We didn’t know a whole lot about Phu Quoc Island before we got here so we didn’t really know what to expect… I think it is fair to say that Phu Quoc Island far exceeded our expectations!! As I mentioned in my last post, we arrived to our resort mid-afternoon and immediately jumped into the warm water where we spent the rest of the afternoon until the sunset. The sunset was stunning—one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen!! By this point, I knew that we were in for a few wonderful days. The resort included a nice, hot breakfast (definitely a step up from the dry cereal that I’ve been eating) right next to the ocean. Our first full day was spent relaxing around the pool and the beach. We had a huge pool that overlooked the ocean all to ourselves… it was perfect! After spending all day in the sun however, I resembled more of a lobster than an American—the sun is incredibly intense on Phu Quoc! As the afternoon wore on and the temperature decreased slightly, Laura and I decided to teat ourselves to massages on the beach. An hour-long massage was an entire $5… it was perfection! We headed into town for dinner… a tourist trap compared to the other places we’ve been in Vietnam. Rather than paying $1 or $2 for dinner, the prices here were about $5. It felt like we were breaking the bank for dinner but everything is certainly relative as we got a nice Indian dinner for only $5… I suppose it isn’t too bad of a deal in the grand scheme of things! Our final full day on Phu Quoc was spent on a tour of the island. Our first stop was at the Australian Pearl Factory, not far from our resort. We got to see how the pearls are collected from the oysters. The color of the oyster shell determines the color of the pearl. The oysters stay in the ocean for 3-7 years, which allows the pearl to grow. Then they simply slice out the pearl and it is ready to go! After we saw the demonstration, we went into the shop where they had pearl necklaces, pearl earrings, and pearl everything! The place was packed with people but the redeeming factor is that the place was air conditioned (a wonderful feeling in 100 degree heat)! Afterwards, we got dropped off at the coconut tree prison—an American/Southern Vietnamese prison for the Northern communists. They used extremely harsh forms of punishment that made me extremely uncomfortable. For instance, one of the forms of punishment included putting the prisoners into “tiger cages”—a small cage made of barbwire… so small that the prisoners couldn’t even move. It’s crazy to think that all of this occurred just a few decades ago. We walked through many prison cells that depicted what life in the prison was like. After the prison, we drove across the street to the fish factory and saw the big barrels where they make the fish sauce… it smelled horrid (especially to an individual who isn’t a fan of fish in the first place)! There were lots of fish stores surrounding the fish sauce factory but as others looked around at the fish, I was recuperating in the air conditioning… I will never take air conditioning or cool weather for granted again after our experience here in Vietnam where we are typically covered in sweat all day! Then we moved onto Sao beach for lunch and some time to enjoy the beautiful beach. Unfortunately we weren’t so lucky and as we just finished lunch, it down-poured… we’re talking monsoon-like weather. We were unsure of the status of the rest of our tour but fortunately when we arrived at the fishing village (our next stop on the tour), it was dry! There was a ton of seafood available for purchase—some prepared and some still alive. It broke my heart to see little seahorses for sale. They also had sharks for sale… definitely not my cup of tea! Then we were off to Wallter Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the island. We hiked up to the waterfall and when we got to the top, we unanimously agreed that would suffice as our workout for the day!! Next we were off to the sim wine factory where we got to see the sim flower/berry that they make the wine out of. We also saw where the wine was fermented and we got to try a few samples of both juice and wine!! Our last stop was at a pepper farm where we saw pepper growing from the trees. It grows in green pods before the pepper is taken our and ground up. We also saw some durian fruit… a great fruit to look at but once cut open, it’s one of the most horrid smells ever… just trust me on this one! Fortunately these durians were still attached to the tree! We were all exhausted when we got back so we had a little time to relax before enjoying dinner on the beach while watching the sunset. Once again, the sunset was spectacular! We all really enjoyed our time on the beautiful island of Phu Quoc and we would love to stay longer… but Cambodia is calling!! Tomorrow we are taking a ferry back to Vietnam and then crossing over into Cambodia. Despite Cambodia only being about 6 miles from Phu Quoc, there is a lot of tension at the border between Phu Quoc and Cambodia… and it was strongly recommended that we head back to Vietnam mainland and then head to Cambodia… so that is exactly what we are doing! We will travel to Kampot, Cambodia where we will spend about two weeks working with a doctor, who has a Creighton connection, doing basic primary care work and setting up mobile clinics. We will surely be in for an experience!
Wishing you all the best!