I’ve heard so much about Phu Quoc, I got there a little tense -I was bringing my parents there, without really knowing what to expect. Is it really that developed already? Are the beach too crowded? Is there some authenticity left? Does it still have its sparkle? Kind of the same mood as when I traveled to Boracay a couple years ago. The good thing when you hear bad stuffs about a place, is that you usually can only be happily surprised. So did we…
Paradise found : discovering Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Situated south at the very South of the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is right between Vietnam and Cambodia -it’s actually very close to Koh Rong Samloem, an other piece of paradise I told you about last year. This island is 50 kilometres long and 25 kilometres from east to west at its widest, and belongs to Vietnam.
How to get to Phu Quoc island ?
Flight from Ho Chi Minh is about less than an hour, and can go down to 55US$ with Vietjet. Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines also fly direct to Phu Quoc.
If you need to take another flight once in HCMC, allow you some spare time, don’t forget planes (and luggages!) aren’t always on time -especially in this part of the world.
Arrived in Phu Quoc, we were surprised to discover a beautiful, brand new airport. You can tell from the sky that this island is getting ready for mass tourism. Luckily, the roads and infrastructures are there, but not the crowds -not yet anyway!
Take the best of it : 10 things to do in Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is big enough to be explored during a week or so. I get the people who told me bad stuff about it -it can feel like a tourist trap if you get a hotel by Long Beach. Of course, you won’t find the desert paradise beaches right next to the shopping malls, hotel and markets. And of course, a pho in a “Vietnamese” restaurant that also cooks spaghettis and french fries might not be the best. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll discover idyllic places and feel like you’re the luckiest person being on this piece of heaven.
We stayed 3 nights near Long Beach, to have the opportunity to discover the night market, to be in a convenience place in terms of taxis and food options. It was very nice -our hotel Lahana resort was absolutely stunning. But the next 3 days were from far the most magical. We drove to Mango Beach resort, on the east side of the island. Where there’s nothing but palm trees and white sand. Away from everything. The people, the shopping, the traffic, the noise. Nothing to do but walk on the beach, listen to the birds singing and drink cocktails in the surf bar next door. Oh, and get the most amazing massages ever.
As usual in Southeast Asia, you have the option either to ride a motorbike or to get a driver for the day (approx. 800.000VND for the day). As we were traveling with baby Noah and my experience riding a motorbike resumes at a 25 minutes drive in Koh Samui two years ago, we went for option 2.
Here are 10 things to do in Phu Quoc -10 things that made our trip so wonderful. This is not a “must-do” list, there are tons of tourist activities to do on the island, and we tend to avoid them. Actually, we did one “classic tour” of the island with a private driver. He took us to some of the “places to see”. Including the best tourist trap I’ve ever seen in my years of traveling (!!) : the pearl farm! A real joke: when you think you’re going to visit a farm, you’re actually going to a shining mall with expensive pearls to buy. We ran away from this as soon as we got what it was about. Same with a sim wine farm -this is actually a sim wine shop. Anyway. If you stay away from the “must” and the “best”, you’ll discover the real Phu Quoc !
Well… this is MY best of Phu Quoc :
Sao Beach : known as the most stunning beach on the island, for a reason. Surprisingly not so crowded. The sand feels like flour -probably the softest I’ve ever touched. You get a sunbed for 100.000VND. Local restaurants aren’t bad. If you want to avoid the crowds around you, don’t put your towel near a swing, or you’ll get all the Insta crowd. ;)
Pepper farm : they’re often tiny but interesting to stop by if it’s on your road.
Ho Quoc Pagoda : when our driver stopped here, we didn’t really know where we were. What a gorgeous surprise ! The nature is beautiful around, the trees, the sea, the birds. And the pagoda itself is absolutely stunning. Go all the way up for the best view.
Starfish beach : I thought it was all about the starfishes on that beach, but it’s much more than that. Yes, you’ll see them everywhere and, yes, that’s pretty cool. But the beach itself is one of the most unspoilt and magnificent I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s small, there’s only few people, a local bar on the beach serving fresh fruits and cold beers, a beautiful little wooden bridge. It’s perfect. A bit of a long drive from Long beach, but it’s worth it. The further you go, the less people you’ll see.
The phos. The banh mi. The Vietnamese food ! As I was telling you earlier, as everywhere else in the world, if you chose the restaurant with baby chairs, french fries and ice cream, the food might be ok -at best. But if you stop in one of the local places on the street, where you eat in plastic plates, sitting on tiny stools, that’s when you can find the best delights ! And you will !
Mango Beach. The kind of place that is so good I should keep it for myself.
The roads. Phu Quoc is a marvellous place to drive. With a bike, you could stop on any desert wild beach, any local restaurant. That’s when you explore the best !
Cocktails in Phu Quoc Night Market. I’m not a big fan of night markets, as they seem to all be the same around Southeast Asia. But I have to admit, the trendy atmosphere and the delicious cocktails in some of the bars around are really worth the journey !
Dinh Cau Rock : one of the things to do in Phu Quoc. I didn’t trek all the way up the temple to watch the sunset, as the crowds were insane. But I enjoyed the busy atmosphere with the locals, the street food and all the boats going back and forth. It’s absolutely crazy, and very local. A heaven for photographers !
Coconut Prison : not the most joyful visit to do in Phu Quoc. But very interesting to see. Quite shaking.
Traveling in Phu Quoc with a baby
I can’t say it enough, traveling in Southeast Asia with a baby rocks ! Local people are crazy about kids. The food is easy, there’s always some chicken and rice, lots of fruits, many things Noah loved. In the hotels, the staff was always happy to play with him, carry him and make him laugh.
He absolutely loved the attention ! Lots of places are equipped with baby gear and toys. Oh, and big +, there are lots of cats in the streets. I dont’ know about you but it’s magical with my boy -he would go for big drama screaming to “ahah ! chat!”.
[ Some images are ©Philippe Pottiez -merci Papa ! ]