Phu Quoc Island
The 16th of April marked the last chapter of our trip. We were finally going to be able to rest in a beautiful, unspoiled island called Phu Quoc, considered to have the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Phu Quoc (known as Koh Tral by Cambodians) is an island currently administered by Vietnam, although the island is the subject of territorial disputes between Vietnam and Cambodia. It was invaded by Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. It is currently the largest island in Vietnam, part of Kiên Giang province and is also part of an archipelago consisting of 22 islands of all sizes.
The island covers an area of 585 km² and is 50 km long. Phu Quoc is also called the Emerald Island because of its natural treasures and high tourism potential.
Time for a group photo at Bai Sao
We arrived on the island at 11:15 after a 45 minute Vietnam Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City. When we arrived, both our Resort Bus and Daniel’s resort bus were waiting to pick us up. Daniel stayed at the Tropicana Resort and the rest of the group stayed at the Saigon Phu Quoc Resort. After we checked-in we spent the rest of the afternoon at Long Beach and waited for Daniel to meet us. We were very disappointed with the Hotel beach. The sand was thick, light brown and the ocean water was dark-green.
The only good thing about it was the temperature which should have been around 27º C. That afternoon after a good sleep we decided that we had to find an alternative beach where to spend the rest of our days at the island.
At the gas station
We had read that the best beaches were in the Southeast section of the Island. There were 3 beaches everyone talked about. One of the best beaches in the Southeast was occupied by the military and therefore out of the question. Another beach was in the Norhwest but the road to the beach was horrible. The last beach was one we had read about and that everyone considered to be one of the best �" Bai Sao. The problem was that the beach was about 27 km away and we didn’t know how to get there. There was a tour operator called Rainbow Divers at the Hotel that organized one-day tours to the beach. However, they were charging 1000000 VND to take our group.
We tried to investigate other alternatives, like renting motorbikes at the Hotel, but the Hotel prices were around 8 USD for a one day rental for each motorbike. We quickly realized that we couldn’t count on the Hotel for reasonable prices and so decided to investigate other alternatives. That’s when we remembered that we had been given at the airport some publicity papers with motorbike rental prices from a restaurant called Carol. I decided to call them up and negotiated 5 motorbikes for 4 days for only 13000000 VND (65 EUR). I asked our contact to deliver the motorbikes the next morning to our Hotel at 8:00.
On the 17th of April, as planned, our contact arrived but with only one motorbike. She told me that she couldn't bring all of them because the Hotel couldn't know she had rented them to us.
She even asked me to tell them, if they asked, that each motorbike had cost 100.000 VND per day. Anyway, she took me to the Restaurant to get another motorbike and then we went back to the Hotel to get the rest of the group. She had to teach us how to ride the motorbikes because we weren't use to shifts and some hadn’t even ever ridden a motorbike. We then headed for the nearest gas station to fill the tanks up and went on our 27 km ride. It was one of the best experiences of our trip. It was wonderful to get up in the morning, have breakfast at the Hotel and then go on a 45 minute motorbike ride to Bai Sao Beach. At the end of the day we usually went back to the hotel around 17:00.
The first day we arrived at the beach we understood immediately that it had nothing to do with Long Beach.
Bai Sao Beach could rival with any Malaysian or Thai beach. The moment we saw the beach we knew we were in heaven. It was around 700 meters long with white powdery sand. The water was warm and felt as if we were in a pool because there weren’t any waves. There were 2 little family restaurants next to the shore and 10 small bungalows that could be rented for about 15 USD a night. Every day felt like being on a deserted island because it seemed we were the only tourists around. There were only Phu Quoc dogs around everywhere and occasionally horses would slowly pass by.
On the first day at the beach I met a Vietnamese man who lived in LA, California. He had fled Vietnam after the war and had come back for vacations.
He offered to show me a spot at the beach where we could try out some snorkeling. As I and João walked with him he complained of the little effort made by the Vietnamese government to preserve the island. I suggested he invest in some sort of resort at the island and take matters into his own hands. He replied that he wasn’t interested in investing in a Communist country. He was scared the government would take his investments away. I also asked him if he liked living in the US and he said “No! America is only good to earn money, not to live a life of quality.” Curiously, or not, I agreed. Anyway, we snorkeled around a bit, but the corals weren’t that great. Last year we had snorkeled at Redang Island and the experience had been was much better. The Vietnamese man lent his gear to João so he could also try out the snorkeling.
In the process he lost his sunglasses and we had to spend the next 30 minutes trying to find them. Unfortunately we were able to help our new friend out. We spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping on the beach.
Miguel's first flat tire
Around 17:00 we decided to head back to the Resort. Along the way strangely, Miguel and Susana’s motorbike got 3 flat tiers. Fortunately for us there was always a mechanic (sort of) nearby. We arrived at the Resort around 20:00.
The rest of our days were spent riding to the beach every morning, swimming, eating cheap delicious seafood and tropical fruit, taking pictures, swimming, sleeping, swimming, playing cards, swimming, reading and spending some time at the resort pool… and oh yea, I almost forgot… swimming! To add to the health problems we had had, itchy warts started to appear all over our bodies.
The same had happened to us last year at the end of our trip. In the opinion of some of us the bumps were due to an allergic reaction to food and/or climate change. To others they were due to the Phu Quoc dog flees (the dogs were always trying to lay down on ower towels). We will probably never know.
We would usually eat dinner at Le Bistro or Carol’s Restaurant. Both were great restaurants at a fraction of the cost of the Hotel.
On the 19th of April we celebrated Pedro’s 34th birthday at Le Bistro just as he had requested. To his surprise we had asked the owner to prepare a surprise chocolate birthday cake and offered him a nice perfume as a present.
We had a very good time that night. They say that if you celebrate your Birthday in another country, you are reborn there. If we start seeing Pedro with slant eyelids we’ll believe it’s true. We also discovered the Daniel had had a little accident with the motorbike.
Pedro's 2nd birthday party
On the last day of our stay we headed for An Thoi which is the most southern city in Phu Quoc. We wanted to try and see if we could get into the military base and see the beach there. We weren’t very lucky because the security guards promptly told us to leave when we tried. We returned to Bai Sao and it started to rain as soon as we arrived. It was great to be swimming in the sea feeling the rain pouring down on us. It rained for only about 20 minutes, but the rest of the day was pretty windy. That morning there was a Japanese TV crew at the island interviewing people. They finally came up to me and started asking some questions.After we returned to the Resort some of us watched the legendary Phu Quoc sunset and Pedro ended up celebrating his anniversary a 2nd time. To his surprise the ladies from the reception sang him a birthday song and offered him a birthday cake. That night we took our motorbikes back to Carol’s Restaurant and ended up eating dinner and the cake there. Carol offered us, free of charge, a bottle of the same champagne; Le Bistro had charged Pedro for. At the end of the night Carol took us back to the Hotel on an old US military jeep. The next day we were leaving for Lisbon.
Basically they wanted to know who we were; what we were doing at the island; how we had discovered such a remote location, and what we thought about the roads, etc. My interview should be transmitted on the Japanese TV Channel NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) on the 1st of May.
Phu Quoc Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Carol's Restaurant is a great place to eat dinner or lunch in Phu Quoc Island. It serves great Vietnamese and Western food (especially great Pizza) at… read entire review