Phú Quốc Island (and a stop in Ho Chi Minh!)

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Asia, Travel, Vietnam | 0 comments

Phú Quốc Island (and a stop in Ho Chi Minh!)

Pho Quốc is a small Vietnamese island located in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the southern coast of Cambodia.

We had read about the island which was described as being like Phuket 40 years ago.

A quick google image showed stunning beaches and had us chomping at the bit to get there.

It wasn’t quite what we expected.

Firstly the beaches were nowhere near as spectacular as we had been lead to believe.  Where directly in front of a resort the beaches were clean and well kept, but otherwise rubbish and debris littered the sand.

This was particularly so on Sao Beach, which we spent an hour on the scooter to get to as it is touted as being the most beautiful beach not only on the island but in Vietnam – talk about disappointing!

 

The real Sao Beach - disappointing

The real Sao Beach

 

Long Beach is the main beach nearest to town and is lined with resorts, so unless you’re staying at a beachside resort you’ll need to pay to rent a sun lounge.

The whole island feels as if it should have a ‘Coming Soon‘ sign, it is waiting with baited breath for the hordes of tourists to arrive.

There are more cafes, restaurants and hotels than visitors, so it has that awkward feeling like when you’re at a party and the room is half empty.

There’s also a lot of construction going on, so there’ll be a wide concrete pathway that will suddenly disappear on you.

 

Mango Bay hammock

 

Being budget minded travellers means we usually stay in basic hostel type accommodation.  We had pre-booked Sunny Resort (they are using the word “Resort” very loosely!) which was more of a homestay with the extended family of the owners occupying half of the dozen rooms.

Our bed was hard as a rock (even by Chinese standards!) and the walls were paper thin which allowed us to hear everyone’s everything.  To be honest, if we hadn’t already paid in advance we would’ve gone somewhere else.

If you’re not travelling on a shoestring my top picks would be Cassia Cottage located on the main beach near the town, or Mango Bay which is a secluded resort to the north of the town.

 

Bamboo cottages Wayne

 

There are things to do like visit the brand new amusement park, bee farm, pepper tree farm or fish sauce factory, but none of those activities really appealed to us.

Instead we chose to lay by the sea and read books, get massages, have afternoon naps and enjoy cheeky cocktails – not too shabby.

We found the best value for a massage was at Linh Spa where one hour will set you back 240 VND.  You can also get a massage from one of the many ladies set up on the beach for 100-150 VND, but it’s not at all private and sand gets caught up in the oil which is not the best.

 

Cha ca la vong

 

Where to eat

I love Vietnamese cuisine.  Firstly that strong dark coffee is heaven sent, though I prefer mine without the sweetened condensed milk.  The local dishes are super fresh, full of flavour with lots of herbs and packed with vegetables – yum!  Some personal favourites are fresh spring rolls, cha ca la vong (fish cooked with tumeric and dill, see photo above) and the famous pho noodle soup.

  • Top cafes for breakfast would be Peach Cafe (probably the cheapest and a nice decor inside), Alanis Cafe (Wayne loved their banana pancakes), and The Embassy (the best coffee but also the most expensive).
  • Mango Bay’s restaurant was our favourite for lunch.  We would spend the morning on the beach there which is much quieter than the main beach, and then sit over the water enjoying delicious food.
  • The restaurant at Cassia Cottage – Spice House – offers food and service that is excellent by western standards, and a beautiful setting overlooking their infinity pool and the beach.  Great spot for dinner and cocktails.
  • Bamboo Cottage is further north than Mango Bay and their cute restaurant on the sand is lovely, but probably not worth the long scooter ride over gravel roads to get there.
  • For sunset drinks Rory’s Bar can’t be beaten, a relaxed Aussie bar with reasonably priced drinks and western food options.

 

Rory's

Rory’s Bar

 

Overall it was an enjoyable getaway, however I can’t help but compare it to our recent trip to the Philippines and feel that it paled in comparison.

 

Ho Chi Minh

We spent a day on each side of the trip in Ho Chi Minh city, which we really enjoyed.  A bustling city it somehow manages to be chaotically busy and relaxed at the same time.

My tips if you are visiting the city:

  • Head to L’Usine, downstairs is a beautiful shop selling handmade goods and upstairs is a great cafe with awesome salads and breakfasts including an eggs benedict burger.
  • For luxurious pampering without breaking the bank get to Temple Leaf Spa and Sauna.  The masseuses really know what they are doing and they have a sauna, steam room and onsen that was just like being back in Japan!
  • Propaganda is a funky cafe that serves tasty local cuisine, an easy place to hang out overlooking a park.
  • The War Remnants Museum is definitely worth a visit and gave me a deeper understanding of the war, but prepare yourself as it is quite confronting.
  • Luan Vu is a good hostel located downtown in the backpackers area, yet still surprisingly quiet at night as it is down a small side street.

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