Monday, August 9, 2010

Can Gio District: Short Weekend Trip

Over the weekend I decided to get out of the city and away from the crowds so I took a day trip to Can Gio, the southernmost district of Saigon.  Can Gio is an island and has a number of secluded beaches.  Although the quality of the beach is not the same as some of the other beach destinations in Vietnam, the quietness and seclusion make it a good destination for people in Saigon who want to escape the noise and crowds of the city.

Can Gio is by far the largest district in Saigon; it covers over 700 km2 (roughly 1/3 the size of all of Ho Chi Minh city).  It is also the least populated of all districts- according to the 2009 census, the district had a population of just over 68,000.  The next least-populated district had almost 100,000 people according to the same census.  This combination of huge area and low population make Can Gio a very quiet and relaxing place for a weekend getaway.  The way to access Can Gio is by ferry which departs from Nha Be district.  The cost is a bit over 1 usd each way for a car (cheaper for motorbikes) and the ferry leaves roughly every 15 minutes during the day time.

The point of departure is nice and has lots of things to see; you can watch Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) ships offloading their chilly treasure, large container ships hauling cargo down the river, high-speed hydrofoils zipping tourists about, and small wooden fishing boats practicing traditional fishing techniques.  The river is a hub of activity.

During the ferry trip I saw part of the Vietnamese Navy.  This is a Soviet Union Tarantul class corvettes armed with 4 SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles (two missile houses visible on side near pilothouse), 1 x 76mm AK-176 main gun (front), and 2 x 30mm AK-630 Gatling Close-In-Weapons-Systems.  Two of these ships were parked along the ferry route to Can Gio.

The resort we picked was called Hon Ngoc (hồn ngọc roughly means "beautiful soul").  It was very quiet and there were few other people there.  The food was excellent as well; everyone with me said that their restaurant really knew how to cook.

Next to Hon Ngoc was a larger resort with more people (and more noise).  The other resort did not impress me much by itself.  They did, though, have a really great building for having large banquets or parties that was built on an the end of a long pier and was very pretty.  

I thought Can Gio was a great place for a short getaway.  However, the one negative thing about my trip there was the return to Saigon from Can Gio.  We arrived at the ferry terminal at 4:30 and did not get on the ferry until 6:30 due to the huge number of people wanting to leave at the same time and lack of ferries to accommodate everyone.  If they only built a bridge...

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