Postcards from Phu Quoc, the tropical island boasting Vietnam’s best beaches
Have you heard of Phu Quoc, the tropical palmtree island famous for spectacular sunsets, the best beaches in Vietnam and, since this year, the longest cable car ride in the world? Don’t worry if you haven’t – I hadn’t either, until my boyfriend decided to take me there to celebrate my birthday (I know – he’s a keeper).
The choice of destination shows that he knows his birthday girl (which should not surprising, after 10 years together). I love combining beach holidays with sightseeing and cultural programme, and while Phu Quoc has enough fine sandy beaches to keep even the most demanding tourist busy (or rather lazy) for several weeks, it also boasts plenty of sights and natural wonders for the more active traveller to explore.
This winning combination is part of what Phu Quoc relies on as it tries to attract more visitors. Virtually unknown to Western travellers as little as a decade ago, the island has developed quickly in recent years. There’s a lot of construction going on along the coast, and many travellers say that these are the last moments to experience Phu Quoc in its “authentic” form, while it’s still “unspoilt” by mass tourism.
I find arguments like these slightly problematic. Firstly, they are likely to encourage mass tourism as travellers rush to the scene to make sure they’re not missing out. Secondly, one cannot evaluate whether the changes are for the better or for the worse without including the local perspective. One thing seems pretty clear, however: the number of tourists to Phu Quoc is likely to increase substantially in the coming years. And, looking at these photos, I’m sure that you’ll agree: they’re in for a treat.
Trip in a nutshell: Phu Quoc, Vietnam
What, where, when?
All-inclusive beach holiday on the Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, March 2018.
With… my boyfriend
Occasion: My birthday
Duration: 8 days.
Booked… through First Choice, British holiday company that’s part of the multinational travel group TUI.
Where did we stay?
Sol Beach House Phu Quoc, a new four-star beach resort located on the outskirts of Duong Dong, the capital of Phu Quoc.
What did we do?
Swim, sunbathe, chill, and explore the island.
The weather! During our stay, the temperature in Phu Quoc hovered around 32 degrees during the day and around 25 degrees during the night – not too hot but definitely not too cold either. What’s even better, both the sea and the hotel pool were bath warm – I could stay in for hours.
Exploring Phu Quoc on a scooter. Renting a scooter allowed us to explore the island at our own pace and discover places we would otherwise not have ventured into. In this case, the journey often really was more important than the destination: riding through the tropical landscapes along mostly empty roads, with warm wind, sunshine and my boyfriend for company and a great song on the radio,the feeling of freedom I experienced was exhilarating.
Riding the world’s longest cable car from An Thoi to Hon Thom. Breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience. As my boyfriend said, it’s worth coming to Phu Quoc for this trip alone.
Lastly and most importantly, spending time with my boyfriend – I am so thankful to him for this amazing birthday treat!
Anything to improve?
Mainly just small things. For instance, on our way to Phu Quoc First Choice had seated us separately and would not change the seats even though it was my birthday and we offered to pay to be seated together. There were not a lot of vegetarian options on offer at the hotel, and on one occasion we discovered that a vegetarian meal actually had meat in it. Not cool, but these things happen.
From my point of view, the biggest concern was the amount of rubbish in the sea and on the beaches. This was particularly disturbing on the otherwise gorgeous Sao Beach, which had so much garbage that we decided against swimming there. And, while our hotel beach was generally kept clean and tidy, my boyfriend hurt his leg after stepping on a fishing tackle that had been hidden in the sand. Hopefully increasing tourism revenues will help clean the sea and the beaches for the benefit of visitors and, more importantly, the locals. Until that, I’m not sure if it’s fair to say the beaches in Phu Quoc are the best in Vietnam – but as this was my first time in the country, I can’t really make comparisons.
Good to know before visiting Phu Quoc
To boost the island’s budding tourism industry, in 2014 Vietnam introduced visa exemption for tourists: you can now visit Phu Quoc visa-free for up to 30 days. According to the very helpful Phu Quoc Island Guide, the exemption is available to all nationalities – but it is obviously always important to double check before making any bookings (travelling in general is considerably easier on some passports than on others).
Getting to Phu Quoc isn’t too difficult, either: the island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, just 15 km from the coast of Cambodia, and there are regular ferries to both Cambodia and mainland Vietnam. Most tourists will probably be arriving by air to the Phu Quoc international airport – we had direct flights from London Gatwick which took just short of 11 hours on our way there but nearly 13,5 hours (!!) on the way back.
Have you been to Phu Quoc, or are you thinking of visiting?
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below, and I’ll try my best to answer. For more pictures from Phu Quoc, check out my Instagram feed. To keep up with future blog post, follow Studying the World on Facebook and Bloglovin.