Phu Quoc development or destruction?

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Phu Quoc development
Vinpearl Safari Park entrance

Phu Quoc development has been a much talked about topic of late; I took myself off to take a look. I always jump at the chance to get away from the Saigon smog and hopefully get some research and writing done.  I had a few days in a luxury resort to look forward to and I thought I’d balance it by getting away from it all at a different place for a couple of nights before.

I flew from Tan Son Nhat which is one of the world’s truly bad airports, but it was not as bad as normal. Just a mildly irritating excursion prior to the main event. Upon arriving at Phu Quoc International Airport I jumped in a cab for the ride to my chosen place of rest and recuperation. The first thing I noticed was the absolute manic speed that the digits were changing on the taximeter. Phu Quoc cabs are twice as expensive as Ho Chi Minh City’s cabs; be warned!  The Ut Phuong Resort is in the middle of the island and nowhere near, well, anywhere else really.

I wanted to get away from it all, but this place is so far away from it all that there is a damned good chance that it might be not be coming back. It’s a shame really, a big missed opportunity. They have it half right, but the lack of attention to detail or indeed anything, means it misses. Later speaking to a guy who had been here before, I learned that it used to be really good but things have just been allowed to slide. He had booked for three nights, but checked out after one.

My ‘cabin’ was a ramshackle hut built over a stream, which genuinely boggles the mind. The mosquitos were horrendous and I spent all my time in my room, on the bed under the net. The internet is just about none existent anywhere in the resort and totally inoperative in the rooms. Also there are really not any other things to do here.

Home Sweet Home for Two Days
Home Sweet Home for Two Days

I went in the bar and asked for a Tiger beer from the menu, to be told, “sorry sir, not have”. Ok I’ll have the Saigon Red, “sorry sir, not have”. I asked what they had and was informed Heineken and the local beer, Bivina, which I tried; it was wet.  They have a swimming pool here. There is no water in it, in fact it looks like a scene from a Hollywood B movie; you know the sort of thing, normally some kids find a body in a disused hotel.

I know what you did last summer!
I know what you did last summer!
Obviously the hotel’s mascot
Obviously the hotel’s mascot

Only one thing for it, I would hire motorbike and explore the island; there was no other choice. It was either pay up, or stay here waiting for a visit from Norman Bates. The bike was in poor repair and every time I stopped, it did. I drove out into the hills, first following a newish paved road that for some reason had been built about 20ft higher than the surrounding landscape. This gave the unnerving appearance of a rider being able to fall off at any point.

At one point I got so far off the beaten track that there wasn’t really a track left to beat. But it was great and the air was superbly fresh and clean, as a huge hawk circle overhead, screeching out its welcome.

I headed out north and came across some of the new Phu Quoc development that had already began. The scale of it is immense. Driving down the hill towards Ganh Dau village the giant ferris wheel announces the Vinpearl Land development. Before you reach it however the legend “Grand World” stands proudly on the left, marking what will be the entrance to one of the other new resorts that are being built.

I carried on down the road, past Vinpearl Land on the left and Vinpearl Safari on the right, closely followed by the Vin Medic Phu Quoc International Hospital and the Vinpearl golf course. One can almost imagine that a renaming of the island is possible.

Vinpearl Land, for now the biggest
Vinpearl Land, for now the biggest
Vinpearl Safari Park entrance
Vinpearl Safari Park entrance
Vinpearl Safari proper, the inner entrance is 4km from the outer entrance
Vinpearl Safari proper, the inner entrance is 4km from the outer entrance
No amount of manicured lawns and palm trees can disguise this kind of development
No amount of manicured lawns and palm trees can disguise this kind of development
The Vinpearl Golf Course
The Vinpearl Golf Course
Vin Medic Phu Quoc International Hospital
Vin Medic Phu Quoc International Hospital

Just down the road there is an absolutely enormous piece of land that has succumbed to the Phu Quoc development plan. It sits around a lake, clearly evidence of yet another soon to be opened resort (apparently this is another Vinpearl development). The scale of this one is mind-blowing.

The enormity of this development is hard to grasp from a photo
The enormity of this development is hard to grasp from a photo

Will Phu Quoc Development Leave any of the old Island Standing

It’s a shame, the north of the island the Phu Quoc development is starting to look like Orlando in it’s formative years. Soon, one suspects, there might be nothing of the old island left. I do understand it, the islanders are poor and the economy needs a boost. It is though about balance, and whether or not they will see the benefits. I carried on and as the sea loomed into view, I caught sight of a little gem. Exactly what I think of when I think of Phu Quoc. A tiny beach, with a dozen boats or so bobbing about. Beautiful clear blue sea, a tiny strip of golden sand and a beach side restaurant called Bien Hai Quan, selling beers at a dollar and terrific seafood.

Boats waiting to take tourists out to the other islands
Boats waiting to take tourists out to the other islands

I went with the fried rice with flower crab meat, and a few dollars worth of cold ones. the view was awesome, and as I sit here writing this, I’m reminded of what we might soon be losing. These are the truly great places to eat and drink.

However, whilst the enormous Phu Quoc development hangs over everything, for now, the view from today’s office is just grand.