It would seem a paradox but Vung Tau gains a lot from being the biggest crude oil extraction centre of Vietnam. As a result it has a more able infrastructure compared with many cities in the country and it's easy to get around and see the many sights.
For the historic Con Dao Island, one should not miss the opportunity to visit the infamous prisons and their ‘tiger cages’ before heading off to see the island's beautiful National Park and other locations.
Bach Dinh or Villa Blanche was built 1898 and completed in 1916, during the French occupation. The villa and its surroundings were built overlooking the sea in grand style. It has an open-air dance floor and features lush décor and design. It was planned to be the residence of Paul Doumer, the French Governor of Indochina but he never stayed there, however, the villa was used as weekend getaway by other French Governors as well as by important Vietnamese heads of state.
Location: At the foot of Nui Lon Mountain
This is a popular place for the locals to go for mud and foot baths, for the hot springs (about 37 degree C) as well as a swim at the white-sand beach. In some parts of Binh Chau the water is so hot you can even boil an egg in it.
Location: At Saigon-Binh Chau Eco-Tours & Resort at National Highway No. 55.
Tel: +84 (64) 871 131
The Con Dao Museum was once the home of the island's governors and was converted into a museum in 1975 after the Viet Cong liberated the island. The museum is a good starting point to learn about the ‘prison island’ history. There are photos and artwork showing prisoners’ conditions in those days as well as interesting lists of official French and U.S. policies toward prisoners.
Location: The centre of town adjacent to the jetty
This pagoda is known by many names, including the Temple of Nirvana and the Pagoda of the Reclining Buddha. It was built in 1969 and took six years to complete. There is a 21-metre flag tower in the front. The architectural details and workmanship are outstanding, including a marble overlaid 12-metre high Buddha image.
Location: Nui Nho Mountain, facing the ocean.
This huge hollow 32-metre statue of Jesus stands overlooking the South China Sea. It was built in the early 70's but was completed only in 1993 due to the conflicts. It is the largest sculpture in the South of Vietnam. There is a spiral staircase inside the statue going up to the head. You can enjoy fabulous panoramic views here. Located at the southern base of the small hilltop on which Bao Dai's Villa sits
Opening Hours: 07:00-16:30
Location: On top of Nui Nho Mountain
Tel: (058) 590 037
This famous pagoda was built in 1957, originally as a small temple. Later, in 1961, it was renovated and enlarged. Featuring a six-meter tall Buddha, it is now one of the largest pagodas in town and an important attraction.
Location: 20km from the centre of Vung Tau
Built in 1862, this is the oldest of the island's prisons. It was the place where over 5,000 inmates were held in extremely overcrowded conditions. At the centre of the prison is a large courtyard surrounded by large common rooms of high yellowed walls.
Next to it is another similar prison called Trai Phu Son Prison. One of its many famous prisoners included Le Duan, who succeeded Ho Chi Minh as the president of Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.
The officers at the museum can also arrange for visitors to see the infamous 'tiger cages' (cells without roofs – guards patrolled above the cells). 20,000 people are believed to have died here in Con Dao during its 113 years in operation.
Vo Thi Sau is one of the most famous women in Vietnam. She was a Viet Minh revolutionary against the French. Imprisoned in the 'tiger cages' in Con Dao at 16, she was executed about four years later and was the first Vietnamese woman to be sentenced to death. Her tomb is permanently adorned with fresh flowers as many islanders and Vietnamese tourists come to pay respect to her memory. As a national heroine, her face also features on Vietnamese stamps.
Location: Con Dao Island
First built in 1907 at a nearby location it was rebuilt and moved to its current location about five years later. The lighthouse is 18 metres high and projects light as far as 64km away and is equipped with telescopes to follow and direct ships at sea.
Location: On top of Small Mountain in Vung Tau