Journey To & Annoying Travel Agency
My flight to Phu Quoc, was at 6am and took less than an hour. When I arrived in Phu Quoc airport, there were a few representative booths for different hotels. Since my hotel included a free airport transfer, I assumed there would be a booth for them as well. But walking around, I couldn’t find them.
I eventually called them to ask, and they said they would send the car to the airport to pick me up. The practice was suppose to be, that I informed them before hand of my flight details, so the vehicle would be at the airport when I arrived.
Since I had to wait, I ordered a cup of overpriced coffee, and sat at the cafe outside the airport. From here, I started getting conflicting and annoying calls from the tour agency I had booked a day tour with. Since 8am would’ve been too early to check into my hotel, I had gone ahead to sign up for a day tour, so I could leave my bags at the hotel, and at least go around on a boat.
The calls first started as confirmation that I had arrived, and was still doing the tour – from 2 different people in the same agency. Then I got a call from person A again, saying that today, the tour had to be cancelled because the police wasn’t allowing boats out. But then later I got a call from person B, saying they would pick me at 9am. Naturally, I would’ve assumed that the tour was back on.
At this point, the vehicle had arrived, and I was on my way to the hotel. I had chosen one quite close to the airport, away from the main centre, so it was a quick ride. When I reached, I checked-in and got changed into something more appropriate for a wet day tour. Then I waited… and I waited.
9am came and went, and then I got a call from person B again, but this time, also saying that the police weren’t letting boats out today, and asked me to change my tour to the next day. This “police” thing, later turned out to be a lie, which annoyed me when I found out. But at that point of time, I was really looking forward to being out on a boat, so I agreed to change it to the next day.
So then, I just spent a bit of time walking around the hotel, had coconut at the hotel cafe, and waited till my room was ready.
Quite happily, just before 11am, my room was ready, and they allowed me to go up. The room was excellent! I had chosen a slightly pricier room, cos I wanted this to be purely for relaxation and re-energising myself.
Since I hadn’t slept the night before (waiting at the airport), I was pretty exhausted and after a shower, and climbing into bed, I must’ve dozed off quite quickly. I woke around 2pm, feeling hungry, yet still feeling lazy. So I ordered room service, and went back to sleep again – feeling very content.
A Very Quiet Night In
I woke up again around 7pm. Just one night of not sleeping had screwed up my body clock quite a bit – including my appetite. I remember when I first woke, I was wondering if it was evening, or the next morning.
Since my hotel was in a more remote place, there really wasn’t much to see around the hotel. Also, not having familiarised myself with the area in daylight, I didn’t feel comfortable walking about in the dark – there weren’t much street lights leading up the to main road. So I decided to just hang around the hotel.
I first went to the lounge for a cocktail, then to the pool area. Since it was Monday, and also the off-peak season for travelling, the hotel was pretty bare. I don’t think I spent much time out of the room. I was soon back, and went back to sleep.
Morning & Red River Tours
I was up before 6am the next day. I stood on the balcony, waiting to see the sunrise. It took me about an hour, before I realised I was facing West. It was the first time I was on the coast of Vietnam without seeing a sunrise, so it confused me. I had breakfast at the hotel, then waited for the tour office to pick me up. Since I was in the Southern part of the island, where the tour was, I was the last to be picked up.
The first stop was at the tour office, where we sized up our flippers and life jacket for use on the trip. This just took about 30 mins, then we headed off.
Ngọc Trai Ngọc Hiền | Ngoc Hien Pearl Farm (On Tour)
We got back on the bus once we’ve picked out flippers and life jackets, and the first place we went to, was a Pearl Farm. On almost all tours you go on, you know that you’re being brought to a place that offers a kick-back to the tour agencies, and I was sure that this was one of those. But unlike other places I normally get brought too, at least here, I still felt it was still something I got to see and learn that I hadn’t before.
Within the building, you first get a little lesson explaining about pearls, oysters and the coral fossils – including how to tell a real pearl from a fake one. Something that is always handy to know. From here we then got to walk through their production place, where we got to see how they make all the pieces – by hand. At the end, you walk through their shop, to exit. Although a lot of the pieces and jewellery were very nice, as someone who had no frame of comparison, I didn’t know if I was in for a good deal. So I didn’t buy anything.
It is easy to notice how in every other parts, there is always a specific amount of time you spend, but at the shops, they give you as much time as you need.
Snorkelling & Around the Southern Islands (On Tour)
We then got back on the bus, and headed to the pier – Cảng An Thới marina. Here we got changed into into some more appropriate for getting wet, the got onto our boat. Since this part of the journey was around water, I had to put my phone away, and only relied on my camera for photos. Without my phone, I also wasn’t sure exactly where we were at any of the many snorkelling stops.
The first place we went to, was a little rock formation out of the sea. You could climb and walk around it, and there were many people there who were taking selfies. There are some shallow pools you could wade through too.
I should point out, I am not that good with the water. I can’t swim, and I have a fear (maybe not quite phobia) of the sea. I have always known I am a by-the-sea person. Not an in-the-sea or on-the-sea person.
We then went for snorkelling. I attempted the first one. Got into the sea, and tried my best to stay calm. Within seconds, I had swallowed a lot of water – since I was never sure when the end of my snorkel was under water. Then, I dropped my camera – but thankfully the boat captain was able to dive under and grab it out of the water. The last straw, was when the tide pushed me towards the rocks, and when my leg brushed past on of them, I was so sure it was a shark. That was all I could take, and I got back out.
The next snorkelling point, I just went from the boat, straight onto some rocks by the shore, and stayed there while the rest of my group went ahead with into the sea. I did also get sick at one point – the combination of having swallowed a lot of water, with the choppy waves, didn’t agree with me.
After this, we made a little stop back on shore. In a laid-back rest area, where you could get some drinks. I wasn’t feeling too good, so I decided against consuming anything, and just laid down on the hammocks – which always feels good. We probably spent about 30 mins here, before heading back out on the boat.
We stopped at one last snorkelling point. This time I just stayed at the boat, but I kinda regretted it a little. Cos the rest of the people in my group who went under, said this was the most beautiful spot.
Lunch on a Floating Restaurant (On Tour)
Lunch was served at a floating restaurant. It’s funny how if I were paying, I’d be annoyed that I was stuck/forced to buy from a specific restaurant, but when lunch is provided, I’m quite happy to accept wherever I ate.
The lunch was really good.. one of the better ones I’ve had while on a tour. It also gave everyone a chance to talk and get to know each other, which was nice.
I was very aware that I had been sick earlier, and since we still had a short boat ride back to the big island, I didn’t want to risk it and eat too much. I wandered around the floating restaurant after, looking at the nets that held the fish – some of which were really big. I’m assuming the big ones are kept for special occasions, for large groups of people.
World’s Longest Cable Car (On Tour)
After lunch, we hopped back on the boat, and headed back to the marina on the main island. We then got back on the bus to the cable car station, which had a roman colosseum theme about it. Our guide got our tickets, and we were on our way.
At almost 8 kilometres, this is the longest cable car in the world, at this time. The cars were quite big, enough to take the whole group. They were also really comfortable. You could walk around without the whole car swaying.
The journey itself, was great too – with spectacular views. There is something within me, that makes me more comforted when a cable car is going over water, than on land. Maybe I just feel that dropping into water, the water would act as a cushion – although I know this is not true.
It was also odd to suddenly be caught in some rain, midway through the journey. Cos I could still see the clear skies at the departure point, and the arrival point. It was just raining in between.
Sunworld Beach Hòn Thơm (On Tour)
The cable car only took about 15/20 mins, before reaching Hon Thom island. This time, the cable car had a more balinese / pacific island feel about it. From the cable car station, we had to take an electric tram to the beach. The whole area is a large amusement park, but it was new, and most attractions were still under construction.
The beach was amazing. It was surely sculpted, and well maintained. There were a lot of people there too, most just to take photos. The usual way society seems to have moved these days – it is more important to be seen having fun, then to actually have fun.
I got myself a pepsi drink, and laid down on one of many large hammocks around the beach. It was a really hot day though, so I could only enjoy it for about 30 mins, before I needed to get away from the sun.
I did a quick walk around in the sand (just for the sake of it), before heading back to the sheltered area. You still got a pretty good view of the beach from here, and it was much cooler. I just continued to enjoy my drink, and waited for the rest of my group to be done. I think my introversion was in full gear at this point, and I was just looking forward to the tour being over.
One of them in my group, was a clothes’ merchant, so she spent a lot of time taking photos in various outfits. I couldn’t even imagine how exhausting that must be – to change into 10 different outfits in just an hour, taking multiple photos each time.
Heading Back (On Tour)
After just an hour, we were done, and started heading back to the main island. Once at the main island, we spent some time taking photos around the “Roman Colosseum” while waiting for our bus. and being dropped back at our hotels. I was really glad I had picked a hotel in the South, which meant I’d be the first to alight.
Recovering By The Pool
I reached back at my hotel just before 6pm. Without even going back up to my room, I headed straight to the swimming pool, and went in. As mentioned earlier, I can’t swim, but I can float on my back a little, and just being able soak in the pool was more than enough for me.
After a day of sun, sea, and salt – being in a swimming pool is just the best feeling!
I also caught the best sunset in my life. This moment – became the highlight of my trip. It became quite evident to me, it was this that I would want in my everyday life. A day spent doing lots of things, but having something at home that was relaxing and something simple yet beautiful to see.
I spent an hour on the deck chair by the pool, just staring out at the ocean till the last rays of twilight were gone.
I then went to the hotel restaurant for dinner, where I saw Cobia on the menu. Since I had only seen the fish for the first time earlier at the floating restaurant. I decided to give it a go.
After dinner, it was back to the room, a nice shower, and fell asleep as soon as I was in bed.
A Wet & Lazy Morning
Woke up this morning to a stormy day. It was pouring, and the winds were strong. I had breakfast at the hotel, then sat outside, just watching the rain. The winds meant I still got a little wet under shelter, but it was nice.
My body was aching a little after the physical day I had the day before. My mind was exhausted too.. just from being around people too much. So I decided to just have a quiet, alone day with myself.
Walk To City Centre
At 4pm, the rain had stopped. It was my last day in Phu Quoc, and I felt I should go out to see some things. The city centre – where the river meets the sea, was about 5 km away. Since it had been a pretty cool day, I decided to walk from my hotel to there. Plus it gave me a chance to see more.
The walk took about an hour. I couldn’t tell if the many closed shops, were because it was an off-day (weekday), off-season, or just too early in the evening. When I reached the edge of the night market in the city centre, I stopped at a cafe to get a coffee and catch my breath first.
The night market just teeming with seafood restaurants, and stalls along the way that sold ice cream, drinks, fruit juice. Everything that would make the humid evenings bearable. Even with the food, you could choose to eat at restaurants – some of which had tables right by the river, or from street vendors and eat as you walk. As with any night market, you will be approached by staff in front of all the restaurants, carrying menus and inviting you in to eat.
I didn’t buy anything to eat in the night market though. Firstly, cos I wasn’t much of a seafood fan. Secondly, I had already set my mind up to get some Indian food at a restaurant I saw along the way. It had been weeks since I had some spicy food.
After walking once through all the different streets and alleys of the night market, I headed back the way I came. Just until the Indian restaurant, where I ordered some takeaway, then took a cab back to my hotel to eat, pack, and go to sleep.
This was one of my better trips in Vietnam. I’m sure it is partly to do with the other places I was in, leading up to here – Like Da Lat, which I completely hated (the fact I wanted to explicitly mention this again here, shows just how much unhappiness I still have towards that city). The other aspect is that this time I chose a much nicer hotel to stay in too, which had amazing views. The last thing was the tour I signed up. This definitely was one of the best tours I had been on (lying about police not letting boats out aside). So all of this combined, I really enjoyed my time in Phu Quoc.
Writing this and looking at the map though, I’m very aware just how little of the island I had seen. The north looks to have a few more nice places to see, and I would definitely want to go there again. Hopefully stay for a week the next time, and rent my own motorbike.
Another thing I can try to suggest, is that the south islands too, has a lot more to see than just the spots my tour went too. A lot of beaches, restaurants, etc. So if you are travelling in a big enough group, getting your own boat (just a small one), would probably be a better choice.