After the intensity of Ho Chi Minh city how I longed to be stretched out under the warm rays of the sun, coconut in hand, on the beaches of a tropical island. And some days dreams really do come true, as I boarded my plane on the short journey to Phu Quoc island.
Nestled off the southern tip of Vietnam, though essentially closer to Cambodia, Phu Quoc is destined to become the next Phuket, with its white sand beaches and aquamarine water transfixing any tropical island lover. The island, in its current state, is undergoing great change, with resorts popping up all along the main beach, Long Beach, connecting the main tourist areas on the west of the island. As a result, it feels very unfinished, without any central hub. But don’t let that put you off, if anything, it’s more incentive to head there now before it becomes the next souvenir-slinging, hair-braiding, McDonald’s promoted bastardisation of western and Vietnamese culture.
Arriving to a steady flow of rain, I was swiftly scootered to my lodgings at Canary Hostel, located on the main part of Duong Dong Street. Arriving to a quiet common area, I was slightly worried it was going to be a potentially lonely couple of days. But any fears would soon dissipate thanks to a splendid group of dorm mates.
As a solo traveller, the people you meet can make such a difference in the experiences you have in a destination. More often than not, travellers have a similar way of thinking about the world and our place within it, so it’s easy to connect quickly and deeply with those that have the same desire for wanderlust as you. I’ve met some of the most incredible people in my travels, and this group of ratbags were no different.
After a rain-soaked attempt at a beach run and swim the next morning, I buddied up with New Orleans teacher, Shelby, to taxi down to Bai Sao (South Beach), on the south west coast of the island. Being the rainy season, but local school holidays, the beach was slightly busy, but we managed to easily find our own little peace of quiet up the north end of the beach, snagging beach lounges next to fellow dorm mates Katy and James for a mere $4.
Perfectly positioned were we also, next to the Insta-worthy palm tree swing, upon which our lounge-man proceeded to take some seriously good snaps, complete with filter. He obviously does this a lot.
Like the good tourists that we are, and looking a nice shade of cherry red from the day’s overcast conditions, Katy and I decided a visit to the Phu Quoc night market was in order, once showered and refreshed from the beach. Up in the main local part of Duong Dong, the market is a repetitive mix of seafood restaurants, candied nut stands and ice cream vendors, whose creations resemble my Cold Rock obsession of the early 2000s. From those who’d eaten at the market for dinner, the seafood is good but is expensive and small portioned for what you’re paying in Vietnam, so best to eat first and explore after. And if you don’t feel like buying your own little take-home jar of delicious nuts (we couldn’t resist), if you cut enough laps of the market, you’ll be able to sample around a jars worth from all the different stall holders.
After spending the next morning on a Skype job interview, Katy and I decided to explore more of the south of the island via a snorkelling and fishing tour. Headed for the An Toi Archipelago, John’s tour took us to two different snorkelling locations including Fingernail Island, and you could leisurely fish off the bow of the boat as it was anchored. Due to recent rain, our water wasn’t the clearest and the coral not the best I’ve seen (I’m sorry Vietnam, I live in Australia so I’m a little biased) but I’ve heard come dry season that the water is crystal clear and a joy to snorkel in. Lunch is also served on the boat…unless you get lucky like us and lose your appetite due to a fellow passenger’s misguided upchuck reflexes.
Birthday dinner celebrations for fellow roomie Ronan took us to some random shack on the highway (note: always check actual restaurant opening times, TripAdvisor isn’t always right), drinking games with Argentinian basketballers, skinny-dipping and games of pool (FYI I won!).
I could have easily stayed for days more, with an abundance of activities still to experience – can you say Vietnam “Disneyland”, pearl farming and an animal safari – but it was time for me to head due North.
Stay: Canary Hostel
Eat: Bun Cha Ha Noi – so so amazing!!
Fish Curry at Yen Son (also try the little stand below, where the waitress will help you eat your food, whether you want her to or not)
Do: Bai Sao
Safari Park and Zoo
Biking and hiking around the island