Phu Quoc

Sao Beach

  • Accommodation: Sea Breeze Hotel ($18 USD/night for fan only, double room with private bathroom w/ hot water). This place was like an actual hotel! Can’t believe it was less than $9/night per person. The room was really clean and spacious. Our room was fan only, but we didn’t need A/C and slept comfortably at night. The bathroom was very clean and even had hot water. There was fast, free wifi, a mini-bar, and even a TV with many channels including BBC, ESPN and Discovery. Plus they picked us up from the airport for free. Sea Breeze is located just south of Doing Dong (the main town in Phu Quoc) and just north of Long Beach (the long stretch of sand that runs along the west coast of the island for over 20 km). At first we were disappointed that we weren’t closer to the beach, but in the end it worked out great because it’s really easy to rent motorbikes and scoot around. Plus we enjoyed being close to the Night Market for good, inexpensive dinners (less than a 5 minute walk from the hotel). The only con with Sea Breeze was that nobody at the front desk could really speak English. The 2 girls who worked there were really sweet and they were trying hard to speak what little English they knew, but we couldn’t understand what they were saying most of the time.
  • Restaurants:
    1. Night Market: Located about 5 minutes away from Sea Breeze. It had a bunch of cheap outdoor restaurants set up serving very fresh seafood and other traditional Vietnamese food. We ate here most nights since it was close, the food was great and the prices were good!
    2. Breakfast place across the street from Sea Breeze, I can’t remember the name but it’s a small restaurant with a couple of outdoor tables. They serve good pancakes.
    3. Ocean Bar & Grill: Located a couple of buildings over from Sea Breeze. Rosie got shrimp with lemongrass and curry and I got seafood pasta. We also had very fresh vegetable rolls wrapped in rice paper. The food was very good, but a lot more expensive than the night market stalls.
    4. Restaurant on Sao Beach: part of a hotel, located towards the middle of the beach, good vegetarian fried rice

After 3 hours of sleep we headed to the airport in Singapore to board our flight to Saigon. We flew Jetstar Asia and then transferred to the domestic terminal (very easy, just next door) and took a short 50 minute flight on Vietnam Airways to Phu Quoc. The hotel picked us up for free which was really great. In the afternoon we grabbed our bathing suits and headed to Long Beach to take a dip in the ocean. The water was insanely warm, even warmer than Bali if that’s possible. By late afternoon we were really tired – the effects of barely sleeping in 2 days had finally caught up to us. We resisted the temptation to take a nap, knowing full well that we’d probably sleep through dinner and wake up in the middle of the night. So we headed to the Night Market for an early dinner and had some delicious seafood. We ordered so much food and the bill was less than $4 USD/person, including beers.

Dinner at the Night Market

The next day we slept in until 9am and grabbed breakfast at a café across the street. The owner’s son came up to us and wanted to play using the little umbrellas that you put in cocktail drinks. He was so adorable and we literally played with him for the entire meal. The children here are so beautiful. After breakfast we rented 1 motorbike and headed to the northwest beaches. We were warned that most roads in Phu Quoc are unpaved and that there are hardly any signs, so finding these beaches could prove challenging. And Phu Quoc is actually a very large island so it takes awhile to get places on gravel roads. Anyways, we were trying to find Cua Can Beach, and we were pretty certain we found it but we could not figure out a way to access it through this little village. So we headed north along the coast hoping to find a different entrance, but unfortunately we had no luck. So finally we found a dirt path off the main road and decided to follow it. We parked our motorbike on the side of the “highway” and walked for about 20-30 minutes before we finally reached the water. There wasn’t another sole in sight, with the exception of some fishing boats on the water. The beach itself was unfortunately covered in debris that had washed onshore from mainland Cambodia and Vietnam. Once again these tropical paradises are being destroyed by garbage and litter. But for some reason the water was still really clean so we went swimming for awhile, suntanned and then headed back. Judging by our map we think we were in between Cua Can and Ong Lang beaches. It took us about 30-45 minutes to get back to the hotel.

Driving the motorbike was rather interesting. I am so glad we rented one in Bali and had some experience driving one before having to navigate Phu Quoc’s dirt roads filled with potholes, large rocks and lack of traffic signs. Not to mention the rickety bridges we had to go over. Bridges in Phu Quoc were literally a few wooden planks strung together, so if you veered slightly left or right you and your moped would be in the water. After the first time we went over one of these bridges Rosie decided to she’d rather not end up dead in the water, so she volunteered to hop off and walk across. There was one bridge in particular that was right at the end of a little village and it was so narrow that you had to really get your speed up so that you wouldn’t wobble and fall off. Of course the entire village came out to watch me attempt to go over this thing. After Rosie hopped off the bike I gunned it and I went flying over the bridge so fast – thank god nobody was on the other side or else I would have surely hit them. At a minimum I’m glad I could provide the villagers with some entertainment for the afternoon!

Riding along Long Beach on the way to Sao Beach

On the way back from the beach Rosie wanted to try driving on the paved section since we were both going to rent out own bikes the next day (it’s a little uncomfortable to sit on the back for an extended period of time). The bike is definitely heavier than what you think and it was also difficult with the extra weight of me sitting on the back. She was doing a great job until she went to pass someone on the left, but she couldn’t turn the bike so instead we swerved off the road onto the right shoulder. While the bike was leaning out of control I thought for a second that we were going to fall off the small cliff on the side of the road. I started to brace myself for the crash, but she was able to straighten out the bike and come to a complete stop in time. Miraculously the only injury was some scrapes on her big toe. After that little scare we decided to trade places for the final ride back to the hotel. In her defense the bike was actually a lot heavier than it seems and it definitely takes some getting used to. And learning to ride on crappy roads in Vietnam is probably not the best idea either.

The next day we got an early start because we wanted to check out Sao Beach on the southern tip of the island. It took us about an hour to scoot down there on predominantly dirt and gravel roads. The beach was truly beautiful, but again it too had its fair share of debris. The sand was powder white though, much different than the sand on the western coast which is a thicker, yellow grain. The ocean was a beautiful light blue and the water was spectacularly warm again. I could have floated there forever. I wondered how long it will take before it’s filled with resorts. After the beach we headed back, showered and went to the night market again for dinner. Rosie got shrimp curry and I got shrimp and squid in a lemongrass and chilies sauce. Everything was so fresh!

Long Beach

We had a great couple of days in Phu Quoc and it was a good intro into Vietnamese culture. While it’s still a beautiful and largely undeveloped island, the only downside was that the beaches had a lot of debris on them. I bet Sao Beach was probably absolutely pristine 15-20 years ago, but now it has plastic bottles and other rubbish washing up on its shore. It’s not the local people’s fault, as the debris is washing up from the mainland, but they need to do a better job of cleaning up the beaches if they expect tourism to grow there. I wonder how long the litter/debris problem on the beaches has been going on in SEA because none of the guidebooks mention this pretty important detail. It’s just such a shame given how naturally beautiful they are.