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The Vung Tau Lighthouse on top of Nui Nho (small mountain) in Vung Tau

hen you sit on the Back Beach in the southern city of Vung Tau at night, you notice a beam of light crossing the sky in regular intervals. Maybe it’s lightning in a cloud far away? Or the headlight of a motorbike going down the coastal road?

In fact, it’s the light of a 1,500-watt lamp in the Vung Tau Lighthouse on top of Nui Nho (small mountain). Boats as far as 56 kilometers offshore can see the two strong beams from the country’s oldest lighthouse.

Formerly, three people working in shifts operated a kerosene lamp every night. Today an electric motor rotates the lamp to do five rounds a minute.

In the day time, curtains cover the glass windows of the tower to prevent the sunlight from shining into the prism system.

The round lighthouse itself stands 18 meters tall and has a diameter of three meters.

In 1862, some years after invading southern Vietnam, the French started to build the country’s first lighthouse on the lower peak of Nui Nho, also called Tao Phung.

The tower was rebuilt in 1913, making it more solid and its light more powerful, and moved to its current position, 170 meters above sea level.

Visitors can climb up the tower during the day, going through a tunnel and up a narrow spiral staircase. After seeing the light system, you can leave the tiny and hot room to catch the breeze on the balcony outside.

From there, the view of Vung Tau and the sea is superb. You can see hundreds of ships docking at the harbor and thousands of houses hidden underneath the green foliage of trees.

You can also look at the 32-meter-high Jesus statue, 136 meters above sea level, on Nui Nho. On a clear day you can spot Ky Van Mountain and Minh Dam in the distance.

Visitors can also view the original, well-preserved clock work mechanism at the foot of the spiral staircase and read the name of French engineer Henry Lepaute, who installed the lighthouse operating mechanism, carved on a small sign above the system.

Next to the tower, four ancient French canons now remain silent. But the 10-meter-long projectiles were once used to defend the shoreline.

Previously the lighthouse was difficult to access, but on a newly built road you can drive right up to the top. Although the road is still narrow, allowing only one car to pass in some parts, and winding.

The road leads up the mountain from the north via Ha Long Street near Rock Quay. Alternatively, you can take a footpath from the south, climbing up 793 stairs to the Jesus statue and then farther through a former battlefield. (Gia Phuc)

The SGT Daily - No. 2563 - November 8, 2005
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