Located just 15km off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thai Lan, Phu Quoc Island rises from its slender southern tip like a genie released from a bottle. Virtually unknown by outsiders a decade ago, it has now cast a spell on enough visitors, with its soft- sand beaches, swaying palms and limpid waters, to challenge Nha Trang as Vietnam’s top beach destination. Spanning 46km from north to south, it’s Vietnam’s largest offshore island (593 square kilometers), though Cambodia also claims Phu Quoc, calling it Ko Tral. Phu Quoc is just 45km from HaTien, and a little under 120km from Rach Gia.
The topography and vegetation are unlike the rest of the delta, and give the place a totally different feed. Phu Quoc’s isolation made it an attractive hiding place for two of the more famous figures from Vietnam’s past. Nguyen Anh holed up here while on the run from the Tay Son brothers in the late eighteenth century, and so too, in the 1860s, did Nguyen Trung Truc. Today, over 80.000 people and a sizeable population of indigenous dogs (recognizable by a line of hair running up the spine instead of down) dwell in the island, famous throughout Vietnam for its black pepper and its sauce, which is graded like olive oil.
Until the turn of the century, Phu Quoc had almost no facilities for tourists, but now development is in full swing and visitor are spoiled or choice of accommodation, restaurants and activities, such as snorkeling and diving. There are a few corals just off Ong Lanf beach, but the best locations are around the An Thoi Island to the south or Turtle Island off the North West coast, both of which can be visited by boat trip from Phu Quoc. At these reefs the former of which is rated by some as the best dive site in Vietnam you can float above brain and fan corals, watching parrot fish, scorpion fish, butterfly fish, huge sea urchins and a host of other marine life.
Like Mui Ne, Phu Quoc is a favorite bolt – hole for experts living in Ho Chi Minh City and with work already begun on an international airport in the centre of the island, its future looks rosy. Yet while resort and bars are springing up fast, for the moment Phu Quoc retains a pioneer outpost feel. Many place s can only be reached via dirt tracks and the beaches are largely free of vendors.
In the rainy season (May – Oct) Phu Quoc is relatively quiet, and room rates become more easily negotiable, though in peak season ( Dec- Jan), accommodation prices can increase sharply and advance booking is necessary.
What to Do ?
Phu Quoc is also called the Emerald Island because of its natural treasures and tourism potential. There's plenty of strips of sand and fine beaches with clear and blue water like Long Beach, Bai Sao, Beach Bai Vong where travelers can go for picnics, paddling, snorkeling or fishing.
Aside from its beaches, Phu Quoc is known for two things -- its fish sauce factories (dotted through Duong Dong town) and Suoi Tranh waterfall (10km southeast of Duong Dong in the centre of the island).
Phu Quoc Island has many deep harbors such as An Thoi and Hon Thom where international and domestic ships anchor. There are also several historical sites on the island for instance National Hero Nguyen Trung Truc's military base, vestige of King Gia Long, the first king of Nguyen Dynasty in 19th century and Phu Quoc Prison.
Another attraction is the Pearl Farm, which sits about a third of the way down the length of Long Beach. Again a bit of a filler for a very slow or rainy day, the farm includes a small educational display about pearls along with the opportunity to spend a motza on a few sets of earrings.