Phu Quoc Island: Isle be there

Express News Service

Phu Quoc Island seems to exist in a palm-fringed haze. Nestling along the Gulf of Thailand in south Vietnam, and voted by Time magazine as one of the world’s most amazing islands, its dazzling white beaches and turquoise waters make it tough to put the camera down. Hawksbill and green turtles nest on its beaches while multi-hued coral reefs and 150 species of fish speckle the ocean. In fact, much of the 593-sqkm island is a tapestry of forest ecosystems with the Phu Quoc National Park being declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Such staggering natural bounty means that one can dive—quite literally—into an array of activities. Or enjoy the luxury of doing nothing at all. Stand Prufrock-like and stare in contemplation into the shimmering waters.

With 150 km of coastline, the bleached beach is endless. Drop anchor at the An Thoi island at Phu Quoc’s southernmost tip to snorkel in the pristine waters. Or nip up to the Suoi Tranh waterfall. At four meters high, it isn’t quite the Niagara, but its architecture—an array of glistening natural pools nestling between lush rain forests—will make you believe that water and rock are indeed the world’s most skillful designers. If trekking is something you enjoy, brave the 222 steps to the top of Ho Quoc Pagoda. It offers a panoramic view of the ocean. In case the long climb puts you off, visit the Dinh Cau Cape—a shrine dedicated to the goddess of the sea—with only 29 steps.

At the award-winning Premier Village Phu Quoc Resort, located smack dab on Khem Beach, you can smell the ocean even in its suites. 

 Khem beach

A hidden tropical retreat, it is embraced on both sides by the sea. Enjoy uninterrupted syrupy sunsets from its bar or many restaurants. Or chill on a lounger on its private beach. Don’t forget to explore the VinPearl Safari. It’s the first and only open zoo in Vietnam, home to various species of wild animals. Also, remember to experience the night markets—Dinh Cau and Bach Dang along Vo Thi Sau Street in Duong Dong Town. Lively and vibrant, it’s the perfect destination for delicious seafood and to shop for souvenirs. Ride the world’s longest cable car from Phu Quoc to Hon Thom, nearly 8 km away with a stunning view of the Gulf of Thailand.

But why restrict yourself to a single island? Island-hopping is a fun activity to do around Phu Quoc, home as it is to 21 islets. Hire a speedboat to zip through the ocean and explore these hidden gems. The larger boats offer bigger decks and al fresco bars to quaff a drink or two with friends. Make a pit stop at the postcard-pretty Bai Sao and try out windsurfing or jet skiing. If you rather pub-hop while catching a slice of the setting sun, head to Long Beach. Ganh Dau to the north with its jungle-covered mountain ridge is the best option for privacy-seekers.

At Ham Ninh fishing village, you can watch locals go about their sepia-tinted lives. Enjoy the irresistible aroma wafting from dishes being rustled up by the women in their thatched-roof houses. The industrious boatmen, meanwhile, will be repairing their boats with assorted tools, their clickety-click resonating in the salt-laden air. For a small fee, the locals can give you a tour of the area in their basket boats. Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce. Make sure to visit a factory and buy yourself a bottle. With its balance of solace and adventure, this quaint island is the perfect getaway this holiday season.

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