The reason for our rather fast rush through Bangkok was Zoë’s father. He was on a group trip through Vietnam and we had agreed to meet up. The most convenient location for our reunion was Vietnam’s holiday island Phu Quoc. Luckily for us Phu Quoc is a special administrative zone so we were given visa exemption on arrival (woohoo no visa fees). When we arrived on Vietnam’s biggest and most touristic island we were welcomed by a crowd of taxi drivers. The only airport on the island is roughly 10 km from Duong Dong town. Unless tourist have pre-arranged pick-up with their accommodation the only transport option is taxis. Our first offer for the 5km ride to our hotel was 150,000 Dong without a meter. Since we had been to Vietnam before we knew that this was way overpriced and ignored it. Instead, we went to the actual taxi rank where we found some green and yellow taxis with meters and their rates displayed on the doors. The yellow ones were cheaper so this was settled quickly and shortly afterwards we received a warm welcome from our hotel owner. The Naked Table hotel was halfway between the airport and Duong Dong and only four months old. He surprised us with a free upgrade to a premium double room with two double beds just because it was available. We settled in quickly before going for a wander. Zoë had come to the conclusion that it was time for her annual haircut. The hairdresser was blown away by her hair volume and red colour and could not believe it was not dyed. Going for the easy option of shortening without washing and foregoing a special style, the cutting lasted merely two minutes. She spent the next three plaiting Zoë’s hair and in the end she asked for less money than originally quoted. After a quick stop for a noodle soup dinner we returned to our hotel along the beach. They must have had some storm recently because the edge of the beach was a fairly decent step down towards the water. It was a nice but very soft walk and the sea was very warm; almost like a bathtub.
Back at the hotel the owners were setting up a party. It turned out that it was the owner’s birthday so every guest got invited for drinks and snacks which was lovely.
After breakfast we decided to do some work (travel planning) before meeting Zoë’s father in his hotel in the early afternoon. We surprised him at check-in and then caught up with him while enjoying the cake and tea buffet before getting changed and heading to the beach. The water was nice but there was stingy plankton so we didn’t stay in for very long which was a real shame. At least we could still enjoy the beautiful weather on sunbeds.
The next day was passed with relaxing first in our hotel before relocating to the other hotel pool and some quality family time. In the evening we all fancied bbq and after some looking around picked a nice-looking restaurant halfway between our hotels. Zoë and her dad chose a nice red snapper and a grouper which were both very tasty and perfectly cooked over coals.
We had a look into day trips around the island but none of them convinced us and so we hailed down a cab and went to Duong Dong the next day. Zoë’s dad wanted to see the market and explore the village. We were way too early for well-known night market, but we were more interested in the day market anyway. We eventually tracked it down on the other side of the river. It turned out to be quite small but still had a everything from clothes to fish. Some of it was inside a store building but the area around the outside food stalls was mankey and pretty smelly and not very enjoyable. Therefore we left rather soon and found a small noodle soup restaurant on the other side of the river for a tasty lunch. Since one of us was on holiday we decided to treat ourselves to some delicious New Zealand ice cream near the seaside.
Sadly our little holiday was too short and we had to leave Phu Quoc again the next day. Zoë’s dad returned to England while we returned to Bangkok for a few hours before flying to Yangon. Like on the way to Vietnam’s party island we were flying with Bangkok Air. The best part of the trip was the time in the lounge in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
Before we could get away from the Vietnamese security a woman approached us, handed Matthias a meal voucher and apologised that for some reason his chosen meal option (vegetarian) was not available. On the international departure side (yes, there is a dedicated domestic area, separated by a glass wall) there was only one place selling food. Not wanting to spend too much money, our voucher stretched to a spicy chicken baguette (very vegetarian!) and a coffee. It came as a big surprise when later the steward handed Matthias a standard meal as if nothing happened. Interesting that the meal issue had not found its way to the cabin crew, so we had an extra free meal.
Even though we are backpackers, we usually avoid party towns and places because we don’t like the idea of drunk tourists and bad music. The same has to be said for extremely touristy spots. We prefer to get a good feel for the local identity. Of course we are never the first people to visit a place but still. End of March was past the tourist peak on Phu Quoc but it was still busy. This made us enjoy it a bit more. Roaming the streets with hundreds of typical (inconsiderate) tourists from all over the world is not really up our street. Unsurprisingly everything along the main road between airport and town is geared towards or set up only for tourists. There are so many hotels and resorts with new ones still being built. Prices are also higher than in the rest of Vietnam. Day Trips around either the north or south end seem to be designed purely to shove tourists around without them getting much out of it. Half an hour per attraction plus one and a half for lunch AND swimming really don’t sound like fun or good value. Especially if the lunch option costs $7 in a country where the average meal sits at around $1-1.5.