There are some places on Earth where you arrive and click! it’s instant Holiday Mode on. The soreness after hours crouched on the plane magically disappears, your eyes adjust to the sunny brightness…and the island vibes creep up on you with a relaxing feel.
This is exactly what happened to us upon landing in Phu Quoc, the beautiful Vietnamese island an hour flight away from Saigon- and less than two from Hanoi- bathed in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
We were pretty fed up with airplane and airport food after the trip from Dubai via Bangkok- so after dropping our luggage at our beachfront bungalow we decided to splurge on our first meal on the island, and give Spice House at the beautiful Cassia Cottage property a try (as in fill the table with seafood!)
Ok, being sleep deprived and overstimulated by the beauty of the place makes you over-order. So for the two of us we were being a bit extra! Green papaya and shrimp salad, steamed barracuda Khmer-style, a coconut filled with chef’s special curry and seafood fried rice- think we also ordered some cinnamon okra and stir-fried tofu!
Sunset was happening, we wanted to take pictures but also dig in the steaming plates…and my snapshot just shows how I could barely contain myself!
During our stay on the island our favorite resorts were definitely Cassia Cottage at Long Beach, and Mango Bay Resort at Ong Lang Beach. The Spice House at Cassia (pictured!) and On The Rocks restaurant at Mango Bay- with their worth-to-remember Nem Cua- crab spring rolls- our ultimate recommendation for a superb meal in a dreamy setting.
In the evening we went for a stroll at the Dinh Cau Night Market– here we bought our first Vietnamese cone hats and a couple of socialist-red T-shirts with the national flag or Lenin’s favorite, the proletarian symbols of the sickle and the hammer, which reminded me of my childhood in communist Romania.
Most stalls close by 10 pm, along with the many seafood restaurants- we stopped to gape at the giant open aquariums that line every entrance of the fish shacks- the waiter follows you with a basket so you can choose every possible kind of live sea creature and have it cooked to your liking- including baby sharks, eels, frogs, sea urchins, snakes, giant clams and creepy centipede-looking shrimps. Dip everything in Phu Quoc-famous fish sauce, the aromatic, amber-hued condiment made exclusively from locally sourced anchovies- fermented Rice Fish feeding on the plankton-rich island waters.
If there is a wild party scene on the island we didn’t find it- a few rooftop pubs where you can chill with a cocktail- the rowdiest crowd was hyped up on Russian karaoke, and we had to call it a pass because we didn’t know the lyrics!
You’ll be pretty tired anyway from exploring the island’s beautiful beaches, visiting the temples, the colorful markets – so before dinner we’d always try to squeeze in a relaxing massage- sticking mostly to a foot reflex due to my friend’s hilarious experience with a therapist nicknamed The Cyborg : one iron-clad arm which cracked her back to the point of making her walk around back bent like a question mark !
Read on for my Phu Quoc Best Beaches Guide !