Updated July 24th, 2018.
I feel cut off from the Western world; there isn’t a fast food restaurant in sight, a barber is cutting a man’s hair out on the pavement under the blazing sun, and the shouts from the kids playing in the nearby harbour proclaim their love for life. Lost in it all, I snap back to coherence. I notice a set of eyes peering up at me from underneath a conical hat; the adjoining lips offer a greeting of: ‘Sing Chào.’
I’m on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, a destination that may have more modern amenities if it were attached to the mainland but it doesn’t, and for that I am grateful.
The pace of life on Phu Quoc is blissfully dull, something that is increasingly hard to find in Vietnam. The distance between Phu Quoc and Vietnamese mainland is a mere 12km, astonishingly preserving the Vietnamese charm that has been attracting tourists, both foreign and local, for decades.
When to travel to Phu Quoc?
High season in Phu Quoc runs from November to March when the weather is at it’s best with sunny days and little rain. Many hotels are booked up during this time and activities such as diving and boat trips run daily. If you plan to go during this time, it’s wise to book flights in advance.
If you want to avoid high season, April to June is a good time to visit, especially if you’re keen on getting cheap deals on hotels and cheaper prices on tours. At this time of year, it can be really hot so a room with AC will help.
July to October is considered the monsoon season in Phu Quoc, with October being the least rainy. During this time the sea can be very rough with winds and rain battering the beach daily. It’s the least popular time to visit the island.
Where to Stay on Phu Quoc Island?
The breadth of lodgings on Phu Quoc is quite varied. Seasonal prices and the number of current visitors can drastically ebb and flow the per-night price. By Vietnamese standards, the prices may be a bit higher (mainly when compared to the larger urban cities Saigon and Hanoi) but you’ll be getting a grand trip out of the experience.
The three main areas to stay are Ving Bau Beach, Ong Lang Beach and Long Beach. Long Beach seems to have the most variety of resorts. I chose Cassia Cottages, solely because the staff harvests their own cinnamon then use it for cinnamon ice cream and cinnamon lattes!
Other good options include:
Phu House Hostel – Located on Long Beach, this great hotel offers dorms and privates. They have clean and comfortable dorm rooms with privacy curtains on each bed and free breakfast. The rooftop bar is a big hit with travellers as are the social events, pool table, free beer and jacuzzi! All in all, it’s a great place for backpackers in Phu Quoc!
Orchid Guesthouse – A lovely guesthouse with a swimming pool that’s popular amongst travellers, located near to the Muon Pagoda in Duong Dong. The Orchid offers double and family rooms (two double beds), restaurant, bar, free wifi and bike hire. The smiling staff make for a pleasant stay!
Things to do in Phu Quoc Island
Visiting Bai Sao (South Beach) on the southern tip of the island should be ticked off the list first. The arduous dirt-road route deters hordes of tourists from the area, which makes for a mix of foreign and domestic vacationers soaking up the sun and listening to the waves. The water is so clear in this area you’ll want to take a boat trip to the nearby An Thoi Islands for a day of snorkelling.
I found the market in Duong Dong (the islands biggest town) to be quite fascinating. If you like old world markets this will be a huge highlight for you. I tried to count on my hands how many food items which I could not identify, and I ran out of fingers. Don’t make any sudden movements as motorbikes intertwine with the sea of people walking about.
The Dinh Cau Temple also in Duong Dong is a nice place to visit. This temple/lighthouse is an odd combination but the views of the sea are top-notch. The restaurant just down the beach from Dinh Cau Temple serves phenomenal iced Vietnamese coffee, so grab one and head to the second-floor terrace to catch the sun setting over the harbour.
I actually found the night market to be less interesting than Duong Dong’s daytime market but there are still some fun things to do at it. Looking at dehydrated bats to crush up into tea or playing carnival style gambling games sure beats sitting in your hotel room.
RELAX! – This island was meant to be taken in through sun shades while reclining on a beach chair. Large beers at the small makeshift bars along Long Beach are about 60 cents.
How to get to Phu Quoc Island
By Plane – Vietnamese Airlines offers flights from Saigon for under $100.00. The flight takes less than an hour.
By Boat – Three ports on the east side of the island are linked to Ha Tien on the Vietnamese/Cambodian Border and ferry trips between are made twice daily.
Where to go next?
The price to take a bus from Ha Tien to Sihanoukville costs roughly $20.00, during research no reputable outfits offered reliable transportation from Phu Quoc into Cambodia.
About the writer: This article was written by Colin Roohan a travel photographer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. To view more of his works follow him on Facebook – Colin Roohan Photography.
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