Robert Frost famously declared he chose the road “less traveled by,” a sentiment shared among travelers today who seek that unfrequented, unique destination. If this describes you, then I highly recommend a sojourn to Phú Quốc, a Vietnamese island located in the Gulf of Thailand.
I’m presently visiting my family on Phú Quốc and can tell you firsthand: the island is undergoing a major growth spurt in tourism and the once deliciously barren beaches are fast becoming a scene stippled with vacationers. In other words, get over here fast if you want to experience the island in its native incarnation.
The largest island in Vietnam, Phú Quốc is 593 square kilometers (50 km long/25 km wide) with a population of 75,000 people. The island is most renowned as the fish sauce, or nước mắm, capital of the world — if you’re a fan of Southeast Asian cuisines then whether you know it or not, you’re also a fan of nước mắm, a staple ingredient in most Vietnamese and Thai dishes. The pungent sauce is made from anchovies, salt, and water that ferments over a 12-month period. Note: if you’re not a fan of Vietnamese food, Phú Quốc is not the place for you as currently, there are very few culinary alternatives aside from a burger and a pizza joint.
In addition to high-quality nước mắm, startlingly fresh seafood, and a cornucopia of exotic fruits, Phú Quốc also offers soft white-sand beaches, sunsets that will leave you dry-mouthed with wonder, verdant mountainsides, and friendly villagers donning conical straw hats.
Get to Phú Quốc by ferry or air and be sure to reserve a room at either one of the luxurious resorts on the beach or less costly bungalows nearby. The two must-have items to bring are mosquito repellent (those pests love foreign blood) and anti-itch cream (because you will inevitably get bitten).
I confess I write this blog posting about Phú Quốc with some reluctance as it means I am contributing to the advance of tourism there and thus not helping to preserve the island’s natural essence. But this pearl of an island, my original homeland, is already unfolding its secrets to the world — with or without my help. And so, if you have more questions about Phú Quốc, I am more than happy to answer them as there is much to tell. 🙂