If you’ve experienced the dizzying, beautiful madness that is Ho Chi Minh City, you’ve got to see the quiet, serene heaven that many regard the ‘Pearl of Asia’ to discover the softer side of Vietnam.
Most of the island is made up of a national park with dense jungles and mountains with activities like hiking, wildlife viewing and motorbiking being very popular among the locals. But admittedly, we went to Phú Quốc with a mind to enjoy the quiet beaches and spend time relaxing in the resort so we skipped the hardcore activities in the jungle. Nevertheless, we had an amazing time, and I want to share some of the interesting places to visit in the area.
First, I have to recommend the resort we stayed in that played a big part in our enjoyment of the place. I’m definitely someone who loves getting out to explore and find out more about the local attractions but this place made it so hard to leave. I’m referring to Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island.
The place was a sprawling complex of gorgeous pools, lush gardens with plenty of space to lie in day beds to read or do yoga, great facilities including a gym, sophisticated bar with a cigar lounge and a fantastic pool with direct access to the beach.
We spent three days of bliss there and honestly, if you were lazy, you don’t even have to leave the hotel because of the amazing breakfast buffet spread that included pure organic honey comb from the bee farms, fresh home made yogurt, piping hot freshly-baked bread, a salad bar, egg station, sushi, cold-pressed juices and nut milks… I could keep going. But you get the drift.
The restaurant also serves up a decent lunch/dinner but I recommend venturing out if you want to try some delicious local fare.
Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island
Address: Trần Hưng Đạo, Dương Tơ, tt. Dương Đông, tp. Phú Quốc, tỉnh Kiên Giang, Vietnam
Phone:+84 8 3929 3097
Now for some of our local food picks!
We were lucky to have the popular Cami Restaurant just outside the resort which was a 3-minute walk away.
It had a lovely, rustic garden setting and friendly service. We also enjoyed the spring rolls, more Pho and this amazing caramelised pineapple with vanilla ice-cream.
Address: Trần Hưng Đạo, Cửa Lấp, Dương Tơ, tp. Phú Quốc, tỉnh Kiên Giang, Vietnam
Phone:+84 93 816 35 35
Another place that we quite enjoyed with just a stone’s throw from the Dinh Cau Night Market called Nha Hang Crab House.
Sure, it’s not your classic Vietnamese fare, but to add some spice to our many meals of Pho and spring rolls, this was perfect.
This was a load of messy fun at our last dinner of super succulent jumbo prawns, fresh crabs, corn and spicy sausages with 1/2 kg of squid drenched in a delicious Cajun grilled butter sauce. Licked all our fingers clean!
Nha Hang Crab House
Address: 21 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Apart from the food, we also tried some Night Squid Fishing.
Don’t expect anything spectacular though. It’s not that easy to catch squid on the boat, especially with a hand line. Everyone pretty much gave up after awhile. What was rather enjoyable was having freshly-caught seafood like BBQ sea urchin, octopus, shellfish and even seafood porridge cooked over charcoal served for dinner on board the fishing boat. It was quite an interesting experience for us. But if that’s not your thing, you might want to think twice about shelling out USD$17 for the 4-hour trip.
Another highlight was definitely the Dinh Cau Night Market.
I love exploring night markets in any city I visit. I think it’s a fascinating snapshot of local culture and the things they are proud of. And something the locals at Phu Quoc don’t mess around with is their seafood.
The sheer variety of seafood is staggering. Countless types of squids, prawns, shellfish, scallops, sea urchin, fresh fish, lobsters, and even some more exotic offerings. For example, we couldn’t resist ordering this scary-looking sea conch that actually turned out quite crunchy and interesting when stir-fried with morning glory.
Other more squeamish animals on display included baby sharks, sea snakes and gigantic toads.
We didn’t have strong enough stomachs to try those, unfortunately. But we ordered some mixed shellfish, mussels, prawns, sea urchin and some delicious squid which they barbecued well.
The sea urchin was very different from how we usually have it in sashimi form. this was slightly darker in colour, eaten straight out of the shell after cooking in peanut, salt and some light chili. Still delicious!
There’s not much else there to buy in terms of clothes or souvenirs but there were some food and fruit carts and some delightful ice-cream rolls which they made on cool metal plates on the spot which we had for a sweet end to our evening.
Don’t be bound by the conventional tourist haunts of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi if you visit Vietnam. There are so many unexplored areas that offer a great opening into local life and culture that give the country complexity and character. I definitely recommend Phu Quoc for a quite beach weekend in Vietnam. They’re well-known for their pearl farms, green pepper, and famous fish sauce which are all manufactured on the island. If you head down, enjoy the many sunsets and share your experiences with me too?