If the mad hustle of Vietnam life has got you needing an urgent change of pace, it’s comforting to know that the peaceful serenity of Vietnam’s largest island is not far away…
With only an hour flight from Saigon or a two-hour flight from Hanoi, Phu Quoc is certainly well within reach, and with flights leaving daily for as low as $50USD each way, your weekend plans might be looking up.
To help guide you through this island paradise, here’s how we spent our weekend on what has been affectionately dubbed Vietnam’s “Pearl Island”…
(9:10am-12:00am) Arriving on the 9:10am flight from Hanoi, we quickly hightailed it to our hotel. Packing light since we would only be in Phu Quoc for the weekend, we were all grateful that we could skip the baggage claim. Although it was only a two hour flight and the hotel was a quick fifteen minute taxi ride from the airport, we all made our own excuses on why we needed to rest our weary bones after the plane ride.
(12:00pm-1:00pm) Check-in and a quick swim led us to lunch. This is where we got our first (but definitely not last) taste of the island’s incredibly fresh seafood. Our mouths watering while our lobsters were grilled on the beach while we relax the rest of the afternoon away on the white sand beach.
(1:00pm-2:00pm) Renting motorbikes shortly after our decadent lunch, we began our adventure by heading southeast to Bai Sao...the most famous of all of Phu Quoc’s numerous beaches.
(2:00pm-5:00pm) The white sand and clear waters of Bai Sao felt so warm and inviting, but we had another reason for coming to this beach. From the shore we chartered a private speedboat (120k-150k VND) to head further south to the more remote islands on Phu Quoc’s southern tip.
After an hour boat ride we reached the gorgeous inlet of Hon Mong Tay. One of twenty-one smaller islets which surround the island.
Climbing up onto a slippery cliff we were greeted with a ray of light shining through the trees.
Returning to the boat, our next stop was Hon Gam Ghi. Just a short boat ride from where we had previously docked. This tiny rock formation holds a secret just underneath its waters…the entire structure is surrounded by coral reefs.
Breaking out the snorkel. It’s time to go exploring…
Swimming with the fish in the clearest waters Phu Quoc has to offer.
Not one to leave empty handed we also caught our dinner along the way.
(5:00pm-6:00pm) Returning to the boat, we were brought to yet another islet named Hon May Rut Trong. Escorted to a makeshift raft we where rowed to a drifting wooden barge filled with live seafood. We picked what we wanted for dinner, adding it to our previous catch.
(6:00pm-???) Truly a hectic first day, but well worth it. Now it was time for some much-needed rest and relaxation at our favourite nightlife spot on the island…Rory’s Bar Phu Quoc.
It’s an added bonus that Rory’s Beach Bar also comes with one of the best views of the Phu Quoc sunset.
(6:00am-7:00am) From opulent sunsets comes an equally stunning sunrise over Bai Sao beach.
Savouring the calm before the rush of swimmers and sunbathers flock back to the beach. In the early morning hours all that can be heard are the sounds of tides rolling in and the playful barks of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback…a rare dog breed that is native to the island.
(8:00am-8:30am) While riding back to Duong Dong (Phu Quoc’s main district) we stop at Dinh Cau. A temple built into the island’s rocky cliffside.
The view from atop the Dinh Cau temple.
(8:30am-9:00am) There’s no shortage of places to stop and take pictures as you ride along the coastline.
(9:00am-10:00am) A visit to the Phu Quoc prison museum. A somber place which highlights the island’s darker history during the war. Such as the use of the infamous tiger cages (seen below).
(10:30am-11:00am) Pepper is one of Phu Quoc’s most prized exports. Cultivating pepper is the livelihood for many of the people on the island. 1000 acres of the island is dedicated to its production, shipping over 900,000 kg of the spice annually.
A farmer laying the peppercorn to dry under the blistering sun.
Although Phu Quoc pepper has four very distinct colours, they are all of the same species. From the unripe green variety to the dry black used mostly for seasoning, the pigment changes as the pepper goes through a longer drying process.
(12:00pm-3:00pm) The rest of our afternoon was spent having lunch, café sua da and exploring Hon Mot. A remote area along the northeastern coastline. From here, it is possible to see Cambodia far off in the distance.
(3:00pm-6:00pm) From Hon Mot we chartered a fishing vessel to take us further down the coastline. We had to hold onto dear life as we made our way up the rickety bridge to reach our boat in the distance.
But we finally made it safely on to the boat.
After returning, we realized we now have to return to shore the same way we came…but this time in the impeding darkness.
…but it’s worth sacrificing life and limb for views like this.
(7:00-???) Building up quite an appetite, we headed to the Phu Quoc Night Market on Duong Dong to satisfy our craving for more seafood.
Flower crab is a Vietnamese delicacy, and nowhere is it fresher than in Phu Quoc. Although this being the Night Market expect the prices to be higher than elsewhere on the island, roughly 200k VND/kg.
A local dish “Ca Trich”. Raw sardine fillets, which you can wrap in vermicelli and fresh leafy greens.
…and to finish off the meal, a bowl of rolled ice cream. The sweet dessert is made fresh before your eyes using real fruit and cream, as seen in this sped up video. The frozen treat originated in Thailand, but who’s complaining? With twenty-five different choices of ingredients, this can all be yours for only 30k VND.
(6:00am-7:00am) For our last day we saved the most beautiful sunrise for last. The dawn from the fishing village of Ham Ninh.
As the sun rises the reflections in the water create a perfect mirror. It is difficult to see where the reflection of the horizon ends and the sky starts.
(7:00am-8:00am) For breakfast we tasted another local dish “Bun Quay” the white broth is made from the starch, which is kept after boiling of the noodles.
(8:00am-9:00pm) Along with pepper and “sim” wine, Phu Quoc fish sauce is another of the island’s key exports. Shipping over eight million litres per year. A trip to the Khai Hoan Fish Sauce Factory was definitely in order. Be warned that it is not easy to bring home fish sauce as a souvenir. Some Vietnamese airlines ban it from being brought on their planes…and from the smell of the factory I can only guess why.
(9:00am-3:00pm) We spent the remainder of the morning and afternoon swimming and relaxing around the natural volcanic rock formations of the Phu Quoc Eco Beach Resort.
Seeking refuge from the mid-day sun.
(3:00pm-6:00pm) Saving the best for last we take our motorbikes north to the small fishing village of Rach Vem in the northern coast.
The local villagers work, play and even ride their motorbikes along the thin bridges that connect the community with careless abandon.
As the sun begins to set, we begin to say goodbye to the villagers of this lovely island.
…and also bid a fond farewell to the island itself. There is just enough time to take one last shot of the sunset before catching the last flight back home.