Published: November 23rd 2011November 3rd 2011
It's not all palm trees and clown fish
One of the lovely things about living here (which makes up for the terrible rain for about 9 months of the year - didn't imagine that, did you?) is that you can get to tropical postcard-like beaches quite easily. Not as easily as some people think - quite a few friends back home mention that they imagine us lying on a beach every weekend. The problem we have is that the Ho Chi Minh City sprawl and the dreadful public transport/road system means that it the nearest beach - Vung Tau - is about 2 hours away and an oil port (not the white sand, lapping waves and palm trees you were imagining) and Mui Ne takes about 5 hours to get to. It's not really doable at the weekend.
You can fly to beaches, but most flights leave before we finish work on a Friday night and return early Sunday afternoon so it's not really worth it for the weekend. Most of our weekends are spent very much like those at home: drinking and chatting with friends in the pub, meeting people for dinner, wandering around town and sitting in
our flat watching TV, surfing the net and playing computer games.
However, a perk of our job is that we can take time off when we want, so long as we give them enough notice to cover our classes and we don't take over 5 weeks every six months. Unpaid, unfortunately, but you can't have everything.
It's birthday holiday time again!
For my birthday this year, we took three days off work to get a five day weekend. We booked a flight to Phu Quoc Island, a one hour plane ride away, for four nights of relaxation, white sand, turquoise seas and palm trees.
And it didn't disappoint. We landed at the island's tiny airport (it seemed to be doubling as a motorbike track) and took a taxi to our home for the next few nights - Phu Quoc Beach Club
. This was four bungalows and about five rooms in a long building, all overlooking the sea in gardens with palm trees. There was a little beach front restaurant and bar and several sunbeds at the edge of the sea. The beach beyond was white with perfectly still clear waters stretching out to the horizon. We
settled in with some lunch and a beer.
We had one of the rooms for $20 a night, Inside was a bed with mosquito net, table and chairs, wardrobe and en suite bathroom with hot shower. There was no air conditioning but with fans and the sea breeze, it didn't matter.
The Beach Club is on Bai Cua Can or Long Beach
, which as the name suggests, is a long stretch of beach on the south east coast of the island, south of the main town. It still isn't very built up, dispite its beauty. Our room was next to two more small resorts, and a short walk along the beach to a short row of beach bars, BBQs and bungalow resorts.
At night, we got a vision of one of the main reasons we had come (beach and relaxation aside) - the sunset
. Phu Quoc is off the south coast of Vietnam. It's actually closer to Cambodia, and used to belong to them. We heard that Cambodia still claim it, but everything on the island is in Vietnamese so I don't know how that works. It is one of only two places in Vietnam where the
sun sets over the sea (can anyone tell me what the other one is? I have no idea). Over the next few nights we were treated to some spectacular sunsets, feet in the sand, enjoying a gin and tonic or a cocktail.
Busy Doing Nothing
The next four days were spent pretty much the same way. Get up late, eat breakfast (omelette and pineapple shake) in the restaurant looking at the sea and then move to two of the beach front sunbeds to lie, read and listen to music. Sporadically, Vietnamese women in conical hats would wander over and ask if we wanted a massage or another beauty treatment, but apart from that, there were no vendors and no hassle. Actually, I (Kate) accepted one of the conical hat ladies and had my leg hair pulled out using a piece of cotton
. Pretty amazing and lasted a couple of weeks, but it did feel weird and was a bit painful.
Around 3pm it was time for a cold beer and a shower before walking along the beach to the nearest beach bar in time to bury our feet in the sand and watch the sunset. At some
point we'd eat some food and then move along to a bar with live music - a female singer in skimpy clothing and a bloke who played guitar, sometimes sang and often pressed the Bosa Nova fill-in button on his Casio keyboard. They did terrible covers of all the hits - dreadful but entertaining all the same. At about 10pm when everything closed, we'd walk back and go to bed, ready to start it all again.
There are other things to do on Phu Quoc. You can easily rent a motorbike and drive around the island, go on a motorbike tour where you hire a driver or take a boat tour out to do some snorkelling. Phu Quoc is famous for pearls, fish sauce and black pepper so you can go and see where this sort of thing is farmed.
We didn't get around to any of that - the pull of relaxing was too great. We had a lovely time and not getting around to all the things there are to do just means we'll have to go back!
There are more photos below