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Published: March 17th 2013
Downwards and downwards we circled like a tiny drunken fly. Our 40 seater turbo prop plane from Saigon seemed happier in the air and seemed to want to stay aloft little longer but as we twisted and turned - in a loose figure-of-eight pattern - we saw the tiny jungly island which is Phu Quoc. Covered with rich, dark green vegetation it rose up us from below us. Finally we landed at ‘Phu Quoc International Airport’, a small but well constructed terminal which announces proudly ‘We have money here!’ The airport constitutes one of the few scars on the landscape but as you get to know the island you can see that ‘development’ is the name of the current game. At the moment this is a prime holiday destination for the Vietnamese but very soon all this will change! The new airport has been built on 8 square kilometres of land just south of the tiny capital Duong Duong. This will now accommodate medium sized jets and open the island to a whole new world of mass tourism. Goodbye beautiful jungle! Already there is a race to build new resorts which will cater for the masses which will doubtless queue up
to visit - once it has been ‘discovered’. Large areas of ground are being cleared by eager developers leaving huge open wounds on the once virgin jungle. But this is progress!
The roads are few and, off the beaten track, more or less non-existent. Our new home is to be the Thank Kiew Hotel. It is a fabulous place with magnificently maintained gardens. It is rather like stepping into your own private slice of Phu Quocian jungle! Strange noises fill the air, and stranger shapes scuttle into the shade as we make our way to our beachside bungalow. We are 20 steps from the gin-clear water of the sea - The Gulf of Thailand.
Our bungalow is a weird but delightful affair. It has an open air toilet and shower - Janie thinks this would be a good idea at home: we would save a huge amount of cash on fresh air sprays!!! There is no air-conditioning here, just a large buzzing fan. The bed looks a little like a do-it-yourself four poster but does, in fact, have a blessed mosquito net hanging from it! Our own little tent, safe from the ravages of the little flesh eating
buggers! (Sorry Beryl! But it’s true!)
At 6am in the morning (honestly Pete!) we were out of bed and strolling along the beach watching the crazy people jog or stomp along the water‘s edge. The blue-gold light of the early morning bathed everything and everyone in a pristine golden glow.
In the evening we walked along the beach at sunset looking for a suitable place to eat. The Sunrise Restaurant seemed ideal. A banana leaf shack with a few small plastic chairs in the sand at the beach’s edge. I have to say that the prices were very reasonable! A large bottle of Tiger beer 18,000 dong (60p) and a delicious meal of chicken and stir fried fresh vegetables 40,000 dong (£1.30). Having said this the situation was one of complete natural harmony! We were fed and, in turn, under the plastic table cloth, the mosquitoes fed on us! All were happy in the short term! I had been ‘dining’ with one leg under the table and one leg stretched out in the sand. A few hours later my left leg looked like the aftermath of a frenzied axe attack on a Bank Holiday Monday in a butcher’s
Relaxing at one of the local 'restaurants'!
shop in Babbacombe. The mosquito equivalent of Tripadvisor would no doubt have marked my leg out as ‘highly commended’ within a few days! The word was out! Nevertheless, I was now on my guard.
It was at this point that disaster struck. Janie’s shingles began to play up again. She, being a nurse, and therefore not overly keen on taking ANY medication had decided that, as she felt much better, she would radically reduce her medication. The result was another flare up of the shingly pain! Nasty! The next few days were spent on the bed taking bag loads of tablets again. This Hoggtrotters tour was rapidly turning into the Emergency Ward 10 Tour - for those of you who remember Dr Kildare!!! On top of this, I awoke with a painful shoulder which shot into spasm. We really did look like a right pair! Nevertheless, we kept reminding ourselves that pain in the sun feels better than pain in the rain. How lucky are we??!!!
The next few days were spent more or less confined to quarters. Having said that - what lovely quarters!! The furthest walk was down to the waiting ocean or to the restaurant
for rather special chicken kebabs with local vegetables. Janie was still in pain and emitted the occasional ‘Oh’ or ‘Ah’. At night, the neighbours must have thought we were randy old sods as the groans lasted into the samll hours!! We were to find out, on the very first night that, although the large fan put up a good show of being pretty powerful, it had in fact little or no puff at all!! The result was that for the first 4 or 5 hours of the night our bodies continued to feel as if we were being subjected to the midday sun! Sweat poured from every pore and we both agreed that we would never again say a bad word against air conditioning! Additionally, the Thanh Kiew advertised itself as an ‘eco-friendly’ establishment. We were soon to find out what this meant! At night on the hour, every hour, the macho fan came to a shuddering halt for about 10 minutes. During this time the temperature rose at an alarming rate to the point where you could quite happily cook your Sunday roast! Just when the heat became unbearable, the fan would chug into life again for the next
50 minutes. Not that it made that much difference! We began to fantasize about Green Suites and air-con. ‘One day!’ we repeated. ‘One day, we will have cool air again.’ But for now we were hot day and night.
The days passed and still Janie was in pain despite having reverted to her full quota of drugs. When the time came to leave we had little choice but to board the plane and return to Green Suites for one night of blissful air-conditioned comfort. The next day's agenda was heavily in question. We were planning to head south into the Mekong Delta and then on up the river to enter Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Should we stay at Green Suites and wait for Janie to recover? Or should we press on and undertake 2 days of gruelling travel by various forms of transport? We would have to make a decision very early the next morning.......
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