Published: March 31st 2012March 21st 2012
Heading south the landscape has change to flat dried rice field, less population and cattle (Brahmans) are used as a means of transporting goods
Over the past 5 weeks we have seen the humble scooter and small 110cc motorbike carry the most incredible assortment of things. eg another motorbike, piled high and wide with chickens, bags of bottles, bananas, cow, pigs and so much more.
Our mini bus has had to make a detour to collect some other travelers who's bus has broken down, we are now running a bit behind time, what was to be 4 hrs has taken 5hrs.
On arrival at the Prek Chak - Cua Khau Quoc international border between Cambodia and Vietnam, we are asked to walk through no man's land from one country to another, on the way a sign reading vehicle sterilisation zone, no evidence can be seen of any form of sterilization, the border crossing is very lacks and just matter of paying an additional US$1 and stepping over a low hanging chain and your in Vietnam.
We have just made the connection with the fast ferry from Ha Tien to Dinh Ba, Phu Quoc Island not a minute
to spare. Phew that was close. This part of the journey is to take 2 hrs.
Pulling up to the Ham Ninh wharf, the first thing you notice is its very long, and the super ferry has stoped at the very end. Getting off and loading up with our own bags we head for land. Small mini buses are awaiting to take the new arrivals to their destinations.
Day 1 & 2 - Ham Ninh is on the opposite side of the lsland to where many of the island resorts and hotels. We have now arrived at our new accommodation for the next four day, its strip off, swimmers, surong, beach and most importantly rest and relaxation.
Day 3 - It has been decided to hire three scooter and do a little self discovery of the south part of the island, heading to the east from Long Beach then south towards Sao Beach An Thoi and back up to Long Beach. It soon becomes very clear that there have been many road improvement projects started and very few finished. The roads are not very consistent, as many sections change without notice, from beautifully two way tarred highway
style to badly graveled, pot hole dirt roads. Road signs are not to be found, so with our small map with only a few white lines indicating roads, hopefully this will do the job.
Along the way we pass the one of Phu Quoc historical sites which is still partially in use today as the Coconut Tree (Cay Dua) Prison located about 5kms north of An Thoi Town. The prison was built by the French colonial administration before World War II and was later used by the Americans during the Vietnam War to house tens of thousands of VC prisoners during the Vietnam War.
A War Memorial is located opposite Coconut Tree Prison as a commemorative monument to this official heritage site. It's found just beside the roadway on the hill and consists of three abstract wave forms, in which the middle wave has a human shape cut out, with broken chains hanging from the wrists. It is very easy to pass by without taking any notice as there is no signage to indicate the memorials exsistance or what it represents.
Continuing along this road you come across the entrance to the Tranh Stream. Decorating the entrance
are cement sculptured animals, human figures and small scenes leading to the ticket office. It has been very hot and dry. so there is some doudt there will be any flowing water, checking with the ticket seller it is decided not to go, as the water level has become very low and would not be worth the walk.
Back on our bikes we continue over changable road conditions (mostly red dirt - Oh my goodness where has the road gone too!). In the distance the sky is changing to a dark grey, and we are moving right into its path. There is no escaping getting caught in the down pour, the only unknown is for how long the rain will fall. Now soaked through to out skins we continue on passing some of the Phu Quoc Pearl businesses. Buyer beware as many of the pearls sold on the island are imported.
Not really knowing where we are going we follow a path in search of a beach front, the road is far from being smooth and requires dodging pot holes large enough to swallow you whole and staying up right takes all our skill and good luck, finally
we join a larger road and on the other side of it is a restuarant and beach front. Yeh ha......... civilisation again (not much but some). Drinks and short rest.
The day has gotten away from us and we now need to make a quick return while we can still see the roads. The return trip is much quicker as we have just retraced our tyre tracks so to speak. Once the sun starts to go down there is not much day light time and everything looks so different at night.
Day 4 - Spending time at the beachfront.
Day 5 - Moving hotels, times up and its fully booked out, so we are moving a few hundred meters down the beach to another hotel. This hotel has a swimming pool, air conditioning and TV and also on the beachfront.
Day 6 - Today would be our most adventurous activity on Phu Quoc Island. We have hired three new 125 Suzuki scooters and heading North. Our plan is to ride around the top most part Ganh Dau, Pho Quoc National Partk, Bai Thom then continue down the east coast back to Long Beach.
roads never fail to amaze me, at some stage the red dirt roads were very carefully created and marked with side posts and pegs indicating the distance to the next village, but as time/years have passed and some major wash aways, sections have become over grown, the roads soon turn into a motor cross rally course, making this part of the island just possibility the best and most interesting ride we have encounter so far.
Riding around Bai Dai Beach and Ganh Dau headlands in the top northwest you see many small fishing villages that are stretched out along the coastline, heading to the east through the national park area, the main road was an experience we did not expect, much of the road has been reclaimed or washed away and replaced with thin 50cm long thin tree sticks straped together, to create a very long replacement road and in many places formed bridges across deep gullies. It is here one of the Amigo's came unstuck, but luckily not badly hurt, unfortunately the new bike gained some scratched paint work. This would cost some $$$ later.
These stick paths/tracks went for approximatly 2kms and required lots of skill
to stay on them as they were not flat, but contained many ups and downs and missing small sections, thankfully gradually the reappearance of the original road could be seen. Not put off, we continued onto an even more remote Bai Thom Beach Area at the top of the island, with lots of sandy tracks lead to the beaches through cashew nut plantations. Eventually we head back throught the national park where the cooling overhang of trees make for a pleasant ride. The sun and road has been very punishing, the red dust now leaves a thick layer over every part of us and a shower will be greatly welcomed. After returning the scooters and making a small additional payment for damage done, its a quick return to our hotel.
Day 7 & 8 - Spending time at the beachfront and visiting the night markets.
Tomorrow we head back to the mainland. 1 hr flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
There are more photos below