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.
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.
Our first excursion outside of Saigon was to the nearby city of Tây Ninh. We would be testing the waters of “travel in Vietnam” with this simple two-day, one-night trip, during which we’d visit the Holy See of Cao Đài and the tunnels of Củ Chi. Our first order of business, though, was a trip to Núi Bà Đen, or Black Virgin Mountain.