Short Break on Phu Quoc – Part I

02.11. – 04.11.2018

One advantage of living in Saigon is the proximity of some great places to visit – even if it is just a long (or in this case a very long) weekend. So I took the chance and decided to visit Phu Quoc island to relax for a few days.

So after another hard day in the office I was off to the airport to enjoy a well deserved trip to Phu Quoc. As Friday afternoons can be quite busy at the airport I treated myself and booked Business Class with Vietnam Airline. This has a few advantages: 1) Fast Track through security (done in 2 minutes), 2) access to the nice lounge with food and drinks 3) Comfortable seats & 4) being first in the arrival area. And this for only $25 more for one flight. Well worth the money…

So after all this luxury journey I was finally on Phu Quoc (and arriving in an empty arrival hall – not even the tour desks was manned, it felt like one of these Zombie movies).

Unfortunately this surprising peace was gone as soon I stepped out of the building. I was suddenly subject to the usual “Taxi, Sir. Do you need a tax” shouts. It is like a broken record that is played everywhere in Vietnam. Slightly surprised I realised that both VinaSun and Mailinh are now operating on Phu Quoc. During my first visit back in 2015 they didn’t. Good news I guess. For the 12km journey to Ong Lang Beach I paid 310.000 Dong. But it is strange when I have to give the driver directions to the hotel I have never been before…

I stayed at the Dragon Resort & Spa in the Ong Lang beach area, located in a small tourist area 10 minutes away from Mango Beach. When checking in I got the first surprise – free upgrade to a twin-bed bungalow instead of a double bed room. I didn’t complain. It is a nice place to stay. Here is my full review.

It was nearly 8pm already (4 hours after finishing work – not bad I guess) so it was time to get some food. Along the road where the resort is located there are quite a few food options, most offering BBQ dishes. I choose the first one on that section of the road – Welcome Seafood BBQ. As I was not really hungry I just ordered the Seafood Banh Xeo. I really love this Vietnamese pancake dish, though I haven’t had a good one like at Bale Well in Hoi An for a while. So with some hope I was looking forward, and unfortunately was slightly disappointed. I prefer the Banh Xeo a bit crispy, but this one was a bit too soft, like it was slightly undercooked. However, the filling was actually very nice.

After the light dinner I decided I need a drink. On the way I saw a little bar which would have been an obvious stop, but when arrivingI saw a sign for an Art Bar called “Goca Bar”. Curious about the concept I went there. And gosh, it was a great choice. This is not just a bar, but also a little gallery. So while having a drink you can walk around and see the work of several artist. Add the great settings of chairs and the bar itself – and you have a beautiful bar. They have a nice cocktail list, and you can see quite a few fresh ingredients on the counter. They really care for all components of the drinks. I had a Coconut Island Cocktail. First, the presentation was amazing. And more important – it was delicious. The staff there is very nice and chatty, so I somehow managed to stay there for a while. I cannot recommend this bar enough. Go there if you stay in this area. Worth a taxi ride as well. Here is a review of the bar.

The next day was an early start for me One reason to visit Phu Quoc was the chance to do some Scuba Diving. I really missed it and haven’t done it since visiting Egypt. So why not doing it here. I choose Flipper Dive centre and after numerous messages going back and forth, I was told to be on Mango Beach by 8:45. This gave me time to try the breakfast included. They offer a selection of eggs (boiled, fried and omelette), pancakes, noodle soup, a selection of hot dishes like fried rice, toast, jam & cheese and salad. Good chance to have a Banh Mi Opla and a Ca Phe Su Da. Great way to start the day.

It takes between 10 and 15 minutes to walk from the hotel to Mango beach, and I must admit, the beach looks lovely. it is rather small, but it is clean and seeing the amount of palm trees there makes it a nice place to stay. And from this beach I was picked up. I will cover this part of the trip in the next entry though.

At around 2pm I was dropped off on Mango Beach. So instead of walking back to the resort I decided to stay on the beach to relax a little bit. Three resorts are located along this beach. The first one is the Mango Beach Resort, that offers sun loungers and has a lovely beach restaurant. But as I didn’t want to spend any money for only 2 hours I just made myself comfortable on the sand. Who needs a loungers if you can go straight into the water. The water can be a bit shallow here, but the water is clear and clean, and it was great to just swim a little bit or just float for a while. A German couple I met on the dive boat stayed on the beach as well, so it was nice to continue to talk. I have nae idea what it is, but being on a beach next to the sea is just so much fun, relaxing and enjoyable. And yes, a little nap on the sand is nice as well.

After a couple of hours I decided it is time for a drink so I headed to the Beach Restaurant of the resort. Just being 5 metres away while sitting comfortable in the shade and ordering a Mango Smoothie and enjoying the view – can life be any better? Yes, the prices here are not cheap, but you pay for the comfort and for the view. I really liked that place.

Being a bit tired I didn’t wait for the full Sunset and headed back to the hotel to have a quick dip in the pool, relax a bit in the room (diving and relaxing on a beach makes me tired!!!). A little bit earlier than last night I headed out to find a place to have dinner. I had a look at the selection of some of the restaurant, but for some reason I decided to stop at Quan Cat restaurant. I think the clean look and the selection was a reason for that. it turned out the staff is very lovely the fried snapper with rice was absolute delicious (in the end I didn’t choose anything from the BBQ section…). Also, their red dragon fruit smoothie was very nice as well.  To ensure dinner wasn’t boring there was suddenly a power cut in the area – so the various members of the family walked around with the torches on their phone switched on to help their customers to continue eating Life in Vietnam is certainly never boring….

 

As a plus point I met another German couple there as well (yes, it seems most guests in the area are from Russia – or Germany. We met a few more times over the next few days. We actually only realised after a day later that were bungalow neighbours at the Dragon resort. Small world.

After dinner I returned to the Goca bar as a DJ was playing all night long. And it was certainly much busier than the previous night, all tables were full. While ordering the African Dance Cocktail (very tasty once again) someone tabbed me on my shoulder, and it was Johannes, the German from the dive boat. he was there with his girl friend and the Danish manager of the homestay they stayed (whose owner owns the bar as well) and a few more people. I joined them and had a great evening with nice music, good drinks (unfortunately they run out of the new Phu Quoc Beer) and great company. This is something I love about travelling, you meet a lot of interesting  people. And you find gems like Goca bar. The manager of the bar actually made one of his own creation cocktails – with rum, ginger and cucumber juice. A very interesting combination with too much ginger for me. But again, nice to try something new. So after finishing my second night in a row here, I can officially say that I love that bar!!!

However, there was one downside of the evening, it suddenly rained heavily. As I planned to go diving again the following day I got a very bad feeling.

The next morning I had to get up even earlier (and that on a Sunday – sacrilege) as I had to be at the dive centre by 8am. So quick breakfast and as promised a taxi was waiting for me by 7:40. The dive centre was near the pier in Duong Dung, so the journey was not too long. But I was certainly surprised to realise that we were suddenly driving on the landing strip of the old airport. I know the Vietnamese like to drive fast – but that fast???).

I was actually the first person arriving at the dive cnetre, but soon the others arrived. I always say the world is a village – and it was proven once again. One of the other divers was from Germany, and he is living in Cologne. Actually, he lives in the same district I lived previously!!!

But unfortunately my worst fears were confirmed. Due to the rain the conditions south of Phu Quoc were not good, so the centre decided not to go there. instead they decided to go back to Turtle Island. As I have been there the day before I decided not to dive with them today. While I was disappointed the centre was very good and open, so there was no issue. And they even offered me to drop me off Mango Beach on their way to the northern dive site. So at least I could enjoy a short morning boat ride.

For some reasons I decided to had back to the hotel first to drop of my dive gear, and just 2 hours after leaving the hotel for the first time I was heading back to the beach. The beach section s actually split into 2 sections here. The first one is Mango Beach, the other one is Coco Pal Beach (named after the resort here). As I have seen Mango Beach I decided to have a look at Coco Palm Beach, which was around the same distance to walk.

Coco Palm beach is a bit longer than Mango Beach, with a mix of Palm trees and other trees. It actually looks very nice. Straight next to the public road there are a number of sun loungers you can rent for 100.000 Dong. However, the Coco Palm Resort seems to undergo some renovation. The beach restaurant was close and you could hear the renovation work and more importantly, smell it. So while the beach was nice for a walk, I had no desire to stay there. At the northern part of the beach, however, is a section for guests of Mango beach Resort, and I was advised that I can rent a lounger at the beach restaurant. So crossing the whole resort (with quite a few bungalows and several some beach section – it really looks lovely) I was back at the spot I was dropped off earlier.

The price per lounger is 150.000 Dong, but unfortunately those without parasol were available. I choose one close to the water, which turned out to be a bad idea. Did I get some shade in the beginning, the shade disappeared very quickly. So I was roasted alive. Though I got some nice view and was able to rest, sleep and go for swim. Yes, life can be hard, I know.

For lunch I went to the beach restaurant. Thanks to the shade and the breeze coming from the sea it was once again lovely to sit here. Their menu is quite nice, with a mix of Western and Vietnamese dishes. For lunch they also offer sandwiches, burgers and wraps. I ordered the Caesars Salad Wrap – and it was a good choice. It was not the small portion I expected but actually three medium size wraps served with sauce, cheese and bacon. Having this with Da Chanh was the perfect lunch. I was certainly happy. I really felt like being in paradise.

After lunch I was thankfully able to swap lounger and getting more shade (not for too long though) and I continued to be very lazy – just sleeping, relaxing and swimming. I didn’t even find the energy to open my book. I interrupted this laziness just to walk along the beach to stretch my legs and see the other resorts there. Some of them had also some nice beach side bungalows and pool, but the beach there was not as nice as on Mango Beach Resort. But don’t get me wrong, the beach was still beautiful, with some nice photo opportunities.

Enjoying the last hour day I took the opportunity for more swimming and headed out to the small wooden platform that the resort has installed in the sea. Sitting there yu have a great view of the beach and sea. It really is so peaceful.

I really enjoyed the day on the beach – and as a fitting end I enjoyed the sunset from the beach, seeing the sun getting closer and closer to the sea. I was waiting to hear the sun boiling the water.

For dinner I went back to Quan Cat restaurant. This time I decided to try their BBQ and got fresh squid, marinated octopus and large prawns plus garlic bread. Oh, how much do I love seafood. It was really good. After that treat I just ordered some seafood salad that was fresh, tasty and cold. The food here is indeed very good. You can order from the BBQ area or from the menu. You will not be disappointed.

I also met the German couple again, and we stayed a bit longer at the restaurant to have a chat, until we realised that they actually wanted to close the restaurant. It was later than expected. And while we headed back to the hotel (realising now that they stayed at the bungalow next door) I realised the good sense of humour of the Vietnamese. There was a the big sing next to a store “24h Shop”. It seems a day has more than 24h on the island, as it was once again closed by 22:30.

And yes, I managed to finish the day without any alcohol and enjoyed going to bed very early. Being on holiday is just too exhausting….

Recommendation

  • Visit Goca bar on Ong Lang beach. It is a beautiful bar with great cocktails, friendly staff and a nice vibe
  • Quan Ca restaurant is a nice place for dinner. order from the BBQ section or the menu. I highly recommend the fried snapper with mango sauce. Delicious
  • While renovation of Coco Palm Beach resort is ongoing, I would prefer the Mango Beach Resort for a beach stay. Get one of the loungers in the second row underneath the tree for more shade
  • The Beach Restaurant of Mango Beach Resort is a great place for lunch or just a drink. Comfortable with a nice view. Though prices are certainly high here.

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