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Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Quy Nhon was officially founded more than 100 years ago, although its origins stretch backs much further to the 11th-century Champa culture, the T&…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà RịVũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city ar…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc lies off the west coast of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. At times claimed by Cambodia and Thailand, the island is now like an armed fortress of the Vietnamese navy, and 80% of the island is protected as the Phu Quoc National Forest. Exploring the dirt track byways of the forested isle, among picturesque pepper plantations and long stretches of deserted beach, is a hoot. A visit to Phu Quoc is a good, affordable opportunity to relax, spend time on the beach, and snorkel or scuba-dive. Get there soon and someday you'll be able to say, "I went there before it was touristy."
The pepper industry on Phu Quoc has just gotten back up to speed after a long gap since the days when every French table had a shaker of Phu Quoc's finest. Phu Quoc is most famous for production of nuoc mam, the noxious fish sauce that is part of any meal in Vietnam. U.S. pilots flying over the island during the Vietnam War joked that the fumes from nuoc mam factories of Phu Quoc were enough to blow out the torch on a jet engine. Find a guide on the island and you'll be able to get up close and personal with the aromatic production of Vietnam's most versatile condiment.
Phu Quoc was for many years an off-the-map tourist destination, but the developers, led by Saigontourist's large Saigon Phu Quoc Resort, are coming in droves. Still, services remain limited, and dining is more or less only available at small seaside resorts on Long Beach. The quiet, undeveloped quality of this beach escape -- just a short, easy hop from Saigon -- is the real attraction.
The Six Senses group, popular developers of Ana Mandara and Evason Hideaway plans on having a large resort here in the near future, and developers are lined up, wringing their hands and ready to build. Thanks to red tape, this quiet island is still a dirt-track backwater, with bungalows and little in the way of infrastructure. But plans are underway for expanding the airport and including international flights.
Weather on the island, thanks to cool ocean breezes, is always temperate and thus a great escape from sultry Saigon. The coolest time to go to Phu Quoc is from December to February. Note: The island is quite rainy, and exposed to monsoon storms, from May to November.
Airport: Teardrop-shaped Phu Quoc has its capital at the town of Duong Dong, midway down the west coast of the island. The airport is right by Duong Dong and the vast majority of lodgings are within a 5- to thirty-minute motorcycle ride of there. In the past, ferries from the mainland arrived in An Thoi, on the far southern tip of the island. They now land in Ham Ninh, on the east coast. This doesn't change much, though -- it's still too inconvenient to walk so you'll have to catch a lift to get to any of the beaches.
Communication: Duong Dong has a few basic internet cafes. The one facing the market is probably the most convenient, though out on the road to the airport there are a couple of larger, cleaner and more comfortable places. Most are used primarily by local kids, so expect to read your emails to the soundtrack of machine guns.
Money Exchange: Most major resorts along Long Beach have ATMs. The Saigon Phu Quoc Resort is particularly useful as it not only has an ATM, but it can also exchange travellers' cheques. Several banks in town, including a Vietcombank, have ATMs and exchange services.
Medical Assistance: There are very basic medical facilities at both Ham Ninh and An Thoi, with the latter being the better, but for anything more serious than a hangover or a paper cut -- head to Saigon.
Clothing: Lightweight cotton and linen clothing is advised for much of year, although warmer clothing is needed during the chilly winter between Octover to March. Rainwear is advisable in any season.
Electricity: Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz AC (some 110V, 50HZ AC). Two-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adapter socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels.
Health:A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers over one year of age arriving within 6 days of leaving or transiting countries with infected areas. For the latest immunisation requirements please contact your GP.
Language:Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn. Based on tonal variations, it is difficult for a short term traveler to speak easily. It comes from the Chinese, although the two languages have diverged. Vietnamese has six tones, so a word can be said six ways, imparting six different meanings. There are also regional variations, so what is polite in Saigon may be just the opposite in Hanoi. In the 17th century, Alexander de Rhodes. Jesuit scholar and missionary, created the romanized script which was used only by the educated. In 1954, under Ho Chi Minh, the romanized script became the official written script for the Vietnamese language. Today, English and French arethe most common second languagesin Vietnam, so someone is sure to help you out. And, even though it is a difficult language, give it a try. your efforts will be appreciated!
Tipping: If you are happy with services provided by your local guides and drivers, a tip, though not compulsory, is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, it inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across destinations. Here are our suggestions;
- Meals (restaurants): the average amount is $1
- Guides: We recommend $2-$5 per day for local guides (depending on group size),
- Drivers: You will have a range of drivers on your trip. Some will be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for few days. We would recommend a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of $1 to $2 per day would be appropriate (depending on group size).
- Bellboy: the average amount is $1
- Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day. For larger groups and adventure trips you may want to increase this. But please remember that it’s totally up to you, these are guidelines onl
Visa Requirements: Almost all visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, although some qualified exemptions apply for citizens of those countries with bilateral reciprocal agreements with Vietnam. Depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant, a tourist visa may be granted for either a fifteen (15) or thirty (30) day stay in Vietnam.Click here for more details…
Places to see
Heading north along the west coast of the island, roads of thick red dust connect villages set along salty inlets crowded with small fishing boats. You'll first come to the beach area of Ong Lang, which hosts a small clutch of resorts and services along a quiet stretch of sand; a small turnoff from the main road takes you there. Continuing north, follow long stretches of open beach lined with fish and squid out to dry on large bamboo mats. There are lots of opportunities along the way for complete seclusion. The coastal road reaches Gan Dau, a small town of busy nuoc mam (fish sauce) factories. Farther out on the peninsula area, you'll find a few local hangout spots with hammocks under shade trees by the beach.
From Gan Dau, you can turn inland and make a long clockwise loop. It's 13km (8 miles) along jungle road to the town of Rach Vieu, and another 6km (3 3/4 miles) east brings you to the Suai Cai Crossroad. From there you can go 13km (8 miles) to the beaches of Bai Thom (a military base on the far north end of the island), or even get motocross for the long trip down the treacherous trails on the island's east side; most take the short loop inland, some 16km (10 miles) heading back to Duong Dong town.
Along the coast, Phu Quoc Pearl Farm (Duong To Village, 10km/6 1/4 miles south on the western coastal road, Tran Hung Dao) is a relaxed roadside stop overlooking a long stretch of open beach along the dusty coastal road, as well as a small museum with good explanations about the complex process of pearl farming and a very high-end boutique with some very unique colored and clear pearls in fine gold and silver settings. Stop here if you're heading to Sao Beach (Bai Sao) in the far south.
Nha Tu Phu Quoc is the old jail where the French housed Vietnamese dissidents. The sight is just an enclosed field with old fallen-down sheet metal Quonset huts, but there is a little adjoining museum with some photos and information (daily 7-11:30am and 1:30-4pm).
The town of An Thoi in the far south is little more than a turnaround point, a busy little port worth a wander, though.
Saigon Phu Quoc Resort also runs evening squid fishing trips. You're sure to see the lights of squid fishermen far out on the horizon each evening; it looks like a small city out there at certain times of year. The tour leaves at 4:30pm and you motor out to join the large fleet. Fishermen catch squid by attracting them with a light and hooking them near the surface, a fun and playful jigging technique. Kids love it.
Not far from the ferry terminal of An Thoi, some 25km (16 miles) south of central Dong Duong town, lies beautiful Khem Beach, a long white-sand stretch lined with palms and with some actual pounding surf. On clear days, it's great for snorkeling. The beach is still free of the developers' shovels, which means no resorts (yet). You'll just spot a few lazy beachside sugar shacks with low tables under umbrellas and lots of hammocks in the shade where you can sip a cool drink, order lunch, and watch the day go by. It's a popular beach for domestic tourists, though, so it gets pretty crowded on the weekends.
|3 Star||4 Star|
|Phu Quoc Charm||Sasco Blue Largoon Resort|
|Thai Binh Duong - Pacific||MGallery La Verenda Resort|
|Thien Hai Son Resort||Chen La Resort and Spa|
Phu Quoc has a reasonable network of roads -- a few sealed, most not -- which make it easy to circumnavigate the island. While distances are not too high, going can be slow -- especially in wet season when the quality of the unsealed roads declines considerably. The easiest way to get around is by hiring a motorbike on a daily basis. None of the roads are all that challenging, so even novice riders should be okay -- just take it easy, wear a helmet and don't drink and ride. Motorbikes can be hired from most guesthouses and resorts. 4WDs can also be hired, though you need to hire them with a driver -- foreigners are not permitted to self-drive a hired 4WD on Phu Quoc Island.
Vietnam Airlines has multiple flights a day from Phu Quoc to Saigon and at least one flight a day to Rach Gia. For flights on weekends and in high season, book as far in advance as possible as the planes are small and fill up fast. Contact us for more details.
Weather permitting, speedboats depart at least once a day from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc and in the reverse. Most people use the catchily-named 'Superdong', but there are other boat operators -- shop around to compare price. Departure is around 08:00 from each end, and in high season there are often several more departures staggered through the day and early afternoon. ln the midst of the rainy season, when the weather is rough, boats can be cancelled for days on end -- you're better off to fly.
At peak season, Green Line offers hydrofoils between Hon Chong and Phu Quoc. It's not a bad option, as Hon Chong is closer to Phu Quoc than Rach Gia. Check with your hotel to book tickets.
Many moto drivers and tour operators in Hon Chong and Ha Tien will offer you boat service to Phu Quoc, but don't take them up on the offer -- they're talking about passage on traditional wooden boats, which are extremely unsafe and not recommended. Take the hydrofoil, or fly instead.
Phu Quoc Island offers some interesting shopping options for people fond to spend some money or buy some souvenirs while on holiday. The best shopping experiences can be found around the local markets in Duong Dong and An Thoi towns, however we have listed other possibilities below for you to consider along with some recommended items that are fairly unique to Phu Quoc Island.
Duong Dong shops
Phu Quoc airport
Unique shopping items
For the best down to earth shopping and life style experience, visiting the local markets on the island is highly recommended. While western style goods are very limited, the local markets offer a colourful range of fruit, vegetables, seafood’s and much much more.
Duong Dong market located in the centre of town along the river is the islands largest and most exciting local market. At most times of the day this can be a busy place with the local traffic running along the road and boats coming and going, loading and unloading their goods, and it is here you will find lovely ladies in conical hats selling everything from tropical fruits to unusual fishing equipment.
Unless you enjoy a decent crowd, we recommend avoiding Duong Dong market when cruise ships arrive (usually once a week) at the pier, bringing thousands of travellers, who fill the town and market place.
Duong Dong shops
The local shops do offer some limited items, depending on what you are after, for instance there a number of supply shops that sell everything from biscuits, soap and shampoo and interesting toothpaste to soft drinks, water and cases of beer. There are also a number of pharmacies, sunglass shops and a number of local laundries that are far cheaper than the resort prices. If you’re in need of building supplies, there are some places that sell tiles, paints, marble, timber and plumbing goods, though the range and quality will not be the same as the mainland.
Clothing stores are limited, however if you’re in need of some long shirts or pants to keep off the dust while riding around the island or any mosquitoes at night, there are some local market style places opposite Duong Dong market on the other side of the bridge opposite that sell plenty of cheap and non fashionable clothing and hats. For something a little more modern, there's also a mini mart (Ph 0773 993366) in town about 1km past the airport at Nguyen Trung Truc after Hung Vuong Street, Duong Dong, which sells a range of clothes, cosmetics, and a variety of other items.
If you are after some up market souvenirs, many of the resorts have small shops or displays offering island gifts, everything from pearl necklaces to t-shirts or caps and postcards.
There are a couple of shops in Duong Dong that now specialise in selling arts and crafts, and while most of the products are from the mainland, these shops are still fairly new and offer discounted prices from time to time. A couple of shops are located opposite Phu Quoc Airport road entrance in Duong Dong, including Phu Quoc Crafts & Cafe (109 Nguyen Trung Truc), Phu Quoc Fine Arts (Khu Pho 4, Duong Dong) with another shop on the way to Long Beach called Phu Quoc Creation (30 Tran Hung Dao Street).
Another large souvenir shop can be found on the road heading south from Duong Dong Town on Long Beach called Coinguon at 149 Tran Hung Dao (ph 773 980 206, www.coinguonphuquoc.com). They sell a wide range of souvenirs, pearls, jewellery and art and also have a fairly extensive museum towards the rear of the left hand side shop which contains an interesting array of items includes Vietnamese pottery, animal skeletons, old money and more. There is a wide range of souvenirs available so you might like to think twice before purchasing any items made from the many sea shells in the store.
Phu Quoc airport
Looking for a last minute purchase, then the airport offers a decent range of postcards, pearls and other jewellery items, along with Phu Quoc books and maps, t-shirts and caps and of course fish sauce (after immigration). There is also currency exchange counter in the arrivals hall, which offer reasonable rates.
If you’re after the real deal, the pearl farm shop run by an New Zealand based company in Duong To Village about 9kms south of Duong Dong along the dirt road that follows Long Beach. See their web site for more information, www.treasuresfromthedeep.com. Here you will find some remarkable pearls and some information about the history of pearl farming on the island. You might find the prices are also quiet remarkable too, judge for yourself.
For alternatives to the best that money can buy, there are numerous pearl shops around the island and many places that sell pearls, most of these are located in Duong Dong town near Saigon Phu Quoc Resort. At these places you can pick up a wide variety of pearl gifts from bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings and much more, all at very reasonable prices.
Unique shopping items
Besides the pearls, you can not go past the opportunity to either visit or purchase one of the products that Phu Quoc Island is world famous for and that is the Fish Sauce. Please note that when departing Phu Quoc by air, carrying fish sauce on the airplane is not allowed and some airlines have banned it altogether because of risk of breakage and the pungent fumes that are extremely difficult to remove. You can however purchase some fish sauce at the airport in the departure lounge, and they currently organise delivery for you to Ho Chi Minh (somehow). See our unique sights page for more details on fish sauce and locating some distilleries.
Food and drinks
Phu Quoc seems designed with resort-dwellers in mind, so you're mostly expected to eat at your own hotel. You'll likely want to venture elsewhere at some point, if only to add a little variety to your diet. Prices are generally a bit higher than what you'll find on the mainland, though quality tends to be decent at most places.
For something cheaper and more local, head into Duong Dong, where market stalls sell pho and crispy banh xeo pancakes.
While staying on Phu Quoc, it's easy to fall into a rhythm of lying on the beach or in a hammock, only rising to take meals at your hotel's restaurant. Once you start to crave a little variety, the easiest option is to head to their nearest neighbouring hotel. Only a few places have restaurants worth mentioning specifically, however. Beach Club is well worth checking out, not only for their inexpensive menu, but for their welcoming atmosphere. Cassia Cottage has a creative menu, including cinnamon infused okra, and delicious ice cream. For a pricier meal in a spectacular setting, La Veranda serves well-executed Vietnamese dishes in an elegantly tropical setting,
There are a few standalone restaurants on Long Beach. They rely on food alone, so in general the quality is great, though prices aren't any lower than what you'll pay at your hotel.
Taking a daytrip to another beach should include sampling the food on a different part of the island. On Ong Lang Beach, Mango Bay has a gorgeous seaside restaurant, and their menu is surprisingly reasonably priced. They serve mostly Asian food, with a number of seafood grills, and tangy Vietnamese salads. They're particularly good for desserts -- like homemade brownies, and pancakes with dark chocolate.
On Bai Sao, Ai Xem serves reliably good seafood on one of Phu Quoc's most spectacular beaches. Their prices seem a little inflated, but the quality is excellent -- try the claypot fish, or the fried rice with crab. Place your order, then take a dip in the turquoise waters while you're waiting for your meal.
Rainbow Divers' Rainbow Bar on the main beach access road, has a little beachside place serving good burgers and familiar Western fare. At the entrance to Kim Hoa Resort Carole's serves excellent seafood specialties and familiar Western fare like wood-oven pizzas.
Nightlife and entertainment
Eden Bar, located next to the Veranda Resort, has a welcoming pub-like setting, with a pool table and a variety of board games. They make exceptionally good burgers, and serve a range of interesting cocktails -- try to find out when their happy hour is.
Phu Quoc and the surrounding area enjoy a distinct wet and dry season. The best time to go if you're seeking clear skies and warm weather is between eary November and late April. At this time of the year the waters on the west coast of Phu Quoc are often blisfully calm.
The wet season, from May to late October gets moderate to heavy rain throughout -- expect to see at least some rain, most days. However, as with monsoon seasons across the region, rainfall is characterised mostly by a couple of hours of heavy rain rather than all day drizzle. During a previous visit in the height of wet season, we had four days of uninterupted glorious sunshine and not a drop of rain till the last day.
The wet season also sees rougher seas, with Long Beach catching the brunt of it, but the east coast beaches, like Bai Sao are crystal clear and calm. These rougher seas can play havoc with the ferry timetable as the boats don't run in rough weather. One day of very bad weather can see the boats not running for three or four days afterwards, so if you're travelling to Phu Quoc in wet season, consider flying there from Rach Gia or Saigon.