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Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The tear-shaped island of Phu Quoc lies in the Gulf of Thailand, just 45km west of Ha Tien and 15km south of the Cambodian coast. It's about 60km from north to south and if you're game, a good way to get around is on a moped.

It is called the Island of 99 Mountains because of sandstone chains that gradually descend from north to south. Ham Ninh, the longest, stretches 30km along the eastern edge. Mu Chua is its highest peak at 603 metres.

In the early 17th century, Phu Quoc was a desolate area where Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants earned their living from the highly coveted sea cucumbers.

From 1782 to 1786, Phu Quoc was a stronghold of Lord Nguyen Anh and later Emperor Gia Long, in his confrontation with Tay Son forces. In 1869, it was occupied by the French who set up rubber and coconut plantations. Between 1967 and 1972, the Saigon regime built a prisoner of war detention camp holding 40,000 inmates. When the war ended, Phu Quoc was converted into the tourist destination it is today.

Phu Quoc's monsoon sub-equatorial climate means it has two seasons each year — rainy in October and dry from November to September. It usually has wonderful clear and sunny skies with an average temperature of 27C.

First-time visitors to Phu Quoc are surprised by its sugary beaches and crystal water dotted with traditional wooden fishing boats.

The oddly shaped Dinh Cau Rock at the mouth of the Duong Dong River is the symbol of Phu Quoc and is a sacred, holy place. Legend has it that two powerful men who once ruled Phu Quoc were so generous and wise, people started worshipping them at the rock. Fishermen pray there before setting sail, asking for their safe return with a good catch.

Steps leading to the top of the rock reward climbers with gentle breezes and glorious sunsets.

Duong Dong Riverside Market has a cheerful atmosphere and vendors in conical palm hats who sell their produce and wares. Markets always seem to give a good insight into the local way of life.

Phu Quoc National Park covers more than 31,000 hectares, around 70 percent of the island. It has 929 tree species, 19 of which were only recently discovered. They provide home and shelter for many species of birds and small mammals such as flying squirrels and sloth monkeys. Trekking is rewarding but should only be done in the dry season.

Accommodation rates are still reasonable and negotiable, ranging from concrete bungalows to five-star hotels.

Coco Beach was set up in 1995 as the first resort in the area. On a small piece of land in the middle of Mui Né Bay, 34 brick and wood bungalows all face a private beach and the ocean. They are air conditioned and have plenty of hot water.

Balconies have lounges and hammocks for lazing, beds have mosquito netting and there is a pool, jacuzzi and bright-green lawns. There is a playground and library, two restaurants (Champa specialises in French cuisine), snack bar and a bar serving cocktails and ice-cream.

La Veranda Grand Mercure Resort and Spa was designed to reflect the ambience of a seaside colonial mansion. It is nestled in tropical gardens along a white, sandy beach and offers comfort and luxury for a truly great holiday experience.

Rooms are private and cosy with balcony, air conditioning, ceiling fans and most overlook the sea. They are elegant and contemporary.

The local Phu Quoc dog is a well-tamed, wild canine species. It has become the favourite companion of hunters and can pick up the scent of their master from more than a kilometre away.

Phu Quoc is known in the kitchens of the world for two produces: pepper sauce and fish sauce. There are hundreds of sauce workshops churning out around 10 litres of fish sauce every year and countless pepper gardens cover 500 hectares.

Something to help you explore Phu Quoc is the MySherpa Travel Guide. It tells the traveller all about accommodation, activities, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, transport and provides a map.

Location

Off the west coast of Vietnam.

Cost

Coco Beach Bungalows start at $90 a night.

La Veranda Grand Mercure Resort and Spa rooms start at around $160 a night.

Vietnam Airlines has flights to Ho Chi Minh City with connections to Phu Quoc.

FROM ONE-WAY FARE
Sydney $1417
Melbourne $1400
Brisbane $1438
Adelaide $1434
Perth $2271

Valid for travel until March 31, 2009.

Prices correct at 13.03.2008

For further information

Coco Beach Bungalows
58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street
Mui Né Beach
Binh Thuan Province
Vietnam
Ph: +84 062 847 111-2
Fax: +84 062 847 115
www.cocobeach.net
paradise@cocobeach.net

La Veranda Grand Mercure Resort and Spa
Tran Hung Dao Street
Duong Dong Beach
Phu Quoc Island
Kien Giang Province, Vietnam
Ph: +84 (773) 982 988
Fax: +84 (773) 982 998
www.laverandaresort.com or www.accorhotels-asia.com

MySherpa
An independent guide to Phu Quoc including a review of all accommodation and useful tips such as how to book flights from HCM to Phu Quoc at local prices
www.mysherpa.info
feedback@mysherpa.info

Vietnam Airlines
13/31 Market Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 888 028

Vietnam

It is recommended travellers to Vietnam see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations that are recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit www.welltogo.com.au

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User comments
We visited Phu Quoc recently and had a terrific time, it's so relaxing and has plenty of sights and things to do when the beach gets too much. It really is a tropical getaway. We found a number of empty beaches cruising around on motorbikes, and the food was unreal, so cheap and tasty. We found a great site packed with information on Phu Quoc which as very useful, www.discoverphuquoc.com which even had some free maps which were fine for finding our way around the island. I reckon this place is suitable for anyone if you're backpacking or on a family holiday, it's friendly and laid back. Cheers, Rob.
We have recently moved to singapore and are keen to visit surrounding south east asia while we are here, however we are also aware that there are a number of places that aren't suitable for young children 5 and 2 years. Do you have a list of suitable destinations with a variety of cultural, beach and active holidays? Many thanks Shannon Ryan

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