the easy island life

Phu Quoc Island, VietnamWhat is it about islands? It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are in but when you put any kind of civilisation on an island small enough to drive around in a day, with hot weather and palm trees the whole pace of life just slows down and any urgency to do things kinds of drifts away with the tide. Getting to Phu Quoc island was probably the most I have actually had to work at transport in Vietnam. This country makes you supremely lazy, tourists buses have booking cafes a go-go offering you easy, inexpensive fares to everywhere you want to go, they pick you up from the door of your hotel, drop you off slap bang in the middle of all the hotels of your destination, in fact a trained monkey could probably travel around Vietnam with ease. Long Beach, Phu QuocThere are no tourist buses that go to Phu Quoc as sensible people fly directly there. We decided to take the hard route and besides, the flights were all booked out. So we had to get a taxi and a minivan to the bus station and then get a local minivan bus six hours across the bumpy roads of the Mekong Delta to Rach Gia. There were two tiny old women on the back seat with Mary and I and quite frankly they were mean. They were at least half our size and took up all the space, refusing to budge and then sprawling against and over the seats with their wrinkly arms and legs. Nice! It was a long ride to Rach Gia. We spent the night in a little hotel and then caught the morning ferry over to the island where a local bus ride and 30 minutes of phaffing up and down the guest houses on the back of three motorbikes eventually brought us to somewhere to stay!

Mary getting suited up on the boat, Phu QuocWe’d picked a small place with a series of spacious but simple bungalows with balconies and hammocks in a long garden that lead down to the beach and beautiful views of the island. All the places to stay are along the west coast in an area called Long Beach. Our section of beach was covered in white sand, a few shaded sun loungers, a few small rocks lay in the impossibly clear waters that led out into the warm turquoise sea. Blue sky, white puffy clouds, restaurant right on the edge of the beach and cheap, ice cold beer. What more do you need. Well rum actually. Mika and I brought a litre of cheap dark rum and cans of Diet coke thinking we’d never drink the whole lot. Then after dinner Mary went to bed and somehow the two of us were up chatting watching a seriously impressive thunder storm rage outside and bizarrely, by 4am, we’d finished all the rum!

Bat Fish, Nudibranch gardens, Phu QuocThe next day we managed to do nothing but swim, eat, read and lie dozing in the hammocks. I’m not usually a beach person but it’s been a long time since I switched off and properly relaxed, so it felt wonderful. The next day we went out diving in the northern area of Phu Quoc. I hadn’t done any diving for two years so although the visibility wasn’t great it felt really good to be under the water again and it has got me seriously excited about diving in Malaysia. Me Scuba Diving, Phu Quoc, VietnamWe did see the most incredible jellyfish on the first dive, a huge pulsating pink and red translucent animal with dozens of tiny white fish swimming around beneath the umbrella of it’s body. I was torn between trying not to get too close and trying to get a good picture with my new underwater disposable camera! Between the low visibility and infrequent sunshine the photos are, interesting, but I’ve put some on anyway, they kind of have an blurred, exploration of unknown depths kind of quality to them! Mika and Mary, Phu QuocThe second dive was at a place called Nudibranch gardens and apart from the beautiful branch corals everywhere it is known for the Nudibranches which are small slug-like creatures in psychedelic purples, yellows and blues. They look a little like those weird lighters they sell at festivals with fluorescent spikes sticking out of the sides! There were also bat fish, which were far larger than I’d realised from the photos, and when I turned around to spot one I was somewhat startled to see something the size of my head peering straight into my goggles. I backed up a little hurriedly and managed to take out a chunk of dead coral reef behind me… I’m so graceful!

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