First, a disclaimer: This all happened in November 2015, at the end of the rainy season, so don’t take this as up-to-date fact, but more as an entertaining story. I’m sure Phu Quoc is very different nowadays – and outside the rainy season.
The Phu Quoc islands – I’d always heard loads about them. They were the hidden gem of Southern Vietnam, the secret which was gradually being spread out around the country. When my Finnish besties Hanna and Hannele decided to come and visit me in Vietnam, we decided it to be the perfect time to see the famous Phu Quoc for ourselves.
We were told of untouched, empty beaches; stunning nature and friendly, welcoming locals. However, we were simultaneously warned about construction sites everywhere, due to the islands’ plans to become the next tourist trap/beach paradise, however you prefer to call it.
We only had a few days on the islands, so we decided to start with the best:
Our first day was dedicated to finding the 4½ star paradise beach, Bai Sao, a 30-minute motorbike ride away.
We had a quaint little map of Phu Quoc, a lovely small island with little possibility of getting lost or even taking the wrong road, as all the roads appeared to be marked on the map. The map was even friendly enough to distinguish between, I quote, “main roads“, “scenic routes” and “adventurous routes“. We knew better than to venture on something advertised as even close to ‘adventurous’ in Vietnamese terms, but “scenic” sounded and looked like a longer but probably more picturesque way, not to mention it wasn’t just plain motorway the whole trip.
We rented our bikes from our resort and set off – Hanna and I as drivers, with Hannele taking turns to ride with us. Off we went, expecting a nice scenic half hour ride – ok, give it an hour in case of obligatory, experience-enhancing hiccups – and a relaxing, beautiful day at the four-and-a-half-star paradise.
As you may guess, it didn’t quite go to plan.
I guess you can define “scenic” in many ways.
The scenic route started off as good as any main road. It was a suitably empty, wide, mostly smooth motorway going in a straight line. They seemed to be improving the road, we noted after a while, because at parts there were road works. Good for them.
There were more and more roadworks.
The road had become more uneven and bumpy, lacking in concrete at some points.
At parts, we even had to venture into full-on muddiness to go onwards. Which, again, taking in account it was the end of the rainy season, was understandable.
After a while, we stopped. It was pure mud, literally, and there was no end to it.
At this point we started being hesitant about going on. If there was a clear end to this little bit of mud, we would have persevered through it. But there didn’t appear to be an end.
This was where a realisation came upon us – they weren’t improving the road, they were creating it.
A Vietnamese twosome overtook us and made it with effort
to the other side. over this particular muddy part.
We decided to go back.
However impossible it seemed, it was clear we’d, somehow, managed to take a wrong road. This wasn’t the main, scenic or even adventurous road; this was no road.
My GPS (which worked once in a while, according to its own whims and fancies) confirmed this by informing us we were in the middle of nowhere.
We backtracked, and luckily found a turning we hadn’t registered before. Hooray, we’d found the scenic route!
And boy how scenic it was.
Our road quickly became a dirt road, which was expected enough. And it became muddy, like the previous, non-existent road we were on. And my petrol was running low.
Hannele travelled mostly with Hanna, and I am beyond in awe how Hanna dealt with driving through the precarious, slippery, squelchy mud with a passenger. I was alone, and quite terrified, but consoling myself that in a worst case scenario, I’d fall in the mud and get a scratch or two. However, with a passenger, two unpredictable human reactions, the risk levels were a lot higher.
(Very unfortunately there are no pictures of this muddiness due to lack of happiness… but it was rather similar to the situation of the pictures of the first muddy section.)
And my petrol was still running low. I went through my usual mood alteration route of a stressful situation, with my thoughts evolving as follows:
1. A cheerful, adrenaline-fuelled “Lol this is hilarious, haha ridiculous!” Lots of silly smiles and downplaying other people’s potential anxiousness. Pictures taken.
2 A more mature, impatient “Ok, this’ll probs be funny in the future, but it’s getting frustrating. I just wanna get on the road and to our destination, we’re losing precious time here!”
3 A rather annoyed “Seriously how the hell can this be going so catastrophically!”
4 Switch onto robot-mode, removing any human emotion. Human emotion would only be detrimental to the situation, as all emotion is now negative. May or may not include a short rant/cry while one feels sorry for oneself and one’s hopelessly nightmarish situation.
See graph below for another type of depiction:
The road was getting un-go-throughably muddy, my petrol was being used up at an alarming rate, and there was no one around, bar one very intimidating, mud-transporting truck squeezing by.
Hannele had started jogging alongside us to save both petrol and sanity. She was also able to scout areas around on foot, looking for a potential way out or magical disappearance of mud.
My GPS wasn’t sure whether we were on the road or in the middle of nowhere, so not much help there.
Eventually we made yet another decision to go back. We’d go back, give up on the scenic route, find the main route.
It involved going back, driving eastward for a while before reaching the main road down.
We found the Eastern road, we even found a petrol place. We were getting happier.
What made us ultimately happiest, however, was this lovely roadside café we spontaneously stopped at.
We manoeuvered our motorbikes up their steep driveway and settled down for beautiful iced coffees, served by a charming pink T-shirted giggling man. He and his friends/family in the nearby hammock were enchanted by our existence and watched us like a gripping film. We were enchanted by their existence and their smiles and their COFFEE. <3
It was a happy moment, and we got happy pics with him.
Then, freshly envigorated and happified, suddenly everything seeming like a thrilling, fun-filled adventure again, off we went again.
Morning road hiccups aside, we still had the whole afternoon, and we were now confidently on the right track towards the Main Road and the 4½ star paradise beach at the end of it.
You may be expecting a new hiccup but, alas, no. We found the Main Road, and it indeed played the part of a Main Road exceptionally well – wide, smooth, bumpless and rather empty. Luxurious.
Since we want to end on a happy note, that’s that. Cruising down the motorway towards the presumed 4½ stars…
To be continued…