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General island informations
The tropical island (dao = island) of Phu Quoc (pronounced: Fu Kuok) lies 500 km west of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the Gulf of Thailand. The island is located with some 20 more small islands nearer to the border of Cambodia than to Vietnam. This is the reason for differences and fightings between Vietnam and Cambodia in the past.
Phu Quoc is bigger than her Thai sisters Phuket and Koh Samui, but lagging behind their developement for some decades. That´s why the long white sandy beaches are still natural,quiet and empty, the people are friendly and relaxed. When the vietnamese touristic promotion talks about Phu Quoc been the Koh Samui of Vietnam, this seems to be more a wishful thinking then reality. Phu Quoc is different in many ways. It is not Thai, it is Vietnamese.
314 square kilometers of the islands area are protected as a national park since 2001. The montains in the north east are covered with dense tropical rain forest, in which many kinds of monkeys and other wild animals live. The park forests are not easy to enter, but trecking tours are offered for tourists. Besides bird and animal watching, the nice waterfalls are worth visiting.
In the main village of Phu Quoc, Duong Dong (pronounced: Szuong Dong), are living about 30.000 people. Still this place is dominated by fishing and traditional trading on the markets along the river. It is a very busy town in the morning, when fishermen and farmers sell their products from around the island. Besides fresh fish, it is mainly vegetable, tropical fruits and of cause the world famous fish sauce Nuoc Mam, that sells. There are so many boats and people in the town, that you can get lost easily or get confused form all the well organized chaos. At night, when the busy daytime activities are over, it is a nice place to visit, especially the night market is a must see.
Just some kilometers south of the town, the Long Beach (Bai Truong) fulfills holiday dreams of white sand, palm trees, turquoise blue sea and many nice bungalow resorts and restaurants. Since the vietnamese coastline streches mainly to the east, Phu Quoc´s Long Beach has the best place to enjoy spectacular sunsets at the sea. The more than 20 km long beach offers many hotel resorts with simple bungalows on the beach or luxury hotel rooms with swimming pools. But there is still enough space for everybody to relax on a quiet place in the shadow or enjoy the very good food in one of the beach restaurants. The times will soon change this beach with more luxury hotels to be built and more water sports to entertain the tourists. For those who like smaller beaches with less resorts, the beaches in the south can be recommended. And also the Ong Lang Beach some kilometers north of Duong Dong is a very nice place to enjoy beach and sea. Maybe the nicest beach is Bai Sao (Star Beach) with very clean water and white sand. Only very simple bungalow hut guesthouses are providing rooms there. In the north east, hidden behind the national park and the mountains, the Vong Beach and the Bai Thom Beach are paradises for people who like to be alone and surrounded by pure nature without any infrastructure. The Bai Thom Beach is said to be one of the nicest natural beaches in Asia.
An Thoi, the main village in the south was built up while more and more prisoners came to the island in the past times. Nowerdays it is the starting point for trips to the world of small islands in the south of Phu Quoc. Swimming, snorkeling and diving are excellent there. The ferry boats from Rach Gia arrive at An Thoi pier, but only few guests sty at the village. Most of them will get to their hotels and beach resorts as soon as possible. The former prison near An Thoi is a museum today and can be visited at daytime.
Phu Quoc still has only a few concrete raods and many red soil gravel roads lead through the jungle and the farmers plantations of coconut and rubber trees or fields of chilli. It is possible to rent a motorbike or a taxi to do a sightseeing trip on the island. Phu Quoc is safe and the people are friendly and helpful. But some preparation, enough time and an island map should be considered.
Discover the "beautiful land" (Phu Quoc), as long as it still is beautiful and an island paradise.
Status of the island
Besides the massively increasing construction and opening of new resorts, hotels and guesthouses between Duong Dong and the airport area of Long Beach, the first luxury hotel at beautiful Khem Beach in the south has been completed. JW Marriott opened ist doors at Emerald Bay. And northwestern Bai Dai Beach is now developed by Vinpearl Hotel Group, opening three luxury beach front hotels, one golf course and one casino.
Planned direct flights from Bangkok to Phu Quoc have not been realized yet.
The official plans of steadily increase the islands attractivity for national and international tourists and investors lead to some major changes and projects. Construction of infrastructure and hotels have started at Dai beach in the northwest and Sao beach in the south east. And Khem beach, that had been a military restricted area, has been opend to public and future plannings. The southern An Thoi island archipelago will be accessible by the longest cable railway in southeast asia soon and there should be at least three luxury hotels on Thom island.
A safari park opened its doors recently near Bai Dai. It shall develop to become Vietnam´s largest zoological park.
The north to south island highway is nearly completed and traveling throuh Phu Quoc will improve soon. But there is still a lot of construction works all around Duong Dong and in the middle part of Long beach, where new hotels and residences are being built.
In december 2012 the new international airport of Phu Quoc has been opened to public. The big concrete and glass building is still looking like a construction site since it stands alone in a vast area without trees or flowers. The main road that connects Duong Dong with An Thoi in the south is going to be renewed to become a four lane highway. This huge construction site is more than 25 km long with terrible truck traffic and gravel surface, which killed many motorcycle tries already. North of Duong Dong direction to Ganh Dau, the street has pavement till Cua Can and south of the main town along the Long Beach, the road is good untill the new airport. All other streets are still gravel roads.
In the center of the long beach Bai Truong some new hotels are under construction, among them jumbo projects with luxuary hotels and residences. Some new hotels like the Mercure Phu Quoc Resort and the Salinda Premium Resort may open their doors in late 2014 or 2015.
The necessary investments in infrastructure projects on Phu Quoc will return in the next coming years, when the island will have the expected increase in tourism. The potencial of this island as a holiday paradise is huge. And when the first flights from Bangkok, Hongkong or Singapore will arrive directly to Phu Quoc, it may probably get full on the beaches.
Till now, Phu Quoc is a quiet and peaceful place and even in the high season it is not realy full. The people of Phu Quoc are relaxed, and they are waiting with patience for the wealthier times to come.
History of Phu Quoc
The history of Phu Quoc is short and not much exciting. Only some fishermen families and prisoners lived on the island till the early 1980s. The french occupied Phu Quoc already in 1869 and start to grow rubber trees and coconut palms, but the island remains unattractive for many decades. So prisoners were sent to Phu Quoc, beeing the ideal prison, away from everything nd without anything there. First the French managed the prisoners camps, later the US army used Phu Quoc´s 'infrastructure' during the Vietnam war (american war) for thousands of political and war prisoners. So the island remained untouched and the nature could grow without commercial interests until nower days. More than 60% of the islands area are still covered with primary rain forests. Since 2001 314 sqaure kilometers in the north east of Phu Quoc have been protected as a national park.
During the american war from 1964 till 1975 (the Vietnamese people call the war not Vietnamese war but American war), the prisoners camps in the south of Phu Quoc hosted more than 40.000 people, tortured and treated barbarously. Many of them died. The camps had been closed finally in 1975 after the end of the war, and opend again later as a museum.
Fishing, coconut harvesting, chili and rubber tree growing remained the only income for the inhabitants till the 1990s. Only app. 20.000 people lived in the small villages of Duong Dong, An Thoi und Cua Can. During the regime of the Khmer rounge in Cambodia, nearly 50.000 Vietnamese soldiers had been sent to Phu Quoc to prevent an invasion of the Cambodians, who always proclaimed Phu Quoc to be a cambodian island. Until today the north of the island and some other places are military restricted areas.
Since the mid of the 1990s Phu Quoc starts to wake up from its long sleep of being a forgotten world. This beautiful and wonderful island (the meaning of "Phu Quoc" is "beautiful land") is discovering tourism and tourism is going to discover Phu Quoc. First slowly and being seen as a secret, the development of infrastructure and worldwide reputation is accelarating very fast now. The vietnamese government discovered the chances and the potential of Phu Quoc, to become a Koh Samui or Phuket of Vietnam. New hotels and beach resorts were built and are going to be build along the beautiful beaches to increase the bed capacity of the island for tourists from around the world.
An international airport has opened in late 2012 and more and more direct international flights will arrive on Phu Quoc.Phu Quoc tropical-travel-photos