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Published: July 30th 2016
Sunset on Foo Kwok
Such a pretty place, I did not want to go home
I’m not very good at keeping secrets. Case in point, I was visiting my friend in Phnom Penh when she told me about this obscure little island off the Cambodian coast owned by the Vietnamese. I realize now she may have accidentally volunteered this information after becoming fed up listening to me moan about returning to soggy Canada.
“Mate! Phu Quoc is what Thailand was thirty years ago!!”
Her brown eyes explode as she oversells it with her classic Australian twang.
I whip out my phone to immediately Google a beach hut.
Alarm crosses Sarah’s face. “Aw but you can’t tell anyone about it. We expats want to keep it all to ourselves.”
And I'm like. "Why, are you doing the sequel to the movie The Beach or something?"
My internet search finds stupidly cheap accommodations and flights. Get this, a bungalow on the beach with a/c, indoor plumbing, and Wifi for only $27US? And a round trip air ticket out of Ho Chi Minh for only $50US? What in tarnation was going on here?
Was this some kind of scientific research station where they do strange experiments on unsuspecting tourists?
My little Cottage
Right on the beach, I have my own little place with a/c
could I be dropped to fend for myself on a sandbar the size of my dining room table?
Would I wake up missing a kidney?
Or could I be made into fish sauce?
I decided that the simplest explanation was the right one. Like severely cheap off-off-season rates.
So I booked it.
At Ho Chi Minh airport the following week, I fully expected to board one of those little puddle jumper planes where each passenger is weighed and yelled at for having too much luggage. So, imagine my surprise when I had a 737 all to myself. Even more shocking was the Phu Quoc airport terminal, a multimillion-dollar glass structure of fanciness.
I realized right then that Vietnam has no plans on keeping this place a secret.
Many nations have occupied this tiny 25 km by 50 km island over the past few centuries, with Vietnam getting final dibs in the 80's. The island's 100k inhabitants gather in small villages, exporting fish sauce and peppercorns to the mainland. The majority of hotels and resorts are scattered along Long Beach near the main town of Duong Dong. On the eastern part of the island
OMG, such a lovely thing to have fresh fruit cut up for you as you lounge on a beach chair
is thick lush jungle protected by the government.
Could Phu Quoc become the next big tourist destination?
There are hundreds of new construction projects lining the main road and piles of rubble are everywhere. This infrastructure lawlessness is amplified by my shuttle driver who will only take me to the end of the paved roadway.
No way is he going to bingbang up his shiny new van.
I dodge motorbikes as I begrudgingly walk down a crumbly lane past various huts moonlighting as shops while the oppressive wet tropical heat envelops me. Almost instantly, I look like I ran through a sprinkler.
The locals peer from the shadows and call out, Hey lady, want to rent a scooter? Buy a bottle of booze? How about a massage, lady?
I find my resort called the Thanh Kieu (irony not lost on me there), and even though the ladies at the front desk have no record of my online reservation pause for hysterical meltdown
I am given the royal treatment of cold juice and icy facecloths as they sort it out. I'm finally graciously approved and both girls insist on escorting me and my
Grab a palapa and a book because you are in for a treat
personals through the dry manicured grounds to my beach bungalow. Usually when I travel, I have loads of stuff wedged into a backpack, but I've only brought my swimmers and a few changes of underwear for here. Very Bohemian! My goal is to live in a swimsuit for the next week.
I could hear the ocean before I saw it. A sparkling emerald sea crashing over golden sand with a few tilted palms swaying in a light breeze. This place is absolute perfection.
During the long rainy season I'm sure it's all lush and green around here, but right now everything is crispy and dry. The lotus flowers are the only thing blooming in stagnant ponds. Best of all, no mozzies! The receptionists beckon me towards my hut.
My little bungalow has a fluffy bed with unnecessary mosquito netting and an indoor/outdoor bathroom. I drop off my stuff and head straight for the beach. I pass by several handholding couples wearing matching sarongs that side eye me. Oh dread.
Smug couples. Yes, hello, here by myself, thank you for noticing.
I drag one of the heavy wooden loungers painted a tacky green with sad
The Honeymoon suite
Oh, sometimes its hard to not have anyone to share this with, but I'll live
looking cushions towards the shade of a palapa and commence relaxation.
My beach days are uneventful. Exactly what I wanted. I fall in love with the fruit vendor lady with the wide brim hat. She would sashay by once or twice and cut up a lovely fruit salad into a ziplock baggy for me. Anyone who lives north of the 49th parallel knows what an absolute treat it is to eat sun ripened fruit, picked warm off a tree. I could not get enough.
Surprised by the Wifi signal being super strong at Thanh Kieu, I did a little Phu Quoc investigating, and there was lots to do around the island. Hiking paths in the jungle, night markets, scuba diving, and little jaunts on a rented scooter. I struggled with an urge to venture out, knowing full well my whole goal on Phu Quoc was to chill. So I literally force myself to not move from my beach lounge unless I needed to wade out into the ocean for a non-refreshing soak in water that was significantly higher than my own body temperature. The surf was like a little washing machine on the gentle cycle, and I'd make
Such beautiful gardens at the resort, a little dry, but surviving. I enjoyed seeing all the flowers on my walks
a wide berth for any jellyfish that happened by.
Thanh Kieu was pretty basic but the complimentary breakfast buffet was incredible. I'd been subjected to hideous continentals as I traveled throughout Asia, most being little more than a greasy overcooked egg with a slice of stale bread flung in my general direction.
Here, there are linens and silverware and fresh cut flowers, sweaty pitchers of exotic juices, and strange pastries. My calorie counting goes completely out the window as I tuck into pancakes, bacon, waffles, and then go back for eggs, fruit salad, beans, sausages, fried potatoes, cereal, and wash it all down with a fruit smoothie. I rationalize my gluttonous marathon by telling myself I will not eat any lunch or dinner, thereby saving myself from myself. Pptttth!
The breakfast veranda was also the perfect place to do couples recon. I took up position in a shady corner so I could easily observe my subjects without being detected. You see, I have this weird fascination with body language, and I particularly love to interpret couples.
Unfortunately this resort was full of a lot of boring old duds.
There were a few of the sick
Sun goes up, sun goes down
So beautiful this Vietnamese secret hideaway
to death of talking to you, lizard-skinned seniors mixed in with the tumbled out of our cottage, hair eschew with not a care in the world,
And then there were those we were supposed to make a baby on this trip...but you won’t put down your iPad for one second,
professional 30 somethings.
Yawn. I was hoping for couples with more devious-like body language lurking below their surfaces.
Maybe a handsome husband that just married into money and is planning to get the new wife drunk and bash her, then bury her in the sand and run away with the cute Vietnamese bar girl.
That kind of thing.
I was about to move on to the beach when a young couple sat across from me. Instantaneously I was intrigued by their bizarre body language.
It was awkward. Like brother and sister. I would need to talk to them.
Turns out Colin and Jana are Canadians and teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. They pretend to be a couple to save on costs and uncomfortable conversations. Jana's gloms onto me as I'm familiar company to chat up, Colin doesn't much like
Me and my new friend drink cold drinks all day long
to talk or sunbathe, so he reads in the shade while us girls sit in the sun and talk Canadian.
My entire week on this secret island was over too fast. I spent it reading papery novels, sun tanning, floating in the bathtub warm ocean, sleeping in, eating, drinking, napping in a hammock, picking shells off the beach, and repeating. I even wandered over to the Cassia Spice House for a fancy dinner on my last night.
I was now prepared to tackle the brutal 23 hour flight back to Canuck Land.
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