Phú Quốc is a small Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand with picturesque white sandy beaches, clear azure water, an ideal climate, and many resorts. It is truly paradise, in every sense of the word. We spent four perfect days in Phú Quốc, living a champage lifestyle on a beer budget. We stayed at Eden Resort, a massive, four-star, beach-front resort hotel that cost less than a Motel 6 in the US. This was also unfortunately when I got sick, but I still had a fantastic time. The weather was lovely and sunny, the water was warm, and the drinks were cold. I spent some of the best, most relaxing days of my life on this little gem of an island.
It was dark when we arrived at the small Phú Quốc airport. The first thing I noticed was the silence, echoing in my ears in stark contrast from to constant noise of Ho Chi Minh City, where we had just come from. The hotel staff picked us up at the airport, and we checked in. We had a huge room with a king bed, tub, full living room, and an ocean view. We went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner and sat outside underneath palm trees lit up with twinkle lights. The air was perfectly warm, and we could hear the gentle waves of the ocean just steps away. I ordered banh xeo, a Vietnamese savory fried pancake, and enjoyed a beer. We dipped our toes in the water and were off to bed.
Rediscovering the resort in daylight was a delight. The massive grounds were covered in lush jungle greenery and beautiful flowers, with stone paths leading through. Palm trees lined the pool, which faced right out towards the ocean. Then there was the most picture-perfect beach you could imagine, with white sand, bright blue water, and lounging chairs covered with palm-frond umbrellas. There were games, couches, and a cute little bar on the beach. The whole place looked like a postcard. It was one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed in my life, and I couldn’t believe the pricetag. Even though it was peak tourist season, the resort was empty, and it felt like we had it to ourselves.
For a few days, we lived the indulgent resort lifestyle. Vacation mode was strong. Every day started with the breakfast buffet, which had a huge assortment of delicious foods, both Asian and Western. There were all kinds of fun tropical fruits – dragon berry, watermelon, papaya, mango, and guava – and, of course, Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. Then we’d move to the beach, and spend hours relaxing, dipping in and out of the water, and ordering fruity cocktails and coconut water straight from the coconut. We got massages at a little shack on the beach. That massage was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been in my life, and it cost something like $5.00. In the evenings, we ate dinner at the hotel or a nearby restaurant, and every day, we watched the sunset over the ocean.
I could have happily spent all four days without leaving Eden, but I’m glad we did leave the resort, and see the rest of the island. The contrast inside and outside of the resort was extreme. A big part of the island’s economy is based on foreign tourism, and it’s easy to see where the money goes. Most of the resorts are fancy and well-taken care of, and the areas outside of the resorts are lesser-developed and somewhat polluted. One afternoon, on a whim, we rented a motorbike and drove to Duong Dong Town. Renting a bike was incredibly easy – whole procedure took about 3 minutes and cost less than $5.00. Duong Dong town felt more like authentic Vietnam. Nothing was in English and we didn’t see any other tourists. We drove through the crowded markets, which was a wild experience. In Vietnam, people treat motorbikes more like an extension of their bodies than a motor vehicle. Bikes and people bumped right into each other, and people made purchaches without getting off their bikes. On the way back, I took a turn driving the bike. It was easier than I thought and super exhilarating!
One day, we joined a fishing and snorkeling tour offered by our hotel. We left from Duong Dong Port bright and early in the morning. All the boats were painted the same bright aquamarine color. We cruised to a small island, dropped anchor, and went fishing. I did quite well – I caught about ten little fish! We snorkeled in the clear blue water and swam to the island. We ate lunch aboard the boat, eating the fish we had just caught with rice and vegetables. It was one of the freshest, most delicious meals I’ve ever had. In the afternoon, we took a bus around the island, stopping to try the local products. We visited a fish sauce factory first. Phú Quốc is famous for having the best fish sauce in the world. It is good, but the smell of the factory was overwhelmingly pungent and disgusting. I don’t know how something that smells so bad can taste so good. Next we visited a pepper farm, where I learned how both pepper and pineapples grow. Our next stop was a bee farm. We donned the silly beekeeper hats, checked out the hives, and ate honey straight from the comb. It was warm, gooey, and so yummy. Our final stop was a sim berry farm. Sim berry is a fruit local to the island, similar to cassis. We tried sim berry wine and candy.
The four days on the island passed by too quickly. It was a fantastic escape, and I was sad to leave. Phú Quốc is a special place in the world, and I’m so glad I could visit. If you’re looking for a perfect vacation spot, I couldn’t recommend a better place than Phú Quốc, and Eden Resort. I’ll alway have a special place in my heart for this little island.
But, it was time to continue our journey! Next stop: Hanoi.