Chilling out at last - though well worth the wait for Long Beach!
04.12.2010 - 10.12.2010 32 °C
Having boarded the Super Dong ferry our first impression was that it was very modern and we all agreed it was the best ferry we have travelled on over here. We were on the top tier (two levels) and there were two flat screen TVs at the front which showed the film 'Avatar' during the crossing.
However, our crossing on the 'Super Dong' ferry was so rough that we subsequently renamed it the 'Puker Dong'! The first passengers to be sea sick were a young child towards the rear of the boat and a pregnant woman just behind us filled her sick bag and then gratefully handed it back to the ferry staff! The ferry started to sway more and more violently, with waves crashing against the windows and over the top of the boat. An hour into the journey and sick bags were being requested and distributed more and more. Business men were dashing out of the 'VIP' area at the front and trying to run through the aisle of the ferry to the open deck at the rear, however the sway of the boat meant that they could only take one pace at a time whilst clinging on to the seat head rests for balance. We were ducking in fear of a projectile vomit attack but thankfully we made it through the journey without a shower of puke! Somehow, we all managed to get through the journey without being sick. A combination of the rough crossing and 'sick air' had Nic and I feeling really rough in the middle of the crossing but through a combination of focusing on our Ipod music, fixing our eyes on the TV screen (to try and ignore the sway of the ferry), avoiding eating and taking deep breaths we did avoid it. Ben displayed a great skill in that when he started to feel rough he simply fell asleep and slept through it!
As the ferry moored at Phu Quoc we were all delighted to clamber off and get our sea legs back onto solid ground. As we did so we saw what a beautiful paradise island we appeared to have arrived at. We had read that Phu Quoc is an island with deserted white beaches, untouched reefs and 90% of the island being protected forest. We had also read that mass tourism is in the pipeline with mega resorts planned so we were keen to get to the island and see it before the development. It was really sunny when we first set foot onto the island, which always helps with first impressions. We immediately noticed the lack of high rise buildings/developments - infact at the ferry port there was just a long pier lined with taxi vans. The island appeared a lush green colour thanks to the forest cover and then this was surrounded by sandy beaches and shimmering blue waters. The four of us informed a taxi driver that we had pre-booked a hotel (Ben & Nettie had researched and booked a hotel two nights earlier and after hearing their description of the hotel we also made a reservation the night before) and he agreed to take us immediately. Having loaded our bags into the van and got in ourselves, he of course ignored what he had just said to us and tried to get more passengers on board as we waited. A few minutes later and with four more passengers aboard we set off. There was no tar mac road, just a bright orange dust track. After around fifteen minutes of rural tracks we reached a tar mac road and shortly afterwards arrived at a resort of bungalows next to the beach. Only this was not the hotel that we had pre-booked. The taxi drivers assistant / mate says "Come in and see our bungalows, very nice and nice price for you". Once again we informed them that we had pre-booked and gave them the hotel name. The Germans and French on board had not pre-booked and went to check the rooms out. After one more stop on route, and some further complaints from ourselves we finally got to our hotel.
After weeks of consistent travel, moving on from place to place frequently and enthusiastic sight seeing we were really keen to have a few days on the beach, relaxing in the sun and doing as little as possible. We had booked three nights at the hotel and we were delighted with the place. The hotel had a pool, a beach bar and a private beach. After checking in we got ready for an afternoon in the sun and made our way to the beach and were greeted by a palm tree lined paradise. After a short spell on our sunbeds we took a few steps to the beach bar and sat looking at the view of the beach / sea and sat smiling, very happy with where we had found ourselves. We had feared that we might not have made it to a beach after the floods in Thailand and out of season resorts we had experienced/visited. However, this place was fantastic. We ended up staying for six nights and did very little apart from sun bathing, swimming in the sea/pool, drinking ice cool tropical fruit shakes, enjoyed Vietnamese massages on the beach, Nic had her nails done (also on beach) and eating the local specialities.
Other than walking down the beach each day and going out in the evening we did not explore the island any further. We had been tempted to hire a moped and go to a nearby waterfall that was advertised where you could also swim in the natural pool and we considered going to 'the best beach on the island' but in the end we were so happy with where we were that we just stayed there and enjoyed it.
We went out with Ben and Nettie for dinner for each of the three nights that they were also in Phu Quoc taking advantage of the international restaurants available, we dined at a Vietnames/Australian restaurant, enjoyed a cracking Indian Curry and a Mexican/Vietnamese. We also went to a couple of bars, including 'The Dog' a little 'pub-like' bar nearby to our hotel. Nic and I represented 'the North of England' and played Pool against 'the South of England' with Ben and Nettie giving us a 2-0 thrashing. In response Nic recalled her University days and challenged 'the South' to a game of Darts and we subsequently lost again and went home having only succeeded at having spicier curries than the South! Ben and I entered a game of killer pool and he did really well, finishing second to a very happy Vietnamese chap who walked away with the pot. The next night we played pool again at 'Amigo's Mexican' bar and The North bounced back winning the first two games, the second game being won by a black ball that was potted having got out of a snookered position (yes the luck was with us!). Not content with a draw, the competitive nature of both North and South teams wanted a winner and we played a final match to determine the champions. After some cracking pots from Nic (and a few trick shots...) the North won as Chris retained composure and potted the black. We weren't quite sure how we'd managed to win, but we did!
In the day we enjoyed watching locals fishing and gathering shell fish from the shallow waters next to the beach. We got talking to a local chap who had lived on the island all of his life and currently runs a diving tour business and Nic asked him how the island had changed in his lifetime. He showed us the two hotels that were on the beach ten years ago and explained that all of the others had been built since then, with more still being constructed/planned. Our hotel was located on 'Long beach' which is just South of the main town 'Duong Dong'. The beach is lined with holiday accomodation, mostly 'beach bungalows' with some hotel/guest houses of two or three levels behind them. They haven't ruined the place with high-rise hotels just yet.... albeit there is still some construction under way however from the outline structures we could see they appear not to be monstrous buildings.
He told us that life had got much harder on the island as more Vietnamese were coming from the mainland to fish in the waters around the island. He blamed over-fishing of the waters for a drop in the numbers of fish available now and that before, the islanders fished the waters around the island and were self sufficient when it came to fish sourcing, something that is becoming more and more difficult for the islanders.
Nic and I enjoyed two atmospheric nights dining at the Night Market where local stalls served a variety of Vietnamese specialities including locally sourced sea food and skewer kebabs cooked on charcoal grills. The diners were a combination of locals and tourists and the nights that we saw the market restaurants - they were packed with people and there was a vibrant and fun feel to the place. The food was excellent, with local recipes and ingredients being combined to great effect.
The weather was glorious each day and we thoroughly enjoyed our time on Phu Quoc, so much that were both tempted to stay and miss out Cambodia altogether. As tempted as we were, we dragged ourselves away to continue with our travels to Cambodia - the tenth and last of the new countries (first time that we have been) that we will visit. If you fancy a beach holiday in SE Asia then we can definitely recommend the island of Phu Quoc, but get yourselves there quickly before the island gets over-devoloped!