I don’t remember how did Phu Quoc Island came onto my radar, and it certainly was never a destination high on my “must-go” list. Perhaps it was because of the visa requirement (being an Aussie passport holder), or the lack of direct flights from Singapore that put me off. Nevertheless, we made it a 5 days long weekend starting on May 10th to make an effort to see it given it’s really not that far from Singapore.
The trip started with a stopover flight from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh city on the evening of May 9th (Tuesday evening). We were umming and erring about whether to get out of the airport to stay in a hotel just for one night in order to catch the next short morning flight to Phu Quoc island, or just ‘wing it’ and sleep on terminal chairs/seats. Now, Phu Quoc Island is the one destination in Vietnam where you don’t need a visa (for an Australian passport holder). Everywhere else in Vietnam needs one. Now if we stayed in the Saigon airport terminal, we wouldn’t need a visa. BUT, there was absolutely NO hotels within the Saigon/Ho Chi Minh terminal, meaning we have to get out of the airport (therefore a visa). As a result, it was definitely not a quick process to get out of the airport, not to mention the extra US$25 that we had to cough up for me and Ethan for the visa! This alone easily added another hour to get out of the airport!
Once we got out, we were glad I chose Ibis hotel which was just a short walk from the terminal. With the traffic, it was a bit of an adventure, but we made it. The instant we arrived, it was a familiar sight.. i.e. Starbucks on the ground floor! Anyway, the hotel room itself was nice and comfortable.
Internet was surprisingly fast. Let’s just say we had a nice sleep to tackle whatever Vietnam was going to throw at us for the next day. I sure thanked myself for making the decision and spent that extra money to stay in this hotel!
Next day, it was a relatively smooth flight to Phu Quoc island. In no time, we arrived at Salinda Resort with the resort organised transfer bus. It was quite evident that it’s ‘off-peak’ season, and partially because it was mid-week, as it was pretty quiet! We were soon checked in to our ‘sea view’ room, and ready to check out what this island had to offer!
Now, Phu Quoc island is just that.. an island. I came here with an open mind, expecting that we won’t be doing a lot. We stayed in a very nice resort probably expecting that we won’t actually go out all that much. That didn’t turn out to be true (more later..). At least for the first day, we wasted no time jumping into the resort pool, which Ethan loved..
If we spent all our trip in the resort.. it would have been boring. One ‘golden’ decision I felt made the trip more fun and interesting was definitely the decision to go around the island on a motorbike! Our resort recommended us to hire a bike from just across the road (from a restaurant actually that happened to offer bike rentals as well), and for VND150,000 (~SGD$9.20) per day, we got this nice ‘new-ish’ motorbike!
Ethan was fully ‘onboard’.. and even agreed to wear his helmet! They must expect a lot of kids riding these things.. He had a helmet of his own that fits pretty well!
For the first night, we explored the night market in town.
It was definitely a tourist trap with just about every local trying to get us into one of their seafood restaurant. We ended up discovering a ‘pho’ (noodle soup) restaurant just off the main night market street, and enjoyed a much cheaper yet tasty option.
Ethan did not get to have any as he got too tired for some reason and fell asleep. Next day it was a trip to the nearby waterfall called Suoi Tranh, again on our bike. It required a bit of a hike up the mountain to get there (about 15 minutes), and had these rather gimmicky statues of animals along the way..
But I’ve got to say, when we did get to the waterfall itself.. we were pretty underwhelmed! It was certainly not worth the effort especially when I had to carry a 11kg kid for the whole trek!
The only positive was perhaps the calorie burn? Anyway, soon after noon, we headed towards a pepper farm which was also another ‘must visit’ of Phu Quoc island according to Google / brochures. The one we visited was ok. It wasn’t the pepper farm itself that was interesting in the end. It was more the farm animals that got Ethan interested.. including a rather threatening snake, and a crocodile..
By the time we were done, it was approaching afternoon nap time for Ethan.. we had to rush back on our motorbike before he fell asleep on the bike! That’s the one downside with having riding a bike with kids. He can’t just sleep on the bike! Fortunately we made it back in time for his nap.
For the evening on the second day.. we rode the motorbike again towards town, this time going to Dinh Cau for sunset view and just hanging about the beach.
We then finished off the evening with dinner at another tourist trap restaurant.. Trung Duong.. The food was more expensive.. and we were sucked into paying for clams that we didn’t really like.. booh.. Mind you.. it wasn’t expensive expensive as such.. Still we left feeling ripped off anyway.
For the third day, we were beginning to run out of places to go. Late in the morning, we spent a good bit of time ‘googling’ to see what else we could do, and we ended up going to Phu Quoc Day Spa & Massage. Now this isn’t your high end fancy day spa / massage place at all..
The place certainly didn’t rate highly for its decor, but it did rate highly for price and good massages. As me and wifey were pretty burnt from our recent trip to Bintan, I insisted on getting a body scrub. We paid something like US$27 for over 1 hour of scrub and some light massages. I enjoyed it.. and it included taking a shower in a rustic bathroom that I used to shower in as a kid.. bucket shower style! But you know what really made it special? Ethan was looked after while me & wifey did the scrub! Admittedly, we wouldn’t normally let strangers take care of our kids. With the number of good reviews on Google for this place, we figure they seem pretty reputable. The lady that served us spoke pretty good English and said she’s also a school teacher and would be able to handle Ethan without any problems! And she did alright! Couldn’t be happier..
For the evening, we finished it off with a ride to Mango Bay Resort for dinner. It was considerably further away (15km / 30 mins ride).. but it was worth it. We knew it was far, when we encountered a cow seemingly walking around on the public roads..
Anyway, when we got there, we were treated to this gorgeous sunset view..
We get to enjoy the view at the appropriately named “On The Rocks” restaurant..
And we even had a bonus rainbow showing up that evening. The food was great.. and reasonably priced. I went for a banh xeo, which I haven’t had for years!
After dinner.. we even had time finish off the evening with a bubble tea at Dinh Tea..
That’s the one thing Ethan couldn’t live without. Probably not a good thing we got him hooked on that.
On the last full day (Saturday), we really didn’t do much, except a ride to Xin Chao restaurant during lunch time.. again for a great sea view.
Ethan fell asleep there.. and all me and wifey did were just taking lots of photos. Of the few months that I’ve had my Google Pixel, it’s only now that I’ve discovered “Lens Blur” feature! So took a few photos with that which turned out great!
We topped off the evening with the fanciest dinner we’ve had for the entire trip.. the one at our own resort.. Yes it’s overpriced.. yes it’s not the greatest food.. but we did get great live music! And.. to top it all off.. a bit of free dessert at the lounge later!
Have to say, this trip was surprisingly good. It’s good not only compared to the last one in Bintan, but quite a few holidays we’ve had that we paid much more for. It seemed to have this magical combination of a really nice 5 star resort stay (bonus that we didn’t pay that much for.. due to it being off-peak).. perfect freedom (nothing more free than riding around on a motorbike).. and perhaps an island that didn’t feel too pretentious. It made for one of the best holiday we will remember for a while! I’m not sure if we’ll be back here any time soon, but I am not sure if we’ll be able to pull off the same experience again even if we do come back here!