Lang Ong Nam Hai

We had the opportunity to take a day-long tour of Vung Tau in Vietnam. While there, we stopped at the Whale Temple, known to locals as Lang Ong Nam Hai. This isn’t your typical temple; it’s a mixture of spirituality and the history of the whale. Roaming around the temple offers a story of sea gods, benevolent whale spirits, and the local fishermen’s deep-seated respect for the ocean’s gentle giants. It’s not a big place, and be warned, the locals hawking their wares can get a little aggressive in the courtyard.

Whale temple Vung Tau Vietnam
Whale Temple Vietnam
Lion statue in front of the whale temple

The White Palace

The next stop on our tour was Bạch Đình or the White Palace. Rising majestically from a lush green hill, this European-style palace in the middle of Vietnam looks slightly out of place. We had to climb several stairs to get to the house, but the path was lined with beautiful plants, and the views of the town and the sea at the top were worth it. Inside, the preserved furniture, paintings, and antiques gave us a glimpse of the regal lifestyle of a Vietnam that no longer exists. We were surprised to find a bomb shelter in the courtyard. As a practical matter, there is a restroom on the path up to the palace that is reasonably clean; however, they do not supply toilet paper. Most places in Vietnam would not have toilet paper, so we were prepared. At this restroom, a woman was inside selling pieces of paper if you didn’t bring your own.

The white palace exterior
White Palace courtyard with ocean view
White palace bomb shelter in the courtyard

The Bay of Boats

From the palace, we went to a riverside park commonly known as the Bay of Boats. The park is beautiful, with freshly cut lawns and cement statues lining a beach where residents swim. Just off the beach, there were numerous fishing boats and local fishermen preparing to head out for the day. The trees in the area provided much-needed shade from the sweltering heat, and the benches provided a nice respite while we watched the fisherman.

Fisherman in boat
Statue in park by beach
Jim watching the fisherman

A Really Big Jesus

Our journey took a turn for the divine at the foot of Mt. Nui Nho. Here, we could look up at the towering 98-foot statue of Jesus Christ. Standing with its arms wide open, this stunning statue is not just a beacon of hope but also a vantage point offering panoramic views of the peninsula’s southernmost tip. It’s about 1,000 steps up to the statue, and our tour guide told us we did not have time to make the climb.

Although we wanted to see the statue and the view from the top, the almost 100-degree temperature and high humidity made the steps daunting. We were disappointed but relieved at the same time. The Catholic church started the status in 1974, and it took 20 years to complete. A concession stand and a few smaller statues are at the bottom of the hill. The remains of a church building are a little ways up the hill, but it appears abandoned. There are locals selling souvenirs here also, but they were not nearly as aggressive as others we had met throughout the day.

Statue of Jesus from the ground
Statue of Mary
Display at the foot of the stairs.

A Smaller Buddhist Temple

The final stop on our tour was Nirvana Vihara, a magnificent hillside Buddhist temple. This temple was built by monks between 1968 and 1974. After walking up the hill from the street, there were still stairs left to climb. Luckily, the view is worth the effort, as was the large reclining Buddha found at the top. The place felt quiet and relaxing, even with all the tourists around.

Temple exterior
A look inside the temple
Statue by temple

We would have liked some free time to explore the town, but the day passed too quickly, and our guide gathered us together to begin the long trek back.