Phu Quoc (pronounced as Fu Kwok), the largest island in Vietnam, has its own charm as a tropical island but the beach and sea are far from paradise as promoted. Phu Quoc caught my attention because of this article, plus AirAsia has started flying there since November at a reasonably cheap price. The island has more to offer on land than in the water.
(For us) some of the highlights of this trip were:
Riding the world’s longest cable car from Phu Quoc to Pineapple Island
The view along the 8km-ride was genuinely breathtaking. The ride itself took around 20 minutes, overlooking the An Thoi Archipelago. We were lucky as there were not many tourists so on our way back we were alone in the cable car. It also means that we could sit and stand wherever we wanted to take photos. A return ticket cost VND300,000, which is around RM56. Free shuttle (provided by SUNWORLD) was also available three times a day between a few selected places at Long Beach and the cable car station at Phu Quoc. The cable car station looks nothing like Vietnam. It felt like we had arrived in Rome. Meanwhile, the cable car station at Pineapple Island looks like a theme park, almost like Sunway Lagoon or the Lost World of Tambun. Apart from a cafe and a souvenir shop, that whole place was still under construction so there was nothing much to do or see at the station. They provided free buggies to the beach.
Playing the inflatable slides in the water
The beach where the buggy dropped us looked nicer than the one we went to at Long Beach, and the sea looked inviting too. It was free to use the inflatable slides, kayak and lie on the deck chairs. Little did we know that inflatable slides could be so much fun!! That was all we did the whole afternoon. There was a shower area and the toilet is clean and fancy. We chilled on the deck chairs for a while until it started raining. When the rain stopped, we took the buggy to the cable car station.
Watching sunset at Long Beach
Searching for a public entrance to Long Beach was hell. We forgot to ask the hostel and ended up entering Long Beach at its worst area. We thought it would be like the beaches at Boracay but nothing like that. Luckily we found another entrance to another part of Long Beach which was much nicer to lay on and swim in the sea. We also managed to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.
Visiting Phu Quoc Night Market
The night market was a 2-km walk from our hostel. Both of us forgot our universal adapter and for that we dragged our feet in the rain to the night market. The will to charge our handphones! The night market looked interesting at first glance but after a while, we realised there were not many variety of stuff they sell there. Almost all the shops were selling the same kind of clothes and souvenirs. Many stalls were selling ice cream rolls. We stopped and tried something like pohpiah but folded like apam balik. There were also a few seafood restaurants. It is a good place to try street food like Bahn Mi.
Visiting Ho Quoc Pagoda
After visiting a few farms, it was refreshing to be in a pagoda. The guide said it is the biggest pagoda in Phu Quoc, built in 2012. When Yun Xin and I heard 2012, we looked at each other and laughed about the memorable year that was full of craziness. The best thing about the pagoda is its location. The view was amazing, overlooking the ocean. I would love to live in a place with such a view.
Learning about the history of Coconut Tree Prison (also known as Phu Quoc Prison)
Until now, I have not found the answer to my question which I forgot to ask the guide – why is it called the Coconut Tree Prison? I did not recall seeing any coconut trees in the vicinity. Nothing inside the prison felt like a place that is full of coconut trees. The prison used to be the largest place to keep sometimes up to 40,000 communist soldiers during the Vietnam war including political prisoners. There were depictions of how the inmates were ill-treated when they were held captive in the prison. Pure cruelty. The worst tortures were being locked up in a tiger cage or Catso cage. The prison was closed when the country reunited.
Strolling around Duong Dong City
One of the most noticeable things while walking down the street was the non-stop honking from vehicles. It made us feel that we were always in the middle of somebody’s way. Another weird thing was the locals really just watched or stared at us even when we caught them looking. Their gaze still stayed on us. There was quite a variety of food, ranging from Vietnamese, German, Italian, Chinese, Indian to Korean. The day market was eye-opening, especially the wet market. The seafood (dead or alive) found there was diverse. Of all the things I saw, I liked the temple by the sea the most. The view was beautiful especially the formation of Dinh Cau Rock.
Chilling at 9 Station Hostel
9 Station Hostel is a really nice hostel. It has a small but nice pool. The lounge area is huge. There is a pool table, foosball table, a bar and plenty of place to sit and chill. They serve good breakfast which was included when we booked the accommodation. Ladies get a free cocktail/fruit punch every night between 9-10pm. The ambience is nice at night, we just had to speak at the top of our lungs to beat the loudness of the music.
There are other attractions which didn’t really blow our mind away, as well as some that we actually skipped.
Visiting Ham Ninh Fishing Village
This was also part of the one-day tour we did. The village itself looks like a normal village like the one at Pulau Ketam. The most interesting thing was seeing all the live and dried up marine creatures that were on sales. Never in my life had I seen so many seahorses!! They are consumed not for the taste but for aphrodisiac reasons. Apparently, seahorses cannot be bred so these are all caught in the wild. The visit also included a walk on a very long bridge/jetty with floating seafood restaurants along both sides.
Visiting pearl farm, pepper farm, wine farm and fish sauce factory
We were picked up later to join the tour so we missed the introductory talk at the pearl farm and was ushered straight to the sales gallery. The sales lady kept showing us where the exit was, knowing that we were not going to buy anything. The pepper farm was not too spectacular. In fact, the peppers were brought in from Hainan Island. We didn’t see much at the wine farm as it was not the fruiting season but thank God for wine tasting. Fish sauce factory is pretty interesting. Coming from Terengganu where we also produce fish sauce like budu, I never knew how it is made. It is also fermentation, and there are different qualities of fish sauce based on the percentage of protein in it.
Chilling at Sao Beach
We were told it is the most beautiful beach at Phu Quoc but it turned out to be a disappointment. The beach is nothing near beautiful or clean. It looked forlorn and uncared for. We actually took the day tour as it would bring us to Sao Beach. It is quite a distance from Long Beach where we stayed. To rent a taxi cost the same as both of us taking a day tour, so we chose the latter. Good thing we didn’t come all the way to spend the whole day here.
Swimming at Suoi Tranh Waterfall
The one-day tour was supposed to include a stop at the waterfall. However, the guide told us that it is the end of the wet season so the stream is drying up so we skipped the waterfall. From the photos on the internet, the waterfall looks like fun place to cool ourselves down on a sunny day.
A few other backpackers whom we met at 9 Station Hostel, the place where we stayed, told us it was not worth to spend on snorkelling or diving. They said the visibility underwater was poor and there is nothing much to see except sand and small fishes (不是看鲨鱼，而是看沙和鱼). Some even wondered what we were doing at Phu Quoc, knowing that Malaysia has more beautiful islands that are truly paradise. So we decided not to join the snorkelling or dive tour.
Other than that, we also didn’t visit Phu Quoc National Park, Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park and Vinpearl Land Amusement Park. We heard good words about the safari and amusement park but were not interested to go.
We were there for 5D4N, which would not be enough if we had actually gone to all the attractions. Since we did not, 5D4N felt relatively long and we were already looking forward to leave Phu Quoc before the end of our stay. Phu Quoc did not entirely live up to our island expectations yet we cannot deny that we did have a lot of fun checking out a new place and meeting new friends. Besides, we both needed a getaway and the trip to Phu Quoc was affordable.