Other than spending gloriously long days on some of Vietnam’s best beaches, Phu Quoc’s interior also has much to be discovered…
A Walk in the Park
Established in 2001, Phu Quoc’s National Park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2006 for its diverse collection of flora and fauna, including 208 animal species ranging from mammals (lorises, macaques and langurs) and birds (including hornbills) to reptiles and amphibians. To explore the park located mainly in the northern half of the island, it’s best to have some experience on a motorbike, as paths are often just loose soil and sand. Nature lovers will enjoy taking walks available along marked park trails for a more up-close view of the forest and occasional glimpses of wildlife, especially towards the village of Ganh Dau. Bring water and a hat and expect little signage and sparsely maintained trails along the way.
Phu Quoc Specialties
As the Champagne region is to France, Phu Quoc produces some of Vietnam’s finest fish sauce, a pungent liquid extracted from fermented, salted fish and the must-have ingredient that finds its way into almost every Vietnamese dish. Phu Quoc fish sauce is world-renowned for its premium quality, thanks to the abundant seaweed and plankton around the island that feeds the anchovies needed for the dark golden colored sauce. In fact, fish sauce made elsewhere often falsely uses the Phu Quoc brand! Phu Quoc attractions include visiting a fish sauce factory where you’ll find larger-than-life wooden vats up to 4 meters high containing up to 13 tons of deliciously pungent fish sauce. You may want to buy a genuine bottle as a souvenir, but keep it wrapped well as the very smelly sauce is literally the last thing you want to break in your suitcase.
Phu Quoc is equally well-known for its premium peppercorns, producing more than 1,000 tons per year. Especially towards the center and north of the island, visitors are likely to come across large swaths of land covering a total of 400 ha dedicated to this crop, known for its heat, pungency and strong aroma which comes from using only organic fertilizers and drying the peppercorns individually in the sun, thereby retaining their essential oils and natural flavors. It’s so delicious, you’ll often find Phu Quoc pepper fresh, still on the stalk, in stir-fries and other Viet dishes. If you’re careful, farmers will usually not mind visitors taking a look at the plants which are harvested by hand between February and July. In other months of the year, you can still tour the plantations to see the leafy green plants.