Because its a Sunday and the sun is a-blazing, I’m fantasizing about an island surrounded by crystal blue-green water, foaming with each tidal crash. I searched for a memory, a place where I can relive the moment and the experience of Phú Quốc just earlier this year floats to mind.
The largest island in Vietnam, it occupies approximately 574 square kilometers with a permanent population of about 85, 000. In the lead-up to our Vietnam-ventures, the pal sent me links to this getaway and it was love at first image, I knew I was hooked and it was immediately shortlisted and worked into our itinerary.
Our strategy was to visit the cities and have a rest pit in the middle of our journey to ensure we return to our hectic lives well-rested and a-glow. So here’s what we did – Sinapore – Ho Chi Minh – Phú Quốc – Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh – Singapore. You’ll realise that the only flight operating to Phú Quốc is Air Mekong, a domestic carrier, from the Ho Chi Minh airport. That left us perplexed as it was not cost effective to return to Ho Chi Minh repeatedly but after exhausting all alternatives, it was the best plan we could come up with. It was frustrating, no less, but once we had all the tickets booked, we tossed all frustrations aside and settled in for the ride.
After 3 days in Ho Chi Minh, we were ready and eager to soak up some sun and we arrived at the airport to be greeted by this…
… snaking long queues, barely there facilities, bus shuttles form the terminal to the aircraft etc. We were somewhat deflated but envisioning the end destination – Phú Quốc, we soldiered on.
While waiting for our plane, we goofed around at the waiting area and that was the proof of our ‘sanity’ while travelers seated around us offered looks of amusement and puzzlement.
The promise land closer, the waiting bay behind us, we approached Air Mekong which I have since dubbed the ‘flying school bus’. Its tight, just like the school buses back in the 1990s which we rode to school on. Compact and fucntional with wings, that’s what the Air Mekong is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking it but I found the experience quaint and refreshing, bringing back fond memories of innocence and that sense of wonderment at every little thing. In fact, if I were to do a quick comparison between the two domestic flights we flew, I’d give Air Mekong a 7/10 for experience and Jet Star Vietnam a 1/10. It was that bad but that’s a story for another time.
Buckled in, we landed in Phú Quốc in the blink of an eye and the airport experience there came as another shocker for us city girls.
First, we made our way by foot along the runway to the airport that laid mere metres away. Next we watched as crew unloaded our bags onto trolleys and wheeled it to the conveyor belt that was so small that I found the idea of even having one ridiculous. Seriously, just place the bags on the ground and we could have easily picked our bags up. But hey, perhaps they’re attempting to modernise and eliminate physical manpower and until the process is completed, they’ll remain in limbo.
Picking up our bags, we looked for our driver and were immediately bundled up in the car and transported to our resort. Things can’t get any worse right?
We checked in at our resort which was rustic, laid-back and as we meandered through the garden of our resort, I felt that peace returning to be and I thought to myself – I am going to be so rejuvenated at the end of the next 3 days. Until we opened the door to our room. My jaw literally dropped.
This was the sight that greeted me. There I was expecting an air-conditioned room, lust soft beds that I could melt into after a long day under the sun. But no, I was greeted by mosquito nets, bare furnishing and a flat ass bed. I laughed. I laughed a deep, exasperated laugh and said to my pal – ‘Welcome to the kampong.’ We kept laughing. I think we were in shock, but we kept laughing – in an attempt to keep the mood light, or an attempt to console ourselves or the other, I don’t know. But we kept laughing as we unpacked, as we explored the bare essentials available in our room, we kept laughing. Deciding to hunt down what we came here for, we pulled on our swimwear, locked up our kampong resort and made a beeline for the beach.
There, everything changed. We gasped at the blueness of the ocean that greeted us, the fineness of the sand below our feet. It was beautiful, magical even, and we tossed all our tragic experiences of the day at the foot of our resort and embraced the beach.
We tanned, read, fell asleep..
We buried our feet in the cool sand, a respite under the scorching sun…
And oh young love, that smooch against the setting sun. Romantic as hell, perfect getaway for a spot of romance indeed. Didn’t mean to be stalker-ish but it was a really beautiful scene, don’t you agree?
We concluded our first day on Phu Qoc with a garden dinner by the sea at the La Veranda Hotel, specifically the Le Jardin restaurant. We had Vietnamese spring roll to start, a seafood platter to share and fancy chocolate dessert to end the night on a beautiful note.