The island is famous for its pepper,
pearls, honey and fish sauce, each of
which offers an excursion opportunity. Pepper farms are abundant in
the countryside and range from small
patches to entire fields. The crop is
harvested during the high season (late
October through March) and dried
to make this precious spice. Did you
know that Vietnam is the largest
exporter of pepper in the world? And
most of it comes from this tiny island.
The pearly beads hang in bunches
from the vines, waiting to be picked.
Interestingly, the black pepper is made
by drying green and red peppercorns,
while the more expensive white pepper
is made only from red ones.
Another premium allure — of the
wearable variety — are the pearls of
Phu Quoc. A walk along the streets
will leave you convinced that the
gems are an obsession here, but for
good reason. Phu Quoc’s pearl farms
cultivate some of the most beautiful
pearls in the world, which go on to be
designed into stunning jewelry. Pearl
farms also demonstrate the process of extracting a pearl from an oyster,
which can take from three to seven years to create a single teardrop.
The honey farm, isolated in the northern countryside, provides a safe,
comforting environment for its bees. The tour proves educational, but
more than that, it is refreshing to see the passion and purpose with which
it is operated. If you’re anything like me, the smiles on the caretakers’ faces
will linger with you as a reminder that joy is found in the simplest things.
when you stumble upon a place that seems to have been missed by
the world’s rapid commercialization? It occurs far too seldomly, I’m
afraid, but my advice is that if you’re lucky enough to find yourself
in such a rare locale, savor the chance to move at a slower pace,
connect with the culture and succumb to the allure of nature.
Located south of the Vietnam mainland, close to Cambodia, the
pristine island of Phu Quoc was long a secret hideaway of locals
and intrepid backpackers. Yet even as it finds itself becoming the
darling of those who seek the most beautiful beaches on earth,
Phu Quoc manages to retain its hidden-away innocence. Roughly
70 percent of the island is national park, and travelers may still
find themselves strolling its unspoiled stretches of soft white sand
with scarcely another human in sight.
Despite its seclusion, the island is easy to access. In fact, it’s such
a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City that there is barely time to
settle in after takeoff before it is time to prepare for landing. Yet it’s
still worth reserving a window seat. If the skies allow you a peek,
the aerial view of the island, with its pearly beaches contrasting
with deep green forest, will leave you spellbound.
PEPPER AND PEARLS
No two travelers will have the same experience in Phu Quoc.
There isn’t a standard bucket list of attractions to hit. Instead,
you’ll find a variety of pleasures from which to pick and choose.
Nature flexes its muscles: Lush jungle covers more than half the
island, and colorful coral beckons below the clear waters. As is to
be expected in food-obsessed Vietnam, the culinary culture here
is deliciously vibrant. However, if all you want to do is lie on the
sand and get lost in a book, there’s no better beach for it.
top left: The
island’s fish sauce,
kept in wooden vats
at the Nuoc Mam
Hung Thanh factory,
is considered the
world’s best; a
fishing village; Suoi
Da Ban waterfall;
plankton make for a