Phu Quoc island a paradise of pearls, sunsets and surprises
Though I had heard much about the unique beauty of Phu Quoc, I could not help being amazed at its nature and specialities during my recent holiday to the largest island in Viet Nam. The tear-shaped island is part of Kien Giang Province, which lies 45km from Ha Tien and 120km from Rach Gia. It stretches 50km from north to south and 25km from east to west at its widest.
Having been to Ko Samui in Thailand, I understood why my friends always said Phu Quoc was still more natural and untouched than the Thai popular tourism destination.
I used up all the time I could swimming in the immense turquoise blue sea and enjoying the sunlight on the yellow sand beach.
Staying in the heart of Duong Dong Town, situated in the west of the island, I did not miss any of the spectacular sunsets.
Yet the most interesting part of my journey was to the east and west of the island, which contains many surprises beyond the bazalt roads filled with the fragrance of wild herbs.
Pearl farms are must-see attractions. Visitors are shown every aspect of oyster breeding, including the process by which mother-of-pearl dust is coated by a special substance inside the oyster to form pearls.
A guide will also demonstrate how to cut open an oyster to extract a pearl. The farm showrooms display various kinds of pearls, including those in white, ivory, yellow, black and even red, as well as in all shapes such as circular, water drop, heart-shaped, square, triangle and lozenge.
Naturally produced pearls are much more valuable than man-made ones, yet their shapes remain rather rough. Man-made pearls are often more beautiful as they are shaped better, are more shiny and finer in colour, my local guide explained.
However, he said that only 20 per cent of pearls sold in shops and showrooms on the island were native to the island, most brought from other localities in the country or imported from China.
"Phu Quoc pearls are distinguished by their colour and shine," he said, "Natural pearls can heal scratches on the surface themselves. An easy way to recognise real pearls is by scratching them against each other. There should not be any scratches as a result, only some mother-of-pearl dust."
Japanese pearl expert Horikiri Seiji has judged Phu Quoc's pearl quality "as good as those from famous pearl producing countries in the world".
Explaining the reason for such quality, my guide told me that the crystal clear waters surrounding the island offers favourable living conditions for shelled molluscs like oysters and snails, many of which can produce beautiful pearls. This is why the island has been nicknamed "pearl island", he said.
Special dog breed
Cool K-9: A typical Phu Quoc bred dog, well-known for its cleverness and strength in the wild.
Another speciality of the island is its special breed of dog, well-known for its cleverness and strength in the wild. The breed is distinguished by a ridge of hair that runs along the back in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat.
I stopped at a Phu Quoc ridge back dog breeding farm, where I was lucky to meet and chat to the owner, Ngo Quang. His big garden is divided into several areas bordered by a 2m-high steel fence separating expectant mothers and puppies from other female and male dogs.
Quang, who ships his dogs to various parts of the country and even abroad, said this particular breed could run faster than others, and are loyal, clever and able to obey orders. He also showed me thin layers of skin, much like webs, between the dogs' toes, which facilitate their extraordinary swimming ability.
I was told the male dogs often jump over the fence at night to wander around, but always return at dawn.
"Though dogs have been tamed for quite some time already, locals prefer those born in caves, believing their wild natures give them strength," Quang said.
However, he added that the dogs made friends easily, which is not the best of qualities in a guardian.
Another drawback relates to mixed breeding, which makes the dogs vulnerable to intestinal bacteria, resulting in many deaths.
"Farms like mine aim to conserve the pure Phu Quoc breed," Quang said, "The dogs I sell never succumb to mixed blood problems."
Dinh Cau Night Market, located in the centre of town and boasting around 100 food and souvenir stalls, draws a multitude of visitors from right across the island.
Delicious smells make both domestic and foreign mouths water. Fresh seafood on charcoal stoves, bowls of vermicelli in alluring soup, boiled snails, squid and shrimps served with Phu Quoc's renowned fish sauce remain unforgettable memories to me. Reasonable pricing is another alluring feature of the market.
On leaving Phu Quoc, the salty smell of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and black pepper farms (where locals use waste matter from fish sauce production to enrich the soil) seemed to permeate the island, instilling in me a strong impression of both its land and sea.
This article is written by Ha Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel Company for full story and more pictures please visit
getting to the island and back
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I know this may sound a bit too crazy, but my family with my dad’s friend’s family wanted to make a trip to Phu Quoc once, when I was in 9th grade and they decided to leave Saigon at 10 o’clock at night in order to get there early enough for a whole day trip. Anyway, my dad’s friend heard from anyone that we could catch a ferry from Ha Tien. So we drove the whole way to Ha Tien just to figure out that the only one way to go there was from Rach Gia. It took some more hours to get to Rach Gia from Ha Tien, but when we were there, the only ferry to Phu Quoc island already left Rach Gia half an hour before that. I would recommend you to check the right time when and where the ferry will leave from, if you don’t want to spend the whole time pendling from place to place. There is also another way to get to the island, by helicopter. It takes about half an hour, not like two and a half hour like by the ferry.
Phu Quoc Island
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Phu Quoc is an island in Thai Bay, that is really famous for its beautiful white sand beaches. This island is also the place where the best fish sauce in Vietnam was born. Coming to Phu Quoc Island, you can also visit one of these factories to see how fish sauce is made. I would love to visit this place once in the future since I have heard that it is very quite there on the island and that the whole island is not really touched by the tourists at all for its location. You would need to fly on a helicopter or take a two-and-a-half-hour ship ride to get to the island, but both methods are affordable.