On the way to the airport we knew we were leaving the big smoke behind; the high-tech telephone connections:
A city where only billionaires can afford to buy new cars:
But we were going where the air is cleaner, the beaches long and white and the pepper and fish sauce the best in the world. Where the roads were congested but with a different type of beast.
Phu Quoc island. The pearl off the coast of Southern Vietnam, known to the Cambodians as Koh Tral and where the seat of choice is the hammock. We headed for Freedomland because there is really no other place you should stay in Phu Quoc.
Freedomland is rated number one on Tripadvisor and it is easy to see why. Peter and Rita go out of their way to make your stay comfortable and make you feel at home. It is not your typical resort stay; it is more of a cross between a homestay and countryside retreat. We stayed in their Sunset bungalow which had two rooms and two bathrooms.
The girls bathing alfresco
Our beautiful outdoor bathroom
Phu Quoc is a tear-shaped island 50kms north-south and 25kms east-west at its widest; rugged peaks and hidden beaches dominate the North while long stretches of white sand dominate the South. Freedomland is roughly smack in the middle of the island on the west coast, located in the forest but a short 15 minute walk to the nearest beach. Mango Bay was our local beach hangout; the sheltered bay there is ideal for a swim and relax on the beds by the beach. There is also a resort at Mango Bay where you can have a nice meal or massage after a hard day at the beach.
What sets Freedomland apart from standard resorts or hotels are the nightly meals which are eaten together with other guests at the big blue table. The food is amazing. Peter being Vietnamese AND a foodie just means trouble. When he mentioned the first night that he was afraid there wasn't enough food I was a little apprehensive but as they brought the appetizer out, then the next appetizer and then the main course I was stuffed fuller than the proverbial turkey.
BBQ night at Freedomland
Angie helping out
Hing and Peter in the kitchen
The BBQ nights were special; BBQ's were prepared with charcoal as you could take your pick of chicken skewers, fish, prawns, squid and have it cooked directly for you. Not to mention the numerous salads on offer, all washed down with a Freedomland cocktail or Saigon beer. Some produce was freshly picked nextdoor; we went on a pomelo hunt one afternoon.
Peter and Angie checking the produce
And the pepper in Phu Quoc is top notch. We visited a pepper plantation in-between beach and hammock time.
We tasted the green peppercorns right off the vine. They have a very strong, fresh bite to them.
Got rice? Tali's fave food
We visited the Tranh waterfall on the east of the island. It was a refreshing place to have a swim given that the waters off the coast weren't exactly cooling.
Compared to the high intensity of Saigon, Phu Quoc was a welcome change. I imagine it's what Phuket or Koh Samui were like 20 or 30 years ago before the crowds came. Most of the roads on the island are not sealed so when there has been some rain the roads became really slushy. I guess that's part of the charm of Phu Quoc.
Bai Sao beach
It was sad leaving Freedomland and Phu Quoc behind. We made some great friends there and it would have been easy to while away on the sand or in a hammock for a little bit longer.