The Mekong - Day 1 - Ha Tien to Duong Dong, Phu Quoc
Before cycling through the Mekong delta, we had decided to visit the holiday island of Phu Quoc. The car ferry left from a quay just over the river from the guesthouse
at 8.20am. The riverside market was colourful and busy at 7am and we
brought bananas and oranges for breakfast.
On the ferry we made ourselves comfortable in the uncrowded passenger
area and watched a comedy stage play, in Vietnamese, on the television
which made us laugh even though we couldn't understand a word. After
three hours the boat docked on the north west coast of Phu Quoc island.
This confused us as we had assumed it would go to the main port which
was in the south. Our intention was to stay at Long Beach which is
close to Duong Dong on the east coast.
With no Internet connection we only had the Garmin map on the phone and
this did not show a single road on the island. First we headed north on
the unsurfaced road which was muddy and rutted. The north of the island
is the mountainous part, with steep jungle covered slopes. Our sketchy
memory of the geography was that there was no road around the north
coast onto the east side and we couldn't imagine a road running across
So although we'd already gone 4km we turned round to head south. Back at
the junction for the ferry terminal we took the road signed to Ham Ninh
but immediately it was obvious this road was not well used. The wide
dirt track was overgrown with just a single pathway ridden by a few
motorbikes. But the kilometer markers at the side gave distances to
Duong Dong so surely it must go there?
After 3km and a puncture repair we breasted the top of a gentle hill and
the road in front just disappeared, bisected by a deep canyon, washed
out by a storm. As we stood there looking forlornly over the gorge, a
motorcycle approached on the other side. He pointed to the left and
there was a track through the trees.
Over the deep sand they had built a wooden causeway consisting of narrow
tree branches nailed across two side rails. This descended steeply to
the bottom of the valley, formed a bridge over the water, and ascended
equally steeply on the far bank. This was repeated for the next six
valleys before widening back into a normal dirt road. Having only had
fruit for breakfast and now 2pm we were ravenous but everywhere we asked
they had none. At last there was a sign pointing to a small house on
the beach 'Food and Drink'. Sitting in the shade of the palm trees on
the beach we had green coconut juice and fried noodles.
It was only about 10km from there to the next town, Ham Ninh and the
wonderful sight of a wide smooth tarmac road with a hard shoulder! From
here it was 20km to Duong Dong. But after 4km the smooth surface stopped
where roadworks to widen it into a dual carriageway began. All they
seemed to have achieved so far was to ruin the old road and reduce the
tarmac width to single width on a very busy road.
Duong Dong lies at the northern end of the reported best beach on the
island and is developing into a busy tourist town with a new airport
just opened. We collapsed into a bar next to a motorbike wash station
and had the grungy bikes washed while we drank a beer. By now the sun
was setting so we had to find somewhere to stay fast. Riding down the
road parallel to the beach we say lots of new hotels and resorts being
built. About 3km from the town there are a number of older, bungalow
type, resorts and we tried one of these but there was so much building
going on that there would be constant noise during the day. In
desperation we booked into a place which, in the dark, looked OK called
They gave us a room on the ground floor with a double glass entrance
door which didn't close properly, not good for security. There was just
one, low energy light bulb in the ceiling and horrible dirty curtains.
When we went for a beer we realised that we were the only guests and all
of the staff were lounging around with nothing to do. At the bar were
six staff, the chef was asleep on a billiard table and the seven spa
staff were sat waiting in hope of customers.
We escaped down the road to a French bistro and a glass of wine.
Days off - Duong Dong
We were woken at 6am by loud piped music coming from the dining area
which went on till 7.30am. The included breakfast was a choice of three
Vietnamese noodle dishes but one of them was not available. We had
coffee but were then asked to pay extra for this which we refused. After
a walk down the beach we found a small resort called Paris where we
booked a bungalow for the next four nights.
Except for regular swims, walks along the beach and lying on the sun
bed with our adopted pussy, we did absolutely nothing. The resort is
listed with Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet and was full most of the
time, mainly with European backpackers and Silver Surfers like us. The
best thing was the restaurant, right at the water's edge, with some
delicious food, Viet and Western so we ate lots.
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