Paradise Found: Phu Quoc

I <3 Maggie!

I <3 Maggie!

I'd suggest that anyone go to Phu Quoc to recover from a breakup. Or to recover from... The common cold, general malaise, seasonal affective disorder, boredom... Make up any excuse you can and go! Plus, once you're in Vietnam the hopper flights can drop as low as $50 round trip from Saigon! 

My Buffalo-Boston-Creative-Soulmate Maggie (and ultra-talented jewelry designer) visited me for 10 days and we treated ourselves to an island getaway to Phu Quoc. This little island has its high season from November through March, but felt relatively quiet while we were there (March), which was perfect. The weather was also consistently perfect.

For accommodation, we went from luxe to luxury, choosing to treat ourselves to 2 different non-hostel resorts. We recommend them both for their own reasons:

puppy at MyPlace Siena

puppy at MyPlace Siena

MyPlace Siena is a quiet little boutique resort in between the city center and the airport (10 minutes to each). The rooms smell of cedar and the grounds feature gardens and fountains; it feels like a tiny slice of paradise. The rooms are priced reasonably (approx. $40 usd) and a simple (delicious) breakfast is included. I was in heaven here thanks to the menagerie of sweet pets that freely roam the property: 3 cats, 1 puppy, 1 dog, frogs and lizards. We rented a motorbike through the resort for under $7 per day and kicked off the vacation exactly as we had planned - stress free! We checked out after 3 nights to be closer to the beach, but it's important to note that MyPlace is building a swimming pool which will be a perfect addition!

phu-quoc-cassia-cottage-digital-nomad-blog

Next up was Cassia Cottage - this resort has created the ultimate island wonderland. Their infinity pool overlooks a pristine beachfront with lush seating options. At check-in we were greeted with a hibiscus juice and given a tour from Mariz. There are 3 pools in total and the resort was renovated last year, offering guests the option to stay in traditional garden cottages or luxury premium suites, we chose the former. Rooms are around $150 / night and are worth every penny. Included is wifi, unlimited breakfast (omelettes, croissants, VN foods...), aircon, pool, beach...

Other musts while on the island:

Rory's: The island was quiet during our stay, but Rory's always had a crowd! This beachside bar is where people flock to watch the sunset and get white-girl-wasted. If HJ is there you're sure to laugh your ass off. He's the Asian bartender with the Australian accent, and no, HJ doesn't stand for Hand Job (I asked...).

Winston's: I've decided to become a vegetarian (yes it's true); however I went out with a savory bang. The burgers here are stateside quality and the buns have a lovely sweet, pastry-esque appeal to them. We also met Winston, an expat from the States (duh), who had great recommendations for the rest of our trip.

Gecko Bar: A solid option for a cheap (delicious) Vietnamese bite. We had pho and veggie + noodles here, and a few bottles of their finest Dalat red (of note, Dalat red wine is wine from Dalat, VN, it is not fine, it is not even nearly fine...).

Sau Beach: Day 1 we motorbiked here - DO IT! Beautiful white sands and plenty of cheap VN places for a bite to eat on the main drag. However, resorts like Paradiso charge if you use their lounge chairs (150,000 dong each), so make sure to bring your own towel. We did park the motorbike for free there though, which may or may not be allowed.

Peach Coffee: Yummy and affordable, vegan and vegetarian options (See what I am doing now? Subliminally weaving my new agenda in!), fresh juices, smoothies, and on the main drag.

Photo cred shared between Maggie + me for this post. See more from her here!

Offal or Awful?

We have been in Ho Chi Minh City for 14 days. This is long in backpacker time, yet short for the standards of what qualifies for most as a home. When choosing the nomadic life 3 months ago, I was fairly ill-informed. But now, as we continue this journey I'm starting to determine parameters that need to be in place for the perfect blend of transience and consistency - the most important being great wifi, with a close second of having interesting, fresh and varied food options (shockingly sparse in the Philippines). Coming in third, (surprising even my introverted self) I miss my girlfriends and girly-giggle-time. The lack of this leads to an acute sense of loneliness at times. To combat this, I've started to make plans with other digital nomads I've found online, try to stay in touch with other travelers we've met + now (thanks to good wifi) can call the States pretty regularly. But still, ouch.

pho-gasm

pho-gasm

HCMC is an amazing destination for both wifi and delightful dining options, sometimes under the same roof. Fresh herbs and vegetables are bountiful as you motorbike through the city - from the inexpensive food stands to the many small markets with fairly priced options. The culinary journey gets confusing though. I've downloaded an app to assist (Vietnamese to English food item translations), but it has about 100 items, whereas the Vietnamese food options seem to range somewhere in the thousands with variations in name based on which part of the country the specific recipe originated. Based on the food nomenclature we're always one Pha Lau away from a savory coconut stew - of offal (which by the way, is delicious, and weird). Offal = Internal organs + entrails of a butchered animal, FYI.

Trying out new food every day is one of my favorite parts of HCMC. These endless options create an adventure that is at times frightening but with a potential reward of total yum! This list includes Vietnamese foods I've tried and what they most simply mean in English IMO. Most definitely not comprehensive and probably not always 100% accurate based on my specific vendor experiences, so let me know if you see any errors!

  • Banh bao: fluffy bun stuffed with meat, potatoes, etc. inside
  • Banh beo: custard-like rice in little dishes, topped w dried fish or crumbled peanuts, use a chili oil on top
  • Banh mi: delicious sandwiches on french bread with sliced meat (cured or fried) + fresh herbs
  • Bun ba hue: rice vermicelli (thin) noodle soup with beef
  • Ca phe sua da: iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk (yum)
  • Com tam: rice dish, usually served with grilled pork
  • De vu nuong: this is the breast of the goat, we went to a goat bbq place with friends, so YUM
  • Luc lac: delicious cubed beef, always a safe bet
  • Pho: obviously the most well-known Vietnamese dish - linguine-type noodle soup, delicious meat + tasty herbs