Cutest Dog in Vietnam: Phu Quoc Ridgeback

By: City Pass Guide

The cutest dog in Vietnam, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, is the native dog breed of Phu Quoc Island. They are hunting dogs and the only breed of dogs with their roots in Vietnam.

When you come to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam, you will definitely see the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks around. They are everywhere, and they have absolutely no regard for the traffic whatsoever.

When you enter a farmstead, be it a pepper farm or any other area where families live, the dogs bark loud to raise the attention of their owner. They also get up to meet you, sometimes in teams.

But the Phu Quoc Ridgebacks are a friendly dog breed. Once they see that they can’t bully you, it’s easy to make friends with them. And they are smarter than most of the other breeds I encountered so far, except for pugs maybe.

 

The typical features of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback are long legs, spotted tongue and a sword-shaped ridge on it’s back. When the dog is on alert, the ridge, which is hair that grows in the opposite direction of the rest of the fur, stands up, making the Phu Quoc dog look braver and stronger. The webbed feet allow the Vietnamese dog to swim and run faster than many other breeds. They can also jump very high and even climb trees.

Since the friendly dogs got worldwide attention, breeders got interested into setting up a recognized standard. There are only estimated to be 700 pure-blooded specimen worldwide, most of them in Vietnam of course. If you are getting around on Phu Quoc Island, most dogs you see are mixed breeds.

Phu Quoc Ridgeback Tongue

According to the older generation, there are four traditional colors of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback: spotted, black, yellow, and striped. Nowadays there are more colors because the dog has been cross-bred. Finding a pure-blooded dog is hard and can be quite expensive. It can also be very difficult to import dogs from Vietnam. The most valued colors are pure black and pure yellow.

The Phu Quoc Ridgeback is one of three dog breeds in the world that has a ridgeback. There is the Thai Ridgeback and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Our best friend, the Vietnamese Phu Quoc Ridgeback, is the smallest of the three and typically reaches between 20 and 25 kilograms. In the past, they were used for hunting, carting, and as escort and guard dogs.

They are very intelligent and curious and since they love to learn, they can easily be trained, if there is a good and stable relationship with their human based on mutual trust.

The girl in the front meets the most valued standards of the breed, even if she is not a pure-blooded specimen. Her husband however, is a mix of Phu Quoc Ridgeback and German Shepherd. The only standard he inherited is the spotted tongue. The two don’t care much, neither do their owners. They just love each other.

Even though I had a Spaniel as a child, I usually don’t get warm with dogs easily. I am more a cat type of person, because I grew up with them and they taught me the meaning of consequences among other things. But I am afraid the friendly openness and the playfulness of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback stole my heart.

If you would like to read more about Phu Quoc Island, make sure to check out some of our other articles here:
Boat Tour to the Southern Archipelago
Pacifying the gourmet-monster at Salinda Restaurant on Phu Quoc Island
Complete Travel Guide for Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam

 


The Archipelagos of Hai Tac, Ba Lua and Nam Du

By: Fabrice Turri

If you’re passing through the Mekong Delta, make a detour and head for the archipelagos off the Ha Tien coast, about 350 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Less known than Phu Quoc (South Vietnam’s largest island), the archipelagos of Hai Tac, Ba Lua and Nam Du have retained their wilderness charm. Should hotels be unavailable it is easy to find accommodation in private homes – a rustic formula for those addicted to authenticity.

Hai Tac

The coastline is one hour away by boat – you can smell it in the fragrant sea air.

Crabs, sand, swaying coconut trees: This spot is idyllic, perfect to relax and insulate oneself from the sometimes oppressive din of the big city. Upon arrival, children’s stares suggest that only a few Western tourists come to this place.

Located in the province of Kien Giang, the Hai Tac Archipelago – or archipelago of pirates – includes 16 islands whose largest is Doc Hon. It is located 27.5 km from the coast of Ha Tien and 40 km from Phu Quoc island.

At the end of the 17th century, the rugged archipelago was a base for pirates who attacked the larger Chinese and European commercial boats. The Hai Tac Archipelago was indeed the perfect location to hide and attack ships, with its advantageous position along the broad outlines of maritime trade in the region. Of course, today the pirates are long gone, and the lone residents are local fishermen and military personnel.

Photoby: vnphoto.net

I must say that, in this region, the memory of bloody raids perpetrated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge is still fresh. Far away on the surrounding hills, you can see a few barracks, an indication that the border with neighbouring Cambodia is very close.

The quiet atmosphere is relaxing, though we can imagine that beneath regular rolling waves crashing on the rocks, terrible storms can occur.
Today, however, the sea is stretching to the horizon and the sun is shining in a dim and pleasant purple light. The water is clean, warm and transparent. On the rocks, it’s easy to catch snails, oysters, crabs and clams.

Some people might complain that there are no tourist services, but this is another reason to enjoy this place. For sleeping, it’s possible to stay at fishermen’s houses. Indeed, many locals offer lodging for a reasonable price. Alternatively, you can come equipped with your own hammocks, tents and flashlights.

Hon Dau by: phuquocsensettravel

Other islands to visit include those of Ba Lua, a collection of 45 large and small islands in the territorial waters of Kien Luong District, also off the coast of Ha Tien.

According to local belief, Ba Lua was the name of a beautiful Sino-Vietnamese woman who once lived in Ha Tien and whose Western husband succumbed to her charm and agreed to buy her this heavenly place.

Dotted with numerous caves, Ba Lua is home to 2300 people spread over 10 islands. The vast majority of islands, with peaks at nearly 100 meters high, are uninhabited.

Ba Lua is rung by shallow waters and rarely encounters strong winds. The archipelago is quite suitable for tourists who enjoy nautical travel on small boats. Fishing vessels are actually the only possible means of transportation to visit the surrounding area.

Tien Cave is a must-see, a masterpiece of nature. Winding between towering walls carved by erosion, this 150-metre-long cave leads to a nice sandy beach.

Finally, if you have the time (and energy), you can visit Nam Du Archipelago, more distant, located 90 km west of Rach Gia City.

Photo by: Doigiay

Accessible by boat, the Nam Du Archipelago is a little corner of paradise. It includes 21 islands that feature beautiful, sandy beaches.

The largest island, Cu Tron, measures 9 km2 and the smallest, Hon Lo, is only 200 m2!

Wild and relatively unknown, Nam Du is a place where few tours are organized, and as such it will delight adventurous travellers.

Nam Du by dulichluhanh

Practical Information:

You can buy a bus ticket at Mien Tay bus station in Saigon (395 Kinh Duong Vuong Street, Tan Binh District) to go to Ha Tien or Rach Gia.

At Ha Tien, tourists can take a boat to go to Hai Tac. The journey, which lasts an hour, costs about VND40,000 per person.

The boat leaves Ha Tien at 09:30 and returns at 15:00 daily. It’s also possible to go to Hai Tac from Rach Gia by hydrofoil. A single ticket costs about VND70,000 per person and takes between 40 and 60 minutes.

The journey from Ba Lua Archipelago to Ha Tien also takes about an hour. I went there by fishing boat with a group of 10 people. We paid VND120,000 each.

Nam Du Archipelago is a 3-hour trip from the harbour at Rach Gia. The price is about VND270,000 per person.

Header photo by: Doigiay


Best Attractions in Phu Quoc Island

By: Mervin Lee

Phu Quoc island has long been known as one of the best up-and-coming tropical beach resort destinations in Asia, often nicknamed the Phuket of Vietnam. Interest in Phu Quoc has been increasing year-on-year, resulting in improvement of amenities and infrastructure which has made it a beautiful destination now comparable to any mature resort island in Thailand or the Philippines.

To help make your holiday planning a breeze, our investigators at City Pass Guide have put together a quick and easy list of fun-filled locations you can visit while on the island.

Khai Hoan Fish Sauce Factory

Contrary to popular belief, your olfactory system will not be assaulted brutally by this somewhat strange but essential visit in Phu Quoc; in fact, we personally felt that the maturation room at Khai Hoan fish sauce factory was quite fragrant in an organic manner. Bright red and blue coloured boats are also docked right beside the factory, making the location highly picturesque and Instagram-worthy beyond noon when the factory’s anchovy fishermen return from work. The factory also sports a showroom where guests can purchase fish sauce, and if that’s not your cup of tea, there’s plenty of other sea produce such as dried anchovies and shrimp up for sale at highly reasonable prices.

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Hon Thom Cable Car

Although somewhat touristy at first sight, this Phu Quoc cable car ride, at more than 8 kilometres long, is amongst the longest in the world and spans four islands while offering stunning views at just VND200,000 for a return trip. The ride itself connects Phu Quoc’s main island to Hon Thom, or “pineapple island”, which is currently being developed as an entertainment complex and resort. A wide-angle lens is highly recommended for this experience!

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Phu Quoc Night Market

No holiday island is complete without a convincing night market filled with food and drink. At Phu Quoc’s Night Market, located in the main stretch of Duong Dong town, you’ll find numerous seafood restaurants and snack stalls in an area where motorbikes are restricted from entering after 5 pm daily; walking suddenly becomes a comfortable experience in Vietnam! Apart from Vietnamese dishes, the night market is also famous for a peculiar foreign delicacy. Known as Chouchou, these caramelised peanuts were introduced to Phu Quoc by a French-Moroccan man in the late 2000s and the snack has since become a must-try on the island. Beyond classic flavours such as salted caramel, Vietnamese-inspired flavours like Phu Quoc pepper, Vietnamese shrimp salt and chilli butter make these tiny devils an enjoyable bout of calorie-filled self-torture; ‘once you pop, you just can’t stop’!

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Dinh Cau Shrine and Dinh Cau beach

Purportedly first built in the 16th or 17th Century, Dinh Cau Shrine sits on an interestingly shaped rock formation at the tip of Dinh Cau Beach and has had its current structure since the late 1930s. Fishermen come to pray at the shrine for protection and safety before embarking on their fishing trips, which are often rocky and dangerous.

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Ba Thuy Long Thanh Mau Temple and Bach Dang Park

Located very near to Dinh Cau shrine, this temple may be small but is highly ornate with numerous intricate dragon carvings and both a colourful exterior and interior. Ba Thuy Long Thanh Mau Temple is said to have been built by Chinese immigrants more than 150 years ago. Located right across the road from the temple is Bach Dang Park, where one can also visit a pier to get up close and personal with the island’s fishermen and boats.

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Phu Quoc Prison

Phu Quoc Prison was first built by French colonialists and later refurbished by American army engineers to incarcerate North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War. It has now been recommissioned by the Vietnamese government as a rather disturbing museum; the prison’s original cell blocks, multiple layers of barbed wire and mock-ups of inhumane torture can be viewed by tourists as they walk around the prison site. Definitely one for warfare and history buffs.

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Phu Quoc Pepper Farms

Phu Quoc pepper has been long renowned as some of the best in Asia. In fact, Vietnam is also the largest black pepper exporter in the world, accounting for more than 30% of global production annually. Visiting these farms while getting a chance to taste and buy dried peppercorns is an easy and educational experience, as numerous plantations are located along the DT47 provincial road that connects Dong Duong town to Ham Ninh fishing village. Most of these farms are also not pushy with sales and are more than happy to allow visitors to explore the farms freely without an entry free.

attractions in phu quocImage source: Mervin Lee

Location

Bun Quay Kien Xay Phu Quoc

This seafood vermicelli institution has been a long-standing point of pilgrimage for eager locals for several decades. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t visit as a foreigner. Though not originally a Phu Quoc specialty, the dish was imported to the island in the mid 1950s and has thus been transformed with local ingredients into what we consider truly unique to the island. The rice noodle’s irresistibly soft yet firm texture is not a result of any family secrets; fresh dough is extruded right into a boiling pot of water with a vermicelli maker on-location. The resultant noodle is served with light, savoury soup alongside fish cake, shrimp paste and squid. It’s true secret? A highly addictive dipping sauce made with the island’s celebrated fish sauce.

Video source: Ký Sự Miền Tây

Location

Phu Quoc National Park

Phu Quoc National Park is unique for several reasons. It is one of the few national parks in asia to feature both forest and sea, protecting wildlife from a vast range of distinct habitats. The park is in fact part also part of a larger entity known as the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO designated site and a biologically sensitive area with endangered aquatic species such as the dugong, hawksbill turtle and more than 1000 species of tropical forest and mangrove trees. Beyond nature, the park is also home to two historical sites and picturesque hiking trails.

attractions in phu quocImage source: dusitjourney.com

Location

Ho Quoc Pagoda

Built in 2012, Ho Quoc Pagoda is the largest buddhist monastery on the island. The impressive structure overlooks the north-eastern coast of Phu Quoc island and features a large statue of Avalokitesvara, who is often known as Quan Am, Lady Buddha or simply the Goddess of Mercy in most of Asia. The most interesting feature located in the main atrium of the temple grounds is perhaps an elaborate list of examples of buddhist karmic cause and effect complete with comic illustrations, demonstrating how acts of vanity, greed, evil and neglect of other fellow human beings in need of help can result in one being inflicted with similar problems later in life.

attractions in phu quocImage source: phuquoc-vietnam.info

Location

Bonus: Beautiful Beaches in Phu Quoc island

We were hesitant to include this entry on the list because of the possibility of stating the obvious. One important tip to note: beaches facing the Gulf of Thailand (off the western coast) are clearer during the first half of the year and the inner beaches facing peninsular Vietnam (eastern coast) are clearer in the second half. Starfish Beach and Sao Beach happen to be our favourites.

attractions in phu quocImage source: pioneertravel.com.vn

Banner Image source: Mervin Lee


Fishing Villages on Phu Quoc Island

By: City Pass Guide

Fishing Villages on Phu Quoc Island

During our stay on Phu Quoc Island, we visited several fishing villages or towns. Some of them are quite big and central, Duong Dong for example. Others are just tiny assemblies of houses and boats.

Ham Ninh Fishing Village

Most group tours to Phu Quoc Island include a visit at Ham Ninh fishing village, which is located at the east coast of the island. The most famous attraction at Ham Ninh is the nightly fishing tour in pursuit of delicious squid. Reviews say that tourists usually don’t catch any squid, but that’s okay since the crew is fishing as well. They prepare the catch right there on the boat, for a nice late dinner on the waves.

Ham Ninh Fishing Village 

But also during the day Ham Ninh is a picturesque place to visit. At the pier you get swarmed by children selling starfish they collected in the shallow sea. If you follow the pier, you see the water gradually getting deeper until it reaches a depth where the smaller fishing vessels are moored.

The restaurants to the right and left side of the pier offer seafood. However, I would advise not to touch that stuff, because it must have been the plate of crabs, when I caught a nasty infection that plagued me for several weeks.

starfish 

An Thoi Town

An Thoi is a small town at the southernmost end of Phu Quoc Island. It is the biggest fishing harbor of the area and it’s possible to moor large vessels and even container ships in the protected bay. An Thoi is the starting point of many scuba diving and snorkeling trips to the southern archipelago. You can read more about such a trip right here: Boat Tour on Phu Quoc Island: The Southern Archipelago.

 

Duong Dong Town

Duong Dong town is the biggest settlement on Phu Quoc Island and of course there is a fishing harbor. The town is, strictly spoken, not a fishing village, but it’s interesting to visit Cau Temple and witness fishermen or their wives burning incense sticks for the goddess of the sea before they head for the open ocean. You can sample seafood and the sometimes quite bizarre catch of the day at the famous night market of Duong Dong.

fishing village

Le Bat Fishing Village

Le Bat is one of the picturesque, tiny, hidden fishing villages on Phu Quoc Island. Actually there is nothing there but an interesting landscape for photographers. You pass this hamlet on your way to Vung Bau Beach. Follow the street from Duong Dong to Cua Can. North of Ong Lang Beach you pass Hoang Yen Resort, cross a bridge and turn left. Follow the street and you will find Le Bat. From there, a scenic road follows the coast northwards, so if you are on motorbike and have time, enjoy the trip.

beach fishing

Rach Vem Fishing Village

Rach Vem Beach and the local fishing village is not really a place for lying around on the beach. The locals work hard to support their families and you will find interesting houses, built on poles right out on the sea. The people are friendly and from the shore you can see the coast of Cambodia right across the Gulf of Thailand. The village itself is a really tiny hamlet, built along the shore and maybe 500 meters wide. A very authentic thing to see.

local fishing village

Other opportunities to spot fishing activities

The inhabitants of Phu Quoc Island mainly live from fishery, so small fishing huts are what you often find along the seafront. There are many opportunities to take pictures of fishermen or their wives collecting sea snails, clams or small crabs. Life here is hard but simple, and the people are cheerful. Sometimes you find an abandoned hull, peacefully rotting between the rocks, but usually the vessels are well taken care of and kept functional - for generations.

Check out Phu Quoc Island’s fishing villages, it’s really a beautiful sight and especially recommended during sunrise or sunset.

local fishing village


A Fuzzy Future for Phu Quoc

By: Keely Burkey

The first six months of 2017 saw a 77 percent travel increase to the island of Phu Quoc: tourism is booming there. International and domestic travellers have been drawn to the island for its sandy beaches, visa exemption programme and surprisingly affordable travel deals.

By 2020, real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle estimates that 20 million international arrivals will land in Vietnam; the Vietnamese government is hoping that many of these will choose Phu Quoc as one of their stops, expanding from the traditional Hanoi-Hoi An-Saigon route.

Video source: Hi Hai

The Department of Tourism has earmarked Phu Quoc as a prime destination, aided by an influx of luxury resorts dotting the beaches and, most recently, gambling. One of the island’s first casinos, the aptly named Casino on Phu Quoc, is set to open in the spring of 2018.

For an island with a population of just over 100,000, millions of visitors would understandably stretch infrastructure to breaking point.

As pollution continues to rise, this is exactly what we’re seeing.

The Specious Beaches

The Kien Giang Environmental Protection Office reported that some 300 tonnes of waste is discharged per day into the oceans surrounding Phu Quoc, coming from tourism services and the fishing industry. And the amount increases year-on-year.

Solid rubbish is one thing: though it’s more visible, it’s often easier to compile and clear, unless it gets swept into the sea. Wastewater is different. At the moment, there’s only one waste treatment plant on the island, able to treat 200 tonnes of sewage per day. With the increase of resorts and hotels, this isn’t powerful enough. According to VietnamNet, another plant will be built in An Thoi Town, though it can’t come fast enough.

phu quocImage source: imgur.com

The detrimental side effects of Phu Quoc’s tourism surge might actually lead to environmental degradation—and the environment is one of the main reasons travellers choose the island. Case in point: the coral reefs.

In 2014 Dantri International estimated that 96 percent of Vietnam’s reefs have been damaged by human activity, and 75 percent face extinction. Activities like fishing with upgraded nets have been shown to cause significant damage. Further, Vietnam’s Red Book of Endangered Species now lists over 70 species of marine life that are suspected of being adversely affected by increased pollution.

Solutions?

The Kien Giang Government has proposed to fix the problem but it can’t come fast enough. Alongside plans to create a second water treatment plant are suggestions to improve waste treatment technology that promote recycling rather than dumping—it’s estimated that 80 percent of household waste is simply discarded rather than recycled or eliminated with environmentally sustainable methods.

More hope has been given by Vietnam’s participation of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, signed in 2015. Signed with other countries such as Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, the document is both nebulous and soft; from its chief document, no actual guidelines or missions are mandated.

phu quocImage source: dulichbaitho.com

Seven more luxury resorts are on the roster in the next three years, among them Regent Phu Quoc, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Eastin Resort Phu Quoc.

Banner Image source: baithombeachresort.com


Phu Quoc: The Pearl Island

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Dubbed “The Pearl Island”, Phu Quoc Island in the south of Vietnam is about 600 square kilometres, making it the largest island in Vietnam even though it’s geographically closer to Cambodia. Two-thirds of the island consists of forests but the main draw for tourists are its white sandy beaches and pleasant weather all year.

With a total local population of just 103,000 people, Phu Quoc Island is the perfect escape from the overcrowded mess you find in many large cities.

There has been an increase in foreign investments over the years mainly due to the island having the lowest corporate and personal income taxes in the country. Land rents are waived for the first four years, and then halved for the next nine. Due to this scheme, the island now has a large number of hotel rooms to meet the rising needs of visitors.

Phu Quoc IslandImage source: bietthuphuquoc.vn

Currently, there are about 15,000 rooms rated three-stars and above, including 6,000 rooms rated five-star.

If you have a phobia of riding bikes, you’ll be pleased to know that there are now five taxi firms operating on the island, with a total fleet of about 1,000 taxis. Some of these include the low-cost Phu Quoc Taxi Company, as well as a fleet of Vinasun taxis after the latter expanded its operations into the island by buying a small taxi firm.

The Downside of Development

However, rapid development can sometimes lead to unwanted consequences and in the case of Phu Quoc Island, there are a few.

Due to the sudden surge of hotels and resorts on the island, the demand for trained workers in the hospitality exceeds its supply. One solution to curb this was for hotels and resorts to work with vocational colleges and schools to provide short training courses. Some resorts have also partnered with vocational schools to offer apprenticeships and internships to students to provide them with hands-on experience.

There has also been an increase in the number of workers relocating from the mainland to the island to work.

Environmental concerns in the form of waste and water treatment have also crept into the island. The current infrastructure is simply not able to fully support the massive amounts of waste generated—about 150 tonnes a day.

The river’s water has turned black mainly because of the residual oils being discharged from boats. To add on to the misery of marine life in the river, pollution is also rampant here with plastic bags and used plastic bottles, floating alongside old clothes and animal carcasses which have been spotted covering the water surface from Hung Vuong Bridge to Dinh Cau Estuary.

According to Phu Quoc Province’s Public Work Management Board, workers have collected more than three tonnes of garbage from less than one square kilometer of the river. The river stretches up to about 21.5 kilometres and is considered one of the main sources of water for daily use and production activities on the island. There are currently about 322 establishments operating along the river, including fish sauce producers and some of these businesses lack a proper sewage treatment system.

The island currently only has two landfill sites, one of which has been closed for months while the other is increasingly overloaded. The waste treatment plant in Ham Ninh Commune’s Bai Bon Village is also currently closed for maintenance and upgrading works, and is only expected to reopen in June.

The island’s authorities have also been having difficulties attracting investment in their wastewater treatment projects.

Other concerns that the island is grappling with include land disputes, fraud, pollution and social disorder due to land speculation.

However, moving forward, the island is expected to remain one of Vietnam’s top tourist destinations mainly thanks to recent policy changes.

Phu Quoc IslandImage source: vinacoaltour.vn

A visa-waiver policy adopted in 2014 allows foreigners a 30-day visa-free stay on the island. This includes foreigners from countries that would normally require a visa application to visit the mainland.

Phu Quoc International Airport is expected to undergo an upgrade that will increase its capacity from the current 2.5 million passengers a year to 5 million passengers by the year 2020, and a further increase to 7 million passengers by the year 2030. Plans are also underway to introduce direct flights to Japan and European countries soon.

However, the biggest news of all would be the recently-announced special administrative-economic zones, of which Phu Quoc Island is one of three in Vietnam. It has been the subject of nationwide debate, and even protests.

Although the details of this new law have not been officially confirmed yet, several improvements are expected, such as tourism services and the elimination of common tourism bugbears such as cheating and overcharging of foreign customers.

Other areas that will also be looked into include hygiene and food safety at traditional markets, better enforcement of traffic laws and tourist information booths at tourist spots.

Video source: Đạt Lê

Banner Image source: tuoitre.vn



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