We’ve already mentioned the speed with which the island of Phu Quoc is changing. Soon, all of its beaches will be claimed by some luxury hotel or villa complex… but it hasn’t happened quite yet. On the eastern coast of the island, we discovered a tiny beach where the biggest construction was a shack selling grilled fish. After enjoying our meal, we headed up to the town of Hàm Ninh.
With Phu Quoc’s beaches and easy-going lifestyle, it’d be easy to overlook the fact that the island hasn’t always been so peaceful. This was a major base of operations for the American and South Vietnamese armies, who maintained a POW camp here known as the Coconut Tree Prison.
On the northern coast of Phu Quoc, we discovered a gorgeous beach, totally devoid of other people. After laying down our towels, we stepped cautiously into the water. It was shallow and perfectly warm, but we had to enter extremely slowly, to avoid stepping on the hundreds of starfish strewn about the floor.
As ketchup is to Americans, salsa to Mexicans, and Vegemite to Australians, so is fish sauce to the Vietnamese. This condiment is never missing from the table, and there are few dishes which which they won’t drench the stuff. One of the most important regions for the production of fish sauce is Phu Quoc, where we visited a factory to see how it’s made (hint: it involves fish).
Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island, lays 50 kilometers off the country’s southern tip, actually closer to mainland Cambodia. Although it’s seen an explosion in tourism in recent years, Phu Quoc remains a relatively unknown tropical destination in the Gulf of Thailand. We spent four days there.
Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, will be our home for the next three months. This sprawling and rapidly-developing metropolis has a population of eight million people, making it the largest city in Vietnam. For 91 days, Jürgen and I will be seeing its sights, eating its street food, meeting its locals, and immersing ourselves in its culture. And although we can’t wait to get going on all of that, first we’ll have to figure out how to cross its streets.
Noise, pollution, rats, cockroaches, insane traffic, incessant honking, unhygienic street kitchens, non-stop construction, and drunken singers who belt out horrible karaoke late into the night… Saigon has all of this and more! So how is it possible, that Jürgen and I enjoyed our 91 days here so completely?
Just off the southern tip of Phu Quoc, and accessible only by boat, the islands of the An Thoi Archipelago are blessed with pristine beaches, lush forests, rocky cliffs, and incredible snorkeling. We embarked on an all-day boat trip, which took us to four of them.
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