Your insider's Travel Guide blog to Phu Quoc
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HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC PHU QUOC: THE PEARL ISLAND
By Sivaraj Pragasm
The rapid rise of beach tourism on Phu Quoc island
Dubbed “The Pearl Island”, Phu Quoc Island in the south of Vietnam is about 600 square kilometers, 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 is 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.
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 Phu Quoc 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.
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.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC PHU QUOC ISLAND: A GLIMPSE OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY
By Alex Gordillo
The rich and interesting story of Phu Quoc.
• The reign of the infamous French emperor, Napoleon III and the success of the Vietnamese resistance against the US.
• Some of Phu Quoc’s important development in recent years and the future.
One would hope that with the roughly triangular shape of the island, reminding us of a kind of prism, would be an entry point into understanding the complex and long history of Vietnam. However, much of what is written about Phu Quoc is related to what the island represents as Vietnam’s future, not its history.
Before the 17th Century, there are few historical references and very little is known about Phu Quoc island, its inhabitants, and its history. However, historical consensus holds that the island has been inhabited for at least 2,500 years. Most of the archeological evidence—pottery, tombs, and tools that were unearthed in the northern part of the island — is located in Coi Nguon Museum near Dương Đông, the island’s town centre.
Phu Quoc, Vietnam is also commonly known as the “Pearl Island” (“đảo ngọc”), due in large part to its thriving pearl farming industry. It is also known as “99 Mountain Island” (“99 núi”), due to its network of mountainous ridges that descend from the northern part of the island to the south.
One of the main attractions of this 28-islet archipelago, nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, is its isolated nature as well as its famed 150km of coastline with more than 20 beaches. The island measures close to 600km² and 50 kilometres (31 miles) long from north to south as well as 25 kilometres (16 miles) from east to west in its widest area in the north. Phu Quoc island’s geology includes rocks that are mostly from the Cenozoic and Mesozoic ages as well as an array of quartz pebbles, limestone rock structures, riolt and feslit.
Most Phu Quoc Island “things to do” are based around rest and relaxation especially since Phu Quoc weather is usually outdoor activity-friendly. To show how in-demand the island is becoming, recently an Indian billionaire couple chose Phu Quoc as the location for a massive wedding party that lasted a week, with more than 700 guests and over 150 performers. However, for those who love digging into a bit of history, here is some historical background to this mysterious destination.
An Important Jewel in the History of a Vietnamese Dynasty
The appropriately named Phu Quoc island, meaning “fertile” or “thriving land,” has a rich and interesting story. Around 1680, a Chinese merchant named Mac Thien Tu had an opportunity to develop a large part of the southern coast of Cambodia. As a major part of this process, he linked Phu Quoc island as one of seven trading centres that welcomed European commerce, especially from Portugal. During this time, Phu Quoc had considerable growth in several industries, especially the fishing industry.
One of the most iconic moments in the island’s history was when French missionary Pigneau de Behaine used the island as a base to hide King Nguyễn Ánh, who was being hunted by Tay Son rebels. In 1782, King Nguyễn Ánh consolidated his power on the island and re-entered mainland Vietnam to defeat the Tay Son rebels. Twenty years later, in 1802, King Nguyễn Ánh became Emperor Gia Long, the first ruler of the Nguyễn Dynasty in Vietnam.
From Cochinchina to Kien Giang
In 1862, during the reign of the infamous French emperor, Napoleon III, the French entered Phu Quoc as part of the Cochinchina Campaign. By 1867, French rule was formally established in the region. During this time, the Governor of Cochinchina established coconut, rubber, and pepper plantations.
This is also when the famous Cay Dua Prison (Coconut Tree Prison) was established, which later became a centre of US military presence in Vietnam during the Vietnamese War in the 1960s-1970s. In fact, from 1953 to 1975, the island had the largest prisoner camp in southern Vietnam, which was documented at 40,000 in 1973.
Following the success of the Vietnamese resistance against the US, the country was once again united. As a result of this, there was a resolution of Phu Quoc’s most important territorial dispute and finally the island officially became a part of Kien Giang province, Vietnam. After the end of the war, Cay Dua prison was closed and later reopened as a museum, preserving a small piece of the island’s recent history.
Present and Future of Phu Quoc Island
Although Phu Quoc island’s economy has centred on fishing and agriculture, a thriving tourism sector has become central to the island’s economic growth as one of Vietnam’s most important tourist hubs.
Pearl farming began more than two decades ago when Japanese and Australian experts came to grow pearls and establish this industry. One Vietnamese pearl farm that was established during that time is called Quoc An.
More recently, Phu Quoc National Park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2006, due to the ecological diversity of the island, and also made news for having the world’s longest oversea cable car route as well as the world’s second biggest wildlife safari, both recent additions to the island’s attractions.
Furthermore, the CEO Group, which is one of Vietnam’s most successful real estate investors, established the Sonasea Villa & Resort complex in 2013, which covers close to 80 hectares in the southern west coast part of the island. This real estate development, which has paved the way for a growing group of large-scale commercial beach resorts, came just after the island’s government set up urban infrastructures that included roads and better internet access. And if you’re wondering how to get to Phu Quoc, there’s a growing number of international flights to the islands each year.
Another important development occurred with Vinpearl’s Phu Quoc complex, which was created by Vingroup in the northern part of the island and contains a five-star hotel with villas, a modern amusement park, a golf course, among other attractions. One of the island’s most notable feats is bragging rights for the world’s longest cable car route over sea; connecting An Thới town and Hòn Thơm Islet. Measuring close to 8km (26,248 feet), the cable car was inaugurated by the Sun Group in February of 2018.
Today’s local population is roughly 103,000, with a thriving average GDP growth of 22%. The GDP per capita tripled from 2012 to 2017 while the per capita income is over 70,000,000VND. Finally, visitors to the island were over 2 million last year and authorities have scheduled upgrades in the airport so that up to 5 million visitors can arrive by 2020. From a shipping hub, to a remote island prison, to becoming one of Vietnam’s top resort destinations, Phu Quoc has weathered many changes. But it remains, as always, a tropical taste of paradise.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC BEST ATTRACTIONS IN PHU QUOC ISLAND
What to do in Phu Quoc Island
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.
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.
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!.
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’!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC GETTING TO PHU QUOC ISLAND
To be updated
How to get to Phu Quoc Island
The best option to get to Phu Quoc Island is definitely by plane. Flights from Ho Chi Minh City are short and you arrive rested and ready to explore the island. The cheaper alternative is taking a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Tien or Rach Gia and crossing the Gulf of Thailand with a fast boat.
Airlines from and to Phu Quoc Island
Airlines that offer flights to and from Phu Quoc International Airport, information gathered in 2015:
Phu Quoc – Ho Chi Minh
International routes to/from Pu Quoc
Phu Quoc – Singapore
Phu Quoc – Siem Reap
For domestic flights, please check in advance how many kilograms of luggage are included in your airfare and buy additional capacity in advance together with your ticket. Checking in extra luggage at the counter can get quite pricy and bureaucratic, and since VietJetAir for example only allows seven kilograms of luggage on domestic flights, you can easily exceed the limit.
Bus & Boat
The best option is to book the bus and boat tickets several days in advance at your trusted travel agency. Especially during summer holidays when Vietnamese families travel with their children, the ferry fills up pretty fast.
Superdong ferry connections
Phu Quoc – Ha Tien: Normal adult ticket price: VND 230,000
Phu Quoc – Rach Gia: Normal adult ticket price: VND 350,000
Please check current fares and departure times on the Superdong website, or visit their central office on Phu Quoc Island at 10 30/4 Street in Duong Dong.
Transfer buses from the Superdong office to the harbor cost VND 30,000 extra.
The major bus lines from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia and Ha Tien are Kumho Samco and Futa. Normal buses and sleeping buses are available. This journey to Phu Quoc Island is significantly cheaper than a flight, but it’s exhausting and takes a whole day. We would suggest to fly if your budget allows it.
Most hotels and resorts on Phu Quoc Island send a shuttle to the airport or harbor to pick you up. Make sure to send them your arrival time and clarify if they have transfer service. Otherwise you have to pick a taxi. The silver colored airport taxis are named “Reasonable Price Taxi”. We picked a taxi of this company two times, and while one was okay, the other driver tampered with his taxi meter to increase the price by 50%.
There are Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis available as well, which are known to be more honest than most others.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC PHU QUOC’S HOSPITALITY BOOM: THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL IN VIETNAM ?
By Angee the Diva
New hotels and resorts are popping-up in Phu Quoc
• How is Phu Quoc meeting the demand for accommodation?
• What kind of travellers are visiting Phu Quoc?
• Are Phu Quoc’s hotels meeting the demand for high quality service?
• How does Phu Quoc’s hospitality boom impact the rest of Vietnam?
All around Saigon and Vietnam, you see (and hear) the signs of change. The economy is rapidly growing and many companies are leading the way with modern buildings, innovative businesses, and international amenities. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. The infrastructure of Vietnam is having to work very hard to try to keep up with the rapid development. Waste disposal issues and slowly changing habits of many locals are obstacles to the success of new establishments. So how can the country adapt to growth while improving current conditions? Phu Quoc’s hospitality boom may be at the forefront of some solutions.
Accommodation for the Masses in a Phu Quoc Paradise
Phu Quoc has changed dramatically in the last decade. Expansive resorts, scenic restaurants, and trendy bars now stand where trees and sand used to be. And there are no signs of this slowing down. Pullman Phu Quoc Resort and Hotel is currently under construction. Premier Villas is in the works as well. Regent Residences Phu Quoc is set to become the first 6-star resort in Phu Quoc Island by 2020. Once complete, the Regent Residences will include 76 villas, 42 sky villas, and 120 hotel rooms, all exuding the highest standards of luxury and comfort.
The three major development investors in the area have carved out their own portions of Phu Quoc as well. CEO Group is developing the Sonasea Villa & Resort Complex in the Bai Truong area, consisting of internationally-recognized luxury hotel chains Novotel, Best Western, and Intercontinental, as well as smaller, mid-level hotels, villas, and hostels. The area is to set be a hub for leisure, amusement and eco-tourism in Phu Quoc.
Vingroup has taken over a chunk of northern Phu Quoc island through the Vinpearl Phu Quoc complex. Vingroup has built an amusement park there and the world’s second largest wildlife safari alongside premium accommodations in the hope of attracting foreign and domestic tourists.
The south of Phu Quoc is the new home of Sun Group, who opened the world’s longest cable car ride over sea in 2018 – one of our recommended best attractions in Phu Quoc. As part of the Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park, the cable car connects An Thới Town and Hòn Thơm Islet. Tourists have plenty of experiences available with nature and top-of-the-line luxury in the 1,000-room Sun Group resort and hotel complex.
Visitors to Vietnam’s Pearl Island of Phu Quoc
So who’s going to be staying in all those rooms? Airlines are getting in the game to shuttle new tourists to Phu Quoc. AirAsia now includes regular direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, which also connects the island to traffic from Europe. Regular charter flights bring visitors from China and Russia. Vietjet is planning to expand to flights direct from Seoul. Additionally, all domestic airlines have increased daily direct flights to the Pearl Island. As a result, Phu Quoc International Airport is expanding to meet the demands, aiding the process to swell the tourist population to five million annually by 2020.
To accommodate the differing nationalities of tourist, resorts have begun quite a curious trend. Resorts and hotels are catering their services around the general tastes and cultural sensitivities of their target market of guests. For instance, some resorts tailor their services around Chinese tourists, with daily buffets including traditional Chinese dishes as well as Vietnamese fusion. Well-known European brands follow luxury standards that guests from that region would naturally expect.
Still others, like Fusion Resort Phu Quoc, welcome guests from many different locales by offering unique services that can appeal to all nationalities. Fusion Resort’s “Fusionistas” are available to communicate with guests 24/7, in the guests’ language of choice, via their choice of messenger platform. Part butler, part concierge and part guide, the Fusionistas work hard to ensure that every guest, regardless of nationality, has an enjoyable stay at Fusion Resort Phu Quoc.
Resorts Raising Service Standards on Phu Quoc
Transportation to get tourists to the island year round – check. Bountiful accommodations to fit a range of budgets – check. High quality staff to cater to all guests needs – well… While most foreigners living in Vietnam try to understand and accept the way things are done in Vietnam, many have been frustrated by the difference in hospitality industry standards to what they are typically used to. Particularly when on vacation, people expect a carefree and enjoyable experience. Fortunately, various hotels and resorts in Phu Quoc are leading the way here as well.
Phu Quoc has long had an issue with maintaining adequate staff to meet the demands of its visitors. There simply aren’t enough local Vietnamese living on the island that are highly qualified to serve the influx of foreign tourists in all of the luxury hotels and resorts. But the people are coming, so how is the demand for hospitality staff being met?
Several resorts are partnering with vocational colleges and schools to recruit and train workers from mainland Vietnam, as well as from Phu Quoc. The resorts provide accommodation and ongoing training to help ease the transition. Additionally, a few of the resorts take things a step further by providing above average wages, better benefits packages, and more opportunities for advancement. And their efforts are evident.
The staff at Fusion Resort Phu Quoc, for example, happily care for the guests with an unmatched standard of service, express high job satisfaction and familial relationships with management. This translates to higher retention rates than many of the other resorts on the island.
At Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc, employees are provided with a good range of insurance coverage (from social and health to personal accident), and those from outside of Phu Quoc are helped with relocation costs being covered. In addition, return tickets are offered so non-local staff can visit their families. Again, this kind of effort by a resort helps to create a higher level of employee happiness, and happy staff usually means happy guests.
Another facet of maintaining guest satisfaction is preserving the pristine nature of Phu Quoc. People go to the Pearl Island to bask in the glory of nature, but it can be easily destroyed if everyone on the island isn’t mindful of responsible preservation. To this end, over half of the island remains a protected wildlife preserve, even with growth plans for the next 20 years.
Furthermore, resorts and hotels in Phu Quoc are working, to varying degrees at the moment, to reduce waste, keep the island clean, and educate staff, the local population, and guests on sustainability practices. Perhaps one of the best examples is Mango Bay Resort. Their luxury villas have been seamlessly built into the natural landscape, they carry out great efforts to maintain the coral reef in their area, and staff are required to regularly participate in Phu Quoc clean up efforts in conjunction with local waste removal groups.
Phu Quoc Tourism is on the Right Path
In many ways, Phu Quoc feels like a sort of science experiment. Clearly, there is a demand for luxury resorts and hotels and higher standards of service in a pristine environment. And these resorts and hotels are proving that it is possible to maintain profit margins while being conscious of the sustainability of the island. Of course, there is still work to be done, but Vietnam on a whole can look to Phu Quoc as a good example of what can happen in the rest of the country.
If Vietnam is to meet its goal of being an internationally recognized “developed nation” in the next five to ten years, the country has to find the balance between proper waste management, infrastructure improvement, internationally recognized service standards AND economic development. Phu Quoc is at the forefront of positive development in Vietnam and set to be the most popular tourist destination in Vietnam. Time will tell how successful Phu Quoc will continue to be, but the future looks bright for the Pearl Island.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC THE RISE OF CSR IN PHU QUOC’S HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
By Angee & Stuart Miller
Is Corporate Social Responsabilities (CSR) on the rise in Phu Quoc Hospitality sector?
• An example of a beautiful resort in Phu Quoc helping to preserve the island’s natural surroundings
• How can the community get involved to help sustainability in Phu Quoc
• Phu Quoc’s best resorts are helping to reduce plastic and use sustainable materials
As with any popular tourist destination, Vietnam’s gorgeous island of Phu Quoc is not short of resorts. Island-wide, a growing range of accommodation caters for every budget and holiday experience. However, with such growth come concerns about sustainability and consideration for the island’s ecosystems. Thankfully, an increasing number of resorts in Phu Quoc’s hospitality industry are showing consciousness about their effects on the environment, social landscape, and local economy.
Resorts in Phu Quoc Realise That Staff Are People Too
Fusion Resort Phu Quoc is the pinnacle of relaxation and privacy for discerning travellers. The secret to the resort’s success, though, lies not in obsession with profits, but in the exceptional treatment of its employees. Staff receive a higher pay than at most resorts on Phu Quoc island and enjoy the “luxury” of two days off per week – uncommon in Asian hospitality businesses. As a result, employees enjoy a living wage and high job satisfaction.
Additionally, employees report feeling that there is a family environment at Fusion that encourages growth, collaboration, and high staff retention. The management at Fusion Resort Phu Quoc have it figured out – if you take care of the employees, they will work hard and ultimately keep guests satisfied.
At the family friendly resort of the new Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc, hired staff that are not local recruits are assisted with relocation costs and employees are provided with return flight tickets to allow them to visit their hometowns and families. Bonus allowances are offered for special life events and through company awards, and employees’ families are gifted discounted stays at the resort. Along with a comprehensive training and career plan, Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc knows these actions go a long way to keeping a happy staff, which then benefits their guests.
Preserving Phu Quoc’s Natural Beauty
Along the shores of Ong Lang Beach stands Mango Bay Resort, seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape. Unfortunately, many resorts are built at the expense of the natural ecology of the island; however, Mango Bay is different. When building the resort, the architects worked hard to avoid environmentally negative actions, such as cutting trees and clearing native vegetation. In addition, the landscape design includes only indigenous plant species.
Mango Bay has also taken measures to protect the coral reef in their section of Ong Lang Beach by discouraging fishing and educating guests to prevent further damage. Other resorts and businesses on Phu Quoc, and throughout Vietnam, could do well to take note of Mango Bay Resort’s initiatives to help preserve the long term viability of the country’s beautiful natural habitat.
Hospitality in Phu Quoc: Community Involvement
Smaller resorts are also doing their part to improve social constructs. Phu Quoc Ecolodge is a Vietnamese-owned and operated boutique resort in Cua Can. As the name implies, environmental sustainability of Phu Quoc is a core value of the resort. They use solar panels, provide glass bottles and refill stations for drinking water, and grow herbs and vegetables on site. The rooms remain delightfully comfortable and the property is breathtaking while maintaining a low carbon footprint.
Most notable, though, is the dedication to the local Phu Quoc community of the owner, Phong Bui. He regularly works with clean up efforts in the area and, though it’s a slow process, he patiently impresses upon his neighbors the importance of reducing plastics, keeping trash out of the water, and properly disposing of waste. Additionally, he supports the local economy by providing Phu Quoc-made and environmentally-conscious products at Phu Quoc Ecolodge. Change is easier when motivated by economic viability.
Phu Quoc’s Plastic Reduction and the Use of Sustainable Materials
It has been impossible to escape the global plastic reduction movement in recent years (for good reason) and encouragingly, this trend is also gaining momentum with top resorts in Phu Quoc. Supporting this movement in Phu Quoc is the company Bamboo Step, who are supplying a number of the island’s major hotels and resorts with premium quality bamboo drinking straws to ease the burden of single use plastic. Some of the best Phu Quoc resorts such as La Veranda, Fusion, Best Western Sonasea Phu Quoc, JW Marriott and Radisson Blu are all playing their part by using bamboo, grass or metal straws instead of plastic ones.
Going a step further at the plush Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island, bamboo and grass straws are used as standard. Ceramic containers for bath products are included in all rooms, and carafes of filtered water are available for a small fee to cut down on purchased plastic bottles. Biodegradable and renewable materials such as Accoya wood were used in the construction of Salinda, showing that the sustainability commitment was present from day one.
It is clear that there is a lot of positive work being done at some of the excellent resorts in Phu Quoc, which gives good reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of sustainability on the island. However, there is always much more that can be done and there are still plenty of challenges to making more significant progress; policies that are environmentally and socially responsible usually hit a resort’s bottom line, at least in the short term. If the growing trends of sustainability and environmental protection gather increasing local and governmental support, then Phu Quoc, as one of Vietnam’s best places to visit, will continue its rise to becoming a sustainable tourist destination in all regards.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC KHAI HOAN FISH SAUCE FACTORY
Among the top things to do on Phu Quoc Island is paying a visit to one of the famous fish sauce factories.
Fish sauce is one of the key ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine and the products of Phu Quoc are considered some of the best of Vietnam. The enchanting smell of anchovies in a process of autolysis, which is the name for enzymatic self-digestion, indicates the proximity of a fish sauce factory on Phu Quoc Island. Usually you can get a peek through the doors and see the huge, wooden tanks, where the fish are slowly fermenting for months, until the clear liquid that accumulates on top, can be filtered and bottled.
The latter is located at the riverside, where we could see one of the boats delivering the raw material – tons of anchovies in sea salt. Now, that might be a bit much to stomach for some travelers, but I found it pretty interesting.
Phu Quoc island is famous for traditionally produced, flavorful fish sauce, without the chemical additives. The most important ingredient is time. It takes between eight and nine months for the amber-colored liquid to be ready for sale. Its relatively high content of natural glutamate adds an umami flavor to dishes, the reason why it’s so popular in Vietnamese cuisine. During our stay at Phu Quoc island, we actually visited two fish sauce factories. One is called Phung Hung. It is on Nguyễn Văn Cừ street, right opposite Phu Quoc Prison. The other one, Khai Hoan, where we bought our supply of the tasty ingredient, is on 11 Hung Vuong street in Duong Dong.
A lady runs a durian stall right outside the gates of the shop, and where the smell of fermenting anchovies and durian mingles, that’s the place where even I was not really eager to spend more time than necessary. There is actually one more fish sauce factory that is accessible to visitors, Hung Thinh, which is on 30 Thang 4 on Phu Quoc island. If you want to get your supply of fish sauce, or nước mắm how it’s called in Vietnamese, you can buy the best quality at the showrooms and shops. (Be aware that many airlines don’t allow liquids in the hand baggage.) Here you see an assortment of nước mắm at the shop that is attached to the Khai Hoan factory:
They sell two grades of the delicious, amber-colored liquid. 40 and 43, which indicates the strength and saltiness of the concoction. The 43 grade fish sauce is more expensive, but lasts longer. If you are unsure what type of delicious Phu Quoc fish sauce to purchase, you can try both of them first with disposable straws they provide at the desk.
Dip your straw into the nước mắm and taste it (just don’t suck in the liquid through the straw…). At first it may sound odd. Why should pay VND 99,000 or VND 155,000 for a big bottle of nước mắm, if you can get the same amount for VND 39,700 at the local supermarket? The Phu Quoc fish sauce is the real thing. Anchovies, salt and that’s it. No preservatives, no additional flavors, food coloring or artificial MSG. It’s not only healthier than the enhanced stuff, it also tastes much more balanced.
Did you know that the Vietnamese were not the only culture to invent fish sauce? The Romans actually had a similar condiment, called garum or liquamen. In Campina in Italy, they still produce a type of fish sauce, called colatura di alici.
Similar to modern Phu Quoc fish sauce, garum was made through the process of autolysis, but they only used the blood and intestines of fish, while in Vietnam, they use whole anchovies. Garum was very popular, because it contained a good amount of minerals, proteins and amino acids, as well as B vitamins. But many Romans found it disgusting.
The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote: “Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?” But Seneca was known as quite old-fashioned, so the garum-lovers probably didn’t care much.
And similar to ancient Rome, the people nowadays have divided opinions about nước mắm. Some love it, some hate it, but for most Vietnamese it’s just what generations of housewives used to create the Vietnamese signature dishes. Vietnamese fish sauce is usually used as a dipping sauce, a mix of nước mắm, lime or kumquat juice, sugar, chili and/or garlic and water.
Addresses of fish sauce factories on Phu Quoc island, that are accessible for tourists:
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC BEST BARS IN PHU QUOC FOR COCKTAILS AND SUNSETS
By Angee & Stuart Miller
Where are the best sunset spots to chill out in Phu Quoc Island?
• Le Jardin @ La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc
• Fusion Beach Bar @ Fusion Resort Phu Quoc
• Shri Phu Quoc
• CView Sky Bar @ Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc
• Rock Island Club @ Nam Nghi Phu Quoc
• Sailing Club Phu Quoc
• INK 360 @ Intercontinental Phu Quoc
• Mango Bay Resort Phu Quoc
• Seashells Phu Quoc Hotel & Spa
The Pearl Island of Phu Quoc is the most talked about, rapidly rising tourist destination in Vietnam. People visit to relax amongst the natural beauty of the island, visit interesting attractions, and revel in the increasingly wide array of top-notch resorts, restaurants and bars. For many, great cocktails are integral to that island vacation experience. And what better way to enjoy the best cocktails in Phu Quoc than with a gorgeous sunset as backdrop? With that in mind, check out our top tips for the best cocktail and sunset bars on Phu Quoc island….
Le Jardin @ La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc – MGallery by Sofitel
Take a seat on the beach deck or lawn of Le Jardin at La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc and enjoy a front row seat for nature’s best show: sunset time in Phu Quoc. You can try their authentic Italian style pizzas or other dishes on their fresh and light menu, but of course, you need a drink for the occasion. As you peruse the Le Bar menu, you will find an expansive list of classic cocktails, an extensive wine list, expertly-mixed signature cocktails, and even homemade rums. A highlight of the cocktail menu, the White Sangria is light and refreshing with a kick from the mango-infused vodka. This combination of white wine and tropical fruit is a perfect choice to cool down and relax after a long day.
Fusion Beach Bar @ Fusion Resort Phu Quoc
If visitors are looking for the ultimate in relaxation to experience a stunning sunset in Phu Quoc, Fusion Beach Bar should be at the top of the list. Plush sofas and chairs under shady palm frond umbrellas dot the sand. Guests might alternatively choose to bask in the fading sunlight in large lounge pods on the grass to watch that golden orb sink into the horizon. Or, visitors can simply grab a towel and sit directly on the white sandy beach. In any situation, guests and visitors of Fusion Resort Phu Quoc can rest assured that every need will be taken care of. A tantalizing list of expertly-mixed cocktails, wines, and fresh juices with live acoustic music round out the delightful ambience.
Fusion Resort Phu Quoc prides themselves on their customer service. They try to never say no to a guest request, and that includes mixology. Simply ask the skilled bartenders to mix a unique concoction with your favourite spirits or flavours and watch the magic happen! They only use the freshest and highest-quality ingredients, so it’s going to be one delicious, one-of-a-kind cocktail.
Shri Phu Quoc
Shri Phu Quoc is a beautiful beach club, bar and restaurant with a perfect oceanside setting on the tranquil Ba Keo beach. Shri is ideally equipped for guests who want to relax on the beach anytime from morning till night, while soaking up its breezy, laid back ambience. As evening approaches, Shri’s DJs will select just the right background beats to set you up for an exquisite, direct sunset view from your table or sun lounger. Anyone who is familiar with Shri’s sky high Saigon location, will know that they are experts at fusing just the right combination of food, drink, and music for the ultimate in pleasurable experiences.
To keep you refreshed as you survey the orange and pink hues of the sun sinking into the ocean, Shri Phu Quoc offers a range of delightful craft cocktails that really hit a sweet spot on your palate. In particular, don’t miss their special ice cream ‘Kem’ cocktails, which are cooling, refreshing and downright delicious. In addition to an extensive wine and beer selection, the restaurant’s Asian & Mediterranean-inspired menu provides top quality cuisine, including wonderful fresh seafood caught daily. All in all, a wonderful combination for you to enjoy all that a Phu Quoc sunset has to offer.
CView Sky Bar @ Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc
CView Sky Bar is perched on the rooftop level of Best Western Premier Sonasea Phu Quoc, one of the island’s newest and most impressive luxury resorts. There are gorgeous views from all positions, whether gazing out of the gloriously tall glass windows of CView Sky Bar’s elegant interior, or admiring the views from the airy outdoor terrace.
At first, you will enjoy surveying the resort’s scenic, winding lagoon pool and classy poolside villas. Raise your eyeline further and relish the sight of a delightful stretch of beach on Phu Quoc’s western coast and a wide angle panorama of the peaceful Gulf of Thailand ocean. The beauty on display is at its finest as pastel hues appear while the sun sinks towards the horizon – a photographic moment not to be missed.
To consummate CView Sky Bar’s special sunset experience, choose a refreshing cocktail from a tempting menu of signature and classic combinations, including romantic cocktails for two to share. A wide range of other beverages is also available to wash down a succulent selection of Asian-Western fusion cuisine – all at surprisingly reasonable prices for the quality on offer. An unforgettable Phu Quoc sunset awaits you at CView Sky Bar.
Rock Island Club @ Nam Nghi Phu Quoc
Rock Island Club is a truly unique spot on its own private, cosy beach island with a fully equipped bar/clubhouse and deck that offers an outstanding and exclusive location to view a Phu Quoc sunset, situated off the lush greenery of the north-west coast.
Savour a high quality cocktail or mocktail freshly made by an expert bartender and enjoy Asian seafood offerings if you’re feeling a little peckish. As the sun sets, you can take in magnificent 360-degree ocean and island views from the private beach or the comfort of the bar’s terrace. The resident DJ will supply the tunes to complete this highly photogenic experience.
Rock Island Club is free to enjoy for guests staying at Nam Nghi Phu Quoc resort. Non-guests will pay VND300,000 for a ticket, which includes the short round trip boat ride from outside the resort’s Tree House restaurant and one food or drink item after arriving at Rock Island Club.
Sailing Club Phu Quoc
Lo B7, Khu phuc hop, Bai Truong, Phu Quoc, Vietnam / sailingclubphuquoc.com
Sailing Club Phu Quoc is an expansive all-day beach club that provides more than a hint of luxury in everything that it does. The classy design of the venue spreads widely along its beautiful beachfront, featuring a full-service bar and restaurant, a relaxing infinity swimming pool with a swim-up pool bar and sun loungers, and a DJ booth with a dance floor for nighttime party vibes post-sunset.
The extensive restaurant menu at Sailing Club includes a variety of high-quality, mouthwatering cuisine with generous portions and influences from across Asia and Europe. Professional mixologists take pride and care in creating a wide variety of high-quality craft cocktails, with their signature selections including Afternoon Tea and Mustard G&T offerings.
When the time for sundown arrives, Sailing Club’s resident DJs will put you at ease with atmospheric music as you sit back and relax with your cocktail of choice, surveying the idyllic sunset views on the west coast of Phu Quoc.
INK 360 @ Intercontinental Phu Quoc Long Beach
Atop one of the island’s finest luxury resorts, the Intercontinental Phu Quoc Long Beach, INK 360 is Phu Quoc’s highest-standing rooftop bar. As to be expected, this lofty vantage point provides stellar panoramic views of Vietnam’s Pearl Island’s western coastline and the pristine waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
The bar’s unique giant octopus-themed decor is full of silver and copper tones, with metallic tentacles around every corner. As you walk onto the expansive terrace, the bar’s main stage, you will be perfectly placed for outstanding sunset views and the ultimate in selfie opportunities.
To accompany the Phu Quoc island views, be sure to order one of the stunning craft cocktails made by highly skilled mixologists. You can always let the bartender know your beverage likes and dislikes to receive a delicious and personalized concoction.
Completing the experience, a funky DJ is on hand from sunset to provide atmospheric beats, turning into more uptempo dance rhythms as the night progresses. INK 360 is a fantastic spot for sunset chilling and nighttime partying with top views of Phu Quoc and delectable cocktails at your fingertips.
Mango Bay Resort Phu Quoc
Mango Bay Resort Phu Quoc has two comfortable oceanfront restaurants and both are wonderful places to enjoy the sunset on Ong Lang Beach. At the On the Rocks venue, take in the sunset from the vantage point of the picturesque rocky promontory. Over at Beach Restaurant, guests can also enjoy nightly live music as an accompaniment to the gorgeous sunset.
With over 40 cocktails and a carefully curated wine list provided by The Warehouse Saigon, available in both restaurants, you are sure to find the perfect drink to wet the palate. The perfect balance of sweet and tangy, Mango Bay’s signature whiskey cocktail is absolutely delectable! Be sure to sip slowly, though, because it packs a decent punch!
Seashells Phu Quoc Hotel & Spa
At Seashells Phu Quoc Hotel & Spa, one can enjoy sunsets in Phu Quoc from many places, all with spectacular vantage points. One option is the air-conditioned comfort of the Coral Restaurant dining room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Or, take in the gentle sea breeze at Cocoon Beach Lounge on the patio fronting the pool and beach. (For VND350,000, outside guests can also enjoy the pools during their visit.) And, to maximize the experience and value, the resort also offers happy hour from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the Seashells Lobby Lounge, which includes 50% off drinks. Whatever venue guests choose, they can be assured that the drinks will be delicious and the Phu Quoc sunset views will be delightful.
Phu Quoc: an Incredible Island Destination for Cocktail Bars with Stunning Sunsets
If you spend any amount of time on the island and don’t catch a sunset in Phu Quoc, you have committed a grave crime. To watch the sky turn a million shades of red, orange, and pink and look on as the glowing ball of fire slips into the ocean is breathtaking. If you and your loved one want to be romanced by the beauty of nature while caressing your palates with tasty combinations of spirits, rest assured you can find the best of both in Phu Quoc. Be sure to check out the venues on this list of The Best Sunset Bars and Cocktails in Phu Quoc, and feel free to share your experiences with us on City Pass Guide’s Facebook page.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC A FUZZY FUTURE FOR PHU QUOC
To be updated
What does the future of Phu Quoc hold?
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 travelers have been drawn to the island for its sandy beaches, visa exemption program, 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.
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 Phu Quoc 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.
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 travelers 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 for Phu Quoc?
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 promotes 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 in 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 the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the document is both nebulous and soft; from its chief document, no actual guidelines or missions are mandated.
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.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC PHU QUOC INFRASTRUCTURE TO 2030: AMBITIOUS AND WHY NOT ?
By Karen Wise
The tourism Industry Boom holds Phu Quoc Island’s future
• Health facilities and air travel are two examples of Phu Quoc’s infrastructure success
• Phu Quoc still requires further investment to overcome challenges and complete key infrastructure projects
The Phu Quoc Island Construction Master Plan to 2030, revised in March 2017, is undoubtedly an ambitious one with a central focus on the development and upgrade of Phu Quoc’s infrastructure. Though it is ambitious, the plan shouldn’t be too unsurprising given the island’s major role in Vietnam’s tourism industry.
The plan identifies three large urban areas—Phu Quoc’s main town of Duong Dong, as well as An Thoi and Cua Can. It seeks the support of both domestic and international investors for Phu Quoc to realize projects in world-class leisure and entertainment, transportation, telecommunications, additional power supply and water, and sewage treatment. Progress has since been made in many of these areas.
Major Investments in Phu Quoc So Far
Examples of major investments that have already been completed include Phu Quoc International Airport, which opened in 2012 and expanded again in late 2018, and the Vinmec Phu Quoc International Hospital, which opened in 2015. Also making recent headlines was the opening of Phu Quoc’s Corona Casino, the first casino in the country in which Vietnamese nationals can gamble.
Yet another impressive addition to Phu Quoc’s infrastructure has been the world’s longest oversea cable car ride (8 km), connecting An Thoi town and Hon Thom Island, funded by the Sun Group. In addition to being a fabulous tourist attraction with amazing views of Phu Quoc and beyond, the cable car also cuts the travel time between the two locations in half.
Health and Air Travel: Two Examples of Phu Quoc’s Success
The 150-bed Vinmec Phu Quoc International Hospital in Ganh Dau, adjacent to Vinpearl Safari and Vinpearl Land Amusement Park, has brought modern medical facilities to Phu Quoc that are on par with those available in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. Impressively modern Vinmec Phu Quoc International Hospital boasts a mix of experienced foreign and Vietnamese doctors able to speak Russian, French, and English.
Along with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, this Vinmec hospital is a real boost to both residents and tourists in Phu Quoc needing high-quality medical treatment. Vinmec Phu Quoc was actually the second Vinmec hospital to open in Vietnam, following on from Vinmec Times City International Hospital, which opened in Hanoi in 2012.
In addition to general practice, Vinmec Phu Quoc International Hospital offers a comprehensive list of specialist services including accident and emergency, resuscitation, gastroenterology, gynecology and obstetrics. The Imaging and Radiology Department is fully equipped with state of the art equipment and, importantly for families, there is a high quality pediatric department. Emergency care for Phu Quoc residents and visitors is available 24/7 and there is also a pharmacy on site.
Improvements have also been made to the public health facilities on the island. The Phu Quoc General Hospital in Duong Dong now incorporates the town’s medical clinic and has over 20 departments. The physical buildings and facilities are in need of refurbishment, but the staff is dedicated and experienced. Phu Quoc General Hospital is open to foreigners and local residents.
Travel by air is certainly the most common way to arrive on Vietnam’s ‘Pearl Island’ and the current capacity at Phu Quoc International Airport is approaching four million passengers per year. There are also plans in place for a second terminal and runway to take the annual number of air passengers visiting Phu Quoc up to a possible 10 million by 2030.
Airlines currently operating flights to and from Phu Quoc include Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, Bamboo Airways, and Jetstar Pacific. The busiest route is between Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc, but there are also multiple flights daily between Phu Quoc and Hanoi. In 2016, TUI Airways commenced a twice-weekly flight service for the European winter season (December to March), bringing tourists to Phu Quoc from Sweden and the UK, amongst other countries. In November 2018, Air Asia Airlines commenced flights between Kuala Lumpur and Phu Quoc, and other major international destinations with direct flights to Phu Quoc including Seoul, Bangkok, and Guangzhou.
Increased Investment Planned to Complete Key Phu Quoc Infrastructure Projects
Rapid development typically brings disruption and a plethora of challenges. Though there are many more projects in the pipeline and plenty of obstacles to overcome, there is no doubting the government’s determination to push ahead. In January 2019, representatives from Phu Quoc’s administration management board stated their intention to pursue investment capital to speed up the completion of key infrastructure projects, improve planning and tackle land disputes, compensation, site clearance, and resettlement issues.
In the same month, Vietnam News reported that 46 projects had been completed, 41 projects underway with a total investment value of VND101.43 billion, and that, to date, there are 31 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects with a total registered capital of $293 million. Money is indeed flowing to Vietnam’s major island destination, although the issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in Phu Quoc should not be put aside.
In 2017, local government figures stated that Phu Quoc welcomed around 2 million visitors to the island, with the number of foreign tourists increasing by more than 70 percent. With the current and future plans to further upgrade the island’s infrastructure and world class leisure facilities, a continued rise seems certain in the number of visitors to Phu Quoc, where Vietnam’s tourism industry is booming.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC PHU QUOC: TOWARD A PLASTIC WASTE-FREE ISLAND
By WWF-Viet Nam
Can Phu Quoc Island Deliver its Platic Waste-Free Plan?
- Long celebrated as the “Pearl Island” of Vietnam
- Phu Quoc in recent years faces a severe crisis: WASTE!
THE WASTE SITUATION IN PHU QUOC
As 200 tons of waste is produced daily, the largest island in Vietnam finds itself inundated with overwhelming waste, especially plastic waste, and the consequences are overtly visible. Visit any public beach that is not managed by a private resort, one can easily spot patches of plastic bags floating among the waves, remnants of styrofoam boxes, and plastic containers beached in the sand.
Stand on Nguyen Trung Truc Bridge overlooking the Duong Dong River below, one can observe a stream of assorted waste dumped by locals, waste that will follow the river current heading out to sea. Driving to the northwest of the island one has to pass the infamous open landfill dump right by the road, this has unfortunately grown into a small hill and is now covered by a temporary fence to hide it from obvious view.
This waste situation is not only impacting the tourism business on the island but also damaging precious native marine ecosystems, including the local seagrass beds, which are essential habitats for blue swimmer crabs – a valuable main source of income for many fishermen communities on the island.
PHU QUOC MUST LOOK FORWARD
To help protect the native environment and address plastic waste issues, WWF-Viet Nam began the Phu Quoc – Toward a plastic waste-free island project. Sponsored by USAID and implemented by WWF-Viet Nam, this project is working with many different stakeholders such as the local government, schools, local communities and businesses who are expected to cooperate with each other within a public-private partnership platform to reduce single-use plastic, and move towards a plastic waste-free island.
In engaging with the local government, the project is working with the District’s People Committee to commit the whole island to reduce single-use plastic. Over 60 teachers and school representatives from more than 30 schools have attended a two-day training on plastic waste and have begun adopting plastic-reducing practices into their schools’ policies. Two villages adjacent to the seagrass beds – Da Chong in Bai Thom commune and Bai Bon in Ham Ninh commune – are setting up a better waste management system where plastic waste is separated and better collected, reducing the chances of discharging waste directly into the ocean.
With technical support from WWF-Viet Nam, participating businesses are exploring ways to reduce single-use plastic in their daily operations. Effective practices like removing plastic straws, using refillable dispensers for shampoo, replacing plastic packaging, using glass bottles, separating waste etc. are being implemented by many businesses. WWF-Viet Nam hopes to facilitate a group of businesses committed to reduce single-use plastic products, in which members can advise one another and inspire interested businesses to join. WWF-Viet Nam will also connect this group to the local government, further advocating for collaboration among different stakeholders to tackle the plastic waste issue together.
At the end of November 2019, 37 businesses in Phu Quoc had officially agreed to participate in the project. With the support from Visit Phu Quoc (visitphuquoc.info), WWF-Viet Nam hopes to map out these businesses, so that any tourist who wants to help the plastic-reducing cause can support these businesses and spread the word.
Please help our beautiful island, minimize your footprint by at least saying no to single-use plastic!
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC FISHING VILLAGES ON PHU QUOC ISLAND
Where are the best local 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.
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 you 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.
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.
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 a motorbike and have time, enjoy the trip.
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.
Other opportunities to spot fishing activities
The inhabitants of Phu Quoc Island mainly live from the 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.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHU QUOC CUTEST DOG IN VIETNAM: PHU QUOC RIDGEBACK
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.
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