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PHU QUOC ISLAND

phu_quoc_island
Phu Quoc is a stunningly beautiful island in the far south of Vietnam, the country's largest. 99 forested mountains dominate the northern part of the island while the southern part is better known for its beaches.
 
The island's beauty is often compared to Phuket (its also a similar size), but without the people and infrastructure. The Vietnamese government has big plans for tourism on the island, a new airport is planned and many larger resorts will be opening over the next few years. Many consider it paradise with aquamarine water, idyllic beaches, romantic sunsets and a serene island-style atmosphere.
 
To get to the island you have two options; either by plane or ferry. The flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Duong Dong takes less than an hour, and you can also fly from Rach Gia in the Mekong Province. An alternative is to catch a ferry from Rach Gia, but flying is recommended.
WHAT TO SEE ?
The island's stunning beaches are a big draw, often picture postcard perfect with powder white sand and turquoise sea. For those interested in culture there are some interesting fishing villages to see and several temples and pagodas. The island is famous for growing pepper, you can see it growing all over the northern part. Many farms are happy to show you what they do.
 
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
Anyone who's been to Phu Quoc will tell you it's hard to believe that there are so many beaches that are both stunningly beautiful and deserted in just one place. The triangular-shaped island has many good beaches, like Long Beach on the western side, which is also the biggest and where most of the hotels are located. Bai Sao, on the east coast, is a favourite spot possibly the best beach on Phu Quoc.
 
Its fine white sand has many fans and most of the time you can expect crystal clear turquoise water – a postcard-like example of a tropical beach. Some others worth checking out are Ong Lang, Bai Thom and Bai Dai. Many of the island's beaches are not marked on maps very well. Go explore - seek and you shall find.
 
Dinh Cau Rock (Cau Temple)
This odd shaped rock sits at the mouth of the Duong Dong river. Initially a lighthouse until 1937 when a Buddhist temple dedicated to to Thien Hau (the Goddess of the sea) was built. No visit to Phu Quoc is complete without seeing little oddity.
 
Pagodas and Temples
There are several pagodas and temples around the island that offer insights into Buddhism. In Duong Dong Town there's Sung Hung Pagoda which is surrounded by large trees. A well known monk built Hung Long Tu Pagoda. He chose the site, located 5km from Duong Dong Town, for its peace and tranquillity. There are several other temples dotted around the island which welcome visitors, however you should not have bare shoulders or wear shorts when you visit.
 
Pepper Plantations
Vietnam is the world's leading exporter of black pepper and best quality harvest comes from Phu Quoc. Farms can be seen all over the central and northern parts of the island. Those with a culinary interest can have a guided tour of a pepper farm to see the whole process in detail.
 
Explore the Island on a Motorbike
Travelling around the island is one of most fun things you can do, but beware – many of the island's roads are not paved. Sturdy shoes and long trousers are a prerequisite. Scooters are easily rented from most hotels. In Duong Dong town you can see (and smell!) the fish sauce factories. Nearby is Suoi Tranh waterfall which is about 4m high (sometimes from January to May water can be a little lacking).
 
Checkout Bai Sao on the east coast, reputed to be the best beach on the island, think white sand and turquoise sea. Find a deserted spot on long beach to stop for a swim. In the northern part of the island the terrain gets more mountainous, and the roads a little more bumpy. Lots of isolated beaches are waiting to be found, along the way up to Dai Beach and beyond, many small fishing villages are passed.
 
National Park
The national park, created in 2001 by the Vietnamese government, covers more than half the island. Thick foliage covers the mountainous slopes that are home to langurs, macaques, loris', otters, hornbills and fruit bats. The best way to visit the park is to book a tour with your hotel as most of the trails are not signposted very well. It's not a good idea to visit the park when it's been raining heavily as you will get very muddy.
 
Scuba Diving
There are some dive sites around the north of Phu Quoc but most dive trips head to the pristine reefs of both hard and soft corals that teem with colourful fish around An Thoi. Nice reasonably shallow dive sites are numerous but don't expect to any manta rays or large pelagic fish. Dive centres can be found easily around the island.
 
Snorkelling
Phu Quoc's crystal clear waters offer some of Vietnam's best snorkelling. Reefs fringe many of the islands and islets that make up the archipelago and snorkelling tours run daily during high season and will show you underwater habitats full of life and colour. The An Thoi archipelago consists of 12 islands located due south of Phu Quoc with pristine scenenery and an abundance of colourful reef fish, daytrips here often include a spot of fishing.
SHOPPING
Markets selling a wide range of fruit, vegetable and seafood are the main shopping venues in Phu Quoc, not necessarily what tourists want to buy but very interesting to see all the same. For tourists, shopping opportunities come in the form of handicrafts expertly made by locals and pearls which are farmed locally.
 
Dinh Cau Night Market
The night market is the palace to buy souvenirs, all kinds of crafts are on sale in addition to the usual fresh produce and seafood. This can be a good place to buy pearls… while the kids are occupied in the playground.
 
Duong Dong Shops
There are several shops that sell most basic items such as toothpaste, soap, beer, biscuits etc in Duong Dong, laundries are also here which are much cheaper than resort prices. There are a couple of pharmacies dotted around and the odd basic clothes shop, not high fashion obviously, but you'll find the basics that you need.
 
Markets
Local markets sell a colourful variety of fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes in addition to seafood and other foodstuff. Markets can be busy places but don't let that put you off. Some markets are one or two days a week however the main one in Duong Dong is a permanent fixture, you might want to avoid it when a cruise ship is in port though.
 
Pearl Shops
High quality items featuring South Sea pearls can be purchased from one of the island's pearl shops – the price tags match the quality of the pieces. One such shop is Treasures from the Deep in Duong To which is run by a New Zealand company.
 

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