To enable extension of our stay in the coolest spot in Cambodia, we’re on our way to Vietnam. It was never on the agenda this trip, or any other trip either of us have ever taken in Asia. Friends had advised me as much as ten years back not to bother as the locals were unfriendly, or I suppose I should say not as friendly as other countries in the area. A number of travellers this trip have made comments such as “it’s like Cambodia without the smiles”. Let me state tho’ not every one has expressed the same view, we’ve heard good reports also and been told to get there. Even without the positives we’d still travel with an open mind, but I must admit whilst we are sitting in the minibus (this time not an overloaded one) we are both maybe just a touch sceptical. The border is quickly reached, with the required visa obtained a week earlier we sail through the checkpoint, apart from one traveller who was not aware of said requirement and was to return to Kampot. Soon after we are in Hat Tien, quickly followed by the port. We didn’t bother stopping in the coastal town, as other advice we’d received was that “there’s fuck all there!”
The boat is a modern fast looking thing with a curious name, surprisingly there are safety messages plastered all over the shop. Not unsurprisingly tho’ there’s loud crazy movies on the large flat screen to help the pass the time. It’s a smooth crossing and when we arrive it’s less than four hours since we boarded the mini bus in the morning, result! The trip set us back $18 a piece, a nice price considering the visas were seventy! We are greeted by the usual gaggle of Tuk-Tuk drivers, no, actually they’re taxis drivers as it’s soon discovered Tuk-Tuk’s don’t exist in Vietnam. Not that I feel we’ve been there properly yet, we are just on the Island Phú Quốc. The largest in Vietnam but it’s actually closer to the Cambodian mainland, a fact that makes sense as it originally belonged to them. The French presented it to the Vietnamese as some sort of gift in the nineteen forties I believe, some gift! Once again we’ve sorted digs in advance and chosen to stay away from popular long beach. A mini bus is selected to get us to the main town and drive sorts a taxi to our selected location. Once again there are safety signs on display which has not been a familiar sight during our trip. The relatively short journey takes a while as the man at the wheel thinks it must be Sunday the speed he’s going at?
As you can see it’s a nice spot and considering the island is now very popular, and therefore a touch pricey, our digs at Ong Lang beach are reasonably priced at $35 a night. It’s situated a ten minute walk away down a small lane from the beach, we take a stroll and happy with what greets us, we’ve made a good choice.
A few obligatory welcome cocktails are consumed, as you do (or at least should) when on holidays. As this it what it is, our weekend break away from it all, the lack of positivity on the job front has started to become tedious. Therefore we intend to have as much fun as possible for our three day break. We may be here out of necessity but it’s always good to make the most of situations that present themselves as we intend to. The start has been good, a stress free journey, followed by an even less stressful sunset. It’s the only place in Vietnam you’re able to observe an unrestricted view of the orange ball in the sky disappearing into the sea, it’s quite spectacular. Making the most of the occasion I’m putting my latest camera skills to the test, whilst the KP frolics in the sea. Looking for the ‘perfect shot’, if that ever exists, includes removing sea delivered debris from the beach.
Returning to the digs the pan is to chill in the room for a bit, making the most of the mod cons such as air con, the hot water rain shower & fluffy pillows. Realising how much we’ve adapted to life without such perks, it’s enjoyable. When we finally venture out there’s not much in the way of light, so a torch is required to navigate the area but only discover that nothing is open. So it’s a taxi into town for $8 it’s a different drive but again we travel at a snails pace getting dropped in an area where there’s a few bars and restaurants. We need cash and once again millionaires, the visit to the cash machine results in a million each, even if the reality is we’ve got a hundred dollars to spend.
Coco’s is selected for food and drinks, the KP is amused by the amount of signs in Russian that are displayed by most establishments in the area, as we’ve not seen so much of it lately. This is seaside tourism central and the Russians must be here in force which soon becomes evident in the bar. We enjoy the company of a friendly waiter offering much advice about the island and mainland, it’s a fun lively bar that specialises in home made rum. We are soon on it and it’s for free, this was due to me leaving most of my local style chicken drumsticks (free also) which were burnt to a crisp, great service which is sadly too often rare. The rum was not only strong but tasty so we try more of the vast selection, the KP loved the passion fruit version, myself the ginger, maybe coz I is one. The next venue we stop off at on the main road turns out to be a knocking shop. The girls working are friendly with us both, but not Thai style where you can get touched up by the girls who are hoping for a fancy foursome. My phone slips out of my pocket and due to the rum I’m unaware of it, one of the girls notices tho’ and returns it to me. Again this is not Thai style in such an establishment, it reminds me a of tale from the now famous maiden trip in ’99 when one of my mates CJ had his wallet lifted from his jeans. OK it was partly his fault as his jeans were round his ankles at the time, so be careful if your ever there, it’s called Blow & Go. You’ve been warned folks, always keep your valuables safe in ever there ;-).
Enough fun for our first day, the girls call us a taxi ensuring it’s the correct car and driver and that he knows our destination before we depart. It’s early in the trip but we are not finding that people are unfriendly, quite the opposite actually, and not only friendly they seem to actually care about your welfare. This is exemplified by the taxi drivers, we’ve had three so far and every single one of them has opened and closed our doors chauffeur style, not only for the KP but myself too. Courtesy can go a long way to making you feel good, which is what are when our heads hit our lush pillows for the night.
The following morning it’s an early start and we hit the beach for a run and a swim before heading back for brekkie and there’s a nice spread laid on to be enjoyed whilst our route is checked. The island is huge, over 50 klicks by 25, so a plan is required before setting off and getting lost before we start. This was done online and if your planning to ever visit yourself this website is excellent with all sorts of advice and info about the place. The north has more to explore, hence the selection of digs, where are situated perfectly to explore the north west coast with two or three destinations in mind. Our wheels for the trip is a sexy white scooter at $10 a day! Three times what it’s costing in Kampot, but hey we’re on holidays so who cares, we can budget when back there :-). When receiving the keys the Sunday driver conundrum is solved as “Watch your speed, the limit is 40 and imposed”, are the words of advice the guy gives us. It all makes sense now the safety signs in the boat, on the dashboard of the taxi. The Vietnamese seem to value life just a little bit more, maybe a lot more actually than the other Asian countries we’ve visited. Well at least at the island they do, I can’t speak for the mainland, but I’d expect it to be so and plan to check in the future.
First destination is Cua Can beach and the direction read on the net earlier is ‘over a little wooden bridge’. Following a mini de-tour we locate said bridge, which is shortly followed by the beach, another one which is lovely. The bike rides well and in full working order, but my head is way too big for the helmet which would fit a child, it makes for fun photos anyway even if it doesn’t provide much in the way of safety I look like a right butey, but you can determine that for yourselves.
The main roads are excellent but along the coast there’s so much work going on it’s like driving through a building site. There’s been loads of development on the island in the last five years, the governments plan is to complete it in the next five. The way things are going there is no reason to doubt that it will be. Thankfully it’s such a big island if they do it right there will still be plenty of hidden gems to explore. Next up is Vung Bau beach and this one has a bar and restaurant where we enjoy refreshments of the liquid variety. Whilst I’m cracking off more shots of the coast I get chatting with a couple and the lady is also from the Welsh Valleies, so we have a natter. Her husband is speaking about how fantastic the place is and still so quiet, but not happy with the amount of shite on the beach. Now this is a silly comment as if you want the debris removed you need development and then it’s not quiet?! They seem a lovely couple so I don’t mention this, but instead suggest they visit our secret place in Thailand, which is still our favourite spot to date.
The adventure continues further north towards the north-west point and when joining the main road system, that’s when we spot it! They’ve only gone a built a water park and it looks a fucking big fancy one, I’m more excited than the KP as she’s unaware of how much fun they can be. We go to check it out, $25 entry and there’s even a fair, tomorrow’s sorted then!
We don’t find our last destination, but do arrive at a new resort that’s only been open for ten days. The ribs and dumplings are excellent and so is the 15% off just opened discount. There’s a lot of fishing structures out at sea and a very complex arrangement of nets set up just along the shore. The Cambodian shore is there to be seen in the distance.
Returning along the highway, for a moment I think we’ve left the tripod behind. I’m too hasty in wanting to check and we slip off the road just when coming to a halt, once again down in the dirt! Crash number two! Thank fuck we’d almost stopped, but the bike has fallen on top of me and my foot is jammed but not hurt. The KP is free and helps lift the bike, in the commotion it’s almost lost down a steep bastard of a banking. Luckily we just about manage to grab it saving a costly bill, not for sure mind as we’ve scratched the side panels during the off. Onwards we go happy to have escaped a major problem once again, but hey no maybe not, a woman rides alongside and is pointing at our bike, fuck what’s wrong? Bollocks I’m thinking we might have a puncture or worse? Ahh it’s just that the stand is down and potentially dangerous, grateful for her actions all I’m thinking is that these Vietnamese are all right in our book, any early scepticism has been well and truly removed. The signs in the taxis that proclaim “Your Life Is Priority” is not just for show, they actually seem to mean it!
We can’t wait for tomorrow, it’s been a long while since I was at a waterpark & the KP is gonna love it for sure! That follows in part two…………