Off the western coastline of Vietnam lies the tropical island of Phu Quoc –
– wait, Phu… what?!
If you’ve never heard of it, we don’t blame you. Neither have we, until we were given the opportunity to visit it for ourselves. But that’s the whole beauty of it – unspoilt beaches, a piece of local life, real serenity that only undiscovered islands yet to be tourist-trodden truly enjoy.
That was Phu Quoc for us. Here are 8 things to do on this lovely island.
Sao Beach is widely hailed as the best beach not only in Phu Quoc, but the whole of Vietnam – think azure waters, soft white sand, bordered off from civilization by palm trees swaying melodically in the wind.
Rent a daybed, or participate in some water sports, from jetskiing to stand up paddle boarding and more.
But take it from someone who fell victim to the schools of vicious sandflies when she fell asleep on the daybed (it couldn’t be helped – the beach was so relaxing): don’t skimp on the insect repellent!
NEXT: Suoi Tranh Waterfall →
It’s a rocky 600m trek up, but it’s nothing too challenging.
Once you’re there, take a dip in the rock pools while the cascading waters serenade you.
You might even spot some Vietnamese families setting up their own barbecue picnic there. (And if you stare longingly enough, they might even offer you some food.)
NEXT: Phu Quoc National Park →
Although Phu Quoc National Park is not strictly defined, it’s safe to say it covers more than 50% of the island. It comprises mangroves, forested areas, coastal vegetation, rocky mountains, and more.
Walk along the park trail or rent a motorbike to zip across the roads. Many tour operators on the island also organise tours of the park.
NEXT: Temples →
Many small temples dot the Duong Dong Town (the main town area) in Phu Quoc, beautiful structures that bring to mind the traditional and religious practices of the local Vietnamese people.
Visit Cua Temple, located at the mouth of the Duong Dong River. Sat on Dinh Cau Rock, it’s a stunning combination of a Buddhist temple and lighthouse. Time your visit to coincide with the sunset for a breathtaking view.
NEXT: Ham Ninh Fishing Village →
We didn’t get to see the fishermen in action, but judging from the sumptuous array of seafood at our lunch table here, we certainly don’t doubt their skills.
Restaurants here have freshest seafood, so come with an empty tummy. And when in Vietnam, do as the locals do. Order the anchovy salad, which comes with rice paper rolls for you to roll them up in to make Vietnamese summer rolls.
Where we stopped for lunch, children were peddling freshly caught, brightly coloured starfish. Although cheap (no more than $1!) and possibly faring as an interesting souvenir on first thought, we were told by our guide not to buy them as they’d start to smell salty within a day. An interesting sight, nonetheless!
NEXT: Fish sauce factories →
The thing that makes Vietnamese food so tasty? That’s fish sauce.
Phu Quoc is famous for its production of high quality fish sauce. The 85 factories around the island produce up to 12 million litres each year! Hung Thanh is the island’s largest producer.
You can even go grab yourself a bottle or ten to bring home, but do note that some airlines prohibit so, even if you pack them in your check-in luggage.
NEXT: Pepper farms→
Phu Quoc’s black pepper is top notch, famous for its heat and strong aroma – many even buy them home in bulk for their own use and to give away as souvenirs.
The main harvesting season runs form February through to July, but you can visit the farms all year round to see the storks of pepper trees or the drying pepper for yourself. Many tour companies also organize tours to the pepper gardens.
NEXT: Dinh Cau night market→
Don’t expect a big market like those in Bangkok or Taiwan, but this market has a charm of its own. Stalls lining each side of the market were selling jewelry, souvenirs, shoes, children’s toys, and more.
Be sure to grab some flavoured roasted peanuts at French Chouchous Phu Quoc, a humble stall owned by a Frenchman, located near the middle of the market. The crowd favourite were the cheese coated peanuts, but the friendly stall vendors will be more than happy to let you try all the flavours for yourselves, so you can be the judge of it.
Down one end of the market were stalls selling grilled seafood, so come ready for supper. And a beer or five.
NEXT: Sao Beach →
Phu Quoc is a short flight away from Singapore via Ho Chi Minh City via VietJet Air (read more about my flight experience!) – which also means you have the option of exploring Ho Chi Minh City for the day before once again jetting off to the beah paradise that is Phu Quoc.
VietJet Air is both an affordable option for the budget traveller, and a luxurious choice (upgrade your flight to be a SkyBoss – I repeat, SkyBoss – need I say more?) for ones looking for a pampering vacation through and through, from take-off to your destination to your eventual touch-down back home.
It’s also currently the fastest flight route that’ll get you to Phu Quoc from Singapore, so, you know, there’s that!
By Pinky Chng, June 2016