Phu Quoc

Phú Quốc (pronounced fú-wóg) is a large tropical Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia. It is only accessible from Vietnam.

Understand

Sao Beach

Phú Quôc is a mountainous and densely forested island of 1320 sq km. It is 48 km in length from south to north and has a population of approximately 80,000 people. In the Gulf of Thailand 45 km west of Ha Tien on the Vietnamese mainland and 15 km south of the coast of Cambodia, Phú Quôc is ringed with some of most beautiful beaches in Vietnam, and offers the best seafood in the country.

Phú Quôc Island served as a base for French missionary Pigneau de Behaine from the 1760-80s and at one time he provided shelter here for Prince Nguyen Anh (later Emperor Gia Long) when he was being hunted by the Tay Son rebels. During the Vietnam War there was little fighting here but the island was used by the ARVN as a prison for captured Viet Cong.

Phú Quôc is not really part of the Mekong delta and also doesn’t share the delta's extraordinary ability to produce rice and fruit due to the low quality of its soil and inaccessible terrain. It is, however, home to the best fish sauce (nuoc mam) in the world, and is also reputed to produce high quality pepper and fantastic seafood.

Another point of interest in Phú Quôc is the island's native dog. This dog was originally a wild animal and later trained as a hunting dog by local people. These days they are very domesticated and it's unusual to go anywhere on the island without seeing one. These animals have unusually sharp teeth (as they tear their food when they eat it rather than bite) and have claws that over the years have been optimised for catching prey and are razor sharp.

Phú Quôc is what Phuket was before it was overrun by development. Phú Quôc Island and its beaches were voted "The Cleanest and Most Beautiful Beach in the World" by ABC News in Feb 2008. However, this is changing fast. Insiders call the island "the world's first rubbish dump on which tourism is run" or "the island, where nature and rubbish grow together" because of the excessive pollution (mainly plastic bags) outside the tourist resorts.

There are extensive plans to develop Phú Quôc, including high-rise residential areas, several new towns and suburbs, complete rebuilding of Duong Dông' city centre, and replacing the existing small PQC airport. The new international airport south of Duong Dông opened in early-2013. The main north-south road between Bai Thom and An Thoi is already being upgraded to a 2+2 lane highway, a new all-weather road from Duong Dông to Gan Dau is ready as far as Cua Can, which has a new bridge. A golf course is planned as well as a casino in the north. A ferry connection to Sihanoukville (Cambodia) and visa-free-entry have been discussed in the past. Phú Quôc will be something completely different in 10 years if current plans materialize.

Climate

Phu Quoc Island has a tropical climate with three seasons: high, shoulder, and low.

Get in

Visitors from any country arriving in Phu Quoc by cruise ship do not need a visa for stays of up to 15 days. A passport with at least 45 days' validity is required. Visitors arriving in Phú Quôc by other means (e.g., plane) are subject to normal visa regulations.

By plane

You can fly to Phu Quoc International airport (PQC) from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) with Vietnam Airlines and low-cost airlines VietJet and Jetstar Pacific. The flight takes about an hour. Vietnam Airlines operate the route using ATR-72 turboprop planes but VietJet and Jetstar both use Airbus A320-series jet aircraft. Vietnam Airlines also fly domestically to Rach Gia, Hanoi and Can Tho, and internationally to Siem Reap.

There are a wide variety of transport options available on arrival. Many of the more expensive hotels can have somebody pick you up on arrival, and taxis are of course available. It is also only a short walk to the centre of Duong Dông. If you arrive late without a reservation then you can stay the first night in one of the inexpensive guesthouses opposite the airport entrance.

If air tickets are fully booked you can do the following:

By boat

There are ferries and hydrofoils between Phú Quôc and Rach Gia (pronounced: Rad-Ya), Ha Tien and Hon Chong.

You may be told by tour agents that the fast boats are full, but if you go to the dock where the boats depart you may have the opportunity to buy tickets from street sellers.

Hydrofoils take 2.5 hr, cost 320,000 dong. Book at Superdong. When coming from Ho Chi Minh City you can book a combined night-bus + boat ticket for around USD26 (including pick up from hotel) at travel agencies.

Small fast ferries (not hydrofoils) take 1.5 hr. Cost, 230,000 dong. Daily at 08:00 and 13:00. Large car ferry (steel -hulled, capacity 400 passengers, 300 motorbikes, and 30 cars) leaves at 08:20, takes 2.5 hr and costs 165,000 dong. Motorbikes cost 100,000 dong.

Depending on the season, you may not find taxis on arrival in Phú Quôc, though there will likely be a few motorbike taxis. Minibuses travel to the two main towns, but tickets are sold on the boat and sell out before arrival. Cost 20,000 dong. Transfer can also be arranged through your hotel.

Three choices to leave the pier: taxi ~210,000 dong; minibus down to 120,000 dong (three persons); or motorbike taxi (but it's a long ride on a not-so-good road). (Sep 2011)

Be warned that the boat can get overcrowded and may have the unfortunate lingering odor of vomit. The journey is pleasant and smooth during the low season, but is often beset by jarring waves during the high season. Hotel staff can advise you of ocean conditions.

Taxis and motorbikes congregate outside the ferry port and can shuttle you to the bus terminal (some 15 km out of town).

Get around

If you do find yourself in a bit of strife with your rental, there are a few repair shop on the island that will mend your bike at a price cheaper than at the place you rented it. One place that does this, is Gia Phu at 25 Tran Phu in Duong Dong (Linh- +84 93 813 7988). Depending on the severity of the damage, it could save you a lot of money.
Motorbike taxis are about 200,000-400,000 dong or USD10-20 for a day trip. Be sure to be precise as to how many hours and locations you want to see with the driver. It's difficult to really lower the price for a half-day or less.

See

Do

Diving and snorkelling

Phu Quoc offers diving in two separate locations. Up north on the west side of the island or south at the An Thoi Islands. Up north there are three main diving locations with all of them at a maximum depth of 10 m. They are especially great for beginners. Sites are surrounded by corals and funky rock formations which provide shelter to a variety of fish and species of nudibranch. Down south there are up to 20 different dive sites around a group of 13 islands with depths ranging from 10-40 m. The majority of the islands are surrounded by coral and are slowly being converted to marine protected areas, thus giving you a slightly better chance of seeing more and bigger fish and lots of nudibranches.

The route to the south is not as well protected as the northern site which means you might be in for rocky ride on the boat and mild to strong currents.

Snorkelling tours pick you up at your hotel in the morning and take you to the islands in the south. It usually includes the boat trip, snorkelling gear, lunch, and transportation. Don't expect to see a lot of fish and coral under water. But still a nice way to spend a day.

Buy

There are ATMs in Duong Don around night market area. If you want to exchange money, the nearest bank is 500 m from the Night Market.

Main articles to buy are:

Eat

Sleep

Unlike most other Southeast Asian destinations, there is a substantial risk that all (affordable) hotels are fully booked when you arrive, so it is advisable to book ahead. This certainly applies in Jan-Feb, the dry high season as the island gains popularity. Budget accommodation can be hard to come by but the best bet is to head to the south end of Long Beach. In low season en suite bungalows can be found for USD10 and rooms for USD8. Most budget place for sleep are Nhat Lan, Viet Thanh or Lien Hiep Thanh. They are at about ~40 min on foot or ~10 min by motorbike taxi (10,000-20,000 dong) from Duong Dong.


daisy resort (resort phu quoc) Daisy Resort Tran Hung Dao Street, Ward 7, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc island, Vietnam P: 84773. 844 412 E: info@daisyresort.com W: daisyresort.com

Stay safe

Your biggest risk on Phú Quôc is getting sick or being involved in an accident. When setting out on a motorbike trip, ensure you have a basic first aid kit and your hotel telephone number with you. In the high season there is a German doctor on the island, Dr. Thomas from Phu Quoc Emergencies. Call +841266847974 or ask your hotel reception. He speaks English, German, Russian and Vietnamese, and is specialised in primary and emergency medicine.

Go next

Ask your hotel for an island tour, which may include visits to a fish sauce factory, the nature reserve, or the abandoned wartime prison.

When leaving the island by boat, you can get a mini-bus ride from Duong Dong night market to Superdong East Pier for 25,000 dong at 07:00, about a 40 min journey. Hotel pickups seems to vary from free to 60,000 dong.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.