December 24th, 2010 – by: Jollyjetsetter
Colourful building in Duong Dong town
.....And onto the next leg of the journey, a 4-night stay on tropical Phu Quoc island, an island located just off the coast of Cambodia, roughly the size of Singapore. Whilst the development on the island in no way mirrors the high-rise of Singapore, tourism here is merely in its infancy, and with a new international airport currently under construction, Phu Quoc appears to be a tourist magnet just waiting to be strongly magnetized. The choice of hotel, the Thien Hai Son, was a suitable one, since it is located on a stretch of road along which there are a fair few commendable eateries representing a few different nations (Indian, Australian, etc). The hotel is also located a stone's throw away from the beach, and within walking distance of the island's only settlement of any size, Duong Dong town.
Suoi Tranh waterfall, small but attractive.
Since the nightlife on the island and the number of tourists still attribute the place a fairly 'low-key' identity, it is fair to say that this could easily be considered some kind of affordable chill-out zone, where the pace of life could be as slack as you wanted it to be, with minor scope for one or two tourist-centric activities. Spending Christmas day scouting around Duong Dong's day market (more complete than the town's night market) made it a day to remember, if only for the ramshackle nature of the area, and the rich-in-character trading spot, where bargain-priced souvenirs and groceries could be purchased, sometimes as a result of the bartering required to secure a purchase. Hiring a car plus driver for a full day proved to be a big plus, especially considering the wealth of attractions and stop-off points en route which validated the whole necessity to have a mode of transport at your disposal.
Collection at Phu Quoc island museum.
Among these attractions were the waterfall at Suoi Tranh, the Su Muon pagoda, the fishing village of Ham Ninh, Sao Beach, the pearl farm (plus souvenir shop), and the island's only museum, a surprisingly well-endowed collection of artefacts which illustrate the island's true character and origins. Another popular excursion on the island is a snorkelling / fishing tour to the cluster of islands located off the southern tip of the island at An Thoi. Part of this trip was a buffet-style lunch on board the boat, which served to suggest that catering to all passengers was never too much trouble for the Vietnamese, and the surrounding scenery provided the perfect backdrop for this communal lunch session. The trip was rounded off with a beachside massage opposite the hotel, and it's at that point on the trip where it became apparent that life in Vietnam needn't be misinterpreted as a country in pretty rapid (economic) growth with restless attitudes and approaches to daily business to match the rate of development.
Beachfront life on the An Thoi archipelago of islands.
Phu Quoc island will appeal to those whose desires for tropicality are linked to a non-desire for that to come coupled with shopping malls and all the trappings which serve to saturate and render more synthetic the original nature of the island's identity. As with anywhere else in Vietnam, there are rougher, less-polished edges involved too, which may become planed out as the island attracts more visitors, but for my money, the whole deal gets a resounding thumbs up, and every reason to boast about having visited an unknown paradise of sorts.