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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 the city of 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 info after becoming fed up listening to me moan on about returning to soggy Canada.
“Mate! Phu Quoc is what Thailand was thirty years ago!!” Her brown eyes explode as she oversold it with a classic Australian twang.
I whip out my phone so I can immediately Google a beach hut and alarm quickly crosses Sarah’s face. “Aw mate, you can’t tell anyone else about it, ok. We expats want to keep it all to ourselves.”
I'm like. "What, 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
My little Cottage
Right on the beach, I have my own little place with a/c
they do strange experiments on unsuspecting tourists?
Sarah rolls her eyes and departs. She’s already said too much.
Or maybe I be dropped off 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 probably the right one. Like it just happens to be mid April and there are some 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 brand new multimillion-dollar glass structure of fanciness. I realized right then that Vietnam had no plans on keeping this place a secret.
Pho Quoc. Many nations have occupied this tiny island of 25 km by 50 km over the past few centuries, Vietnam having final dibs in the 80's. This island's 100k inhabitants
OMG, such a lovely thing to have fresh fruit cut up for you as you lounge on a beach chair
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, is thick lush jungle protected by the government.
Could Phu Quoc become the next big tourist destination? I’d back it.
There are hundreds of new construction projects lining the main road, and subsequent piles of rubble everywhere. This infrastructure lawlessness is only amplified when my airport shuttle driver will take me to the end of the paved roadway. No way is he going to bingbang up his shiny new van.
I’m cast out into traffic and I have to dodge motorbikes during my long begrudged walk down a crumbly lane past various huts moonlighting as shops, while an oppressive tropical heat envelops me.
Almost instantly, I look like I ran through a lawn sprinkler.
The locals peer from the shadows of their huts and call out, Hey lady, want to rent a scooter? Buy a bottle of booze? How about a massage, lady?
My resort, called the Thanh Kieu (irony not lost on me) materializes, and even
Grab a palapa and a book because you are in for a treat
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 personals through the dry manicured grounds to my beach bungalow.
Usually when I travel, I have loads of stuff wedged into a backpack, but for this excursion I've only brought my swimmers and a few changes of underwear. Very Bohemian!
My goal is to live in a swimsuit for the next week.
Down the beachy path, 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 their long rainy season I'm sure it's all green and lush in Vietnam, but right now everything is crispy and dry. The lotus flowers are the only thing blooming in stagnant ponds. Cup half full, no mozzies! The receptionists both beckon me towards my hut.
My little bungalow has a fluffy bed with unnecessary mosquito netting and
The Honeymoon suite
Oh, sometimes its hard to not have anyone to share this with, but I'll live
an indoor/outdoor bath. I drop off my stuff and head straight for the beach. I pass several handholding couples wearing matching sarongs that side eye me. Oh dread.
Yes, hello, here by myself, thank you for noticing.
Not one to let that naw at me, I drag a heavy wooden lounger painted a tacky green with sad looking cushions towards the shade of a beach palapa and commence relaxation.
My beach days are gloriously uneventful. Exactly what I wanted. I fall in love with the fruit vendor lady with the wide brim triangle hat. She would sashay by once or twice in the day 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 found there was lots to do around the island. Hiking paths into the jungle, night markets, scuba diving, and little jaunts on a rented scooter.
Such beautiful gardens at the resort, a little dry, but surviving. I enjoyed seeing all the flowers on my walks
I struggle with my urge to venture out, knowing full well my whole goal on Phu Quoc was to chill and spend no money. My only excursion was to leave the beach lounge 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 a wide berth for any jellyfish that happened by.
Thanh Kieu was pretty basic, but the complimentary breakfast buffet was incredible.
For the past month, 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
Sun goes up, sun goes down
So beautiful this Vietnamese secret hideaway
saving myself from myself. Pptttth! That didn’t happen.
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 in particular, I love to interpret couples. Unfortunately at this resort, it was full of boring old duds.
As expected you had your, I’m sick to death of talking to you,
lizard-skinned seniors. Mixed in with a few, we just tumbled out of our cottage with not a care in the world,
honeymooners. 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.
I was hoping for couples with more sinister body language, lurking about. They are usually all perfect up front. Maybe a handsome husband that married for the wife’s family money. Who is planning to get his aging wife drunk and bash her, then bury her in the sand and run away with the cute Vietnamese bar girl.
That kind of thing.
Breakfast over, I
Me and my new friend drink cold drinks all day long
was about to move on to my beach lounger when a young couple sat across from me.
Instantaneously I was intrigued by their bizarre body language. Like brother and sister. What the hell. I couldn’t tear myself away. They interacted so awkwardly, I would need to talk to them.
Turns out they, Colin and Jana, are Canadians and teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. They pretend to be a couple just save on costs and uncomfortable conversations. I accept their weird explanation, but I know they’ve had sex.
Jana's gloms onto me, I'm familiar company to chat up, weirdo Colin doesn't much like to talk or sunbathe, so he reads in the shade while us girls sit in the sun and talk Canadian. It’s only when they depart Jana tells me they’re actual cousins. Aha! I knew it.
After my week on this “secret” island, I declare victory. I spent every waking moment 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. On my last evening I even wrapped myself up in a flowy scarf and wandered next
Private yet beautiful. It was so nice to listen to the waves on the shore from my lanai.
door to the fancy Cassia Spice House for a upscale dinner.
Only a few smug couples made note of it.
I was now ready. Prepared to tackle the brutal 23 hour flight back to Canuck Land. Than Kieu Vietnam.
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