Spending any length of time in the tropics and you will soon realize that the afternoons are much too hot to do much outside. The Vietnamese, probably just like all people in the tropics, enjoy few things more than a quiet place shaded from the sun.
Cafes around town sell coffee but the great service they really provide, of which Vung Tau can never have enough of, are small oases. Who would mind a slow drip coffee if it meant getting to spend more time enjoying this natural luxury?
For something more active, Big Mountain is my top choice in Vung Tau. Those without local knowledge will most likely head to Front Beach and take the cable car to the top of the mountain. Ticket prices may be as little as 90,000VND ($5) but I have heard that tickets cost 300,000VND. The ticket gives you a round trip on the cable car to the mountain top where you have access to amenities such as a zoo, rollercoasters, and a garden. Reviews online are generally negative.
But there is road from the base of the mountain (at the T-junction of Le Loi street and Le Hong Phung Street) that locals use to access the mountain for their morning run. I have been told that access ends at a certain point. I guess that they want to reserve the top of the mountain to those willing to pay a premium. But the path ends of walkers, runners, and motorbikes at a tree covered, open air cafe that serves fruit, fresh coconut water, and smoothies.
Another truth about living in the tropics is that the early morning is the best time to enjoy the outdoors. And by early morning, I mean 5:30AM. By the time you come off of the mountain at around 9 o'clock you want to do anything but be on the street.
Another benefit of an early morning on Big Mountain are the little forest creatures. Ants, and millipedes, butterflies and crawlies go about their business as snails hide under leaves. Flowers and wild fruit can be spotted in the trees. Trees--that provide a canopy--making this a quiet and comfortable walk. The perfect way to begin a day. You will even see a colony of macaques as you walk higher up the mountain. They are mostly peaceful and will even pose for your camera. But be careful, you just might get hit with an unripened plum.
And coming down the mountain, the beauty and wonders of the small gentle things in the forest take on a different shape. Walking down a mountain people tend to walk faster. But everything seen going up the mountain now shows its other side. Flowers caught in spider webs catch the rising light. Butterflies catch the eye and lead me to look upward at the treetops which now take on a different shape as I now see them from a new angle. The broken branch of a tree takes me by surprise as I momentarily see the image of a crawling animal emerging from the trunk. Am I mistaken?
Nature is beautiful as it rewards the imaginative.
At the end of the Runners' Road is a small fruit stand under the shade of the trees. There you can enjoy a plate of tropical fruit and drink smoothies. Sit with friends and Start the day off right.