Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Chilling Out on Phu Quoc (2018)

To our island retreat

My alarm was set for 0630, but we both woke up earlier and I decided to get up at 0615. It was strange to look down to the Skytrain station below, sitting above a main road that was now almost entirely devoid of traffic. After showering and packing, we left without breakfast. I contemplated the fact that I had been based at this attractive property for a period of less than 12 hours! We travelled the reverse of our identical-but-separate inbound journeys from the airport, i.e. a one-stop Skytrain hop to Phaya Thai, followed by an Air Link train to Suvarnabhumi.

While check-in for today's short flight was easy, the queues for both Security and Passport Control were perfectly hideous. The first priority on finally getting airside was to acquire a bottle of Hendrick's, so that some of our cocktail consumption in the coming week could be on a more cost-effective do-it-yourself basis. Bruce had two vouchers that were valid for one of the lounges. Rejoicing in the name 'Miracle', it was sadly a rather plain affair, but at least it provided a breakfast of sorts. In due course Bangkok Airways, self-styled 'Asia's Boutique Airline', took us on an ATR-72 operated short hop to Phu Quoc. Unusually for 2018, a full meal was provided, with complimentary drinks.

If you're anything like me, you'll probably need a refresher on where exactly our Vietnamese island getaway is located:

The native spelling of Vietnam's largest island is Phú Quốc.
It is situated in the Gulf of Thailand and is physically closer to Cambodia than to the Vietnamese mainland. Its nearest neighbours are the Cambodian islands of Koh Seh and Koh Thmei.
Sovereignty over Phu Quoc was a source of tensions and even conflict between Vietnam and Kampuchea/Cambodia in the late 20th century.
The island is 50km long (north to south) and a maximum of 25km wide.
The two most important traditional products are fish sauce (supported by anchovy fishing) and black pepper.
The fastest growing sector of the economy is tourism.
Phu Quoc International Airport (PQC) was completed in 2012 at a cost of more than 800 million US dollars.

Phu Quoc airport still looked brand new and was almost deserted. There were at least six immigration desks for around seventy arriving passengers. Our booked hotel car was waiting to take us to the JW Marriott, and our chosen retreat seemed most impressive on arrival. (Spoiler alert: we never did see a need, or even just feel an urge, to venture outside its gates until time to begin the homeward journey.) The resort was built on the site of the 19th-century Université Lamarck, and the university theme was heavily exploited. Very little of this was real, however, as the resort was fundamentally a new build.

Following a hugely impressive check-in process in gorgeous surroundings, we were taken on a golf-cart tour of the complex before being transferred to our room. This turned out to be a fabulous top-floor corner room, complete with a truly luxurious bathroom, a balcony and a view of one of the pools and the sea beyond. Our particular block (designated the 'Arts Building') was constructed on a huge scale, with extraordinarily high ceilings and commendably thick walls. It was instantly clear that this was going to be a perfect base for a relaxing few days.

One rather weird note was struck by a prominent sculpture in the room showing three male dogs. Two were mostly black and one mostly white, and each (on a consistent basis) had certain parts of his anatomy highlighted in the opposite colour. It really was quite the oddest thing - see photos. I did subsequently find out that Vietnam has exactly three native breeds of dog, one of which comes from Phu Quoc, but that still leaves unanswered questions about the artistic treatment!

Feeling peckish by this stage, we grabbed a mid-afternoon snack at the Red Rum beachfront bar and grill and made some low-key (i.e. no photos) further explorations of our new surroundings. Thereafter, we had drinks on the balcony, timed to watch the sun going down, followed by a room-service dinner. Bruce's First Law of Hotel Stays (first night => room service) makes a comeback!

Sunday 25 Nov

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