Phu Quoc in Vietnam, sits off the southern coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand (that’s southeast asia logic in a nutshell right there). A popular holiday destination for the Vietnamese, time your visit when they’re in work and you’ll have an island paradise almost to yourself as we did. Where most of Vietnam bares the scars of recent horrors, Phu Quoc, even after housing South Vietnam’s largest prisoner camp during the war, is a literal and metaphorical breath of fresh air when arriving from the mainland; driving down the coast into the town with postcard beaches rolling into small townships is where the people of Vietnam really begin to shine.
Take your pick of the cross culture restaurants on offer and little bars to drink in, we chose Alabamas for cheap cocktails, a pool table and the friendly Americans that ran the place. Our first night ended with us frolicking naked in the ocean with a swiss couple and some very drunk russians we had met doing shots on some beach front bar.
So our first real day in paradise started with a blistering hangover, if ever a beach day was needed it was then. After renting a motorbike from our hostel we drove the 40 minutes or so down the ‘new’ highway (Vietnamese for definitely not completed, watch out for giant chunks of missing road) to Sao Beach, where bone white sands meet crystal clear waters. Stephanie and Michael from our previous nights drunkenness met us by the paradise swing draped over a palm tree and we all sweated away our hangovers in beach heaven.
Phu Quoc is a small island, a cheap motorbike and a map of the island is a perfect way to spend the day. Exploring where tourists daren’t venture, we headed north the next morning; our first stop The Phu Quoc Bee Farm, a hidden treasure of Vietnam let alone just Phu Quoc, a non-profit farm set up by the friendliest of locals to preserve the existence of these magnificent creatures (I’ll let them explain why they’re so fascinating), the tour around the farm is free and the little coffee shop selling fresh honey coffee is too pretty for words.
Refreshed we headed further north, following the isolated mountain road that skirts the ridge of ’99 Peaks’ that are the curved spine of the island, we peered in on the small communities right on the northern coast that make their money from the ocean rather than the tourism. Ending our day with Cambodia only a stones throw away, at the eerie crocodile Farm, after paying an entrance fee on the road we were left to our own devices in the woods, no directions, no shops, no attractions, just a few big cages filled with maybe a hundred crocodiles and a lot of unnerving rustles from the dense forest at our backs.
That’s the long and the short of Phu Quoc, there are adventures to be had or beaches to do nothing on. For us it was a much needed break from the chaos of the mainland, a chance to clinch against the ropes, catch our breath and be ready to fight our way through the rest of this country.
P.S. There is a Bukowski Bar, if you know me, you’ll know i was at home there.