Phu Quoc, nicknamed Pearl Island after its signature export, is the largest island in Vietnam just seven miles off the coast of Cambodia and is an island almost the same size as Singapore in the South East corner of the Gulf of Thailand. It has an area of roughly 222 square miles and a permanent population of approximately 103,000. Duong Dong is the administrative and largest town on the island on the West coast, the only other township is An Thoi in the South.
The economy was centred on fishing and agriculture until tourism was introduced to the island and created a sudden burst of energy introducing several international five-star resorts and hotels. Phu Quoc international airport is the hub connecting the island with mainland Vietnam and now, several other international destinations, including Bangkok.
From March 2014 Vietnam allowed all foreign tourists to visit Phu Quoc visa-free for a period up to 30 days to encourage international tourism. The Radisson Blu five star hotel is 23 km from Phu Quoc International Airport, the property sits on the coast and has a white sandy shoreline. We were collected from the airport and delivered by minivan to the resort 40 minutes later.
We passed through Duong Dong which is a busy, dusty, little town and
We ate in the Avenue restaurant most evenings although if you do fancy something different there is an international dining complex on the complex with Korean, Chinese, French, Italian, and Thai restaurants and various gift, wine and souvenir shops. Our high ceilinged room was a 90sqm one bedroom suite with a separate bedroom, living room, large bathroom and cloakroom. It was very comfortable and became our sanctum for the week.
Two balconies floor to ceiling windows, elegantly furnished and modern equipped. The main bathroom had separate WC and shower cubicles, a bathtub and twin sinks. White fluffy towels and a king sized comfortable bed with white starched sheets. The large circular swimming pool took centre stage in the tropical gardens and our room looked out to the sea where there was a small island less than a kilometre offshore and at night the horizon was lit with the green fairy lights of the local fishing fleet.
There were two, three and six roomed garden/beach villas between the main hotel and the pristine beach where large families or groups were accommodated with their own swimming pools, terraces and exclusivity. We did venture out a few times only to see what the locals were like but in all honesty, we were always relieved to arrive back on site.
As the taxi drove North for 15 minutes there is a small fishing town called Ganh Dau growing rapidly due to the staffing and supply requirements of the holiday resorts and support industries. We passed the Vin Pearl Resort which has a waterpark, theme park and safari – all ideal for families with children, one assumes that you could easily spend the best part of a day at each. A modern international hospital was just 5 minutes up the road and we ate out at a local seafood restaurant one evening but the chaotic, local life was a world away from the serenity of the Radisson Blu.
We also hired a local driver to take us for a tour of the island’s cultural sites. The roads are not that good though and motorcycles appear from all angles in great numbers with few riders adhering to the rules of the road so go careful! Our driver took us to the Dinh Ba Temple built on the rocks at the mouth of the fishing port and pier of Duong Dong Town. We drove past the Pepper Farms and the airport to the Ho Quoc Pagoda and Can Dai Temple which were both well worth a visit to learn of the history of the island.
Onto the Coconut Prison built by US Engineers for the detention of captured Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. A sad place where various atrocities of war seemed to have taken place including the Tiger Cages – open-air barbed wire pens where the sun-baked those interred and small shipping containers packed with prisoners sealed from the outside world. He took us to Long Beach, a large public beach and then onto Ham Ninh, both with large seafood restaurants surrounded by smaller local arts and crafts shops and seafood stalls but the hotel fed us so well at the breakfast and evening buffets we had to control our intake!
There was a members-only lounge called Alumni that provided somewhere comfortable during the day with complimentary cocktails, drinks and canapés each evening between 6 – 8 pm with refreshments throughout the day. The bars in the hotel, by the swimming pool and on the terraced roof deck were all ideal venues to take a drink and meet the other international guests. Avenue the main restaurant served a smorgasbord of international foods, catering for all tastes and palates.
I put on so much weight – I need a diet! We had booked the car for the day for 8 hours from 9 am but were more than ready to return to the calm and luxurious surroundings of the Radisson and its comforts by early afternoon. I visited the on-site Akoya Spa and was so impressed with the strong Vietnamese massage that I received from the young man there that we are both returning again before we leave for more of the same. All in all a very relaxing stay at the Radisson Blu Phu Quoc. I don’t want to go home…