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Phu Quoc - A travel report by Alexander
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Phu Quoc,  Vietnam - flag Vietnam -  Ki«n Giang
6260 readers

alexsbg's travel reports

Thoroughly and completely lazy

  11 votes
Despite 3.400 km of coast line, Vietnam is not exactly known for its great beaches. Well, there is Nha Trang, Hoi An and Mui Ne. And then there is this island, located in the gulf of Thailand, a tropical beach paradise named Phu Quoc. report of the month contest
Dec 2009

Phu Quoc travelogue picture
Coming to Phu Quoc is like a time shift 25 years back, when Thailand's Koh Samui became en vogue. The Duong Dong airport is too small to land jet planes, and it doesn't need to be bigger with five flights a day, all coming from Ho Chi Minh City, the same plane going forth and back. There is no public transport on the island, actually there are practially no cars at all, except for a couple of taxis, ancient trucks and tour busses. When you try to book accommodation in advance in, say, December or January, you might find that Phu Quoc is fully booked. But this is (a) not true and (b) doesn't mean much.

It's only twenty years, that Phu Quoc has been open for tourism. During the war (for Vietnamese people, the war was from '45 to '75) it was home to one of the most infamous prison camps of Vietnam and after 1975 you would not have wanted to be a Westerner in South Vietnam. Twenty years is plenty of time to develop a region, but when Vietnam time runs slower than in other countries, Phu Quoc time is slow-motion.

The best thing to start with is probably to rent a motorbike in town, leave your luggage at the shop (don't worry about it, they too give you a bike without ever asking for an ID, overtrustful people here) and start exploring the island on your own. Let's start in Duong Dong, the capital and one of the three villages on the island worth mentioning. We go south. With only one paved road we cannot go very wrong, at least not very far.

From Duong Dong, the main road leads to An Thoi, a small port at the very south end of the island.

Favourite spots:
Sao beach and manual anchor lifting in An Thoi
Sao beach and manual anchor lifting in An Thoi
Main road is kind of an euphemism, as it is a narrow street meandering through rainforest and tiny villages that comprise only a few houses each. Almost no traffic here on this Tuesday morning. We are heading for a stopover, a second morning coffee on Sao Beach. Take ON Sao Beach literally, as we stick our feet into the radiant white sand. Sao Beach is said to be the most beautiful beach here, but that may depend on wind, current and the time of year. Okay, it was not bad :-)

Just a few kilometers to go to An Thoi, which gained notoriety during the war for housing the infamous prison camp. Today, the scenery could not be more different: hundreds of gaudy boats are floating in the port basin and blue-collar workers still doing everything by hand. Not that this would be a specialty of Phu Quoc, entire Vietnam relies on manual labor instead of automation. Why bother with a winch, when there are four people to lift the boat's anchor?

What's really great:
Long Beach and the road back to Duong Dong
Long Beach and the road back to Duong Dong
Back on the alternative road to Duong Dang. From here on it’s red sand and red dust. And a wow! view when you get out of the rainforest in Duong Dam. This is Bai Truong – the long beach! Twenty kilometers of yellow sand, crystal clear turquoise water and no people but a few fishermen now and then and one house in a mile.

From this view, you would not guess that Long Beach is THE development area of Phu Quoc. The first five kilometers from Duong Dong southwards are already lined with resorts and small hotels, streets are being prepared and widened. The Vietnamese central committee has decided to increase tourism and this is their best spot. Less than 30.000 beds by now should become more than four times as many by 2020. Phu Quoc is supposed to become the Phuket of Vietnam with all the drawbacks that tourism brings. When you come here in a couple of years, you may find something completely different.

Dive spot
Dive spot
It’s still a long way to go for Vietnam, as building streets and hotels is not enough. More people need more infrastructure, which the island is currently lacking. Sewage disposal, for instance, would be a priority topic. That’s currently simple: the sea. So it’s not surprising that there are people opposing these plans. Whether they will have their say, is a different story. But eco-friendly tourism is a topic on Phu Quoc these days.

Paris Beach Resort
Paris Beach Resort
My recommendations for accommodation are the Beach Club and Paris Beach, right next to it. Both are relatively small, close enough to reach the amenities within a few minutes by bike, and far enough to stay away from the crowd. A third recommendation is “Bo Resort” on the north beach, but more on that below.

The daily sunset show
The daily sunset show
Nightlife – well, there’s plenty of nightlife everywhere on Phu Quoc. Birds for instance, lizards, bats, flies, mosquitoes, you name it. And it starts right at 6 pm, when the daily performance begins, when tourists and mosquitoes meet on the beach for the sunset show, tourists facing the sunset, mosquitoes facing their dinner.

Restaurant on Long Beach
Restaurant on Long Beach
Restaurants depend on where you stay. In remote locations, you rather stay with mom’s resort kitchen, as you don’t want to drive a bumpy sandy hollow way back home in complete darkness. In the central area around Duong Dong there are plenty of choices. Restaurants can be easily found during a walk on the beach, as most of them are located on the beachfront anyway. Le Deauville was our choice.

Other recommendations:
There is a national park in the north of the island that is worth visiting, and there are smaller islands north and south of Phu Quoc which you can reach by boat on a day tour. Much, really much recommended for diving and snorkeling!

The best spot, however, and I promise that even the more ambitious shell collectors will agree, is the beach north of the capital: Bai Ong Lang and Bai Cua Can. Imagine three small hideaways only ("Bo Resort", see top photo) and a stretch of six kilometers of secluded tranquillance, painted in white sand seamed by palm trees and black lava stone.

If you like this picture, let me put the summary of Phu Quoc this way, in the words of Henry Miller, written down 70 years ago: "To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself." Well said, and Phu Quoc is the perfect place for it

Published on Thursday January 21th, 2010

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Fri, Apr 09 2010 - 04:14 AM rating by sujoy

Very nice report with photographs arousing interest of reader to visit the sites. Thanks

Wed, Mar 03 2010 - 04:24 AM rating by adisidh

nice report . Interesting and about uncommon place .keep it up

Mon, Feb 08 2010 - 04:18 AM rating by bineba

I really like the report - and the pictures! Well done and congratulations on ROM.

Fri, Jan 22 2010 - 05:15 PM rating by mistybleu

Alexander, this is avery interesting report. Thanks for sharing as I'm hoping to go to Veitnam this year with any luck.

Fri, Jan 22 2010 - 12:42 PM rating by pesu

A very interesting report - a pleasure to read, great photos as well. Thanks for sharing.

Fri, Jan 22 2010 - 05:21 AM rating by louis

One of the best report I have read lately. It has everything - interesting and unknown (at least for me) place, great pictures and very well writen. Thanks for posting it

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