We are all used to hearing of weekend island escapades in places like Bali and Phuket, but have you heard of Phu Quoc (pronounce: foo kwuck) island in Vietnam? Thanks to Unravel Travel and Changi Airport Group, I recently got the chance to explore this lesser known gem in Southeast Asia that’s off the beaten track.
Phu Quoc island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, and is actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam. Our guide for one of the tours even mentioned that we could swim to Cambodia since it’s only 15km away! In the past, Phu Quoc was used as a prison during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until recent years did it open up to tourism. In fact, you should visit the island before the larger tourism developments get completed and it becomes overly touristy.
I wasn’t expecting much at first, but little did we know that we were in for a surprise. We spent about 3 days on the island (recommended duration), and here are 5 hidden gems that we discovered.
(1) Sao Beach
Google Phu Quoc and you will see idyllic beaches and crystal clear waters. If thats what you are looking for, head immediately down to Sao Beach to find the most beautiful beach on the island. Before we found this, we were still wondering if the photos were heavily photoshop-ed because the beaches around the main town of Duong Dong wasn’t fantastic. Jet ski’s are available for rent too!
Pro-tip: If you’re adventurous, rent a motobike and ride down the only highway from the main town of Duong Dong (high chance you will be staying here) to Sao Beach in the South. A private transport or taxi is a lot more expensive unless you have a big group (about 6 pax for the larger taxis).
(2) Sunset at Duong Dong Harbour
One of the best spots to chase sunsets as it faces the west and is conveniently located in the main town. Hang around the harbour with silhouetted fishing boats in the background, or climb up the rocks just beside the temple for a clearer view. We even saw some local kids jumping off the rocks if that’s your kind of thing.
Pro-tip: Enjoy the sunset with some local snacks from the street vendors near the harbour. Just remember to carry small change as street vendors will often say they “don’t have enough change.”
(3) Feast on Seafood
Seafood restaurants are everywhere on Phu Quoc, and they have all sorts of varieties. From sea urchin, mantis shrimp, snails, to all kinds of the usual selection. If you’re looking for convenience, I suggest visiting the nearby night market in Duong Dong after catching the sunset. There are rows of seafood restaurants there!
Pro-tip: For a more budget option, check out the restaurants along the main road in Duong Dong. They are often a lot cheaper as the night market is more touristy.
(4) Snorkel in the archipelago
South of Phu Quoc, there are beautiful islands that are great for snorkelling. For just USD17, we got a full day snorkelling and fishing tour, which includes all equipment, transport and lunch. Pretty good deal I must say. Even if snorkelling is not for you, it’s nice to spend a day out in the sun.
The only downside for me was visiting one of those tourist trap pearl factories on our way to the boat tour cause I’m not interested in buying souvenirs. :P
(5) Explore a Secret Beach
If crowds isn’t your thing, this secret beach may be for you. Our friends met a local guide called Duc who boasted about a secret beach up north untouched by tourists. In fact, he claimed that if we saw any tourists there, he would not even take our money! True enough, there wasn’t a single soul on those beaches. Although the beaches wasn’t as beautiful as the one on Sao Beach, it was nice to have an entire area to yourself. We only had lots of starfishes for company.
We swore not to reveal the location to anyone, but here’s the contact of our adorable guide Duc (016 3805 2388) if you are interested. It costs about USD25/pax, inclusive of transport for the entire day. He will even bring you on an eco tour around the nature reserve, though I think that part isn’t that good.
Anyway, if you want to find out more about Vietnam’s best kept secret, check out this entry from my travel buddy Andrew! Don’t forget to view the other travel entries and vote for your favourite as well.
Interested in visiting other lesser known destinations? Why not check out the Weekend Escapade App for more deals and information.