Nov 24-26, 2014
The Road Trip to Phu Quoc Island
GPS waypoint: 10°10'01.2"N 103°59'41.9"E
Location: Phu Quoc District, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam
We were all up early in Ha Tien to catch the first ferry trip to Phu Quoc Island. It was a big ferry, able to iron-out the little waves for a comfortable boat ride. The 3-hour ferry ride was relaxing and expensive. With our motorcycle, Tuyen and I paid US$45 one-way. The ferry ride was our single biggest expense in Phu Quoc.
Phu Quoc Dog
Unknown outside Vietnam, but renowned within the country is the rare and smart Phu Quoc dog. This dog usually wins in dog shows for its smarts and abilities (eg. 2013 Hanoi dog show). It can outswim, outrun and outjump normal dogs. It's a hunting dog that looks like any other dog except for a few distinguishing marks, the most notable having a ridgeback - hair that stands on its end along its spine with a visible twirl. It would be easy to spot one in Phu Quoc - nearly every dog has a ridgeback. When it gives birth, it goes deep into the forest, digs a cave and delivers its young inside. Some urban folks buy the Phu Quoc dog and keep it inside a confined apartment in the city - this weakens the dog and sometimes it dies. It thrives on the outdoors. In the market place in Phu Quoc, it would be easy to buy one for US$50 (yes, it's not cheap even for a mongrel), but perhaps not a thorough bred. It is so rare that there are only 700 registered purebreds.
Phu Quoc as of this writing is undergoing massive construction to develop multi-national resort and hotel chains lining up its beaches. Already, the international airport has been completed. New roads are being paved. The island is very dusty from all the work being done. It is said that the aim for Phu Quoc is to become the next Singapore.
The Old Man
The guy who organized this trip is a soft-spoken man who has this radiant energy about him. He talks to everyone, always smiling, ensuring all is ok. Even when talking to strangers, he exudes an honest demeanor that makes people open up to him. He is selfless in dispensing advice learned through the trenches of life. He doesn't talk about God, religion, devotion or anything spiritual, but the things he didn't say or claim, he exercised by way of example. He lives the good and decent life.
I quickly noticed this because it is in sharp contrast to someone else in the group who is learned in the teachings of the Buddha, but a little too self-righteous, bordering on spiritual adventurism. This person can deliberate on sutras, scriptures and quote ancient lines. But the volition I feel is one of angst, almost combative in assertion of what should be right and what is wrong.
Touring Phu Quoc
The best way to experience Phu Quoc is to rent a motorbike. At roughly the same size as Singapore at 593km2, it won't be just a day ride. I did not see any public transport and XeOm (for hire motorbikes) is expensive. There are many beaches around the island. Phu Quoc is also one of a few places outside Nha Trang where you can go scuba diving or snorkeling. A boatman with a paddle can bring you to the coral reef and you can do your free dive. Seafood is abundant and fresh.
Phu Quoc right now is a mess - too much construction happening. I could imagine that in 2 years time, when all the projects are done, Phu Quoc will make a grand entrance in the tourism landscape to announce its arrival. I am not sure how the presence of the big players will affect the prices in Phu Quoc. I hope Pho remains at VND 25,000 max - Pho, being my metaphor for the affordability Vietnam offers. After 3 days of riding around Phu Quoc, it was time to head back.
- high quality fish sauce (nuoc mam)
- Phu Quoc dog
- black pepper
- pearl cultivation (lately)
- scuba diving
- fun at the beach
- night market
- sample the seafood dishes
- there are 2 ferry trips per day from Ha Tien to Phu Quoc, 9:15am and 3:30pm, 2 people + 1 motorcycle US$45 one-way, 3 hours
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- Vietnamese smokers used to smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. But this habit seems to be changing now.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- only Vietnamese Dong is accepted as legal tender (change your dollars into Dong)
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
(Feb 17, 2015) Napagiwanan na talaga ang Pilipinas... milya - milya (the Philippines has really been left behind...by miles)
Nov 24-26, 2014
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