I visited Phu Quoc back in March 2003. the talk was that it was the next Bali – something that intrigued me greatly. So one sweaty, sticky morning I set forth on a bus to Rach Gai to catch a ferry to this exotic island.
The ferry was a solid steel tub with basic wooden bench seating below. The locals would immediately string up there hammocks above the seats & make themselves at home.
The weather was nice, the sea calm so I spent my time on deck at the front of the ship where there some space amongst the local produce. The locals were really welcoming and I had had many pictures taken with them.
Prior to the ships arrival at An Thoi fast motor boats zoomed towards us, what the hell Pirates?
No, it was the local tourist touts jumping onboard trying to get the small number of tourists, appox 6 of us signed up before getting to the dock. Quite an amazing site as at least 3 – 4 saddled along side & the nimble touts leaped aboard, scanning for their prey.
Landing in An Thoi was chaotic, swarming with touts, relatives & porters unloading the ship on the ricketdy jetty and the smell – lets just say it wouldn’t make a hit perfume!
An Thoi is some 30 minutes by motor bike to Duong Doung, the latter being the capital of the island and blessed with an airport.
My first two nights were spent at the Tropical Resort for $35usd a night. The room was very nice and the location right on Long beach, the main and I think longest beach, hence the name,wow!. The other backpackers I met were staying nearby in a hotel for approx $10usd a night & after checking it out decided to move there too, so we were all on the beach together.
I would get a massage right on the beach in the morning & one at night as the sun was swallowed up by the blue ocean. Up the beach was a place I called the “shack”, ran by a lovely family that had tables & chairs, hammocks and cooked fresh food & more importantly beer. So I along with my comrades would ensconce ourselves and relax….. I favourite was the huge prawns with the local world famous fish sauce, why didn’t I take a pic, arrggghhh.
Just a word of caution, when swimming watch out for sea urchins, their spines in your feet are not nice – I ended swimming with my sandals on.
Sao Beach which is sort of half way between An Thoi & the capital is a lovely beach, placid opague waters & soft powdery white sand. Better still is the restaurants and the delightful food accompanied by the locals nearby indulging in food and alcohol, entertainment that’s for sure. You have fresh crab, prawns, fish – fan – bloody – tastic. Want to cool off, then just wander down to the beach. Oh, the prices were really cheap then too.
Exploring the island was an adventure, we used to hire our motorbikes from a group of guys that used to hand around the hotel, unfortunately I can’t recall the prices after losing my diary but it was cheap. I remember heading North to the top of the island armed with a an sheet of paper outlining the island & a few “roads”. What fun I had, got lost numerous times, riding through plantations, seeing little homes or vilagers wandering to market with produce. Most rewarding was an impromptu visit to one of the ilands schools, were the teachers sat me down & had green tea. The children were so happy & vibrant – what a buzz.
Funnily enough I ran out of petrol on a rough gravel road & thought,what the hell do I do now?. I just had to push to the nearest hut and sitting on the porch were jars of gasoline – what a laugh. Off on the bumpy gravel road again with a broad smile on my face………. After all, a massage was waiting for on the beach and some more of those prawns & fish sauce – life can be good.