Currently it's the 50th Anniversary of the ASEAN alliance. ASEAN consists of 10 separate countries in the South Eastern region of Asia. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, I recently visited Vietnam and Cambodia.
While most western travelers visiting Vietnam beaches head north towards Halong Bay, most of the Vietnamese travelers are heading West of Ho Chi Minh. Just a stone's throw from Cambodia is the island of Phu Quoc.
Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam and is only a short 40 minute flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
What I love about Phu Quoc is ability to get off the beaten path and have experiences without being inundated with bus loads of tourists.
Here is my list of the top ten things to do in Phu Quoc.
10. Visit Sao Beach
Sao beach is busy with restaurants and tourists, but you can easily escape to a more deserted part of the beach. The hook at the north end of the beach has no restaurants and had no one hanging out. The water was crystal clear and the beach soft white sand. The perfect place for Instagram photos!
9. Trung Truc Temple
Visiting temples in SE Asia, generally means standing in a crowded area with tourists. Not here! The Trung Truc Temple was one of the most enjoyable temples, because there was almost no one else in sight. The scenery is beautiful, decorated with small ponds filled with lilypads. This temple is unique, because instead of being dedicated to a Buddha, it's dedicated to Nguyễn Trung Trực who was a Vietnamese fisherman and national hero who helped organize a militia to fight against the French colonization of Vietnam in the 1860's.
8. Visit a Pepper Farm
Phu Quoc is known for the quality of the peppercorns that grow on the island. This unique tourist stop doesn't feel very touristy at all. There are several, but the one I visited was the Hai Dương Pepper Farm. Be sure to taste the peppercorns fresh from the trees!
7. Island Hopping
Renting a boat from An Thới tiên to island hop is the perfect way to enjoy a day on Phu Quoc. Spend the day fishing for lunch, snorkeling through turquoise waters and soaking up the sun on the top deck of the boat.
Kayaking on the Cua Can River is a peaceful and memorable experience while visiting Phu Quoc. I did this from the dock at the Phượng vĩ Restaurant
5. Dinner on the River
After Kayaking at Phượng vĩ Restaurant on the river, stay for dinner. The restaurant's specialty is freshly caught seafood, and the local pepper. I opted for a customized meal of noodles, vegetables and prawns and it was one of the best meals I have had in Vietnam.
4. Scuba Dive
Scuba diving is one of the most unique ways to experience a destination. If you aren't certified, the clear waters of Phu Quoc make it a perfect place to get acquainted with a discovery dive or get certified!
3. Phu Quoc Night Market
One of my favorite aspects of Asian countries is the tradition of night markets. Although this market is designed for tourists, it's still a great local hangout. The best part is the homemade ice creams made right in front of your eyes!
2. Bee Farm
I have tasted local honey all over the world, but there had been none as delicious as the honey at the Út Phượng Bee Farm in Phu Quoc. Walking through the picturesque gardens among lychee trees and bee hives was almost as sweet as the honey made here. I'm not one for souvenirs, but a few small jars of honey for my family and myself.
1. The Local Market
Duong Dong Market was my favorite part of visiting Phu Quoc, and the best experience for travelers looking to get a taste of local life. This is a market that almost never sees a tourist, which meant that this experience was authentic and unique. Roam the stalls of fresh fish, meat and produce, interact with locals and take a lot of photos!
Where to Stay:
With two infinity pools, the Novotel Phu Quoc is sure to please. The garden bungalows are beautiful, and come equip with a deep soaking tub, perfect for relaxing after a long day exploring the island!
Visit this link for a list of festivals going on during the 50th anniversary year in the ASEAN regions.