Arriving into Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, is not unlike arriving into other cities in South East Asia. Step outside the airport terminal and you’re met with crowds and a humidity level so intense, you instantly break a sweat. To make matters interesting, you’re faced with the challenge of navigating your suitcase through one of the busiest cities in Vietnam.
While the capital is a popular spot to start or finish your journey through Vietnam, the hub also offers a variety of options to get off the beaten track. An hour flight from Ho Chi Minh, in the Gulf of Thailand, lies the island of Phu Quoc. You can easily pick up return flights for under a hundred New Zealand Dollars and there is an amplitude of times to suit your schedule. Before you take off, ensure that you have plenty of Vietnamese Dong as ATMs are scarce in rural areas. To help you do this, we’ve made it easy for you with rate alerts. We’ll monitor the exchange rates so that you get the biggest bang for your buck. This will save you from tracking down an ATM when you’re off the beaten track.
The island is Vietnams biggest; however, I recommend organising a transfer before landing with your hotel or resort, as transport options on the island are limited. There are accommodation options along Long Beach to suit any budget as well as resorts to suit travellers searching for a touch of luxury. The Shells Resort & Spa offers ocean facing rooms and free-standing dwellings; some with private pools and gardens.
During your stay, there are plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation within the resort. Whether you choose to indulge in a massage at the Waves Spa and Fitness or sip a cocktail at the swim up bar, you’re sure to feel recharged. As usual, you can charge most services to your room, but if you plan to venture out of the resort, be sure to have cash as this is, at times, the only form of payment accepted.
On days you decide to explore, there are plenty of quirky activities to choose from that will keep you busy. Head to Sao Beach on the islands south, where you can walk along the white sand or kick back and sip a mojito. While you’re there, be sure to try some common fruits found in tropical South East Asia, such as a Rambutan or Durian.
If you’re right into Vietnamese cuisine, you may be interested taking a tour at one of the local fish sauce factories. The island is known for producing the highest quality fish sauce in the country called Nuoc Mam, and while you’re on the island you can learn how the essential Vietnamese side dish is made. Of course, no factory tour is complete without a taste test, so prepare your taste buds.
By night, head to Dinh Cau Market for a beer and a seafood feast at one of the open-air restaurants. Afterwards, meeting the street vendors and picking up some locally grown and harvested peppercorns is a must. Cash is king in street markets so don’t forget to pack your wallet with lots of cold hard dong. If you keen to party into the night, head to Rory’s Bar on Long Beach. Think beach bonfires, bean bags, tunes and your favourite cocktail. A perfect way to end a day getting off the beaten track, if I do say so myself.
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