Phú Quốc Island, our first taste of Vietnam, was just a few days of relaxing before we embarked on our three months of exploring this country and the boys return to a more regular schooling routine.
As with many places around Southeast Asia, the development and construction on the island is happening on a very large-scale with vast amounts of money being invested to help make this island become the next resort/tourist mecca. If only they would do more about the copious amounts of rubbish, particularly in the waterways.
We travelled to the island via speed ferry (Phú Quốc Express 6) from Ha Tiên and we were pleasantly surprised. The boat looked very close to brand new, the seats were clean and comfortable, the cabin was spacious and our trip had very few other passengers. We received a bottle of water and refreshing towelette from the crew and we departed on time. The toilet was remarkably clean for a boat, public transportation and all within Asia. I’m sure those that have travelled through this region can recall at least one toilet incident where you have encountered a dodgy looking space and know the relief you feel when you open the door to a clean, dry facility and with hand soap.During our tuk tuk and minivan trips from Kep in Cambodia through to Ha Tiên in Vietnam we meet another long-term travelling family from England, Steven, Laura and their 5-year-old daughter, Honor. They left the UK last August and came straight to Southeast Asia as we did. It was great to share stories of places we had been, home schooling techniques and strategies, trying to minimise luggage, travel day dramas and future plans. With this and the fact that the 1.5 hour ferry trip was such smooth sailing it went by in no time and with no problems.After a few directional issues we found our accommodation, Phú Hồng Hotel, near the Duong Dong harbour. We were on the second floor but had nice view out over the promenade to the pier. Interesting to watch the harbour activity during the day and the boats and pier were all lit up at night along with seeing the first signs of all the beautiful Tet (Vietnamese New Year) decorations beginning to appear.As usual we checked out local day and night markets and continue to be in awe of how some of these activities function without pure chaos – just the Southeast Asian “organised chaos” with people and scooters everywhere. We saw many more species of seafood at both the day and night markets than we have in other locations and a few new snacks and dishes to try out.It was on Phú Quốc that we first discovered the Vietnamese dish, Cơm Tấm, or broken rice. It was at a small shop near our hotel and this was the only dish they served. The dish consists of broken rice (which was being “broken” by a woman with a large cleaver), grilled pork (another woman on the roadside was busy on the open charcoal grill, tongs in one hand and fan in the other), a fried egg and some cucumber sticks, served with a side of cleansing soup. We all became immediate fans of this dish and it continued to be our breakfast for the remaining mornings on the island.I also had my first Phở, which I’m a huge fan of, and while I have had numerous bowls previously, this was my first on Vietnamese soil. It was from a reasonably large restaurant on the border of the night markets and while their menu on the wall was quite large and varied it turned out they were only serving Phở on this occasion. The one thing I really enjoy about Phở is the side condiments you receive so you can finish the dish to your liking. A few extra mung beans if you prefer, herbs and other greenery, chilli, sauces and wedges of lime. Now not all Phở are created equal and some times you may not get all the side condiments or get some slight variances, but that’s all part of the fun and this first off Phở Bò (with beef) for 50,000 VND/$3.33 NZD was a pretty good start. A running tally has now been started by the boys to see how many bowls of Phở I can get through during our three months in Vietnam and I’ll be recording some of my favourites on our ‘food adventures’ page.
Logan had noticed that in the evenings there was a young man hiring out roller blades across from our hotel by the pier, so on our last night he decided to relive his youth and teach Lincoln how to skate. Even with his feet squeezed into small-sized skates, Logan got his rhythm back quite quickly and Lincoln did pretty well for his first time without too many spills. We found a few other people around the same area hiring out ride-on toys and Braxton was happy to drive around in a little motorised car with lots of lights and sounds. This 30 mins or so of evening activity set us back just 70,000 VND/$4.67 NZD and was a fun way to end our time on the island.Our second stop in Vietnam was a quick 45 minute flight away from Phú Quốc to visit Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon for two weeks and if we thought that scooters were in abundance on the island, we had another thing coming when we ventured into traffic in this fanatical city.
Average Daily Spend – $108.31 NZD ($64.19 under budget per day)