Getting Closer to God – in Vung Tau

January 2002

I was standing within the arms of a gigantic Jesus on the top of a mountain and looking out over a heavenly view. Exactly how much closer to God could I get?

View of the sea from the shoulder of the Big Jesus, Vung Tau, Mekong Delta.

View from the shoulder of the Big Jesus, Vung Tau, Mekong Delta.

This Jesus has been watching over the seaside town of Vung Tau, in the Mekong Delta, since 1993. He’s less famous than his twin in Rio, but with his funky halo and everything, he’s blingier. And… you can climb up inside him and stand inside his arms!

The climb itself almost took my breath away: the wind didn’t just whistle through the statue, it thundered through, buffeting me and drumming around my ears as I climbed the stairs. And then when I got to the top and stood in Jesus’s arms, I was rendered speechless. I’m not sure whether that was down to the stunning view out over the South China Sea, or because of the sign: “Do not climb onto the hands or halo”. I mean, who on earth would try that, other than someone really, really serious about going to meet their maker – it’s a bloody long way down from that windy perch!

Statue of Christ the King (Tuong Chua Kito Vua), Vung Tau, Mekong Delta.

Statue of Christ the King (in Vietnamese, Tuong Chua Kito Vua), Vung Tau, Mekong Delta.

Lonely Planet isn’t too complementary about Vung Tau, but I actually rather liked it: more character than Nha Trang and more to do than Mui Ne. I wish I’d known how nice it was because I would have arranged to spend a few days there, rather than just the one. Still, too late now.

Admittedly it wasn’t all wonderful: the beachfront café where I had my lunch looked a bit dodgy, and my an-chai (veggie) noodles arrived with a fine garnish of seafood, while the ‘toilet’ was a disused shower block with no water and which, I realised now, probably emptied directly on the beach; no wonder it was less than pristine!

Nothing to do with Vung Tau but the Vietnam News is reporting that a local resident has invested 250 million dong to build a timber bridge over the Nha Trang River. It states that the bridge is 400 metres long and 2.2 metres wide and it took 11 days to build. The investor has built 11 bridges since 1990 and will collect tolls on them for 15 years.

It’s worth bearing in mind that 250million VND is the equivalent of about US$166. As in one hundred and sixty-six dollars. Imagine being able to build a bridge for less than 200 dollars!

However, it’s not the Vietnam News that’s providing most entertainment this week. That honour goes to Time magazine. Yes, as in the Time magazine, which on its website is running a poll: “Is Osama bin Laden still alive?” with the choice of answers: “Alive. Dead. Don’t know”.

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