Surrounded by more than 40 km of white beaches decorated with coconut palms, Phú Quốc, situated in the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border, is Vietnam’s largest island. Its western coastline is sparsely populated while the interior is largely covered with jungle and mainly deserted.
You can start exploring the island in Dương Đông, the biggest town on the island (west of Phú Quốc), where most of hotels and resorts are located. Going south, you can drive along Bãi Trường (Long Beach), which is a 20 km long, spectacular beach. You will see two pearl farms on the right, the second is worth a visit. At the end of the road turn left (you can’t miss it) and follow the signs, you will reach the fisherman village An Thới and the An Thới pier, the island’s southern tip. From here the An Thới Islands, a very nice snorkelling and diving area consisting of 15 small islands and islets surrounded by coral reefs in crystal clear water, can be visited by boat.
Continuing to travel north-east, you will see a sign to Bãi Sao (the sign is somewhat hidden, around 1 km away from the main road). Bãi Sao, with its marvelous white sand and green-turquoise water, is one of the most beautiful, quite untouched beaches on Phú Quốc Island. There are a number of simple, on-the-sand restaurants with tasty, fresh seafood in this area.
Before going back to Dương Đông, there are some recommendable springs and falls: Suối Tranh and Suối Đá Bàn. Suối Tranh (some 10 km north of Bãi Sao) is a stream connecting tiny ponds at different levels through small waterfalls. Suối Đá Bàn (a stony surface stream, north-east of Dương Đông) is an easily accessible white-water creek, gracefully flowing down huge granite boulders, on which you can wake; in some places there are natural pools waiting for a refreshing swim.
A stay on Phú Quốc Island would not be complete without visiting one of the factories producing Nước Mắm (fish sauce), one of the most popular ingredients of the Vietnamese cooking as well as one of the pearl farms with panels describing the formation of pearls and shops selling pearl jewellery.
The island has a unique species of dogs, the Phú Quốc Ridgeback, which has a ridge of hair that runs along its back in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. Much of this island’s nature is still protected. Around 70% of the island, an area of 31,422 hectares, became a national park in 2001. The rainy season on Phú Quốc is from July to November and the peak season for tourism is midwinter, when the sky is blue and the sea is calm.
Travelers who know the Thai islands Ko Samui and Phuket often comment: “The island of Phú Quốc is still natural and untouched like Ko Samui 10 years and Phuket 20 years ago”. Not surprising, a larger international airport is being built on the island of Phú Quốc, expected to operate within five years. A golf course and a casino will also be completed. If you like untouched nature and pre-touristic surrounding, you should hurry up!
Travel to Phú Quốc
Vietnam Airlines (116 Nguyen Hue, HCMC, Tel. (08)3824 4482) offers daily flights from both Ho Chi Minh City (around 45 USD one-way, 4 flights daily) and Rach Gia.
Several companies operate high-speed hydrofoils going from Rach Gia to Phú Quốc. The boats leave the mainland daily between 7 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., and return from Phú Quốc between 12.30 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. (150-200 Thousand Viet Nam Dong, 2.5 hours). Tickets must be purchased in advance and most travel agents can book the passage. The most well-known hydrofoil companies (Tau Cao Toc) include Super Dong (Rach Gia 077-878 475, Phú Quốc 077-980 111) and Dương Đông Express (Rach Gia 077-879 765, Phú Quốc 077-990 747). Offices of these companies are located at the dock in Rach Gia and in Phú Quốc; the ride can be booked in most of the travel agencies in advance.
Very popular to more adventurous travelers is a round-trip between Ho Chi Minh City and Phú Quốc: travel overland through the Mekong Delta (Sai Gon – My Tho – Rach Gia – Phú Quốc, taking a ferry from Rach Gia to Phú Quốc) and, after staying and discovering the island, take the short one-hour flight back to HCMC.