Vietnam: Waking Beauty

Special Correspondent Peter Jon Lindberg blazes trails on the island of Phu Quoc. Photographs by Martin Westlake

Special Correspondent Peter Jon Lindberg blazes trails on the island of Phu Quoc. Photographs by Martin Westlake

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[BLANK_AUDIO] My name is Peter John Lindberg. I'm a writer with Travel and Leisure magazine. And recently, I went to Phu Quoc, Vietnam to write about the development that's underway there. This is basically the story of a tiny sleepy island that is soon to be transformed in to one of Asia's bigger beach resorts if all goes according to plan. Whether that happens or not is still up in the air, but before all of this development really happens it is an amazing place to be and Phu Quoc is really one of the prettiest and sleepiest islands in all of Southeast Asia right now. There really isn't much to see in the sense of traditional tourists sites and in fact much of the island is extremely rural and rustic. And as you can see the roads are this kind of martian red laterite clay where we actually spotted many kids on their bicycles going back and forth to school in these wonderful little outfits. This shot is a bach called bisou which means star beach, that's on the southeast corner of the island and rather hard to get to actually cuz all the roads on Fukue are bumpy little pot hole trails. And about a half a mile off the main road is a even bumpier little trail that culminates in this little half mile crescent of sand, and it is absolutely stunning. One of the best features that my wife and I had ever seen. It's really the quiet that's remarkable about it because there's literally no one on this beach. For now it is the iconic tropical beach. What's happening now in Phu Quoc, is that many resort companies are coming in and building up higher-end resorts. Including this one, which is La Veranda. It's by far the nicest and most comfortable resort on the island right now. And it's no doubt the first of many in Phu Quoc. The palm tree. There are a bunch of places like this along the sand in this little mile long stretch of Long Beach. But the palm tree is probably the most famous and the favorite of all. And one of my favorite places anywhere for that matter. This really is the dream of Phu Quoc and everyone ends up there at night. Both the backpackers and the people from La Veranda, the resort goers. It's a dreamy little place and who knows what'll happen to it, I hope that they don't replace it with some crazy big water slide or something. These are a big favorite of ours as well. They look like they'd just be giant baskets maybe for storing fish or something. They're about six feet in diameter and they were sitting in front of our resort on the beach for several days and we kind of wondered what they were for. Until we saw these two little kids get in and push it down into the surf and take out a little paddle they'd fashioned out of a stick and paddle out to their boat. We're just shocked that this thing could actually be seaworthy and we actually wanted to take one home, but we couldn't figure out a good bargaining price. Food in Phu Quoc is absolutely fantastic. Part of this is because of the ingredients. It's actually been famous for years as the home of Vietnam's best fish sauce, Nuoc Cham, sort of the Champagne of Vietnamese fish sauce. Here we're looking a bowl of pho, P-H-O, which is beef noodle soup, basically, flavored with a whole lot of great spices and of course, doused liberally with fish sauce. Another thing that Phu Quoc is famous for, besides the fish sauce, is their peppercorns. They almost tasted more like coriander than straight black pepper that we're used to. Here they're drying the peppercorns on mats in the sun where they turn actually a whole rainbow of colors. And we had a couple of these right off the tree. And literally set our tongues on fire. I mean, our ears went numb and our throats began to itch until this guy came along and Brought us a fresh persimmon to quench the fire. He plucked it right off the tree and he just sort of handed it to us, and sorta smirked in a knowing a way, realizing that we had been eating his peppercorns. The market is the one part of Phu Quoc where there's any real activity or commotion. If you go into the main town, Duong **** Town Right along the river there's this daily morning market. It just seems like the entire population of the island descends on this thing every morning with their motorcycles and their bicycles and their carts and we spent a blissful couple of mornings there just sort of soaking up the chaos and the commotion. It was really a lovely place to be. Really belied the whole image of Vuquak as a sleepy place. This really is a living community. It's not just some empty wasteland where developers are gonna come in and create life where there isn't any. It is very much an island of fishermen and farmers. That's pretty much what it was for all of its existence and One of the prettiest sites on Fu Kua is actually going to any of the harbors along the coast and the fishermen just sort of let you stroll around, even welcome you on and maybe give you a squid to take home, or maybe a couple of fresh prawns. And there's not a single tourist boat in sight. It's just entirely a working harbor. You know, one wonders how long that's gonna last. [BLANK_AUDIO]
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Vietnam: Waking Beauty


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