Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 17 - Motorbiking Phu Quoc Islands

We made it a plan to wake up, grab breakfast, and hit the road by renting motorbikes so we could explore the island on our own. The entire island is around 31 miles long and 12 miles wide, so it was easy to cover a lot of ground in one day.

The last time I rode a motorbike was about 5 years ago when I rented them in Hawaii. It took a little time to get used to, but it was easy relearning how to ride one of these babies, especially since it was an automatic.

Navigating the streets was easy too since the main roads were not nearly as claustrophobic as in Ho Chi Minh City. Once outside the major towns, we were free to roam about in complete peace, sometimes veering off the concrete and onto orange dirt roads, trying to stumble upon new sights. It was literally breathtaking, driving 60-80 km/hr, yelling at the top of your lungs as the wind (and small insects and gravel) blew in your face.

We headed northwest on the island and reached a secluded area where there was only one resort, and we explored the beach there. The water was so shallow, that you could literally walk across, as if you were walking on water. There were little ships, painted in different shades of pastel blue and green, docked near shore. They were probably fishing for crabs.

After getting a drink at the resort and relaxing near the ocean, we headed west to try and see some of the national park, which makes up about 70 percent of the entire island. We passed by a pepper farm, which is one of the main products grown on the island. Fish sauce is also famous here, and certain parts of the town reeked (or perfumed, depending on who you are asking) of this Vietnamese condiment. It was a challenge getting through some of the dirt roads because of the potholes and muddy waters, but challenging in a fun way. I guess the best tip you could follow is to not hesitate or slow down when you traverse through, or you may get stuck or fall over.

We got lost (more like shoo-ed away by the locals) when were trying to find a certain beach to relax at. A little boy ended up guiding us on our way back (even though I had GPS and didn't need the help), and then when he showed us the way, he demanded 30,000 dong from us. Another tactic of someone giving help, and another thing I dislike about travelling. You never know what the honest intentions of others are. They could either genuinely want to help you out, or they could only be trying to make a couple bucks. We ended up giving him around 15,000 dong, shaking our finger at him before we ditched him.

By the afternoon, we headed back to our bungalows to catch some sun at our beach – Truong Beach. After four hours of biking, I got sunburned on my shoulders and thighs. The waters were choppy and warm, and I walked around the shore to explore some of the other areas. There were jellyfish in the ocean, although the only two I saw were washed up on shore. There were also huge rock formations that were perfect for bouldering! I attempted to climb some of them but didn't want to try to top it without a spotter or crash pad.

At dusk, we headed out on our motorbikes again to grab dinner and stumbled on the local night market there, which served lots of fresh seafood. I was so excited to try everything, since the prices were all very cheap for FRESH seafood. I got a large sea snail, some small sea snails, clams, and a sea urchin. Probably the best clams I've ever had, because they were so fresh, you could still taste the ocean in them. They were barbequed and seasoned with peanuts, green onions, garlic, and oil. The large sea snail was also very good. It was like a huge chunk of meat, hard to cut, but delicious. The sea urchin was also barbequed, and the only time I'd ever tried sea urchin was as Uni at a sushi bar. I definitely prefer it raw, instead of barbequed. The small sea snails were the worst part of the meal because they were unseasoned. There really wasn't a taste to any of them.

I'm headed to Nha Trang next, which is another coastal beach town and hopefully, there will be even better seafood there!

We called it a night early since I had to wake up tomorrow early (again) to catch a flight back to HCMC.

Motorbiking through the islands

Mr. CPA burning rubber full throttle at 60km/hr

Matching Gold Helmet to go with the Gold Bike

As Michael put it - "Walking across the sea the way Jesus did it"

Small ships fishing for crabs

Getting drinks at a private resort

The damage on my feet

Large sea snails

Various seafood ready to be BBQ'd at the night market

Our dinner being cooked

The BEST part of dinner - clams!

Phu Quoc Night Market

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