Phu Quoc - A Passionate Island Involved With Nature

The biggest island in Vietnam - Phu Quoc or “Pearl Island” - is loved by thousands of people thanks to it beautiful natural sea landscape and huge potential

Overview

“Pearl Island” Phu Quoc is a large tropical island off the coast of Vietnam. It is the biggest one in the 22-island complex of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Kien Giang province. Its northeast cape is 4 sea miles from the neighbour Cambodia. The island is 62 sea miles east of Kien Giang capital (Rach Gia town), and 25 sea miles from Ha Tien town.

Phu Quoc together with other 22 islands makes up an island district of 56,500 hectares in total area, which approximates that of Singapore island nation. Wheareas Phu Quoc itself has a total area of as much as 574 sq. km, in a triangular shape.

Some author has compared the island to a swimming fish with its head turning to the North. Phu Quoc is ringed with some of most beautiful beaches and best seafood in Vietnam, promising quite a few absorptive elements for tourists.

Climate

Phu Quoc is featured with a monsoon tropical climate (hot, wet and rainy), but its special location in Gulf of Thailand minimizes natural calamities. It has two seasons, dry season from December to May, and rainy season from June to November.

The former is affected by Northeast monsoon with an average humidity of 78%, temperature goes up to 35oC as the highest in April and May. In rainy season, the island acts as the gateway to West-South West monsoon. The annual average rainfall is around 3,000 mm.

History

The island has a special name attached to an interesting historical story. In 1671, about 400 Chinese people led by a man from Guang Dong, China took a ship to cross the ocean to reach and settle down in a wild islands land in the Gulf of Thailand. 

In 1680, they established a series of hamlets, which were scattered around in the land. Some soon became significant commercial ports where ships, boats and junks gathered and traded with one another. The increasingly bustling and eventful atmosphere led to their idea of setting up 7 casinos, each in an individual island, one of which was situated in Koh Tral Island (today’s Phu Quoc Island).

The success of commercial and entertainment activities resulted in that the whole island area was renamed into “Căn Khẩu quốc” or “Kingdom of Prosperity”, and Koh Tral island was also recalled “Phú Quốc” (Phu Quoc: “Fu Guo” in Chinese transcription), which meant an Affluent Land in Vietnamese. 

Phu Quoc Island served as a base for French missionary Pigneau de Behaine from the 1760-80s and once provided shelter for Prince Nguyen Anh (later Emperor Gia Long) when he was hunted by the Tay Son rebels. During the Vietnam War, there was little fighting here but the Island was used by the Americans as a prison for captured Viet Cong.

The island of today still retains what was expressed in its righteous name in the past, and has become one of the nation’s ideal tourist destinations to lure huge numbers of visitors.

Religion

Many religious people would like to visit Phu Quoc since this is where Cao Dai religion descended. Today there is still a Cao Dai oratory in Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc.

The only Catholic Church on the island is situated in An Thoi, which was the gathering site of migration from the North in 1954.

One has said: “Visiting pagodas in Duong Dong town on the occasion of the “wandering souls day” on mid Lunar July, you will explore the Buddhist religious life of Phu Quoc indeed”. This is a very rare occasion, so you should really come and join it yourself!

Specialties

Should you ever have a vacation in Vietnam, you must have heard about Phu Quoc fermented fish source (nước mắm), the best one in the nation! Talking about Phu Quoc, this specialty, which is worldwide famous for a unique delicious taste, could not be missed. Another special spice of Phu Quoc is high quality pepper, an agricultural product of the local traditional craft villages, sold around the world.

In addition to the two special specialties, Phu Quoc’s seafood is also fantastic. Numerous fish, dried fish, lobsters, crabs, squid, oyster, arca, etc. are available at your enjoyment. Just come and taste delicious seafood and the local unique specialties, you will feel the very tasty and fragrant Island zone!

By the way, another point of interest in Phu Quoc that must be mentioned is the island's native Dog, which was originally a wild animal and later trained as a hunting dog by local people.

These days they are very domesticated and it's unusual to go anywhere on the Island without seeing one of these dogs! These animals have unusually sharp teeth (as they tear their food when they eat it rather than bite) and have claws that over the years have been conditioned for catching their prey and are razor sharp.

Where to go and what to do?

Phu Quoc is considered a famous national tourism zone of Vietnam. The island’s Beautiful beaches have been voted to be "The Cleanest and Most Beautiful Beaches of the World" by ABC News ever since the end of February, 2008.  

Coming here, tourists are lured away from their busy daily life. Phu Quoc National Park should be on top of the visiting places. Here is covered with a plentiful fresh & green floristic composition and natural resources of jungle & sea. Thanks to the tropical favorable climate, Phu Quoc is of great potential for ecological tourism development. Try to get out on a boat in the evening for some squid fishing yourself, or make a visit to Phu Quoc National Park and swim in a quiet pool! This will be very relaxing!

Pristine beaches here are seemingly captivating to those fond of unspoilt beauties. The one listed in the “World Hidden Beaches” is “Long Bank” (“Bãi Dài”), which is most beautiful from October to March. The beach honorably ranks higher in the list to many other world famous beaches, such as Wildcat Beach in California, the USA, Pink Beach in Barbuda, or Cayo Costa State, south Florida, and so forth. 

 

Besides, other suggested beaches to visit are Kem Bank, Dam Bank, Sao Bank, Ong Doi Cape, and so forth. You can come here by ship or airplane (Hochiminh City – Phu Quoc Flight). Swimming, sun bathing, boat-sailing, scuba-diving, etc. are all the exciting and relaxing seaside activities, healthful for every individual tourist. Try SCUBA diving: the shallow waters (max deep to 12-16m) allow even unexperienced divers to have nice dives.

There is some nice coral to see and if you are lucky you might see a bamboo shark. After about an hour dipping yourself in the cool and clean blue sea water, imagine that you are now served with a series of especially tasty seafood; you would feel like you were the happiest guy in the world!

In case one has interest in the local fishing life, he may pay a visit to Ham Ninh fishing village, where the routine daily fishing work of the locals are available at your observation. 

Motorcycles are plentiful and cheap, hire one off a local and go cruising around the island. Petrol can usually be purchased around the island at various beaches served fresh in glass bottles. Also Bicycles is a great way to observe the island. You can rent a mountain bike for around 100,000 VND per day at Saigon Phu Quoc Hotel or some local shops (be sure to write 'xe dap' because few Vietnameses here could speak English well). A few days could not be enough to contemplate all the special beauties, thus you should best come back at least once.

Huge potential

The seaview, the beautiful islands and the precious tropical jungle with a priceless flora-fauna  system contribute to a huge tourism potential of Phu Quoc. On understanding of this, the Government has allowed huge investment in the island district. In the long run, we will have an enormously marvellous tourism-entertainment complex of extremely high quality.

A project with hotels zone, 5-star casinos, 2 four-star hotels, 1 three-star hotel, a number of resorts, restaurants, shopping areas, high-quality entertainment area (with waterparks, cinemas, etc.), international hospital, a 3-golf ground system of international quality, international airport services and so on, is going to turn up in this “Pearl Island”. The project will hopefully make Phu Quoc a much greater destination for tourists worldwide.

A Trip To Phu Quoc National Park

In recent years, Phu Quoc National Park in Kien Giang Province has become an ideal eco-tourist destination. It has special and unique biodiversity values compared to other national parks across the country.

Situated in the North-East of Phu Quoc Island and have the Northern and Eastern boundaries with the coastline, Phu Quoc National Park covers of 31,422 ha, accounting for 70% area of Phu Quoc Island, which is regarded as a precious thanks to the prosperity of natural beauty.

According to director Pham Quang Binh, Phu Quoc National Park is located on an island that has a mixture of continental and coastal climate, creating a rich ecosystem of primeval, secondary and indigo forests. Its indigo forests are distributed in the wetlands or the lowlands that is flooded in the rainy season and sloping hills.

The topography of the national park is hilly, although not particularly steep with the highest point is Mount Chua, at 603 m. Being drained by numerous, mainly seasonal, streams, the only sizeable river on the island is the Rach Cua Can river, which drains the southern part of the national park, and flows into the sea on the west coast of the island.

Covering more than 27,000 ha of forest, included 6,000 ha of buffer land and 20,000 ha of surrounding ocean area, Phu Quoc National Park has a rich ecosystem due to the co-existence of the Malaysian, Burmese and Himalayan species.

In term of the flora, Phu Quoc National Park is the idea environment for more than 470 species of plants and several types of coral reefs offshore. Phu Quoc Island is lowland evergreen forest and the national park supports 12,794 ha of forest, equivalent to 86% of the total area.

To date, 929 plant species have been recorded on Phu Quoc Island. At lower elevations in some areas, the national park supports distinctive formations of Melaleuca - one kind of trees that the leaves are evergreen, alternately arranged, dark green and grey-green in color.

As regards to the fauna, a list of 43 mammal species belonging to 18 families and 6 orders was compiled in here. Among these recorded species, 6 species are listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam (2000), 6 species in the 2005 IUCN Red list and 11 species in the Governmental Decree 32/2006/ND-CP.

Silvered langur, slow loris; pygmy loris, crab-eating macaque, stump-tailed macaque, small-clawed otter and fruit bats are species of the most conservation concern. Besides, due to the extremely plentiful coral reefs in the south of the island, there are 125 species of fish, 132 species of mollusc and 62 species of sea weed. Interestingly enough, Phu Quoc is also one of the two places in Vietnam where the Dugong, a marine species on the brink of extinction can be found.

Conservation aspect:

In 2001, the Government decided to upgrade the park to preserve its ecology, and then the Park Management Board has coordinated with local residents and military units to implement forest protection measures, particularly fire prevention. 

“The rainy season in Phu Quoc is short but the dry season is longer there. So, we have established a forest fire prevention steering board and firefighter units which are on standby,” said Mr. Binh – director of the park. “Every commune and local military unit has worked out detailed fire prevention plans. We also have regular communications with local residents to raise their awareness of forest protection.”

Relax with activities:

Visiting Phu Quoc, travellers can have chance for sightseeing of historical sites; admiring with veneration beauty spots of streams, forests, caves and grottoes, beaches, coral reefs and mountains, etc. as well as visiting the villages famous for making sauces and know about a special species of Phu Quoc dog.

Phu Quoc National Park is a good destination for tourists as it offers a wide range of activities such as camping and trekking. It’s also ideal for those who want to study the tropical forest. As Phu Quoc develops into Vietnam’s ecotourism capital, the jewel in its crown, the park will become ever more attractive to visitors from around the world.

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