Saturday, January 31, 2009

Phu Quoc Island: Naval Gazing, Pretty Boys and Bedbugs

Originally we intended to spend 7 glorious days on a tropical beach on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. But we were not ready to leave Saigon - it is seriously that great of a city, so we lost one day on the island. Then we learned there is only morning hydrofoils to the island from the mainland, so we lost another day in paradise. We were rewarded with a night in Rach Gia, a coastal town in southern Vietnam that turned out to be quite nice.

There are supposedly wonderful beaches north and south of the town, but we didn’t visit any. There is a great little hotel with big curved shaped rooms for $12 and the restaurants Ao Dai I (pronounced ow-yai) and Ao Dai II named for the traditional dresses worn by Vietnamese women. The restaurants are owned by the same family and the second restaurant is open at night verses the first for breakfast and lunch only. The original restaurant opened for breakfast and lunch serves mainly soups, the main staple of Vietnamese breakfast/brunch/lunch, but the second restaurant served rice dishes also. Since we arrived in Rach Gia later in the afternoon we order a mix of rice dishes and soups for dinner.

Seasoned porkchop topped with a fried egg, oiled scallions, served with fish sauce and over rice – delicious!

Banh Can Cau – Spicy crab-based soup with thick rice noodles and chunks of crab meat topped with fried shallots and fresh scallions.

Mi Huanton – Egg Noodles with Wontons in an oily sweet broth (slightly different from the wonton soups offered up north) another delicious dish.

It was so good we order a bowl of Hu Tieu just to round off our experience. Using the same broth from the wonton soup, but this time with slices of boiled-fork-tender pork slices, clear rice noodles, egg noodles and topped off with a mix of chopped cilantro, basil and green onions, long slices of green onions and fried shallots – sublime.

We went to bed happy and got up the next morning in time to enjoy it all over again at the original Ao Dia just three shops away before heading to Phu Quoc Island.

Phu Quoc Island is on the southern coast of Vietnam, which until recently could be accessed by ferry or flight from Saigon. The ferries used to take up to 8 hours, but now there are hydrofoils that can whisk you to the island in 2 ½ hours. The hydrofoils look like above ground submarines. Inside they looked a little like an airplane.

Within 2 ½ hours we arrived in paradise and ready to relax.

That is until we got to the pier on Phu Quoc and had to figure out how to get to the beach resort. It was either pay an extreme amount for a taxi or ride an hour on the back of motorscooter with our bags. We finally negotiated a fairly reasonable cost for a taxi and we noticed two Germans being harassed to pay an even higher amount for a taxi to the same beach we were going to and offered to share our taxi. That’s when the arguing started, but we managed to finally get to our little resort and breath a sigh of relief – it was gorgeous!
Due to it almost being the Tet New Year it was difficult finding a room, but we managed to snag the last two bungalows on a quiet little beach on the southern coast of the island.

For the next few days we ate every meal beach-side

Took up to 4 naps a day in one of the hammocks strung about the beach area

Got up with the sun

Went for late night swins

And played in the ocean
It was paradise, until the reality of living ocean-side showed itself. The bungalows were simple and basic with outdoor bathrooms that allowed for some interesting company.

The hammocks were heavenly during the day, but were infested with bed bugs after the sun went down that have left permanent itchy memories. After a few days we were ready to leave our secluded beach for something more exciting. Would we return to Bai Sao Beach on the southern coast? Definitely. The beach was gorgeous and probably the best swimming beach on the whole island. Except for the bus loads of daytrippers from other parts of the island we practically had the beach to ourselves.

But four nights of roughing it in a $17 bungalow was enough for us, the newly built Gecko Jack’s hotel next door looked nice, we’ll have to see the progress the next time we’re there, because we’ll be back.
Phu Quoc also has some unique specialties we enjoyed not once, but twice.
Salted Pepper Squid
  Taro Fries
Phu Quoc Fish Salad served with fresh greens, shredded coconut, mint, basil, chilis and lime We also did a little shopping for some pearls, we are still traveling with shopping queen Robyn after all.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Must have been ROUGH, roughing it like that. Getting up at sunrise and then trying not to get burnt for the rest of the day, while sampling the local dishes. Yeah rough. Me want to go to there.

Tri and Justin said...

OooOOoooOoooo! Pearls! Did you buy any pearls as a wedding gift perhaps for someone? ;)

FYI - it's spelled Ao Dai - I've been looking at them online for days so they are on the brain right now.

Love ya! Miss ya!

Anonymous said...

that was indeed my idea of paradise. well with the addition of indoor plumbing of course. we all miss you.