After Saigon it was time to re-visit one of our favourite places from our trip 3 years ago – Phu Quoc Island. Located off the coast of Cambodia, though belonging to Vietnam, this vast island offers a similar tropical paradise to the better known Thai islands, only less developed. At least it was..
As soon as we landed it became obvious things are moving at a rapid pace here. Last time we landed at an airport the size of a shed, this time it was the brand new ‘international’ airport – which currently only has the same domestic flights as the old one, but I’m sure it won’t be the case for long. Building site after building site for huge resorts confirmed this.
All our talk about the island had persuaded Katy’s mum to spend a few days as well, so we booked a resort across the road from theirs, which was still expensive but a lot cheaper than one right on the beach. Budget accommodation isn’t in abundance on Phu Quoc – most bungalow style beachside places will set you back at the very least around $50, but we did see some signs for budget places well away from the beach so I’m sure it can be done! However we loved the island so much we were happy to pay a bit more to have a proper beach break.
There are plenty of things to do in Phu Quoc besides the beach – various waterfalls to visit, some lovely hikes, and a visit to the fish sauce factory, but after 2 months of travelling in the cold, all we wanted to do was relax and get a bit of a tan. The beach was really good, though maybe not quite as good as we remembered sadly. There was a lot of rubbish strewn along it and the water just didn’t look quite as clear – but maybe we were just remembering the island too fondly?
We decided to take a stroll down the beach to where we stayed before and to be fair, the sand was a bit cleaner up there, and the resort as lovely as we remembered it. It brought back some nice memories of our first holiday together.
Something else we had good memories of was the Duong Dong night market – stall after stall of fresh seafood, cooked to order. We caught a a taxi down there and had another lovely meal (I had my favourite – tamarind prawns!) followed by some Nuoc Mia (sugarcane juice) and Che (a Vietnamese dessert that has so many different variations, but usually contains some beans, jelly and coconut milk). Aside from food, the market is quite small, with a few jewellery and clothing stores, but not a huge amount else. It is a great way to spend a few hours though if you’re bored with food at your resort.
The next day it was time to do a bit of exploring by motorbike. We rented some from our resort and whizzed off in search of some amazing beaches. After negotiating the town (you pretty much have to drive through it) and an extremely rickety bridge, we managed just a few kilometres before we were caught in some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen in Asia. After trying to shelter under the entrance to a construction site, with locals laughing at the silly westerners hiding from the rain, we made a break for it and found a small roadside cafe where we had nearly an hours wait before the rains subsided.
Dripping wet yet undeterred, we continued and finally got to the coast. Unfortunately when you get to the coast in Phu Quoc, you get to construction sites, and in areas with no paved roads, this means wobbling through piles of building sand and rubble, and avoiding diggers. We stopped at a few nice lookouts and an ok beach for lunch, but overall were disappointed with what we had found so far – was it that hard to find a nice beach to stop at? We were about to head back when we decided to try one more road that went along the sea, and eventually, bingo!
We stumbled upon Peppercorn Beach Resort, and while obviously not a remote undiscovered beach, it was insanely beautiful. Very quiet, palm trees, crystal clear water and hammocks. The resort itself is a bit out of our price range but they kindly let us relax and swim for the cost of a drink. Perfect! Now we just needed to tear ourselves away and ride back to our hotel.
The ride was awful. It started off ok, as a wide fully paved road, but after a while we had to go through Duong Dong again which turned out to be much worse at night. We ended up down tiny alleyways, wobbling through markets and even rode across the old airport runway, which has been repurposed as a road of sorts. Eventually, tired and covered in dust, we made it back.
Overall we had an amazing time on Phu Quoc and despite becoming slightly overdeveloped, it still is a beautiful island. I mean how can you not like sunsets like this?
However it probably isn’t the best budget island in Southeast Asia, purely because of the vast choice of islands for budget travellers in Thailand.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Famiana Village, just across the road from the main Famiana Resort. We got a wonderful bungalow on stilts with water and fish underneath – there was even a glass panel in the floor so we could see them swimming! A huge bed, TV and a lovely bathroom completed the room. Metres from the door was a swimming pool, and the restaurant was close by from which the food was reasonably priced and tasty.
10/10 (though it doesn’t hit our sub £20 a night budget!)