What do you think of if I ask you to imagine a Beach? Translucent turquoise waters lapping the warm silky sand of the pristine coastline, with a few perfectly placed palm trees bordering the natural greenery of this secluded beach where it just happens to be just you? Or a packed shore full of stressed, over-heated tourists? Or a pile of rubbish?
I’m sure a beach can be all of these things, and now it is time to make a nice light-hearted comparison between the two beaches we visited on our stay at Phu Quoc, Vietnam. I am sure that my less favourite beach of the two is in reality a stunner and warmly recommended, and part of our negative experience was due to taking our time getting there (read: getting lost).
Day 1 we went to Bai Sao (Sao Beach), reviewed (then) on TripAdvisor with an average of four and a half stars, and definitely one of the must-visits of Phu Quoc.
Day 2 we went to the Chez Carole resort on Cua Can Beach, recommended by a random middle-aged American dude who invited himself to our table at a Saigon sky bar a few nights previously.
Let’s go through the various stages of our two Phu Quoc experiences of Going To A Beach.
1. Arrival at Beach
Bai Sao: We arrived at the resort about four hours later than planned, making our way down the orange dirt path to a crowded car park (well, motorbike park). There were quite a few locals around, laughing at our parking abilities, but we embraced our inferiority. It was slightly disappointing to realise this apparent paradise beach was linked to a big, slightly manky-feeling resort. The beach itself seemed to include very little actual sand space without tables or other clutter.
Chez Carole: Arriving at Chez Carole was adventurous but took less time and less exasperated squelchy mud-fighting, as we actually managed to find our way there with a first try. We drove through beautiful roads lined with funky exotic plants and palm trees lightly swaying in the warm mid-morning breeze (okay, I may over-romanticise this), and we finally arrived at the Chez Carole resort. The motorbike park comprised a few neatly parked bikes, and the parking dude gave us a cheery smile. With our hopes up, we walked onwards towards the resort itself… We were greeted by a picture-perfect view, so clichey it seemed a bit over the top, like a script writer planning a movie that includes the princess falling in love with the pea, kissing him and then transforming into Ryan Gosling (acted by Ryan Gosling) – anyways, the sea was turquoise, the swimming pool was pristine, and the palm trees, tables and sand were straight out of your average paradise brochure.
2. Culinary tastes
Bai Sao: The atmosphere wasn’t ideal for food – we were tired, we didn’t particularly like the resort, and we were keen to wander the beach and find the four and a half stars. However, eating seemed like a reasonable idea after a long morning of dehydrated lostness, so we managed to find a table in the shade, and were brought menus by a very bored waiter. The food was okay and we certainly devoured it with healthy appetites, but the non-enthusiasm of every single waiter we had was borderline comical.
Chez Carole: We were guided to a pretty table with a nice shade by a ridiculously polite and friendly young waiter, and ordered drinks to start off with. He politely asked if I wanted my coffee with condensed milk or not, wondering if I wanted to watch my figure by having a less condensed version. Naah mate, ta.
Moments after we got our drinks, Hanna promptly dropped her watermelon juice over and off the table. Moments later, she got a new watermelon juice, with profuse apologies from two different members of staff.
(The following conversation _actually_ took place:
Hanna: “I’m so sorry!”
manager dude: “No, I’m sorry.”)
As food, we went All Adult and ordered caramelised fish. To this day we still daydream about it.
3. Exploration of Beach
Bai Sao: None of the beach we could see looked particularly four-and-a-half-starry, so we decided our best bet was to walk to the right, where the beach did a little curve at some rocks, obscuring the view. Maybe paradise was hiding behind those jutting rucks.
This had been the way through in Bali – despite Padang Padang being a legit so-called paradise beach, it was packed, which substantially lessened its star rating in my eyes… But when we moved further away, we’d found that pristine, blissfully empty (bar a few aggressive monkeys) picture-perfect beach.
So we walked. The weather was getting cloudier, and the beach wasn’t getting better; it was getting mankier. The one or two cans lying around, forgivable, had multiplied rapidly like junk in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. There was rubbish anywhere, and once we got to the rocks, it had deteriorated further.
I didn’t understand. Where was the 4½ star beach? How did we go so badly wrong?
The sand was silky, and as an additional beautiful little quirk, the beach extended into a little peninsula into the sea, so at some point you were surrounded by water from all sides. Utterly exotic.
4. Post-exploration of Beach
Bai Sao: We backtracked and walked to the left instead. The other side looked like it could’ve been nice on a sunny, litterless day. Now the deck chairs looked bare and uninviting, and there were no people in sight.
As soon as we sat down on them to contemplate our next plan of action, a lady sprung up from nowhere, asking how many chairs we’d like to rent. Er, we’ll think about it, we promised her, and left.
There was a lovely swing which had been lifted up onto the tree, which I recognised from some photoshopped beauty pics online. The beach was utterly unpicturesque.
We decided to leave.
The good, the bad and the ugly of prospective beaches, amen.
Have you been to Bai Sao – did you have a more four-and-a-half-starry experience? I just checked and as of June 2017 Bai Sao’s Tripadvisor rating has actually deteriorated to three and a half stars, which I can identify with. Chez Carole Resort is equalling that.
What is your definition of A Perfect Beach? And where did you experience it?