February 6th to 10th
14.02.2016 25 °C
Phu Quoc is a sizeable island just off the south of Vietnam and it is located in the Gulf of Thailand. I came here anticipating that I would enjoy this little tropical vacation, but it has been a little different than I expected. I chose it as a the place to spend the actual beginning days of TET and in fact, it was a good choice as there are so many tourists, that most of the tourist infrastructure, hotels, restaurants etc. were open. The first night I stayed at a place that was right on the beach called the Vung Bao resort. Resort in these parts doesn’t mean that it is that luxurious and in fact it didn’t even have hot water! Normally, hot water is not an issue on a tropical island, but in fact the time I was here, the weather was actually colder than normal and the locals were really feeling it. I chose the resort because of the beach as the water was free of jellyfish (that sting). As much as the beach and the water were lovely, and my room was comfortable, the staff were not as friendly as they often can be and the food was pretty mediocre and expensive. But, being isolated, from the town there really wasn’t a choice to eat anywhere else. There was one young man who was really helpful at Vung Bau and I was grateful for that.
A photogenic swing on Vung Bao Beach
My cabin at Vung Bao
It has amazed me how different each place is I stay and I see clearly that the atmosphere is really created by the attitude of the owner. Those owners who are running their guesthouses because they want to offer an experience that people will enjoy are really lovely to experience. However, those who are just interested in the money that comes in, usually the staff are not very friendly.
I had the staff call me a motorcycle taxi to get me to my next place and when he showed up he wanted to charge me 2/3 of what a taxi would cost which seemed pretty over the top. He was not going to budge so for some crazy reason, I found myself walking out with my roller bag onto the gravel road in the middle of nowhere thinking that I would find a way. Unbelievably within 5 minutes there was a guy with motorbike and an extra helmet that they have to use (regardless of the fact that the chin strap is almost always completely loose, so the helmet is no protection at all!) and off we went for a more reasonable price. We did go a very off the track way, but interestingly, I mostly trust that I will get where I am going safely and I did.
The second and third nights I spent at Duc An Guesthouse, which was run by a family and was the complete opposite of Vung Bao Resort. Long, the owner, really took me under his wing, making sure that I had food (as it was Tet and a lot of the usual eating places were closed), treating me to Vietnamese traditional food and inviting me for lunch with his family that were there on TET, though his wife and daughter were in HCMC at the time. I found myself eating meat, as there really wasn’t anything else to do. The food just arrived on my table on the verandah. I am glad that that only lasted for a few days as it didn’t really agree with my system…… . I actually was amazed that I was so flexible given that I have not eaten red meat since 1988! The other thing that was really sweet about Long, is that, the first afternoon, when he saw I had a camera he immediately came over and offered to take down to the beach to photograph the sunset. So off we went to discover Long Beach, which is as it says, long and beautiful except for the string of hotels, each complete with their deck chairs in front, which are side by side for the entire length of the beach! I almost didn’t want to be there.
Duc Anh Photos of my room and the gardens
My beautifully presented towel!
Sunset the first evening on Long Beach
Long was the saving grace of my Phu Quoc time. It really touched my heart. I found I had tears when I left. The gardens around the house were lovely and the room very comfortable. It did give me lots of time to catch up on my blog, which I was really glad about.
Long is in the middle and Tran was the friendly receptionist at Duc Anh
One of the things that was the biggest disappointment of this island which I had heard was so beautiful, was that there is construction! Guesthouses and hotels are being built everywhere! And then there’s all the rubble and of course garbage which you cannot get away from. I am sure that there are places that are gorgeous on the the island apart from the beaches, they were inaccessible unless I took expensive taxis or by rented a motorbike which I was not going to do. After I left I met a man from New Zealand who is living in Vietnam now and who had been there several times over the past five years, and he also felt it had lost it’s beauty. It is a sad fact that often tourism results in the in the nature actually being destroyed.
On my second evening at Duc Anh, Long took me out on his bike to see the sunset again but took me on a little tour where we visited some of the harbours with the boats. Squid fishing is really big here. You can see the boats at night because of the lights which lure the squid. Here is a close up of the boats with their lights.
One of the very picturesque harbours
Long chose a great place for the sunset the second evening
I visited a very lovely little Pagoda just near the guest house on the actual day of TET and many people were coming that day to make offerings of incense.
I found a diving group, on the island, called Rainbow Divers, that was willing to have a snorkeler along, as so went out on my third day with them. I so enjoyed snorkeling again after having not done it for awhile. The reefs were not the most colourful or very plentiful with fish, but still I love that quiet experience of being immersed in the ocean world. I would have loved to have some pics, however, I neglected to put the screen of my phone onto the brightest setting and I simply could not see the phone well enough to take photos. Drat! Somehow our boat got a broken rudder during the trip and so our trip home was unusual to say the least. Regularly, they would stop, turn direction and head of trying to navigate the wind and the current without a rudder. I chatted with some folks who could speak English, (most tourists in these parts are European and of course Vietnamese) who were on the trip and that enjoyable. Finally, they decided to take a tow from another boat but that was not successful either as the rope snapped. In the end, they actually tied the two boats together at the side and we got back perfectly, even though it was 2 hours late.
The beginning of the tying together process
The end of the process - and it worked!
I had to move from my guesthouse as I had added on a day to my time on the island and the prices had gone up at Duc An, as with many places and ended up at La Paloma Guesthouse which was again really isolated. To add to it, when I arrived there was not a single person there. I had to phone to get someone to check me in. Amazing! It was sure a come down after Duc An whose service was impeccable. But it was a bed to stay in and I was grateful for that. I ended up taking a taxi to a restaurant on the beach as I really did not want to eat there. Each time I walked by the kitchen, which was a complete mess, I would see the cat jumping off the kitchen counter and scurrying away! Luckily, on my way back from supper, I had a great taxi driver who agreed to pick me up to get me to the airport in the early morning. I wasn’t sad to be leaving Phu Quoc at all……