I’ve been spending the past couple of days getting acquainted with Phu Quoc and I’m so glad that we decided to come to this Island. Phu Quoc isn’t necessarily top of the list for many backpackers; it’s a plane or ferry ride away and doesn’t make much logistical sense for most. But we’re not most people, and for some reason we really liked the sound of this place, and thank god we did- I think we would have left Vietnam by now if we hadn’t.
Once you get past the tacky main strip and ‘touristy’ night market, which is filled with scammers, pushy sales people and smelly fish; you’ll find a charming, working island that is real and not a show for it’s multitude of visitors. I’d recommend hiring a scooter and exploring the island for yourself; not only is this the best way to get to secluded beaches, but you also come across some hidden gems you may not have known Phu Quoc had to offer. We visited Coconut Prison- a place American’s used to hold war ‘criminals’ during the Vietnamese War. Be warned, this prison is not for the faint hearted- some pretty extreme torture tactics were in play here and it is absolutely devastating (and very eye opening) to read about. Phu Quoc also has it’s own National Park; with exotic animals like the Slow Loris, Silvered Langur, several species of monkey and some of the craziest bugs you’ll ever see.
Drive just 5 minutes from the main strip and you will also find some amazing cafe’s, bars and restaurants- and you’ll get much more bang for you buck. The eateries we frequented may not have looked like much, but if backpacking has taught me anything so far, it’s that the back alley places serving street food at low prices usually use quality, fresh ingredients, have very large portions, are usually up for a good conversation (depending on their varying levels of English) and are ALWAYS delicious. We were talking to one restaurant owner about being vegetarian, something we had in common and when it came time for us to pay for our meal, we were handed a bill saying ‘Your food is free- we love vegetarians!’ which I’m pretty sure was the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me. (Naturally we left a big tip- but the gesture was still really sweet).
Phu Quoc really has opened my eyes to the wonders that Vietnam can offer; unfortunately bad experiences in Ho Chi Minh City had left a bad taste in my mouth and in all honestly- I couldn’t wait to leave this country and never return. Now, I’m excited to move on and see what the likes of Hue and Hoi An can bring- I mean, let’s not get carried away, I’m not in love with Vietnam as I am Thailand, but I guess the sea air, some Sun and a kind gesture from a stranger is what was needed for me to rethink this country a little bit.