnam. There are nice beaches and the sea is calm and clear. Hotels Reserve your hotel online at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/phuquoc.htm. ************************************************************************** PLEIKU http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/pleiku.htm Hill Tribes There are hill tribe villages throughout the Central Highlands around Pleiku. The only legal way to visit one of these villages is on an arranged tour (ask at the Pleiku Hotel). You can walk into any of the hill tribe villages you pass by on the highway, and the villagers will be very receptive and friendly but be advised that this is illegal. All of the villages around Pleiku have large signs posted saying "restricted area, no tresspassing", in English in big bold letters. It is clear that the Vietnamese government does not want foreigners in close unsupervised contact with hill tribes. Perhaps the reason for their nervousness is the fact that during the war, the hill tribes here received military training and equipment from US Army Special Forces, which made life difficult for invading North Vietnamese Army troops. Hotels The large Pleiku Hotel has nice rooms for USD 11. The staff here are very helpful, particularly the staff in the hotel restaurant. There was a renovation project taking place here in early 1995 so prices may go up. The Movie Star Hotel is not exactly a place to be safe: all the room keys work in every door. Tours You can visit the former US special forces base at Plei Me but it is only accessible by motor bike and it is a long haul (20 km road and 20 km on a very dusty trail). Ask the staff at the Pleiku Hotel about arranging the rental of motor bikes and hiring a guide. ************************************************************************** QUANG NGAI http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/quangngai.htm While only a few years ago, this must have been the place with the most unfriendly people all over Vietnam, this seems to have changed. Today, people are really friendly, so it is a perfect place to go. Just for reference, and curiosity, here are the stories that I heard back in 1994. I heard quite a few stories of travellers being hasselled by local people. One English guy even got arrested by the police. He was followed by a cyclo driver, refusing to ride with him. After entering a cafe, the cyclo driver followed him and demanded that he pay him. Of course, he refused. The cyclo driver called the police and the English got arrested. They only let him go after he paid VND 10000 (half of what the cyclo driver demanded, but still about double than what the ride would have costed.) Another traveller was eating his noodle soup when suddenly a Vietnamese started shouting at him in Vietnamese. Although he told the man that he did not understand Vietnamese, the man shouted even loder, and beginning to threat with his fists. Finally the traveller did the best thing in just leaving the place, before the other became violent. These incidents are all the more strange in that I never heard of something like this from somewhere else in Vietnam, where people are mostly friendly and certainly never violent. ************************************************************************** RACH GIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/rachgia.htm Rach Gia, capital of Kien Giang Province, is a dirty town known for its bia om bars and prostitution. Ironically, the province is said to be the richest in Vietnam, its wealth based on rice and seafood. Phu Quoc, a renowned fish sauce, is produced here. Sights Reflective of the typical religious diversity in the Delta, Rach Gia has a small Cao Dai temple near the bus station on Nguyen Trung Truc Street and a Protestant church further along the street in the direction of the river. Rach Gia Church, a red brick structure built in 1918, is in Vinh Thanh Van across the channel from the market. Nguyen Trung Truc Temple Is named after the 19th century resistance leader who was active in Cochinchina during the 1860s and led the raid that resulted in the attack on the French warship L'Esperance. Although the French repeatedly tried to capture him, it wasn't until 1868 that they succeeded after taking his mother and a number of civilians hostage. He gave himself up and was executed by the French in the marketplace on October 27, 1868. Oc-eo This ancient city, found about 6 miles (10 km) inland from Rach Gia, was an important port at the height of the ancient Kingdom of Funan from the 1st - 6th centuries AD. It lay submerged for centuries until it was rediscovered in the 1940s. It is an important site for archeologists, but there is not a great deal for tourists to see. Some artifacts are found in the Historical and Art museums in Saigon. Most of what is known of Funan comes from this site which revealed evidence of contact with China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Persia, the Roman Empire, Thailand, and written accounts of Chinese emissaries and travelers. Excavations have shown that buildings were constructed on piles and the city was connected by a complex network of irrigation and transport canals. Like many of the ancient empires of the region, Oc-eo built its wealth on controlling trade between the east (China) and the west (India, Mediterranean). The site is near the village of Tan Hoi, and is only accessible by boat, which you can hire from the riverfront beyond Vinh Tan Van Market. You may need special permission to visit the area, so ask at the local Vietnam Tourism Authority. Hotels The 1 Thang 5 at 38 Nguyen Hung Son has rooms from VND 70000, some with airconditioning. ************************************************************************** SAIGON http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/saigon.htm Saigon is the central part of Ho Chi Minh City. Sights Catholic Cathedral The Cathedral of Notre Dame was built between 1877 and 1880 on what is thought to be the site of an ancient pagoda. You can see communion celebrated here three times on weekdays and Saturdays and six times on Sundays. For those of you who like Asian kitsch, look out for the neon "Ave Maria" sign in the nave. Municipal Theatre The municipal theatre is just opposite the Continental Hotel. The place in front of it is the place to be on a Sunday or on a beautiful evening where Saigon's youth meet and circle around on motorscooters to see and be seen. City Hall Stands at the northwest end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard overlooking a statue of Ho Chi Minh. Historical Museum Once known as the National Museum, this ornate building was built in 1928. It displays a wide range of artifacts from prehistoric times (300,000 years ago) and the Dongson period (3,500 BC - 100 AD) up to the formation of the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1930. There numerous artifacts from Chenla, Funan, Han Chinese, Khmer, and Oc-ceo periods, various Vietnamese dynasties, and some hilltribe pieces. Notable are the Cham sculptures, of which the best is the standing bronze Buddha from the 4th-6th century. War Museum Marked by a tank and warplane in the front compound the museum contains the articles of war and various photographs without overt propaganda. War Crimes Museum This museum's message does not come from bombs, helicopters, and tanks in the courtyard. Rather the most disturbing aspect is from the display showing the after-effects of Agent Orange defoliation - bottled human fetuses with shocking deformities. There is a great number of photographs and a some additional exhibits illustrating Man's inhumanity - the Son My (My Lai) massacre on 16 March 1968, and the effects of napalm and phosphorous. However, don't expect to find any displays showing atrocities committed by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese. Admission is VND 7000. It closes at 16:45. Botanical Gardens Since they were established in 1864, the gardens had grown to a collection of nearly 2,000 species, of which its orchids were noteworthy. With the war and its subsequent dislocations, the gardens declined and are still trying to recover today. Former US Embassy The grounds are in a state of neglect with vegetation growing up around the buildings. A plaque outside records the attack during the 1968 Tet Offensive and the final victory in 1975. Check with the guard at the side entrance, it may be possible to go in for a closer look. Xa Loi Pagoda This pagoda is more interesting for its history, despite the fact that it houses a relic of the Buddha. Built in 1956, the pagoda became a center of dissent against the Diem regime. In August 1963, armed men ransacked the pagoda and arrested 400 monks and nuns, including the country's 80-year-old Buddhist patriarch under orders from President Diem's brother. Presidential Palace (Reunification Hall) The residence of the French governor was built on this site in 1868 and was later renamed the Presidential Palace. In February 1962, in an assassination attempt against President Diem, a pair of planes that took off to attack Viet Cong positions suddenly turned back to bomb the Presidential Palace. The president escaped, but the palace had to be rebuilt. The building remains as it was on April 30, 1975 when an NVA tank crashed though the front gates. Saigon Central Mosque Since Islamic law forbids the use of human or animal figures for decoration, the mosque's simplicity stands in stark contrast to the fussy Chinese temple decorations and elaborate ritual objects of Buddhist pagodas. Built by South Indian Muslims in 1935, only half-a-dozen Indian Muslims remain in Saigon. There are 12 other mosques serving Saigon's 5000 Muslims. Mariaman Hindu Temple This is the only active Hindu temple remaining in Saigon to serve the 50 or 60 Tamil Hindus. However, it is a curious sight to watch the numerous Chinese Vietnamese Hoa Hao worshippers prostrating themselves with incense sticks in front of a Hindu deity. The temple has two colorful towers decorated with a tangle of lions, goddesses, and guardians. Inside there is a statue of Mariamman flanked by Maduriveeran and Pechiamman. Revolutionary Museum This is the same as the museum in Hanoi, displaying photographs, some military hardware in the back compound, and memorabilia of the Revolution. Admission is VND 20000 and the once eager guides have become bored civil servants. Ton Duc Thang Museum Opened in 1989, this museum contains photographs and memorabilia dedicated to the life of Ton Duc Thang, a comrade of Ho Chi Minh. Bac Ton was president of Vietnam and died in 1980. Art Museum Work from the classical period through to socialist realist is displayed in this cream mansion at 97A Pho Duc Chinh Street. Phung Son Tu Pagoda This small temple was built just after WW II by Fukien Chinese. It is dedicated to Ong Bon, the Guardian of Happiness and Virtue. The most notable feature of the temple is the front doors decorated with fearsome armed warriors. Incense coils patiently burn in the open well of the pagoda, spreading their sweet scent. Nha Rong (Dragon House) The building has been converted into a museum honoring the life of Ho Chi Minh through pictures. Shopping Cho Ben Thanh Market This is a large covered central market which, together with Binh Tay Market in Cholon, is the largest in Ho Chi Minh City. Cho Ben Thanh, at the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, and Tran Hung Dao boulevards, is interesting to walk through, but there is little of its clothes, food, household utensils, cheap jewelry, and toys worth buying. Many airline offices are near the Rex Hotel, some in the same block, some on the other side of Nguyen Hue Boulevard, others just round the corner (turn right just before the city hall). Just opposite the Vietcom bank (the main branch next to Saion river) there is an animal market. It is in a small hall, looking more like a storage shed for some tools. There are dogs, cats, birds, snakes, mice, monkeys, and some other sepcies on sale. I didn't inquire for prices ;-> South of the Rex Hotel is an electronic market. You can get really cheap CDs (for as little as VND 20000), but of course they are copies. The cover is printed badly, but the sound quality is mostly ok. It is possible (and advisable, since there are somtimes faults) to listen to them before you buy them. On the first floor of the department store at Nguyen Trung Truc Street is a well stocked supermarket. ************************************************************************** SAPA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/sapa.htm Located in the middle of breathtaking landscape, Sapa is one of the most wonderful places in all of Asia. Being a former French hill station, it is situated in the midst of mountains, just south of the Fansipan, with 3143 m the highest point of Vietnam. It is very convenient located for hiking in the surrounding area, where you can visit many small villages of minorities, mainly the Hmong (Meo) and the Dao. Especially the Hmong sell beautifully embroidered bags, caps, jackets, etc. Market day is every day, but the weekend is special. But the weekend is also specially crowded with foreigners, so it's probably a good idea to avoid it. I dare say that someone who has been there just one year ago will not recognize it anymore and certainly not like the crowds. But that's the way of most of the (former) insider locations... (Lotta and Johan) A wonderful place. The surroundings are breathtaking, and the atmosphere friendly. During weekends, the minority people walk down from the mountains to sell their goods and handicrafts at the market in Sa Pa. They wear their beatiful costumes, and they would wear them even if the tourists weren't there, which felt good. At night the Hmong people gathered on the street, and the young girls and boys sang traditional, monotonous tunes to one another to find a husband or a wife. All the tribes members, as well as some tourists, gathered around them and listened. As a couple had found each other and finished singing, they left hand in hand. Let's just hope tourism doesn't spoil this wonderful place! Hotels Reserve your hotel online at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/sapa.htm. Restaurants One of the best places to relax in Vietnam is the Cafe d'Auberge. From its terrasse you can enjoy an excellent view of the surrounding valleys and, of course, the Fansipan. ************************************************************************** TAY NINH http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/tayninh.htm Tay Ninh is the center of the Cao Dai religion. The Cao Dai Great Temple is the main reason to visit Tay Ninh. The cathedral is set within a large complex of schools and administrative buildings painted in pastel yellow. The twin-towered cathedral is of European design, but has distinctly Asian features. On the facade are high-relief figures of Cao Dai saints, like Victor Hugo, Albert Einstein, etc. Every day at noon there is a great mass where the tourists are allowed to watch from the balcony. There are one-day-trips from Saigon to Tay Ninh. ************************************************************************** VAT SAT TOURIST PARC http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/vatsat.htm In September 2000 a new tourist parc / nature reserve has opened its gates to the public. The 2'000 ha (about 5'000 acres) parc is located some 60 km from Ho Chi Minh City and can be reached by car or by boat. The Tang Bong tower offers a nice view over the whole nature reserve. The main attractions are an untouched landscapes which is home to many rare species of birds, monkeys and bats. There is a crocodile islands and a fish farm. Alligators, pythons and warans are also on display. ************************************************************************** VINH MOC http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/vinhmoc.htm When the villagers of Vinh Moc found themselves to be in a 'free-fire zone' in 1966, they began to dig the 2.8 km long tunnel system. There were up to 1200 persons living in these tunnels. Since it is easy to get lost in the maze of tunnels, be sure to hire a local guide. ************************************************************************** VUNG TAU http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/vungtau.htm Vung Tau, formerly also known as Cap Satin Jaque, is a beach resort located on a peninsula some 128 km south-east of Ho Chi Minh City. The whole peninsula is only about 7.5 km long. There are four main beach areas, the Front Beach, the Back Beach, Bai Dau and Bai Dua, but the beaches are very dirty, so don't expect to be able to swim in the sea. While the Front Beach is more expensive than the rest, Bai Dau not only has the cheapest guest houses, but is also the most relaxing part, located three km from the town center. Sights There is a giant Jesus statue overlooking the resort. It is hollow, so that you can climb the stairs to the head of the statue and enjoy an impressive view of the surroundings. The Linh Son Pagoda, at 61 Hoang Hoa Tham Street has originally been built on a mountain slope in the 19th century. In 1921, it was relocated to its current place and underwent renovation in 1959. The Buddha in the main hall is a Sakyamuni, originating from the Oc-Eo civilazation. Many Buddhist shrines can be found along the beach, and in the middle of the city is also the Buddha's Park. Transportation There is a fast hydrofoil boat from Saigon. It used to leave at the pier just opposite the Majestic, but this pier is currently being rebuilt. But you can still wait there and an air-con bus will pick you up and bring you to the Russian naval base down the road, where the boat currently leaves. There are two types of tickets, for USD 7 and USD 12, but they give you the same comfort. The boat takes about 1 hours. Hotels Reserve your hotel online at http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam/places/vungtau.htm. ************************************************************************** VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser http://www.pmgeiser.ch http://www.pmgeiser.com http://www.mineralwaters.org http://www.dussy.ch ************************************************************************** INTERNET HOTEL AND TRAVEL GUIDES New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos: HONG KONG http://www.pmgeiser.ch/hongkong JAPAN http://www.pmgeiser.ch/japan MACAU http://www.pmgeiser.ch/macau SWITZERLAND http://www.pmgeiser.ch/switzerland "Classics", FAQ of rec.travel.asia CAMBODIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/cambodia CHINA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/china LAOS http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos MYANMAR (BURMA) http://www.pmgeiser.ch/myanmar TIBET http://www.pmgeiser.ch/tibet VIETNAM http://www.pmgeiser.ch/vietnam Hotel guides INDIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/india INDONESIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/indonesia MALAYSIA http://www.pmgeiser.ch/malaysia NEPAL http://www.pmgeiser.ch/nepal SINGAPORE http://www.pmgeiser.ch/singapore THAILAND http://www.pmgeiser.ch/thailand **************************************************************************