I landed at the domestic airport, a tiny, one-runway excuse for one (perhaps I’m too spoiled by JFK in New York), and took a cab to my hotel/resort. The drive there revealed beautiful resorts and hotels, and poor locals sitting at their food stands right beside them. Dogs were everywhere, though after my stay there, I learned that most of them had owners and were tame. Just like mainland Vietnam, sidewalks were basically a luxury, and thus, almost non-existent. Ramshackle…shacks…were what comprised the locals’ residences. Everything was gritty, real, and frankly, initially scary.
When comparing my resort to the surrounding areas, I felt like I was entering the Pearly Gates of heaven, with St. Peter asking me for my passport and check-in signature. The lush island vegetation creates a wonderfully verdant canopy above your head, and you walk through the stone-paved grounds, past the humble cottages (yes, you don’t stay in a room, but in your own cottage), to the not-so-humble bungalows that of course cost a bit more. My Large Sea View Room was phenomenal – a high-ceilinged, spacious cabin, with an outdoor shower and two beds, perfect for whatever your heart desires.
But wait, there’s more! If you call now, you’ll also be steps away from the resort’s private beach! Walking past the warm, elegant pool, and descending a few stone steps, your toes touch the grainy white sand, and then the warm ocean water. It feels like stepping into a hot bath, albeit with a ton more salt and less floating candles. And the sunset? Don’t even get me started…
There are a few other things to do on the island besides lazing about your resort. Hire a driver for a day (only ~20 USD), or rent a motorbike (considerably cheaper) and drive yourself around. You can see an old Vietnam War-era prison called the Coconut Prison, the Suoi Tranh waterfalls (not as epic as Niagara of course, but beautiful nonetheless), pepper plantations, pearl farms where you can buy jewellery for your nagging wife, and Sao Beach. Sao Beach’s water is crystal clear, and so untouched by humans that the small fish swim right up to you instead of running for their lives. It is also so shallow that you can walk out until you can barely see the shore, and you’ll still only be waist-deep in the water.
For food, you can eat at any of the ethnic restaurants in Duong Dong (for a touristy price), or you can take the cooler option and eat at the Dinh Cau Night Market. Open from 6 pm until midnight, it sells trinkets, souvenirs, and an obscene amount of fresh seafood, caught right off the shores of the island. There you can have scallops, sea urchin, crustaceans, and fish, freshly prepared for you, and all of affordable prices.
When the new international airport is completed in 2012, Phu Quoc will undoubtedly turn into a tourist resort destination. Bulldozers and construction equipment litter the island already, and the government is forcing locals out of the area of the airport land. In a way it is sad that the virginity of the island is being taken by tourists and foreigners, but this will inject much needed revenue into the island. Sure, almost none of it will go to the local denizens, but at least more job opportunities will be available. Take my advice and try to go to this island before the new airport – and tourist floodgates – open. Relax. Take in the breathtaking vistas. Swim in the warm water. You’ll be able to brag to your indie friends later that you saw the island before it became cool and mainstream.
Cassia Cottage - http://www.cassiacottage.com/index.htm
La Veranda - http://www.mgallery.com/gb/hotel-6479-la-veranda-resort-phu-quoc-a-member-of-the-mgallery-collection/index.shtml