Had a great feeling approaching An Thoi
, southern port of Phu Quoc island. 18 months ago Vix and I had landed here and, after exploring the island, I had dreamed of returning and introducing friends to its beaches
and climate. So here we were, five of us. and with some knowledge of the island I was looking forward to some new adventures.
A forward booking at Cassia Cottages
did not disappoint, in fact it surpassed my expectations. Based around a beautiful plantation villa, the 'resort ', formerly a colonial plantation house, now comprises three villas and some newly built joining villas. Set just off the beach, and 500m south on Long beach, the resort turned out to be great peaceful base to explore the island and well situated for nightly beach walks to nearby bars and restaurants. Facing directly West, the pool is perfectly located for enjoying sunsets through coconut trees.
The newly formed 'Chapter of Five' had three memorable motor/cycle trips, to the North of the island, to the North West and to Bai Sao
a wonderful silver sand beach on the South East coast. We also joined a boat trip to the islands in the South for a day's corel reef snorkelling and some quite successful fishing.
The roads on the islands
had seen no benefits from the islands newly formed status as Vietnam's latest national tourist designated site. The few main roads in the island are hard surfaced and barely greater than single track which makes them quite dangerous for motorcyclists - especially when four wheeled vehicles appear from nowhere and take no notice of you...so we kept to the dry red crusted roads and tracks. This was Archie's first motorcycling experience on public roads, and he did exceptionally well with a ' broncho' bike that regularly stalled at inappropriate moments.
Our trip to explore the north took us to Bai Thom where we spent a while in a café set up like a 'youth club' for the local kids
..after several English lessons, pool and table football we set out to see if we could circumnavigate the north and west peninsula. The map indicated some tracks so we set off expectantly for Ham Rong. The roads varied but soon we were forced to drive through thick sand tracks, at times we were skidding along as if we were at Cradley Heath speedway track. By this time Vix and Liz had dismounted and were forced to walk at the height of day without shade. We finally reached the small linear seafronted village of Ham Rong. A fantastically interesting settlement, but not at all attractive with the community appearing to be ambivalent to the mess they create and live with, littering the beach with ubiquitous plastic bags and sundry rubbish.
We were reluctant to retrace our tracks through the sands and since I had read that it was possible to get a ferry from here round the peninsula to Ganh Dau we spent about half an hour unsuccessfully establishing if there was a ferry or alternative roads. People were very interested in trying to understand our request for a boat, including all the school children, but to no avail.
A little deflated we returned to the m/cycles and a final signing request led to negotiation
with the arrival of a small boat
on the shore. With no jetty, we lifted the bikes through the water and secured them onto the boat
and we were off - very conscious that the cost of 'sinking' was the cost of the bikes and a lot of inconvenience. The first few minutes involved positioning ourselves carefully to balance the boat which tipped significantly back and forward until Archie adopted a squatting position in the middle. Having gained balance and confidence, we had a great 45 minute coastal trip to our destination. It turned out a great way to see the west coast!!
Had a great day at Bai Sao (Star Beach),
which is by far the best beach on the island. A largish party of women from Ho Chi Minh were having a day at the beach, which could easily have been a scene from a 1920's Victorian outing on Brighton beach, apart from the different fashions!!
Unfortunately, on the return journey, Archie found a loose plank on a bridge that sent him over the front of the bike. A cut knee and some scrapes left a bruised Archie and damaged Honda. Fortunately all was recoverable and didn't impact on our trip. Even more fortunately, we weren't able to witness the indignity as Arch had gone on ahead whilst we'd pit-stopped to see the sun setting over a cold beer.
As Alan's said, despite some development on the island, it remains for the time being at least, a quiet and unspoilt corner of Vietnam. Everywhere we've explored, children and adults alike call out "Hello, what's your name?"
as well as being hugely amused by Archie's facial hair.
has featured large in our amusement activities, as has consuming (and regularly over-ordering by mistake) vast quantities of Tiger prawns and fish. Liz and I have developed a wee taste for Vietnamese Whisky which is quite passable.
Everyday, a lovely smiling woman entreats us to have a massage on the beach which has been taken up by everyone except me; I have also resisted the offer of having my leg hairs plucked one by one via a strange method that involves a cotton reel, strands of thread and some deft fingers.
Anyway, we've successfully managed to strike a balance between activity and chilling which has made the time pass gently. This morning, we saw Archie off on the plane to Ho Chi Minh and a long onward journey and it's been lovely having his, Liz and Barry's company as a most excellent 'holiday' interlude from our travels. Shortly, we'll be off again ourselves, firstly up through the areas of Vietnam that we haven't seen before (Dalat, and Hue and Hoi An on the coast) before transversing through Laos again and into the Western province of Thailand and through Ubon Ratchathani Province where Dad's friend Bante trained as a Buddhist Monk.