Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - Sunset

Phu Quoc – Vietnam – Around The Island By Scooter


OCTOBER 2015:



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OVERVIEW:

I arrived in Phu Quoc via a Mekong Delta Tour. I had already used BOOKING.COM to book 4 nights into the Lien Hiep Thanh Resort (about 4km south of Duong Dong).

I booked 4 nights because Phu Quoc is a big island and I knew that it would take me 2 days to have a good look around.

My objective was to find the best place to stay for the remainder of my planned 3 weeks on the island.

Phu Quoc Map


TRANSPORT:

When I arrived in Duong Dong, I was dropped off at the minivan offices at the rivermouth. I had already talked to my Mekong Delta Tour guide who told me that Vietnamese pay VDN120k / day for a scooter (he had paid that himself on his previous visit to the island).

At the minivan offices (whilst we waited 3 hours for our luggage to extricate themselves from the boot of the minivan), we were approached by a very friendly Vietnamese man (Lin). Lin helped us look after our luggage problem and we talked with him for a while.

I said that I wanted to rent a scooter for 3 weeks. I had already talked to expats in Saigon / HCMC and had been told that it was possible to rent a semi-automatic scooter there for as little as VDN900k / month.

Lin told me that I could rent a good scooter for VDN200k / day. I told him that I would pay VDN60k / day (double the Saigon price). After much negotiation he promised to find me a newish & economical one for VDN100k / day (the price that he, himself, was paying for his own scooter). We exchanged mobile numbers and arranged to contact each other the next morning.

He arrived at 9am. By that time I had made friends with Sabrina (German), Jordi (Dutch), and Aldert (Dutch) – they wanted to join me on my around-the-island tour. They too wanted to rent one scooter each for 2 days.

Lin took me on the back of his scooter to a rental place. They had newish scooters but wanted VDN120k / day (not the VDN100k / day that I had instructed Lin). I tried hard to negotiate them down but VDN110k / day for 21 days was the best that they would do. I declined (out of principle).

Earlier that morning (7am) I had walked up the road near my resort and talked to a local rental guy. He had already offered me a decent newish scooter for VDN100k / day for 21 days. As a ‘package’ he also promised to let my friends have their short term rentals at the same price.

I returned to this first rental guy and ‘did the deal’. However, when I turned up with my friends to choose our scooters, he went back on his word and refused to rent out scooters to my friends for less than VDN120k / day.

As we knew that VDN120k / day was already an ‘OK’ price, we ‘bit the bullet’ and rented them. We needed to pay in advance. I handed over my VDN2,100,000 and got a receipt (always get a receipt).

By now, it was 11am – and the start of Day 1 (see below).

You pay VDN20k / litre at a Petrol Station and VDN30k / litre on the side of the road. So, the first think we did was to go 500m up the road to fill up with petrol at a Petrol Station. I filled up for VDN55k, Jordi & Aldert for VDN50k, and Sabrina for VDN25k.

WARNING:

To legally drive a scooter in Phu Quoc you must have either a Vietnamese Driving License or an International Driving License.

As you get deeper into Peak Season (November to April) the police become increasingly active in stopping and checking foreigners on scooters.

If you do not have a valid license, the fine is US$150.


COMMUNICATIONS:

Aldert had a tourist map of Phu Quoc which showed us all of the places to go, roads, and beaches.

I already had my local Viettel SIMcard which gave me GPS access to Google Maps.

On such a trip, you need to be able to get to Google Maps.


THE SOUTH / DAY 1:

We headed south down the Long Beach coast road. It wasn’t long before the road turned into a construction site.

The main road on the Tourist Map (and Google Maps) hasn’t been built yet!

We drove about 15kms along a being-built road-like track. Some parts were gravel, some mettle, some earth, some rocks… all pot-holed.

There is a coast road but we couldn’t find it on the way south.

We finally reached the small fishing village of An Thoi on the south tip of the island. There wasn’t anything endearing about An Thoi – but it is where you can organise Fishing Boat Trips out to the southern islands (I might do one so watch for a future post).

Phu Quoc - An Thoi - Harbour 1 Phu Quoc - An Thoi - Harbour 2 Phu Quoc - An Thoi - Harbour 3 Phu Quoc - An Thoi - SabrinaWe re-studied our maps and decided to head north up the ‘real’ main road to Sao Beach.

Sao Beach is said to be the ‘best’ beach on the island.

It was not.

Phu Quoc - Sao Beach - 1 Phu Quoc - Sao Beach - 2In fairness, there had been a storm at sea and the tides had dumped a lot of debris on the beach. They had a tractor clearing the beach but the water was still dirty and full of jellyfish. We did not stay.

Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Children Phu Quoc - Long Beach - RoadWe decided to cut back across country and find the Long Beach Coast Road. Which we did.

We headed up the coast road passing some children playing on a tractor and stopped for lunch in a small seafront cafe (not a resort).

Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Beach North Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Beach SouthEven though it was in the middle of nowhere (and not a resort) the menu was a bit ‘pricey’. I had a simple Seafood Fried Rice for VDN50k and a can of Saigon Green for VDN15k. We stopped for a swim. The water was better than back at our hotel but still had a bit of debris in the water and some jellyfish.

Phu Quoc - Long Beach - LunchWe continued north and cut across land to the central waterfalls.

On the way we saw the results of an accident between a truck and a guy on a scooter. The guy was lying dead in the middle of the road. There must have been over 100 locals standing around the scene. A stark reminder that you need to be careful, drive slowly, and NOT get over-confident.

The entrance is just off of the ‘real’ main road. We arrived at 5pm. You pay VDN10k for entry and VDN2k to park your scooter. It takes about 20-25 minutes to walk up the track to the falls. The track is paved with random rocks and you need to watch your footing.

Phu Quoc - Waterfall 2 Phu Quoc - WaterfallThe falls are about 2-3 metres high.

It was the end of our day so we jumped in and relaxed a while.

At that time all other tourists had gone home and we had the falls to ourselves.

We left just before it got too dark – we didn’t want to risk the rocky path in darkness.

We followed the main road back into town, negotiated the abundance of other scooters, and got back to the scooter rental about 7pm. We decided to park our scooters there overnight for safety. We had travelled about 100kms that day.

Opposite the rental place was the Coco Bar with a Happy Hour (6pm to 8pm). A big bottle of Saigon Green for VDN15k. We stopped for a couple of drinks (or 4) and discussed our day.


THE NORTH / DAY 2:

We agreed to start earlier at 9am and all met up at the rental place.

The first thing we did was top up our scooters at the Petrol Station. Sabrina topped up for VDN25k, the rest of us for VDN50k. Sabrina had the most economical scooter.

I made a note to swap my scooter for Sabrina’s at the end of the day. Those sorts of petrol costs add up over 3 weeks.

Phu Quoc - Duong Dong - North of River 2 Phu Quoc - Duong Dong - North of RiverWe headed through Duong Dong and up the coast road.

We planned to stop for breakfast on the way. We passed a local cafe at about 9:30am where Vietnamese were eating. I was keen but the others wanted to find somewhere nicer ‘off the road’.

We should have stopped. We drove north on the main road for about 30 minutes and found no other cafes. It took another 1.5 hours along dirt roads and rubble tracks to get to Vung Bau beach where we finally found a resort selling food. Breakfast was, finally, had at 11:30am. I hadn’t eaten since 3pm the previous day – so I was ready for my breakfast.

Phu Quoc - Cua Can - Beach Phu Quoc - Cua Can - ViewThe menu was typical of what you find in touristy cafes on the coast.

Phu Quoc - Cua Can - MenuI had a Crab Meat & Glass Noodle Soup for VDN60k.

THIS WAS THE BEST BEACH THAT WE FOUND ON THE WHOLE ISLAND.

Phu Quoc - Cua Can - Breakfast Phu Quoc - Cua Can - Crab Soup VDN60kThe water was clean, warm, clear of rubbish, clear of storm debris, and clear of jellyfish. We lazed and swam for an hour before heading further north.

We wanted to keep to the coast road and, in particular, have a look at Dai Beach (on the top north-west side of the island). The road was closed with a guard and a sign saying ‘construction site’.

We had to double back about 4kms to find a road leading inland. This was one of the worst roads that we had to drive on… very rocky and slippery.

We joined up with a country road and made it to Ganh Dau. We passed the new Vinpearl Land Theme Park and Safari Park on the way… the new face of Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc’s ‘Disneyland’.

Phu Quoc - Vinpearl Land
At the village, we stopped and had coffee and tea with a bunch of local workers.

Phu Quoc - Cua Can to Dai BeachPhu Quoc - Bai Thom - WorkersIt was about 2 or 3pm – but they were already well into drinking their beers and looked like they were there for the rest of the day (to do more of the same).

They were very friendly. The owner even brought us a fan for our table – to keep the 4 of us more comfortable. He then brought unlimited pots of tea until we were replete.

When we left, he only asked for VDN10k each. We all gave him VDN15k.

The locals directed us north towards the National Park. We drove about 10-15kms along a dirt track to get there. We passed the ‘Forest Walk’ entrance. By the time that we realised that it was the ONLY entrance, it was too late… we were already a few more kms up the road.

We finally hit the ‘real’ main road to the northern coast. When we reached the coast we decided that it was time for another swim. We looked at the tourist map… it showed that there were 3 ‘beaches’ to choose from.

We headed to the first. It wasn’t there.

We headed east along the coast road to find the second. The road was so dusty and slippery that we decided to turn back.

That left beach #3 near Rach Tram. We doubled back on ourselves, got back on the ‘real’ road heading south and turned right down another dirt track. We had to go several kms and the road had some pretty ‘hairy’ and steep inclines to negotiate.

Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - Harbour Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - River Boat Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - Road
Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - VillageWe finally got to our destination. Another ‘unkempt’ small fishing village. Where’s this 4 Star beach? We wandered through the village to find it. I don’t think that the locals see many tourists there. But, they were friendly. The scariest moment was avoiding 2 VERY DRUNK locals staggering home down the same path as us.
There was NO BEACH.

Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - Boat Sunset Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - SunsetWe walked along the seafront to the rivermouth and watched the local fishing boats go out to sea at sunset.

Again, we decided to get back to the main road before it got too dark for us to negotiate the dirt track safely.

We hit one of the steep inclines. We were half way up when a truck came around the corner.

In these countries the law of the road is ‘biggest first’; we had to get out of the way. This ‘stole’ Sabrina’s ‘line’ up the incline through the pot-holes and rocks. She lost control and came off of her scooter. No harm done though. She was fine. The truck didn’t give a damn and just continued by.

We got to the ‘real’ road as darkness fell. From there it was a 14km drive back to Duong Dong at 40km / hour.

Above us was an electric storm. We were treated to a ‘light show’ on the way home with flashes of lightning in the sky.

We had just hit the outskirts of Duong Dong when the rain started. Quickly, we jumped off of our scooters and emptied all of our pockets – putting the contents under our seats. When the rain comes… IT COMES.

We drove the next few kms home it driving rain. We got soaked.

We returned the scooters and all headed back to our rooms for a hot shower. Our rendez vous was the Coco Bar for the end of Happy Hour.

The day ended with us having a meal just around the corner in a local cafe. VDN90k for half a grilled chicken with rice. VDN15k for a big Saigon Green. A welcome riposte at the end of a long and tiring day.

We stayed at the restaurant for the evening, had several beers, and laughed the evening away.

Phu Quoc - Half Grilled Chicken VBDN90k


MONEY / PRICES:

Scooters: A decent automatic VDN120k / day. VDN100k / day for a long term rental.

Petrol: VDN20k / l from a Petrol Station. 2 days touring of about 250kms for between VDN50k (Sabrina) or VDN 100k (the boys).

Food & Drink: VDN50k-60k per meal. VDN20k for a coconut drink. VDN12k for a large cold water. VDN8-10k for a Vietnamese coffee.


CONCLUSION:

DON’T BELIEVE THE TOURIST MAP!

It shows roads that are still under construction and beaches that don’t exist.

You MUST have a scooter each for such a trip. DO NOT SHARE. The roads are too bad. You need your own scooter for safety. Drive slowly and carefully… there’s no rush.

You need 2 full days to see the island. But, it is good fun and the tour IS worth it.

There is NOWHERE around the island for GRANDPAckers to stay. The only place for us is in the 5km strip south of Duong Dong down Long Beach.


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