There’s a reason why Vietnam’s best beaches lists always mention Phu Quoc, without fail. It’s got a liberal sprinkling of white-sand beaches, backed by palms and thick forest. You’ll find the least-visited to the north of the island, where the sands are bare, apart from local fishermen going about their daily business.
Long Beach well and truly lives up to its name, unravelling along the island’s south-western coast for five miles. All eyes are on this stretch, and most of the resorts have nabbed their very own section of caramel-coloured sand. That’s not to say it’s all hustle and bustle, though – there are still deserted spots left to the south.
Quiet and calm are the two words that sum up Rach Tram Beach. This north coast beach features white sands, calm waters and a forest backdrop. It’s completely cut off from the tourism bubble, so the only people disturbing you will be the odd fisherman drying their catch on the grass verges behind.
Souvenir stalls rub shoulders with seafood vendors at Duong Dong's night market. You can pick up pearls, shells and clothing on the cheap. And follow it with a fresh-as-they-come seafood dinner – you can pick your crabs, lobsters or prawns straight from the tank.
A good range of shops line up along Long Beach, which means your souvenir needs are all sorted. Conical hats and black pepper are just some of the goods. And you can stock up on beach essentials, too, like bikinis, suncream and snorkels.
Phu Quoc’s not known as Vietnam’s Pearl Island for nothing. They come in every colour under the sun here, from black to rare gold. Pearl farms are your best bet for the real deal. Plus, they have a huge variety of beautifully crafted necklaces, earrings and rings.
As the isle’s main town, Duong Dong comes up trumps in the bars department. It’s a great place to head for a relaxed tipple, with rooftop cocktail bars and a Czech-style microbrewery among the venues to choose from.
Long Beach leads the way when it comes to nightlife. The bars here double up as clubs, thanks to live DJs and beach bonfires. Rory’s Bar is the big name on the scene, and Coco Bar is another popular choice, with a homemade rum menu ticking off flavours like banana, coconut and passion fruit. Plus, if you’re travelling during a full or half moon, you can expect things to get even livelier.
Fish sauce is to Phu Quoc, what tapas is to Barcelona. The island prides itself on making the real deal, since anchovies flourish in the waters off shore. There are heaps of distilleries, which churn out 2.6 million gallons of the stuff every year.
Seafood is, of course, the star attraction on most menus here. Red flower crabs are the speciality, though. They’re so fresh, that you can usually choose your crab from the tank. The accompanying dipping sauce is a mix of black pepper, salt and lime juice.
This backpacker staple is a favourite on the island for breakfast or dessert. Slices of banana are added to thin, crepe-like pancakes, and topped with condensed milk or sugar.
It’s a special dish, since boletus – similar to a mushroom – only grows in the island’s forests during rainy season. As well as the boletus, fresh squid, prawns and minced meat are added to the soup.
The name says it all – sliced onion, garlic and spices are thrown into a flaming-hot frying pan, with cooked rice and pork. Fish sauce is a popular addition, too.
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