Vũng Tàu: The Rio of Vietnam

Christ the King is Vũng Tàu’s most famous landmark and was modelled on Rio’s Christ the Redeemer.


Standing on the shoulders of a giant Jesus statue at Vũng Tàu, on Vietnam’s southern coast, it’s easy to see why people often compare the resort town with the sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Both cities sit on peninsulas ringed by mountains. Both are highly popular tourist havens with their bars, restaurants and beaches. And both have colossal, sky-high statues of Jesus with his arms out-stretched.

Vũng Tàu’s 32-metre tall Christ the King might never have achieved the same biblical recognition as Rio’s Christ the Redeemer – listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World – but it is recognised as the largest Christian statue in Asia.

It’s also a highly popular attraction in a country that is considered an atheist state.

Christ the King
ChristtheKing 1
View from the top

Vietnam’s giant Jesus sits atop Mount Nho (small mountain), arms outstretched, overlooking the South China Sea.

Built by the Vietnam Catholic Association in 1974, it took 19 years to complete.

You’ll find the start of the stair climb at Ha Long Street, near the tip of the peninsula. It’s best to get a taxi to drop you there, as it’s a fair hike from Vũng Tàu’s city centre.

As you climb the first set of stairs from the roadside (above), you’ll pass kiosks and shops selling merchandise, bottled water and ice blocks – even face masks.

(When I visited in March, you were not permitted to climb the statue without a face mask due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

The 20-minute hike up the 811 steps to the statue is not for the faint-hearted, and is best attempted early morning before the heat sets in, or in the late afternoon.

Last Supper Relief

As you make your way up, you’ll also pass various religious sculptures, including Jesus and St Peter.

Closer to the top there’s a big white replica of the Pieta – the famous statue attributed to Michelangelo of Mary holding the crucified Jesus.

There’s also a wall sized depiction of The Last Supper (pictured) on the base of the statue that’s easy to miss.

As you inch your way to the top, you’ll notice there are markers at various intervals (pictured) telling you how many steps you’ve climbed.

There are also numerous rest spots to help you manage the arduous climb.

Keep your eyes peeled for the old fortifications and military garrisons, including cannons, at various locations on the hill.

In colonial times, Mount Nho was once used as an outpost by the French to protect Vũng Tàu, previously known as French Cap Saint-Jacques, from foreign invaders.

You can find other French ruins around Vũng Tàu, including the white villa mansion built for a French governor.

Inside the giant statue is a shop selling religious paraphernalia, and a narrow winding staircase with 133 stairs leading to the head and shoulders.

Be warned, the statue is treated like a church and there is a strict dress code. To enter, visitors must remove their shoes and knees and shoulders must be covered.

Admission is free, although a donation is encouraged.

Regardless, the inspiring 360 degree view from the top, overlooking downtown Vũng Tàu and the South China Sea, is priceless.

Getting There

Vung Tau

The Christ the King statue is located at Ha Long Street near the tip of an 18-km-long peninsula hugging the South China Sea. 

It's a five minute taxi ride from downtown Vũng Tàu, and not far from the Ho Chi Minh City-Vung Tau hydrofoil terminal.

The most popular way to reach the beach town is by bus. Air-conditioned buses make regular trips between Ho Chi Minh City and Vũng Tàu, a trip that usually take just over 2 hours.

The hydrofoil can reach downtown Vũng Tàu in about 80 minutes.

We visited Vũng Tàu from Ho Tram Beach Resort, a road trip that took just over one hour by taxi. 

The taxi was like a personal chauffeur, driving us to various locations, and even waiting while we had lunch.

The five hours cost 2.1 million VND (about $140 Aussie dollars) - more than reasonable and well worth it for the convenience.


© 2020 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved.

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