We’ve all heard of Vietnam’s Phu Quoc, you may however not have heard that Cambodia claim the Southern Vietnamese Island as their own land and call it Koh Tral but this isn’t a history lesson! Or is that a Geography lesson?
We decided that we wouldn’t go to the Cambodian Islands after not being too impressed with Rabbit Island on a day trip to Kep. A little research on Phu Quoc and you’ll hear things like pristine beaches and turquoise waters… This excited us and without a second thought we skipped the Cambodian Islands in favour of the Vietnamese. A heinous decision in hindsight but we promised nothing! Amateurs by name and by nature.
As you can tell from the last sentence Phu Quoc wasn’t our favorite place. Firstly it took us nearly 10 hours to get there from Phnom Penh and when we arrived we realised it was expensive for meager backpackers and there was kind of… nothing there. Now this will cause a storm if any of our four dedicated readers have ever been to the Island as there are a lot of resorts, a Pearl Farm and a Prison that was built in the 50’s and used all the way up to… hang on, I promised this wasn’t a history lesson didn’t I? We’ve done the “Farms” and fresh from Phnom Penh, another prison so soon was not on the agenda.
Personally we would not recommend Phu Quoc as a destination but If you do find yourself on the Island follow these simple steps to making the most of it!
Step 1 – Meet a great couple preferably called Philip and Jenny who will be on a little holiday themselves and spend all your time with them – WE MISS YOU GUYS!!
Step 2 – Rent a moped – Another point to mention here would be give the bike a little test drive to make sure the brakes are working and also check your helmets as even if they seem fine when you’re standing still they may fly off as soon as you start moving at speed, Michelle and Jenny found this out the hard way!
Also unluckily for Philip and Jenny their bikes, yes plural (they went through three in total) were a disaster, on day one the key fell out of the ignition twice on a motorway when we were driving 120km an hour, which was less than convenient and on the second day their exhaust was literally hanging off and before changing it for a third time they got a lot of funny looks from the local workmen. Anyway it will take you two days at least to cover the whole Island. Apart from Sao Beach we would recommend driving along Long Beach on the west coast to watch the sunset and maybe visiting An Thoi town in the far South.
Step 3 – Location is everything – If you’re looking for a party and other backpackers head to Duong Dong, the main town; markets, food and everything else South East Asia can offer along the ‘banana pancake trail’.
If you’re looking for quiet head north like us. We stayed in Mai Phuong Resort on Vung Bau Beach, be warned these pristine beaches and turquoise waters were ankle-deep before hitting rock, and the sand was definitely not white, not really what was promised.
If it is the beach you’re looking for then head Southeast to Sao Beach, we spent two days searching the Island for the promised beach and found it here… the sea was beautiful and the beach, despite the sand flies was just what we were looking for.
Step 4 – Spend more on accommodation – Perhaps one with a pool, or join the Russians at a resort. On our first day after unsuccessfully searching for hours for paradise we found a great resort with a pool so we washed off all the dirt from a day of driving on sand tracks and enjoyed a Burger and a Banana shake with our new friends.
Step 5 – Bring reading material and familiarise yourself with the local coffee. Iced or Hot it’s so good!
Step 6 – Eat at least one meal at Buddies in Duong Dong Town
Step 7 – Check out the amazing local seafood market, expensive to eat there but worth a visit even just to look
Seriously it wasn’t all bad….Every single local we encountered was incredibly friendly and helpful, we ate some amazing food, everything from local Pho (noodle soup), delicious seafood and we finished off our stay with a lovely meal at Bamboo Cottages, just down the road from our Bungalows.