Lazy Days in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

While I was SO excited to sail the bays of Ha Long, hike in the mountains of Sa Pa, and eat all of the Vietnamese food in Hanoi, spending four nights on the dreamy island of Phu Quoc was the highlight of our time in Vietnam (at lease for me!) I’ve never been anywhere like Thailand, Costa Rica, or Bali for a relaxing beach vacation, and I was so excited to experience resort life for the first time – and just totally chill! In all actuality, I kind of suck at relaxing. I read books incredibly fast, so one morning by the pool and one book later, I am SO done with being stationary and am ready to move around and find an adventure! Phu Quoc was amazing because while we had a gorgeous resort to stay at, the island itself was vibrant and hopping, with a lively night market, a plethora of restaurants and bars, and cheap scooter rentals so we could explore the island to our liking.After a decent night’s sleep on the sleeper train from Sa Pa (the second time around we knew what to expect and actually got some shut-eye on the train!) we had a 9am flight from Hanoi to Phu Quoc that cost €25 and was approximately 2 hours. Our resort sent a van to pick us up at the airport, so by noon time we were at Phu Quoc Eco Beach Resort, aka paradise!

Kai and I spent a lot of time deciding where to stay in Phu Quoc. For the most part, accommodations in Vietnam are pretty inexpensive, so we weren’t limited by price and instead spent a lot of time reading into reviews and amenities to decide where we wanted to stay. Mango Bay was my first choice in the months leading up to our trip, but then I showed Kai and he vetoed the spot as they didn’t have a pool. We did end up making it there later in the trip for dinner, and holy batman it was fabulous! But more on that later ;)

In the end, we chose to stay at Eco Beach Resort as they were located on one of the island’s cleaner beaches, had free bikes and nearby restaurants that you could cycle to, a restaurant on-site with a deck on the water, and small eco villas with air conditioning. We liked that the resort was small and had a focus on preserving the local environment, with lots of lush greenery and wildlife all around. Like in our bathroom, that was completely open on one side and often had small geckos running around on the floor!  I didn’t take a ton of photos at the resort until our last day – it was so nice to limit phone and technology time while on the island. But I did bust my camera out every once in a while to photograph a sorbet sunset. As a native East Coast US gal, I’m not accustomed to watching the sun set over the ocean. Every night, Kai and I watched the sun disappear, while sipping a different cocktail, toes buried deep in the sand. It was a dream, and I hope I get to experience this sense of calm and happiness again someday.  Below is a shot of our villa on the beach :)And here’s a shot of Kai standing shirtless on our villa’s deck! haha because I know you were all dying for that one ;) One thing I LOVED LOVED LOVED about the resort was the infinity pool that overlooked the sea. Sometimes we started our day there, and sometimes we started AND ended our day there. And no matter what the hour was, it was so incredibly dreamy. One night after dinner, Kai and I got back to the resort quite late, but weren’t sleepy yet. And so we laid by the pool with our feet dangling in the water, looking at the stars and talking about life. I know it sounds lame, but that was probably the most special moment of our trip – it was so carefree and in that moment all of my senses were alive and my heart was completely full.And to lighten the mood, here is a shot of me that Kai captured as I roamed around the pool at sunset, DSLR in hand. That lighting! At night the resort lit up and the wildlife went crazy, croaking and chirping and yelling ‘hello!’ from the jungle that surrounded the resort. On our first night, we borrowed bikes and went to So True for dinner at the recommendation of our resort’s concierge. We had a good chuckle as we thought that the name had clearly been lost in translation (who names a restaurant So True?!) but then as we got down the road, we did indeed notice a restaurant with a big outdoor terrace called So True! It was a great recommendation, where we indulged in spring rolls, ribs, and sweet coconut curry. And a fat Dutch pancake that we shared for dessert!We spent day two rotating between the beach and the pool, going for long walks and kayaking in between to break up the day.There was so much space at the resort, and even with all of the villas occupied, there were always so many sun beds and tables available. We never felt crowded or like things were too rowdy, and often we had the pool or beach front all to ourselves. We also had a ton of fun playing with our new Go Pro in the pool – I have a ton of video footage from our trip as well! But until I block out some time to edit the footage, here’s a collage of some of our (mostly bad!) pool shots!

Are Kai and I the only ones who suck at taking pool shots with the Go Pro?! Despite three or four days of practice, I don’t think we got one decent shot! Except this one, featuring no people but lots of pool :)And this one came out OK too ;)On our second night in Phu Quoc, we discovered No Name BBQ, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant on the island!Out front of the restaurant was a man grilling an absolute feast – ranging from salmon and tuna steaks to squid and sweet corn.We were seated on plastic chairs outside in a big dirt yard. We each ordered a beer which cost approximately 50 cents each, and then ordered all kinds of meats, seafood, and vegetables from the grill!We definitely went a bit overboard food-wise, as dish after dish kept coming from the grill, and with each passing moment our pants got tighter and tighter! We had whole squid, calamari rings, tuna steak, spear ribs, chicken legs, summer rolls, corn on the cob, and a big salad.Everything was so fresh, seasoned with just the right amount of herbs and chili.And then my favorite part of the night happened – a cute little kitty, noticing we had way too much food on our table, came over and asked us to share!With the most adorable little beatie cat eyes ever. How could you say no to that face?! So that night little kitty feasted on grilled squid and spare ribs, and became my new best friend!

The next day, Kai and I rented a scooter and went to Sao Beach, a beach with the island’s prettiest white sand shores. We’d heard mixed reviews about the beach as it’s notoriously crowded, expensive, and overhyped. But we wanted to check it out anyways, as swimming at a white sand beach is practically mandatory when you’re on holiday in Southeast Asia. The following photos are from my iPhone and our Go Pro. Not the best quality, but they give you a taste of our lazy day at the sea :) We spent the day swimming, drinking juice from fresh coconuts, laying in the sun, and eating at sandy terraces on the beach.As the afternoon hour got later and later, we decided to head back to our resort. However, as we drove along the cost, we noticed that the sunset was spectacular, and so we stopped at a beach club to have a cocktail and take in the sun’s final rays. I even managed to squeeze in a cheeky massage from a masseuse located right next door to the beach club :) It really was the most relaxing day ever. Previously that morning, I had been a bit nervous to ride on the scooter (after our crash in Sa Pa) but after a long beach day, a cocktail, and a massage, I was so content for my handsome boyfriend to whisk me home on our rickety Vietnamese scooter.

After a quick freshen up and a costume change, Kai and I hopped on the scooter once more to visit Phu Quoc’s night market, Dinh Cau. We’d waited to have dinner there, wanting to sample food from the many street vendors at the market.There were so many new sights, smells, and colors. Huge baskets of dried fish, sweet buns covered in coconut sauce, piles of beads, pots, purses, and pancakes were just some of the gems we found while roaming through the market’s many streets. However, the absolute BEST part of the evening (entire trip?!) was when we saw a tantalizing restaurant located along the market, and decided to stop for dinner. The restaurant’s tables were pre-set with plates, chopsticks, bottles of water, and huge family-style portions of food. Each dish looked home-cooked and mouth-watering, so we wandered in to look for a seat.

At first the server ignored us, but we finally caught the eye of an older Vietnamese woman who showed us to a table with six other Vietnamese women. We completed the table of eight, and found our new dining companions to be incredibly sweet, passing us dishes, helping us ask for more water, and even trying to say a few words to us in English despite the fact that Kai and I were completely unable to return the gesture. The food was by far the most delicious of our entire trip. We ate fried summer rolls, egg soup, and tender chicken with lemongrass and vegetables. I was starving, and I think I ate at least six summer rolls before even starting to dig into the soup and the main! However, things started to get a little fishy when all six women we were sitting with got up and left at once. Kai and I were a little confused, wondering why they didn’t say goodbye or mention splitting the bill – they clearly hadn’t left any cash on the table, so we were worried we were going to have to pay for a table of eight!

Kai and I quickly caught the eye of a younger male waiter and asked how we could pay. He seemed confused . . . .

We explained that we’d just had a meal and wanted to get our bill. A huge grin broke out over his face, and he explained that the meal was free, because WE WERE AT A FUNERAL. He then motioned to a dead body about eight feet from our table that we had not noticed before!! We were both in complete shock (and trying not to burst out in hysterics) and asked the kind man if we could still pay for our meal, or at least donate to those helping cook and serve the meal.

Apparently, at funerals in Vietnam, the family of the deceased manage all of the cooking and hosting, and those from the community join for a big meal and donate funds to support the funeral. However, instead of using the donated money to support that particular event, donations are collected along with the donor’s name, and when the donor passes away, all of the funds they had given over the decades then go to finance their own final celebration. The kind man (who was probably a relative of the deceased) explained that as we did not live on the island, we could not donate money in our name, as the island community could not throw us a funeral. And so we had the best meal of our trip, for free, at a funeral, with six mourning women. It was by far the funniest and also kindest event of the trip, and Kai and I were cracking up for the rest of the evening, still unable to believe the entire scenario!Do you like my very safe, purple scooter helmet?!On day three, Kai and I did the same thing we did on day one and day two. We laid by the pool, we biked to lunch, we walked on the beach, we swam in the sea, we drank mango smoothies and strawberry juices, and we enjoyed happy hour by the sea as the sun set.It really was the best part of the trip, with so much relaxing and all of the days blending into one.
We scoured the island for the best summer rolls, and while I can’t say these were the winner, the papaya salad (above) was out of this world.Summer rolls, mango smoothies, papaya salad, and lemongrass vegetables with tofu is a meal I would gladly eat again and again and again.From 5-7pm our resort had happy hour, where a handful of cocktails were half priced. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed with the spirits in Vietnam. Every cocktail I purchased while in Phu Quoc tasted like it had been spiked with hairspray (except at Mango Bay, but I am getting there!) That said, the hairspray cocktails only inspired me to buy even more, intent on finding at least one alcoholic beverage that didn’t taste like it had been doused with rubbing alcohol.  But I mean, first world problems, right?!On our last overnight in Phu Quoc, Kai and I decided to have a proper date evening. I put on lipstick (first time I’d worn a speck of makeup in two weeks!) along with a long silk green dress, and we booked dinner at the island’s nicest resort, Mango Bay. But not before stopping to take a few photos at our resort’s pool ;)As I mentioned earlier, we really wanted to stay at Mango Bay while in Phu Quoc, but they didn’t have a pool, which was a real deal breaker for Kai. However, Kai suggested we still cycle over for dinner one night (by coincidence our resorts were right next door to each other!) and it turned out to be one of the best decisions! The resort was beautiful, strung with lanterns and so alive, with lush, overgrown vegetation everywhere.Kai and I managed to snag the only open table on the ocean deck at On The Rocks, and we ordered numerous starters, mains, and desserts to share, many inspired by the resort’s new Thai chef. The meal was phenomenal, although I will say the price reflected the quality. It was the first time I’d had a decent cocktail in weeks (which is why I had to have three!) but it was also the first time we spent €65 on a meal. However, Kai was super kind and treated (date night!) so I should say that it was the first time Kai spent €65 on a meal in Vietnam ;)Crème brûlée is by far my favorite dessert (don’t tell pumpkin pie and cookie dough ice cream I said that!) and at Mango Bay they had a trio of three local flavors the menu – ginger, mango and passion fruit. Holy moly, it was amazing.
While crème brûlée takes the cake as my favorite French dessert, panna cotta is by far my favorite Italian sweet, and I was over the moon to see them both on the menu! So I got the crème brûlée and Kai got the panna cotta, and it was the best dessert decision ever. After polishing off every last bite of dessert, Kai and I picked up our bikes for the cycle back to Eco Beach.I wont get into the nightmare (gecko) that surprised us upon our return to our villa. But let’s just say that Kai and I did not get much sleep after our date night, and it was not due to sexy time.

Despite not getting much shut eye, our last day at the resort was magical. We were supposed to fly to Ho Chi Minh at 10am, but our flight was canceled, and we were booked on the next departing flight, which was at 10pm! So we had breakfast, packed our bags, and checked out of our room, and then spent the day reading by the pool and swimming. Honestly, getting put on the later flight was amazing, because we had one more surprise day in paradise! And the airline gave us a pretty good head’s up, so we didn’t waste time – as we knew we had such a long delay, we stuck around our resort versus waiting at the airport for ages.These photos are pretty reflective of how we spent our last day at the resort: slow, sunny, lazy.(with a little bit of gym action mixed in!)On our last day, were chatting with another couple at the pool, and they kindly offered to take a photo. We hadn’t managed to capture a good one on our own in Phu Quoc, so I am very thankful for those strangers’ generosity!
If I could drink watermelon juice by an infinity pool all day, everyday, I would.When the sun set, we knew it was time to head out. By chance, there was another couple at our resort who were on the same flight, so we were able to save on a cab and shared a big van together to the airport.I will never forget our time in Phu Quoc. It was the first non-Florida tropical holiday of my life, and it was by far my favorite part of our Vietnam trip by far. I also had such an amazing time spending those days in paradise with Kai, who is my all time favorite travel buddy :)Goodbye Phu Quoc! Thank you for treating us so well :)

Keep an eye out for one more Vietnam installment to come!

xo Ali

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