After such a beautiful day yesterday, we woke up to another spell of torrential rainfall. This time it lasted longer than any other day so we caught up on some TV (Amazing Race Canada was in Vietnam!) and Tim worked on our spending summary for the trip. We were glad that we decided to take the scooter out yesterday rather than wait until today.
The sun finally came out so we got changed into our swimsuits, had lunch at the restaurant, and lounged by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. The sun was literally setting on our last day and afternoon in paradise (Tim: “paradise”). When we get back home, we’ll need to do some serious thinking about what we want to do this Fall – Travel more? Stay in Vancouver? Set up camp somewhere and work remotely?
After the pool, I got a manicure and pedicure done at the spa ($11 USD for both thanks to the 50% discount). They didn’t have too many colours to choose from but they did a good job of cleaning everything up. I rarely get my nails done in Vancouver (only for special occasions) so it was a nice treat and at such a good price I couldn’t pass it up. After I was done, I went back to the room to get Tim for dinner.
We shared a bun cha (our favourite dish here, can refer to Day 134 for the picture) and spring rolls. When we get home, I don’t think I’ll be eating Vietnamese or SE Asian food for a while. I already veto’ed a friend’s request to go to Mr. Red’s (North Vietnamese restaurant).
Our last activity for the night were massages. Tim got a Thai massage ($15 USD) and I just got a foot/leg massage ($10 USD) because my back was a bit burnt from the beach. They gave us a free facial mask and my lady gave me a nice head massage after. When I was done, Tim’s lady was concerned because Tim’s eczema was acting up. They tried to use Google Translate to tell him to go to the drugstore tomorrow to get medicine for his skin. They told him not to go into the water or the ocean any more.
The rest of the night was spent packing up. We’re getting really good at packing very quickly. It’s hitting us that we’ll be back home very soon.
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.
Today’s post is going to be pretty boring. Phu Quoc is the first place we’ve been to this trip where we’re happy to just hang out at the resort and do nothing. I guess you can say it’s a vacation from a “vacation”. Our first night here was good. There was some serious heavy rain last night that woke Tim up (Tim: Actually, I was just still up when it started raining). It’s unfortunate that down the hill in town there are bars that blast rave/EDM music until pretty late at night. We could hear it fairly clearly even when our doors are closed. I feel bad for Daisy Resort. It’s not their fault the bars here are crazy. If you paid for a nicer room farther up the hill it probably wouldn’t be an issue.
When we woke up it was pouring rain. We called the front desk to get an umbrella so we could walk to breakfast. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty busy. It was like everyone was trying to escape the rain. The majority of guests here are Vietnamese tourists and about 10% are Europeans (mostly French and German). The breakfast selection is decent – a mixture of western and Vietnamese options. They have a soup noodle and egg station that are made to order. My favourite thing at the breakfast was a caramel flan they had.
After breakfast we hung out in our room waiting for the rain to die down. As soon as it stopped and it looked like there was a tiny bit of light, I got changed and went to the pool. I basically stayed outside all morning and early afternoon. Swimming, reading, and relaxing! It was pretty much overcast all day but still about 27 degrees (“chilly” for SE Asia).
We had lunch at the hotel again. Tim was craving spaghetti bolognese so he ordered that and I had bun cha, a Hanoi dish. The food at the hotel has been really good so far. I liked the bun cha here better than the famous bun cha place we went to in Hanoi. Tim was very happy with his spaghetti. Home stretch before we can have comfort food at home!
After digesting, I went back outside and hung out by the pool and swam. Tim had “Tim time” in the room (Tim: my favourite). Late in the afternoon, the sun actually came out which was nice. As soon as the sun came through the clouds it was scorching, so maybe it was good it was a bit overcast or else I probably wouldn’t be outside the whole day.
Happy to have this time to relax and really reflect on our trip as a whole. Been jotting down notes of summary posts and our overall experience. Did you know we’ve slept in 43 different beds so far? Lucky for us we can both get a good night’s sleep in any bed. We were planning on getting a new mattress after we got married because our mattress was pretty bad (Tim: “old”) so all these hotel mattresses have been a luxury compared to it (not sure if Tim will be defensive about his mattress).
Since we’re staying at Daisy Resort for over 3 nights, they offered us 50% off any spa services, which is perfect! Tim got a 60 minute Vietnamese massage ($11 USD) and I got a Swedish massage ($10 USD) in the evening. Both our massages were good and we had an enjoyable time listening to the sound of crickets and toads (lots of toads around).
We had a late dinner after our massages. Tim ordered the bun cha that I had at lunch and I had a chicken caesar salad. We’ve been alternating who orders the western option.
Tomorrow we’ll see if the weather in the morning is more stable. We’re thinking of renting a scooter and checking out the beaches and the island.
Our “long” (Tim: I added the quotes) day of travel started at 9am this morning. We checked out after a quick last breakfast at our hotel in George Town and hopped into a cab to take us to Penang International Airport. The front desk suggested leaving the hotel at 9am just in case there was traffic. Our taxi driver was a friendly Indian man who liked to listen to Frank Sinatra songs and sing along to them. He had the meter running while we were in the car but we already paid the hotel a flat rate (his meter only said 40 MYR and we paid 50 MYR). Oh well, not all taxi drivers are apparently as friendly as him.
We arrived at the airport earlier than expected. We checked into our Air Asia flight to Ho Chi Minh City, walked around the terminal, and went through customs and security. The only souvenir I bought from Penang, and Malaysia for that matter, was a (smaller) box of pandan egg roll cookies (7.50 MYR = $2.50 CAD) from a place called Ban Heang. We passed by one of their main shops yesterday but I didn’t take a close look, which I should have. Ban Heang is a Penang store that specializes in an assortment of cookies and tambun biscuits. They also had quite a few durian products, which is very Malaysian. The Ban Heang store at the international terminal was located right before you cross security. Ban Heang seems quite popular amongst Asian and Malaysian tourists. We still have a bunch of MYR left over. We spent less than we expected in Malaysia.
Once we crossed customs and security, there wasn’t much going on in the international terminal. They had some stores and a couple cafes but nothing that was very interesting. We’ve noticed that with many SE Asian airports, all the good stores and chain restaurants are all outside the gates. Once you go past security, other than the typical duty free stores, the stores aren’t great and often times they look like they’re selling really random junk.
Our Air Asia flight took off on time and we landed a bit earlier than scheduled. I have a head cold and was pretty congested so flying today really stunk. I felt bad for the lady beside me as I blew my nose throughout the whole flight. Just as long as I don’t get a fever it’s okay. I don’t want to be quarantined at the airport being caught by those infrared scanners.
We landed in Saigon, crossed customs (no issues), collected our bags, and walked to the domestic terminal. We gave ourselves a few hours to make our flight to Phu Quoc and thankfully everything worked out smoothly. We used the Vietnam Airlines self check-in kiosks and then lined up to drop our bags off. The Vietnam Airlines check in area was very disorganized and there was no one at the baggage drop off counter. It was a bit of a mess. We felt like we were truly back in Vietnam while standing at the counter on our turn. A couple came up right beside Tim and flash their IDs in front of the lady helping us like Tim was invisible. This was all happening while the lady behind me pushed her cart up against my legs to make sure no one budged in front of her.
We had lunch at Popeye’s and Burger King. I had a Whooper Jr. and Tim had chicken tenders. The last time we were at this terminal was on our way to Da Nang, back when Tim wasn’t feeling great, so he couldn’t enjoy the chicken tenders. So I guess he’s making up for that.
I’ve never heard as many delays or change of gate announcements than at the domestic terminal in Saigon. It seems like every 3 minutes there’s an announcement. It was pretty much inevitable that our flight to Phu Quoc would also be delayed. Our flight time of 3:50pm came and went without an announcement. Finally at 4pm, they announced that our flight was delayed at 4:35pm and our gate changed.
We finally boarded our last flight for today. It definitely is summer holidays because our flight had a lot of kids. The flight time to Phu Quoc was only 30 minutes, and it was fairly smooth until we approached Phu Quoc and the turbulence was bad as we were passing through a thunderstorm. Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island (same size as Singapore) and is actually closer to Cambodia’s southern coast than Vietnam.
After landing safely, we picked up our bags and saw a representative (later learned his English name is “Billy”) from Daisy Resort holding up a sign. When we approached him he gave us a warm welcome and led us to the van. Daisy Resort is around 15 minutes away from the airport and sits on the side of a hill with views of the ocean. It took us a while to figure out where to stay in Phu Quoc. Beach front would’ve been nice but Daisy’s glowing Trip Advisor reviews and price ($58 CAD/night) won us over.
Billy was telling us in the car that Phu Quoc has been changing quickly and probably won’t be recognizable if we come back to visit even in a year’s time. Just three years ago the Vietnamese government began putting a lot of money into Phu Quoc wanting it to become a tourist island. There are 5 star resorts on the island and I’m sure there will be a lot more in the future. Billy said many of the hotel staff are from Saigon or Hanoi (he’s from Hanoi) and management from other parts of SE Asia, showing them the ropes.
Once we got to Daisy Resort, we checked in and were given welcome drinks. It had just finished raining and the sun was about to set so we didn’t get a great look at the grounds in the day light. From what we saw it looked nice and very cozy. The rooms are all villas and tiered on the hill. Since we booked the cheapest standard room, we’re at the bottom of the hill and face the courtyard gardens. The pool is nice and should have nice views of the ocean during the day. It’s down/rainy season right now so hopefully it won’t rain every single day we’re here!
We settled into our room and rested up a bit. We decided to eat at the hotel tonight and be more adventurous with what’s around tomorrow. The restaurant prices were about double the price of street restaurants but it was still very reasonable by western standards. We shared a vermicelli bowl with grilled beef (140k VND = $8.20 CAD) and an order of spring rolls ($7.30 CAD). When the food came it was so nicely presented compared to the street food we’ve been eating. Our bill came to $16 USD for our food, two fruit smoothies, and a coke. So it won’t be a horrible option to eat here more than once.
Looking forward to spending time here and relaxing. Hopefully we get a bit of sun!