Vietnam Pt1: Border Crossing and Phu Quoc

After our time in Cambodia, we took the southern border crossing into Vietnam near the coast, it was all part of the transfer package we’d got to get us to Phu Quoc island.

Beach

The border crossing and transport was the usual ramshackle, but functional affair, and while I don’t remember the exact buses, I’m sure they were fairly typical unremarkable Asian style buses, which means they can’t have been too uncomfortable.

Vietnam sunsetPhu Quoc is actually closer to Cambodia, but is officially part of Vietnam, which means you must cross the border on land before doubling back by boat to the island. There is a hostel, but it was far from the beach but did look very cool, and with the abundance of mopeds the distance would be no issue. If you can find it, get in early and you might meet some other  (non Russian) travelers. Myself and Nico, the Dutch guy who had accompanied me since leaving Thailand, found a decent cheap twin room, and ventured out to find a bike for the couple days we were staying.

WaveThe main town is a fishing port, but the touristy area spreads southwards of here, mostly big fancy Russian filled resorts along the beach front, with a smattering of restaurants and shops either side of the road. We stayed at the far end of this road, where the natural village feel started in again. The restaurants do a reasonable job of catering to western tastes, while still offering a decent selection of local dishes. The fish/night market at the northern end of the strip offer seafood BBQs of some magnificence, and with decent prices too – after the long day we put this off till the next day.

ForestThe next day we took off to really explore the island on our moped. With some dodgy maps and a bit of googling we made a plan, and started looking. We gave up on the first waterfall, but found the second. Nothing overwhelming but pleasant in it’s jungle setting. We also bumped into a few locals posing in their underwear. After a bit more adventuring we returned to the entrance to find them drinking a very odd bubble tea. We were asked to join, and after a very odd (and pretty gross) bubble tea, we hit the road together and hit the beach. It was an odd way to spend an afternoon, joined by more and more of their friends, all hoping we’d be getting the drinks in, and then as soon as they’d appeared, they all disappeared again.
Phu Quoc PrisonContinuing our tour, we found a big ugly concrete wave, and the prisoner of war camp, with some interesting signs. The Vietnamese have no problem with showing their contempt throughout these historical displays, no sense of keeping un biased. Some of the torture devices they had on display were pretty horrific, and the conditions certainly didn’t look nice. This was an island controlled by the South Vietnam government, or ‘puppet government‘, which was indirectly under the command of the US. Some back roads along deserted areas, and past a few huge future resorts took us back to try the seafood market.

My advice when it comes to seafood – make sure you try lots of different things, but also get a decent amount of something you know you like. Nothing worse than trying lots of new things that taste rubbish if you’ve got nothing left to eat afterwards. Also, there’s a reason some of these things aren’t available in supermarkets in Europe, they simply taste terrible.

DCIM100GOPROThe next day we’d booked a snorkelling and fishing trip up on the northern side of the Island. It was good value including food, and lunch was some of the fish we’d caught earlier on. Not exactly fancy as far as the fishing went, just a line off the back of the boat, and the captain caught so many more than we could, I guess practice does make perfect. The snorkelling was very nice though, very clear and warm water and a good selection of fish and coral. Nothing I hadn’t seen before, but still a pleasant trip overall, and nice to see more of the northern half of the island, unspoilt and tranquil, especially compared to the somewhat ruined beach along the strip.

Our bus out left the next morning, and some more faffing and waiting at tranit centres got us on the bus to Can Tho

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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