Saturday, September 6, 2014

Phu Quoc Island: Lord of the Dogs

We spent out National Day vacation on Phu Quoc Island. Phu Quoc is Vietnam's largest island and is known for its own breed of dog, beautiful beaches, pearl farms, natural exports, and jungle. Jihoon and I booked three hotel rooms on the north side of the island for the eleven of us which ended up being the perfect amount of space. Our bungalows were literally on the beach. We took a bus to a port city where we connected to a ferry to get to the island. Both forms of transportation had Vietnamese pop music and comedy shows playing so loudly that not even my headphones could fully block out the sound. Pop music is extremely popular here. I've had a hard time finding anyone my age who is into rock and roll. When we boarded our ferry we found out that our seats had been double booked and we were given seats on the bottom part of the boat. It was a very bumpy ride, but we arrived intact! It was dumping rain when we arrived, so we spent the first night getting settled and eating our first pizza in Vietnam. I quickly noticed how deserted the island was and I later realized that we were there during the off season. Much of the island is at the beginning stages of construction and most of the roads are dirt paths. I think Phu Quoc has ten or so years before being finished as a tourist destination, because most of the construction is hand and shovel rather than large construction companies.
We took a beach day our first day, because the weather was so nice. I spent most of the day reading my new Steven King novel, swimming, and walking on the beach. The group reconvened for sunset which was something out of this world. We spent a good hour down at the beach just watching the sun go down and listening to music. The water was so warm that we went swimming at dusk. We went to the Buddha Lounge for a bit of dancing. The bar was German owned and I liked hearing a different version of club music compared to the same old beat of Can Tho. The next day we woke up early to be tourists and explore the island. We got a private bus and toured five sites for the price of 5usd. Our first stop was a Buddhist pagoda in the jungle. It was absolutely beautiful. The various religious statues and graves were scattered on the hillside. I explored and came upon a bunch of hidden idols in the forest. At the top of the hillside there was a small garden where a monk was praying in a gazebo. I sat there for a while and lit some incense for my Mom and uncle. I'm not sure what insect was making the noise, but there was a buzzing sound at the top of the hillside. 
Our second location was a waterfall in the jungle. It was about a fifteen minute walk to the waterfall, which was packed with tourists so I climbed over the side of the fall to explore. I got stuck at a river crossing which was too difficult to cross on my own so I got Jihoon to hike with me. Together we were able to hike another fifteen minutes past the fall until the brush became too thick to go any further. The forests here are very different. The ground is springy from all the moisture and there are vines everywhere, 
where we got stuck
After the waterfall we stopped of at a store that sold wine and other goods made of honey myrtle. We had a little wine tasting and it tasted very similar to port (extremely sweet!). We had lunch on the south side of the island. The south side has white sand beaches and you can walk out fifty yards without the water going above your head. I had never been to such a soft sand beach and the water was crystal clear. The sand felt like flour under my feet. We played with starfish and hermit crabs and snapped a few photos before having to leave. We would have loved to stay there the whole day, but the day was quickly coming to an end.
Our land destination was a pearl farm that was owned by a very eccentric Australian man. We learned how the farm speeds up the process of pearl production by inserting a small plastic ball into the oyster and repeating the process up to three times depending on the oyster. I spent our last day on the island reading my book and hanging out with one of the local dogs. I named him Sandy while the boys named him Ballzack. I think Sandy fits him better. We went to the night market for dinner and splurged for crab, fish, octopus, prawns, veggies, and a bottle of wine. We headed back home to Can Tho the next day by plane this time. It was only a thirty minute plane ride, rather than a six hour bus/boat ride. Our vacation within a vacation was so relaxing and beautiful. I can't believe we travel to Hanoi, Sa Pa, and Halong Bay on Thursday! Next Sunday marks my first month in Vietnam and a quarter of the trip over. Crazy! 
He would guard our door at night

Love to you all,

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