delicacies like Vietnamese pizza — grilled
rice paper loaded with toppings — and rolled
ice cream, a must try. You can also pick
up artisan-made gifts or even edibles, such
as black-sesame-coated peanuts and dark
chocolate, to take home with you.
When it comes to souvenirs, the local
treasures are both practical and pleasurable.
The Vietnamese conical hat, or nón lá, will
keep the sun off your face and shoulders
during your trip, and its distinctive style
may find its way into your beach bag for
good. Pick one up from a local shop or the
night market. Of course, the island’s famed
exports, from pepper to pearls, are the quintessential takeaways. A bottle of fish sauce,
the essential condiment of the region, would
make a thoughtful gift for a discerning chef;
just mind it’s securely packed to avoid any
pungent spills in your suitcase!
Speaking of food, Vietnamese cuisine
enjoys an elevated stance on the world’s
culinary stage. Food in Phu Quoc is just as
delicious, though with an island spin. The
thriving fishing industry here produces a
bounty of seafood — from snails and oysters
to squid and tiger prawns — which is most
often simply prepared: grilled and served alongside sauce and lemon, an
approach that allows the meat to sing.
A few other dishes beg to be sampled. Banh mi, that addictive sandwich
that marries a French baguette with veggies, spices and cold cuts, has begun
its world domination, but did you know it also makes a stellar breakfast? Pho
is probably the most beloved Vietnamese food, and no one does the flavorful
soup — with its gorgeous broth, vermicelli noodles and copious fish sauce —
better than Phu Quoc. And do try the coffee: It is notorious for converting
coffee-eschewers into addicts, and one sip will tell you why.
There are countless reasons to venture to this under-the-radar paradise.
Go for the food, which is as friendly (on the palate) as the people. Go for
the crystal water and powdery sand, beckoning you to linger longer. Go for
the pearls, whose lustrous beauty is both timeless and right on trend, or the
honey that will adorn your table for weeks to come. But most of all, go if
your soul needs respite from the clamor of constant connectedness. Go where
time stands still, and the only other sounds are those of the waves rolling onto
the shore. Escape, even if just for a little while. [
it comes to the simple things, the island’s lush forests and waterfalls provide ample opportunity to commune with nature at its
most elemental. Try the Suoi Da Ban waterfall, just 10 minutes
north of the main town of Duong Dong and a favorite of both
locals and mainland tourists, where you will find families picnicking by the river and young children jumping into the flowing water
from trees and a bridge. A gentle hike takes you farther inland,
and as the crowds thin, the foliage opens up into the majestic
waterfall. It makes a great half-day excursion for the whole family.
FISHING FOR ADVENTURES
On an island as unspoiled as this one, the water is so unexpectedly
clear you can see starfish on the seabed even when you wade in
waist-deep. The calm ripples of emerald and sapphire are perfect
for snorkeling and kayaking. A boat trip will take you to many
of the coral-ringed islets, teeming with marine life. You feel like a
silent observer, floating atop this parallel universe, mesmerized by
the sea urchins, oysters and schools of fish in every color conceivable, and then some. A lunch of outrageously fresh seafood can
be prepared on board the boat, and should you decide to try your
hand at catching something yourself, you’ll find nothing more
idyllic than bobbing on the boat, in the middle of the gulf, waiting
for a tug on your fishing line.
If it’s shopping that gives you a thrill, a relaxing day can be
livened up with a visit to Duong Dong’s Dinh Cau night market, which runs from 7 to 11 p.m. each evening. Queue up with
the locals at the numerous food stalls that line the path offering
Left: The island’s
fresh seafood is
best when simply
Scenes from the
JW Marriott retreat.