Phu Quoc Island is only 12kms from Cambodia and a 50-minute short flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
Colourful Pho Quoc Island
In less than one hour Ho Chi Minh City locals and tourists can leave nine million residents and six million motorbikes behind and escape to an island paradise that comprises of pristine beaches and minimal crowds.
The island can also be accessed by boat from the Mekong Delta via hydrofoil, ferry or cruiser.
Vietnam and Cambodia for many years have claimed sovereignty over this magical island in the pacific. It’s the largest Vietnamese island and these days Phu Quoc is proudly proclaimed as Vietnams own.
Pho Quoc Island main industry is fishing and it has a thriving pearl industry and as large as the pearl industry is it’s nothing compared to its world famous export (no.1 in the world) their fish sauce and black pepper industry.
Pho Quoc Harbour fishing fleet
The extremely rich fishing grounds off Phu Quoc supply the anchovies needed for the fish sauce industry.
Driving around the island anchovies can be seen drying in racks in the tropical Asian sun getting ready to be “sauced”. Now I know where that saying comes from “there’s something fishy happening here.”
Local fishing boats waiting to be launched off the beach
Take a stroll through the markets and deciding what seafood to eat is going to provide you with the biggest headache. The choice is endless and the quality and moreish seafood on display is overwhelming.
Continue down to the harbor and you discover an armada of fishing boats. A kaleidoscope of colour’s fills the harbour of which the blue hulls of the many fishing vessels are prominent. Most of the fishing boats have red and green flags strung across their terracotta coloured decks making a walk around the harbour an extremely vivid experience.
Close to the harbor entrance is a lookout from which a Temple takes top billing. From here you can gaze down the coast and for far as you can see is miles and miles of pristine uncrowded beach. (Perfectly named Long Beach)
Beach views from the Temple
Strewn across the sand and promenade red plastic seats dot the horizon as locals sit and gather to take in the late afternoon ambience and as some residents told me, “catch up on all the local gossip”.
Tourism plays a massive part in the islands economy and now is definitely the best time to visit as Phu Quoc still exudes an innocent rustic charm
Locals selling produce on the beach
Beaches are a massive bonus on the island and the sparseness of people is a highlight. To find a virgin spot on the sand to lay your towel is definitely not a problem.
If you’re active the Island is a great place to discover whether walking, hiking, biking or going 4 wheel off road jeep touring. Phu Quoc is still rather undiscovered and adventures abound.
The island reminded me of all the popular South East Asian island resorts without the massive crowds, traffic, multitudes of high-rise developments and hotels. Phu Quoc is still relatively unknown, beautiful and unflustered.
Recliner beach beds
Infrastructure is changing albeit quite slowly. When we were there the one dirt main road was being built into a two-lane freeway.
The island still runs on generated power. Plans are in place and date has been set for an Italian company to run underwater electricity cables from the mainland and bring Phu Quoc Island into the 21st electrical century.
When we were there crowds were at a minimum. Talking to the owners of Rory’s bar on the beach they explained how low season (August to November) is tough and they count the days to when high tourist season arrives (July to February). The afternoon we were there six people were at the bar. The same bar on New Years Eve in high season had 500 people “rocking round the quoc”
Low season unfortunately brings inclement weather and our most exciting excursion we had planned, night squid fishing had to be cancelled.
Tasty sea urchin
Before our squid fishing was abandoned we sampled cooked sea urchin on our boat, now that takes courage to have the first mouthful. But what a culinary delight, for something that looks so alien it turned out to be a delicious morsel that will definitely find its way onto my menu again.
4 wheel off road driving,
History of Vietnam war prisoners/prison is still active
Visit the pearl farms and pearl stores
Tour the fish sauce and pepper-making factory
Great bars on the beach
Thriving markets specializing in seafood
WHERE TO STAY:
HOW TO BOOK:
HOW TO GET THERE:
Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166
Words and photos Daniel Resnik