Other than all of the heartache and pain that went on in Phu Quoc those many years ago, it is a tropical paradise with the most beautiful beaches and amazing accommodations at the more luxurious places. It’s an island about 15 km south of Cambodia and an hour plane ride from Saigon or two-hour ferry ride from Rach Gia. The seafood is the best here, especially at the Night Market. You can find a meal for two people at local restaurants including the Night Market for less than $5 USD! And any dish you choose will be amazing.
Of course, poverty still exists here. We visited a family who lives in pretty much a shack. The mother was cooking on the side of the street, while her 1-year-old daughter was playing next to the speeding cars and motorbikes. We walked inside to find her walls filled with paintings that her husband had painted, cement floors and a wooden bed with one sheet on it. Her kitchen was outside by the street. But, regardless of the situation, she and her daughter were happy. She and her husband sell the paintings for reasonable prices. Randy bought a painting for about $7 USD, which probably helped them out a lot, considering that the average family in Vietnam makes about $150 per month.
Apart from the realization of how the majority of Vietnamese live, Phu Quoc is a beautiful island with a large part dedicated as a National Forest. You can find deserted beaches or beaches with many people participating in a variety of water sports. I chose to refresh my SCUBA diving skills. It was my second time diving in an ocean. It felt great to get back in the gear and under the water again. I didn’t have time to finish my certification here, but it’s a great place to do it. The sights underwater weren’t that exciting where I had dived, but the waters weren’t too choppy and the current was pretty calm. The instructors are great and it’s relatively cheap to get certified in Vietnam. Click here to find a list of dive operations and more information about Phu Quoc.
Lodging in Phu Quoc is hard to find if you want to find a place online during the peak season (December – February). Also, hotels and resorts will charge more during this time. But many places don’t have web sites, so it might be a better bet to just arrive in Phu Quoc and then find a place to stay.
Phu Quoc was the perfect place to relax. We spent about four hours at the massage salon on the first day! Our hotel didn’t have a massage salon, so we went to Phu Quoc-Saigon Resort to get pampered. Even though this was one of the nicer resorts, we got a great package deal for our manicure, pedicure, spa and sauna, full-body hour-long massage and facial. In the states, we would spend about $400 on something like this, but in Vietnam, you can get a relaxing, refreshing spa treatment for only $36! The women who work here do an excellent job. One lady gave us a manicure and pedicure and facial. And another lady gave us a calming body hour-long massage. We felt like royalty after the four-hour session. But, this wasn’t the last of it. We got another hour-long massage in Saigon for $10! I’m sure there are cheaper places that are just as good, though.
We definitely got star treatment in Vietnam. Although, I was afraid of everyone despising me because I cannot speak Vietnamese, I was wrong. I had only one encounter with someone who was slightly prejudiced, but that happens even in America. As a Vietnamese-American, it was great to visit Vietnam as a tourist. But having a father who didn’t instill in me the Vietnamese culture and a mother who was adopted during the war and deprived of her Vietnamese culture, I feel that it would be even greater to learn more and more about the Vietnamese culture, not only for my generation, but for the next. This is not the last you will hear about Vietnam from us. We will go back soon to discover more about the culture and its people, not only for my sake of knowing more about where my family is from, but for the next generation.