July 13, 2016
Today I woke up to sun but then it was short lived as it began to pour like crazy shortly after. I lay in bed thinking that we wouldn’t be able to rent a scooter and go around the island. I trust Tim’s driving skills but the rain here is crazy and we would just be soaked within seconds (having no ponchos). The weather gods were kind to us though, because minutes after the torrential downpour the sun made an appearance! I know, I seem to be hung up on the weather here, but it’s because there isn’t much to do in Phu Quoc besides lounging around in your hotel/resort or going to beaches (all of which are outdoors). The list of “things to do” on this island is a pretty sad looking list.
We went for breakfast and both had a bowl of Pho and some samplings of the other items. Billy was there walking around greeting everyone as they ate breakfast. He calls us Mr. Tim and Mrs. Kate. I’m impressed by the service here. Everyone is so friendly and Billy always says hi and calls everyone by name when he sees them. We never received the same service when we stayed at the Grand Wailea in Maui – Tim likes to mention that a lot. Since the weather was so good, our original plan of renting a scooter was a go.
We rented a scooter from the hotel for 150,000 VND = $8.75 CAD for a full day (so cheap) including “4L” of gas. The last time we rented a scooter while on vacation was 3 years ago in Koh Samui. That was one of the most memorable/best days of our Thailand trip. Since Phu Quoc has a population of just over 100,000, we knew we wouldn’t have to deal with road conditions like any other Vietnamese city. I know Tim misses riding his motorcycle, which he sold 9 years ago, so riding a scooter is the closest thing he’s done since. Obviously not the same, but it’s a start!
Our only plan for today was to go to Sao Beach, which is on the southern part of the island, which according to Billy used to be part of Cambodia. Our hotel is sort of in the middle of the island, closer to the main town of Duong Dong, so getting to Sao Beach took around 40 minutes. The main highway to get there was really easy to ride on with newly paved roads and it even had a median from oncoming traffic. However, the dirt road to get to the actual beach was another story. Phu Quoc is not very developed so there are only certain areas with paved roads, many of the routes on the maps are dirt roads. The dirt road was super bumpy. I had to hold on tight from bouncing too high off the seat.
There are two parts of Sao Beach you could go to – one of them being public and free and the other one you have to pay to park and stay (the cost would’ve been the same price as our bike rental). We opted for the free parking and public beach. The parking lot was filled with taxis, scooters, and tour buses. There’s an open air restaurant along the beach, which we didn’t end up eating at because the prices were outrageous (ie 50,000 VND = $3 CAD for a steamed bowl of rice!)
Maybe because we picked the public beach area, the sand wasn’t very well maintained. So my first impression of the beach was that it was pretty worn and there was a lot of garbage washed up on to the shore (further down away from where most people camped out). The water, however, was gorgeous, and appeared to be clean. Tim read that the part of Sao Beach that charges is spotless because they have staff cleaning up garbage constantly. We found a spot under a small tree where Tim hung out and read and I hung out in the water.
I walked down the beach to an area that wasn’t as busy and came across a huge jellyfish that was really close to shore. I got freaked out because at first I thought it was a plastic bag (since there was garbage) but it was a jellyfish the size of a grocery store plastic bag! After passing by it a few times and using a stick to poke it to see if it would move, I came to the conclusion that it was dead. My walk down the beach was a bit disappointing because there was sooo much garbage that washed up on to shore. Sao Beach could be even more beautiful if the shores were cleaned up. If you just stay in the water and put blinders on, you won’t see all the garbage. But if you just walk a few meters in either direction you can’t avoid it.
After spending a few hours at the beach we were ready to hit the road. We headed further south to a town called An Thoi, hoping to find something to eat. Our drive into town was another bumpy affair. Instead of dirt, it was uneven gravel. Lucky Tim is so steady because if I were driving, we would’ve crashed. As we drove down through town I saw four dog (thit cho) restaurants in the span of a few minutes. Suffice it to say, I didn’t notice any other restaurants that seemed appetizing to me.
We headed back and I kept an eye out on places to stop for lunch along the way. There wasn’t much going on in Phu Quoc, just a lot of construction everywhere. I get why Billy says if we come back in a year or less it will look different. We saw some massive developments for resorts being built along our drive. We passed by some of the tourist attractions on the island – Phu Quoc Prison and one of the main waterfalls. Neither of the sights really interested us so we passed. Tim wouldn’t have minded seeing the waterfalls but when we passed by the parking lot, it was packed with tours so we decided not to go.
We rode through Duong Dong town and saw some more promising options for lunch. I saw a guy grilling some meat outside a restaurant and it didn’t say thit cho (dog) so I was interested. Luckily the sign out front was something that we were familiar with – Com Tam (broken rice with grilled pork). The ladies spoke to us in Vietnamese and were surprised we didn’t understand them. There was no menu so we didn’t have anything to point to. I said “com tam”, and they looked very confused. Then I pointed at the meat being grilled, then they’re like ohh…I forgot that c’s are pronounced with a “gee” sound, so I was saying it wrong. The meat was really good, Tim liked it better than the one in Can Tho. I couldn’t remember what that one was like. Our two com tam’s were 60,000 VND = $3.45 CAD, I forgot how cheap things are in Vietnam.
After a delicious lunch we headed back to the hotel. We were sandy, a bit damp (since we were wearing our swim suits), and sticky (from the sunscreen and sweat). We rinsed off and went to the pool to cool down. The pool was a lot busier than it was yesterday. A family (10 of them) of Americans just checked in today so they were all in the pool. The Americans were on one end of the pool and there was another French family (8 of them) who were there too. All the Asians in each of the families were Vietnamese and all the spouses were Caucasian. It was nice watching all the families vacationing together and further solidifies how close Vietnamese families are.
We washed up and then went back into town to the Dinh Cau Night Market for dinner. The night market was pretty small, made up of some jewellery stalls, a lot of seafood restaurants, and a couple of other (not so great) food stalls. All the seafood restaurants had everything they had in tanks out front and you pick what you want to eat and they BBQ it for you. We ordered a squid (40,000 VND = $2.30 CAD), four prawns (10,000 VND each = $0.58 CAD), and garlic bread (10,000 VND = $0.58 CAD). I just wanted to try a bit of seafood since we were here. There were a lot of Vietnamese people there all with large parties (big families) and were feasting!
We walked up and down the strip of the night market twice and then decided to head back to the hotel. Since it was dark out, I didn’t have my sunglasses on and dust/dirt kept flying into my eyes. It was not a very comfortable ride back. We passed by the club that keeps playing all the loud rave music and the music wasn’t actually as loud as we thought it would be. I think the music just echoes and we’re the unfortunate recipients of the loud music at night. After our second night here, I’m already used to it.
Steps today: 4,500