So Jonny and I had been living in Vietnam a month when our first long weekend approached. We had the Monday off work due to a national day in Vietnam. Speaking to other expats we’d met, these weekends were an excuse to flea the city. Most people headed to the beach or countryside for some fresh air and scenic views. Jonny and I both agreed, because we’d missed out on a relaxing summer holiday so we wanted the sand and sea. Phu Quoc seemed like a brilliant idea. Phu Quoc is an island off the south west coast of Vietnam and beneath Cambodia. The island is home to beautiful beaches and only a 45 minute plane journey away from Saigon.
The weeks prior to the trip we booked our flights leaving Saigon on the Friday evening after work and returning the Monday night. Trip advisor was then my best friend to help find us a nice hotel on a budget. Our criteria included a beach front hotel, swimming pool and not too far from some tourist attractions. Phu Quoc offers a whole host of hotels, bungalows, hostels and B&Bs, so it wasn’t difficult to find somewhere that fit the bill. We booked the Famiana beach resort which turned out to be an expert find.
As it later turned out, our work colleague Danny and his friend Angel were also going to Phu Quoc on this weekend as well as Jonny’s friend from football, James and his friend Eady. So this gave us a group of friends to get to know better and arrange some activities for the weekend to do as a group.
The 45 minute flight on the Friday felt like 5 minutes for Jonny and I who ended up sleeping the whole way. Once we arrived we were straight off and through to where we were met by a bus from our hotel, conveniently located only 10 minutes from the airport. We were greeted with a welcome drink, fruit and cold towels which was a novelty for us. Shortly after we were checked in, dumped our bags in our room and headed out to meet Danny and Angel at the night market. However, this was a bit of a let down. The market was small and very repetitive. The market sold lots of ice cream which was made on a cold plate and rolled into thin tubes. We also experienced Phu Quoc’s speciality every flavoured nuts (which we found ourselves sampling for most of the time), cheap travellers clothing and street food stalls. Jonny wanted some baggy hippy low crotch pants, however his bartering skills still needed practise as the ladies on the stall would not budge on their price. We came away from the market with a stomach full of peanuts but empty handed.
The next day we woke up early for breakfast at the hotel which turned out to be a vast array of both Vietnamese cuisine and western options. We indulged in croissants, omelettes, fresh fruit and yoghurt. Today we were meeting the others (Danny, Angel, James and Eady) for a boat trip which James had organised to do some snorkelling and see the other small islands off Phu Quoc. We didn’t know it but today was going to be the start of Jonny’s long line of accidents and injuries that has lead to everyone calling him ‘Mr accident prone’.
We went to pick up some essentials for the day from the local convenience store – sun cream, water and snacks before getting picked up in the taxi by the others. Now this was no ordinary taxi – the driver had linked up an iPad to which he allowed us to select music to enjoy on the journey down to the harbour.
As we arrived we were probably the only tourists there. The harbour hosted life to the many fishermen and workers who used this as their everyday place to make money. As we stepped out of the taxi we could see the ladies and gents working hard to separate all the different fish into containers, the smell was overwhelming but the sights to see all but overshadowed this. We jumped on our boat which had 2 drivers and 1 tour guide. As we departed the harbour we realised our driver was a bit of an adrenaline junkie, our bottoms jumping off the seats as he revved the boat to a fast speed crashing over the waves. A short while later we stopped in front of a small island with surrounding rocks. We were told this is where we could get in the water and snorkel. The weather was very overcast so we didn’t bother with the suncream at this point and dived straight in. The water wasn’t overly clear or very good for snorkelling, but it was nice to be in the sea enjoying the ambiance and scenery around us.
Our next stop gave us more snorkelling opportunities and there were rocks which the boys enjoyed climbing up and jumping off. This lead to Jonny’s first of many injuries as he stubbed his foot on some shallow coral which embedded itself in his foot! He swam over to me for help, but by the time he got to me the coral had fallen out but left behind a deep wound and graze on the side of his foot. Jonny being the champion he is, did not let this affect his day and soldiered on.
Our day took an unimaginable turn when we arrived at a small island and were invited in by the locals to join them for lunch. As you can imagine there was a huge language barrier, but with the power of body language we managed to get by. We were serenaded by Vietnamese songs and given some shots of home brewed whiskey (liquid paraffin!) which we were all too polite to turn down. I must say the boys of our group did well not to get married off with the Vietnamese girls there, who were clearly trying to impress them in hopes of being whisked off to England and marrying a white man!
That night both Jonny and I discovered we had both badly burnt our backs from our time snorkelling with no sun cream on (rookie error!). We were too late. Jonny in particular was struggling with the pain and we went to buy some cooling aloe vera gel. That night we also took a trip to the pharmacy to buy some bandages and antiseptic to take care of Jonny’s injured foot.
The next couple of days we enjoyed relaxing on the beach – with plenty of suncream on! We also took a trip out to see some waterfalls and watched the sunset on the rocks. All in all a very memorable experience.
Our last day we decided to visit “Starfish beach” – this had been recommended on a few tourist sites and in local travel leaflets. The journey there took around 1 hour on the mopeds. We all travelled in convoy with 2 people per bike. As we got closer to the beach we had to drive off the beaten track on very bumpy dirt tracks – lets just say there was some wheel spinning and muddy shoes as a result! We arrived at “Starfish beach” to find a very quiet peaceful beach all to ourselves – little did we know it was totally the wrong season and there were no starfish to be seen! Nevertheless we had travelled all this way so we decided to embrace the surroundings and get lunch on the sea at a small seafood restaurant accessed by a small wooden pier. We enjoyed Cafe Sue Da (Vietnamese iced milk coffee) and some fresh seafood and noodles which they had probably just caught specially for us. The weather was grey and miserable but the ocean was peaceful and we spent a good hour enjoying each others company and the fresh sea air. Needless to say the journey home was just as bumpy. Jonny drove and because his back was so burnt and sore to touch he didn’t want me to hold onto him, so I perched on the back and held the handles by my butt. We reached the highway straight back towards our hotel and picked up speed, as we did so Jonny and I enjoyed looking at the scenery and pointing out what we could see. As we did so we had to suddenly break and swerve as a Vietnamese lady was walking her bike down the centre of the road! Clipping her wing mirror and shocking the lady into dropping her bike I grabbed onto Jonny’s shoulder. The skin was blistering and sore and some of the loose skin came away causing Jonny a whole world of pain – but I really did have to “hold on for dear life.” Ooops!
The plane journey home that night went smoothly however Jonny’s raw skin showing made it hard for either of us to fully relax. However, the sunburned, coral kicking, near missing Jonny and I made it home safely on the Monday night glad to get back into our own apartment and bed before work the next day.
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