The good, the bad, and the ugly

We usually stay away from tourist package activities, but we felt that on Phu Quoc it was the best way to see things before we left. The locations on the island are difficult to find and near impossible to find on your own. We paid our guide $45 for 8 hours of driving us around which did not include food, but we could go anywhere we wanted. The day started off with some amazing breakfast soup that our hotel manager and tour guide suggested. After that we went to try sim wine which was awful. The sim plants have these beautiful flowers and produce berry like fruits which they use to make wine. We did not care for the taste at all, but the flowers were beautiful.

Our next destination was the pearl farm tourist trap on Long Beach. They opened some oysters for us to see the pearls while explaining some things about pearl farming. They had different kinds of oysters there that were 2, 5, and 10 years old. The 10 year old ones can live up to 25 years and are bigger then your hand. There is a huge gift shop next door where you could spend your life savings if you wanted. While some places give the hard sell they seemed okay with the fact that we didn’t want to buy anything.

The next one was the hardest one to see as an American. It was US ran concentration camp that held and tortured Vietnamese officers for information. This is the most graphic and emotionally trying war memorial I have ever been to. They had life size statues of Vietnamese people being tortured. Their faces were crying out in pain and blood dripping down their plastered bodies. They went through the effort to show every single way Vietnamese officers were tortured. One thing that struck me was the statues doing the torturing were Vietnamese who supported the Americans. The tiger cages were the least graphic torture form shown here. This wasn’t a cheerful place to go to, but if you are going to Phu Quoc this place is worth a visit because many Vietnamese are still living with the consequences of the things that happened during this war and as an American these are the things you aren’t taught in history class. As the only Americans there we felt a roller coaster of emotions from embarrassment to shame to guilt.

If that didn’t leave a bad enough taste in our mouth, across the street is the fish sauce factory. They age the fish sauce for a year in these huge fermenters before bottling it. We tried a little drop and it was actually quite good.

Sao beach was our next stop. Our driver took us down a long dirt road where all of the signs in English were pointing the wrong way to the beach. We would have never found it on our own. We tried to get through the day before through Marriott but were unsuccessful so we were glad we actually made it this time. Unfortunately it was quite windy and cold when we were there but we still enjoyed some tropical fruit and beer by the beach. The sand was pure white and unlike any sand we have seen before. It was so compacted that someone was driving a motor bike down the beach. On a sunny day this would be an amazing place.

Hộ quốc pagoda was a bit of a trek from Sao beach, but it was definitely worth it. This beautiful pagoda overlooks the ocean and is just breath taking. Pictures really don’t do it justice. It was slightly windy when we went so the wind chimes blowing around just added to the amazing beauty of this place.

The bee farm was just down the street a short way from the pagoda. They told us they have a little less then 300 hives and can harvest 3 liters every 20 days. This means in 1 year they harvest about 16,000 liters or 4,300 gallons. They had honey for us to try in all sorts of flavors and it was all amazing. Unfortunately due to the ban on honey in the US we couldn’t buy any, but we wished we could.

Our driver took us to fisherman’s village for lunch. The one place he said was not dirty was very expensive. We ended up eating 2 very small bowls of egg drop soup with crab for about $12. We walked around on the pier but did not eat anything out there. Our driver informed us that the toilets go straight down into the ocean with no treatment. We could only imagine what the hygiene was given those conditions. The ocean here was very cloudy brown and not beautiful.

Last before we went to the airport and departed for Ho Chi Minh City we went to see the suối tranh waterfall. The entrance fee was $1 for 2 people. The park starts out with statues of various animals that they made by hand on the spot. The giraffes were being worked on when we went which is how we knew. If you look at them as art they are really quite spectacular and lifelike, but on their own they are a little cheesy. We started up a stone path with uneven and unleveled rocks. As someone with ankle issues I was okay, but I really had to pay attention to where I stepped. The hike is maybe a mile in total including up and back. The hike up is difficult since it is uphill. When we started reaching the top we begun to notice some mosquitos. Now mind you this is the dry season so there weren’t that many. I could only imagine how many there would be in the wet season when the waterfall is really beautiful. After stopping to catch our breath a few times we finally reached the top. The waterfall was less then stellar and I think the water was being pumped through since we could hear the sound of a pump in the distance. In the summer I think it might be more worth the trek.

Our driver dropped us off at the airport and we had some truly delicious airport food for much cheaper then the previous restaurant we were at. We checked in and flew back to Ho Chi Minh City.

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