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.
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.
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.