So this is what it feels like to be famous? People taking your picture without asking, wanting to touch you, and telling you that you’re beautiful. Ok so those last two were very specific to Little Miss. We knew that with her blonde hair and big blue eyes Miss C would get plenty of attention in Vietnam, what we did not foresee was the amount of people who thought that she was a boy, even on the odd occasion where she was decked out in head to toe pink (with flamingos might I add). Poor bubs.
After what seemed like a long journey from Singapore, owing only to a long stop over in Ho Chi Minh, we stepped out onto the tarmac at Phu Quoc International Airport. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, the tropical island of Phu Quoc is what we imagine Koh Samui might have been like in the early 90’s- a fact that is not lost on the Vietnamese Government who have BIG plans to develop the island which is similar in size to Singapore. Fortunately, around 50% of the island is a designated national park so although we’d recommend you get your butts here soon, if you don’t manage to some of the island will always retain its natural beauty. In fact, increased tourism may (hopefully) lead to some of the beaches being taken care of. At the moment, those stretches in front of resorts are beautiful and pristine but walk a bit further and you’ll come across washed up and dumped rubbish.
Our week on Phu Quoc was certainly a lot more relaxed than what we’re used to but it was a welcome change of pace for us given we were travelling with a 10 month old. Here’s the low down:
Daisy resort- nestled in a small hill a short walk up from the main stretch on Long Beach in Duong Dong is this little gem. We stayed in a bungalow complete with an outdoor bathroom, AC and a verandah which had a hammock to relax in and views to soak up. The pool also provided views of the ocean below (as well as all the construction going on). Little Miss isn’t walking yet but if you had a toddler on the move constantly this might not be the best option given the amount of stairs, especially when they get slippery after a tropical down pour. Although the staff weren’t quite as good at communicating as the staff at Mango Bay (below), we found them to be genuine, friendly and eager to please. While the breakfast was pretty standard, the Vietnamese food was delish! Daisy Resort also offer a free shuttle to the beach but you have to pre-book (we’re not organised enough for that, nor can we predict nap time that accurately), and the one time we did use the shuttle it dropped us off to a pretty crappy part of the beach. We’d recommend going a bit further north, ask a taxi to take you to La Mer Resort which has a few good eateries and mini marts too.
Mango Bay Resort- our tour guide informed us that Mango Bay was so much better than Daisy Resort. Now, we were pretty happy with Daisy so this was exciting to hear, particularly given Mango Bay was more expensive than our typical accommodation in SE Asia. We were not disappointed. The grounds were beautiful, we could see the beach from our bed and both the restaurant and beach bar overlooked the ocean. Plus they served up some of the best food we’ve eaten in Asia, and that’s saying something! Even breakfast is amazing! The resort is Eco-friendly and as such there’s no AC (a fan does the job fine). A mini-fridge is replaced by a small cooler box and ice which you can restock each day. And instead of a kettle you are given a flask of boiling water. There are lots of other Eco initiatives that I can’t remember but it was all very impressive. The resort offers free equipment hire (think kayaks and snorkelling gear) as well as free yoga and tai chi classes, again set against a beach backdrop. The beach (Ong Lang) is gorgeous by the way, in my opinion much better than Long Beach and Sao Beach (below). Ong Lang Beach stretches for quite a while so you can find your own little patch to soak up the rays if you so desire. In fact, I’d probably recommend you stay in this area unless you really want to be closer to town. I’d also recommend you treat yourself to a massage at the onsite day spa, which as you may have guessed, overlooks the beach. Afterwards, you are treated to a scrumptious platter of fresh fruit. Oh man, what I’d do for some perfectly ripe mango right now.
Overall, I couldn’t fault this place. They certainly paid attention to the little details that make a difference, like putting out your mozzie coils and bed netting while you’re at dinner.
See & Do
Sao Beach- what’s a beach without a swing on a palm tree, right? Fortunately, Sao Beach has that one covered. Is it an amazing beach? Not in our opinion, but it’s nice enough to chill at for a couple of hours and had a few places to eat and drink.
Ham Ninh Fishing Village- speaking of eating.. we were a bit annoyed that we had already when we arrived here. Ham Ninh has plenty of floating restaurants scattered along a long jetty which juts out from the shore. If the smell was anything to go by, these places serve up a mean lunch. We also discovered that the locals drink a ‘wine’ made from seahorses kept in a bottle of rice wine, to improve sexual prowess and fertility of course. We weren’t game enough to put this to the test though. These days the fishing village is more a tourism village that happens to be where fisherman dock each day to sell their catch to the people of Phu Quoc. All the seafood we had during our trip was amazing!
Coconut Prison- a thoroughly depressing but essential experience to gain an understanding of Phu Quoc’s history. Originally built by French colonists, the Coconut Prison was more recently run by the South Vietnamese under the guidance of the US and was so horribly inhumane in its conditions and torture methods that it leaves you questioning how on Earth people can be such monsters. Some prisoners managed to escape through acts that demonstrate grit and determination but most weren’t that lucky. Lots of the tourists, particularly domestic ones, were fussing over Little Miss. I think she was a welcome distraction in such a horrid place.
Pepper Plantation- Phu Quoc produces great quality pepper, which is no surprise given its proximity to Cambodia’s pepper capital Kampot. We visited a little plantation and got to try a few different varieties of pepper with green mango.
Relax- ok I know I mentioned this already but yoga, massages, swimming and cocktails at Mango Bay are fantastic ways to spend your day.
We’d certainly like to revisit Phu Quoc one day, perhaps when Little Miss is old enough to enjoy a trip out to the surrounding islands which are supposedly great for a bit of snorkelling. Up next some local WA trips- Yallingup and Broome.