Flying to Phu Quoc Island is cheap and easy, but if you want a real adventure, riding there by motorbike from Saigon is much more fun. This road trip takes you from Vietnam’s biggest city to some its best beaches, via the waterways, highways, and back-roads of the country’s rice basket, the Mekong Delta. Upgraded roads – both on the mainland and on the island – and regular ferry connections from two Mekong Delta towns, make it possible to complete a motorbike loop from Saigon to Phu Quoc Island and back again.
Route: Exploring Phu Quoc Island by motorbike | Distance: 210km
Once you’ve had your fill of Ha Tien’s charms, take your motorbike aboard one of the several daily fast boats or car ferries to Phu Quoc Island. Booking tickets is easy and fairly cheap, and sailing time is anywhere between 1.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on which route and vessel you take. There’s always something exciting and romantic about arriving at a destination by boat; and arriving on Phu Quoc Island is even more thrilling, because you have your own wheels with you. Stand out on deck and watch the jungled ridges of the island loom larger and clearer as the boat nears the port. Boats arrive at three separate ports on Phu Quoc. But, for the purposes of this guide, I will write the following ride around the island as if arriving at Bai Vong Port, in the southeast of Phu Quoc.
The recent completion of major infrastructure projects means that circumnavigating Phu Quoc Island on two wheels is now relatively easy. With the notable exceptions of the Ham Ninh-Bai Thom road and the Cua Can-Vung Bau road, almost all of the major beach roads are now sealed.
Duong Dong town
Join Road DT47 and head northwest. This wide new highway whisks you into Duong Dong Town within 20 minutes. Duong Dong, Phu Quoc’s main urban area, is where you can pick up the brilliant, free tourist map of the island, which is updated every year, including all the roads (and their current condition), places of interest, and gas stations.
Duong Dong is really two places: to the south, along the beach, is where all the resorts and tourists are: this is known as Long Beach; to the north and east, around the river, is where to real town is: where local people live and work. Long Beach is the main hub for accommodation, food and drink on the island. It’s a very beautiful stretch of palm-fringed sand and calm water, but it can get crowded during the high season (December to April) and on public holidays. Also, because nearly all the beachfront has been built on, there’s precious little public beach left for people who aren’t staying in beachfront accommodation: normal etiquette is to buy a drink at a resort if you want to use its beach. There are lots of places to stay in all price ranges on Long Beach. My pick for (reasonably) budget digs is La Mer Resort; for mid-range value Thanh Kieu Resort is fantastic; and for high-end, La Veranda is as posh as they come.
For food and drink, the ever popular Night Market has recently relocated to the banks of the Duong Dong River on Bach Dang Street. It’s still as bustling as every and there’s plenty of seafood on offer, but it’s hard to get away from the feeling that this is essentially a ‘tourist market’. For something a bit more local try the excellent seafood at Ra Khởi (131 Đường 30/4) and Sông Xanh restaurants. Buddy Cafe is always good for a coffee and ice cream, and the nights always last longest at Rory’s Bar. For a genuine Phu Quoc breakfast speciality, don’t miss bún kèn (seafood soup) at Mrs Luom’s.
An Thoi town
From Duong Dong town head south on Tran Hung Dao Street.
Although it’s still possible to ride Tran Hung Dao Street along the coast down to An Thoi, it’s not much fun with all the trucks kicking up dust and the cranes, bulldozers and construction debris littering the area.
An Thoi is the southernmost tip of the island and Phu Quoc’s main port. It’s an interesting place but a bit of a mess at the moment due to construction, so unless you’re looking for a local lunch there’s not much reason to come here. Instead, follow the new highway until it finishes at Road DT46, opposite the entrance to the Marriott Emerald Bay. This new development has gobbled up another of the island’s best beaches, Bai Khem. You can still follow one of the lanes down to Khem Beach, but most of it is in the process of massive transformation. It’s a much better idea to continue north on DT46 for a couple of minutes before turning right (due east) onto the dirt lane leading to Bai Sao (Sao Beach).
(to be continued)
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