Monday, July 5, 2010

Phu Quoc Island - Nice Beach, Shame About The Tar...

Phu Quoc Island is described in the Lonely Planet as being everything a tropical island is supposed to be. I quote: 
"It is fringed with exquisite white-sand beaches lined with swaying palms and gently lapping turquoise waters"
Needless to say, we were very excited about our little retreat in our beach-front bungalow. So much so that we had re-arranged all of our travel plans in order to make our way down there. However, after our stay in Phu Quoc I think that a more accurate description would be:
"It is fringed with rubbish-strewn tar-blackened beaches lined with coast-guards who whistle at you if you venture out more than 5 metres into the murky, choppy waters with a mean undertow which will carry you 200 metres down the shore in less than 5 minutes". The above photo makes the place look really beautiful, but what the sunset is actually doing is improving the scene by not providing you with enough light to see the imperfections!

The ferry from the mainland takes about two and a half hours. This was about two hours and fifteen minutes too long for most of the Vietnamese people onboard, who spent most of the time noisily throwing up in plastic bags and generally looking like they were inches from death. Michael and I spent the whole trip with our MP3 players on maximum volume to drown out the retching noises, and coconut suncream smeared underneath our noses to avoid the smell. We were so relieved that we had arranged to fly back to Saigon!

The resort that we stayed at was very nice, and we had a lovely bungalow right on the beach. There was even a complimentary fruit basket every day. On the first day we didn't do very much, actually we didn't do very much the whole time we were there! We had lunch at a cafe next door and then I read my book while Michael tested out the beach. Most of the Vietnamese people did not venture out further than a couple of metres, so they were actually cheering Michael on when he swam out into the surf and bodysurfed a wave back to shore. The coast guard was obviously not used to having people on the beach who can actually swim, so he insisted on blowing the whistle anytime he thought that Michael was getting too far from shore i.e any further than about 5 metres. However, by the second day he stopped doing this, as he must have realised that Michael was more than capable of handling himself. Michael joked that "he felt like Brody (Patrick Swayze) in the final scene of Point Break but instead of 30 foot monster waves there were 2 foot ripples, and instead of a good-looking Keanu Reeves waiting to arrest him on the beach there was an Vietnamese security guard whistling at him to come back into shore".

On the second day, two Vietnamese men came up to me while Michael was swimming and used sign language to indicate that I should call Michael back in because the waves were too high. They weren't high at all, but they were much too high for these two men, who preferred to just sit in the surf and play around with the sand. After telling me this they burst into laughter, obviously having some sort of joke at our expense. Michael came in and they started yelling at him and pointing at the 'waves', so Michael yelled back at them and signalled for them to leave us alone and mind their own business. They turned to each other and started laughing hysterically again, it was very confusing. We decided that they needed taking down a peg or two, so as Michael walked past them lying in the surf he sarcastically gestured to the water that was swirling around them and mocked them by made scary noises, letting them know what he thought of their 'big waves'. I'm not sure whether they could speak English, but it was very clear that they understood that they were being made fun of, so they yelled at him again and angrily motioned for him to leave them alone. Ninety-five percent of 5-year olds at Cottesloe Beach would be better swimmers than these bozos, so why they thought that they were in a position to be making fun of anyone at the beach is beyond me.

That night we just ate at the resort restaurant for the first and only time. My serve of Macaroni Cheese was miniscule and Michael's grilled squid was not properly cleaned or gutted. We were very disappointed, since we were nowhere near the centre of town and eating choices were limited. The next day we went for a walk and managed to stumble onto a little gem less than 100 metres down the road called Hop Inn Restaurant. We got the hot pot, which is basically a metal pot of broth which is kept simmering on your table. While it is simmering, you add the ingredients (we got prawns, fish, squid and noodles) and cook everything at the table. It was so good we went back two more times!

In between our visits to Hop Inn, we alternated between beach and pool. I much preferred the pool, since the sea water was very choppy and quite dirty. We found out exactly how dirty on our second day when we decided to go for a walk down the beach, hoping for some calmer water. We didn't find any, but went for a dip anyway. Before going back into the bungalow we used the outdoor shower to rinse off our feet. But we were shocked to look down at our feet and see that the soles of our feet were covered with black tar! Michael's feet were the worst as he stayed in the water the longest, he had horrible black gunk in between his toes as well. It took about 10 minutes of scrubbing for him to get it all off. One of the main reasons that I did not stay in the water too long was that I could see rubbish floating in the water. On our last morning we were not surprised to see that all of the rubbish had washed up on the beach and was being swept up by one of the hotel staff, probably straight back into the water.

After three nights we boarded a plane back to Saigon. I definitely don't regret doing the Mekong Delta tour, however I would have been happy to return straight to Saigon rather than detouring to Phu Quoc Island, as it certainly wasn't the tropical paradise that we were expecting. Considering the amount of effort that it takes to get down there, as well as the high accommodation prices, next time I will give it a miss and spend the extra time in Mui Ne or Nah Trang instead.


  1. It has been three news since your trip to Phu Quoc, I wonder if the island is any better. I was in Nha Trang two years ago for my honeymoon and I love it. Vu

  2. Nice post, I have already added this places on my travel bucket list after reading you beautiful post…Thanks for share…