Spending my 25th Birthday at a Hut in Vietnam (Part 2)

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Yet another beautiful sunset on Phu Quoc Island.

In my last article I talked about my expedition of Long Beach on Phu Quoc Island, but in this article I will talk about some of the other places that I ventured to outside of my hut!  I would recommend staying at least 3 full days on this island because between the beaches and the central town, there’s a lot of neat things to see.  I spent my mornings swimming on the beach and evenings chasing sunsets.  It was truly the best 25th birthday I could have imagined!

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The inside of a mini Cao Dai Temple in Duong Dong Town.

Since I wanted to see as much as possible on the island, I booked a day tour of the north and south sides of the island through Viet Fun Travel.  This is a completely private tour run by Phu Quoc locals, so it’s very high-rated and you can customize it to your liking.  I asked that they please take me to the Ridgeback Dog Farm because I wanted to feed the Phu Quoc dogs.  They happily complied with my request and created a custom itinerary for me.

Unfortunately because I was by myself this tour cost $195 USD which is very expensive, but since there are not many ways of transportation on Phu Quoc Island it was worth the money.  If you bring more people with you the price will drastically decrease.  Since these islanders don’t always make a lot during the low season, I didn’t feel regret spending this much for a quality tour.  It was fun and I got to experience so much!  My tour guide was very nice too.

Here are the places that we stopped at.  This tour lasted about 10 hours and included hotel pickup:

 

  • Pearl Farm & Fish Sauce Factory
  • Truc Lam Ho Quoc Meditation
  • Sao Beach
  • Coconut Tree Prison
  • Phu Quoc Ridgeback Dog Farm
  • Nguyen Trung Truc Temple
  • Passing Cape Ganh Dau
  • Vung Bau Beach & Ong Lang Beach

Our first stop was the pearl farm and the fish sauce factory.  Fish sauce is Phu Quoc’s most famous food and is exported all over the country.  I got to see how it was fermented in giant barrels which was pretty neat.  The “pearl farm” was a museum of pearls mostly geared towards selling them, but I didn’t mind seeing it for a short amount of time.  The pearls were so gorgeous.  If only I could afford them!  My tour guide bought me a sugar cane drink to sip on during the drive.  It was super sweet and full of sugar as the name implies.  There was also some mysterious green seaweed-like vegetable we tried.

The temples we saw on this tour were really beautiful too (unfortunately my photography skills from 2018 do not do them justice).  Truc Lam Ho Quoc Meditation has a beautiful garden you can see when you reach the top.  I enjoyed seeing the Choco-Pies that were placed in front of the deity at Nguyen Trung Truc Temple too.  If I ever become a deity, I hope people place Choco-Pies in front of me too.

 

We next stopped at the Coconut Tree Prison that was built by French Colonists to imprison Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War.  Many tortures were performed here such as caging humans and burning off their flesh.  I didn’t take many photos because it was grotesque, but you can Google it for yourself and see just how horrible it was.  I was grateful for the personal tour because I never knew that there was a prison here!  Most people that visit Vietnam only get to see the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi, as the Coconut Tree Prison is quite remote.

After that gruesome reminder of Vietnamese history was over, we stopped for my birthday lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant.  Everything was on the house~  Cheers to turning 25 on Phu Quoc!!

At the restaurant we ate octopus, fried rice with blue crab, and I tried snails for the very first time!  The snails kind of taste like sautéed mushrooms but are chewy.  I recommend trying them at least once if you get the chance.  The flavor is actually quite enjoyable.  The best part about this restaurant was definitely the atmosphere.  Even though I was a tourist, I felt at home here.

We rode briefly through the central town of Duong Dong so our driver could get gas.  This is the largest town on the island just north of my island hut.  There is a seafood market and many temples and pagodas you can see.  We stopped briefly to see a Cao Dai temple before continuing our tour so I could rest for a bit.  If I ever some back to Phu Quoc, I would like to stay in this town for just one night to see what it’s like!

Next we stopped at the Phu Quoc Ridgeback Dog Farm so I could feed the dogs.  For some reason this was one of the most anticipated stops for me!  Phu Quoc dogs are some of the rarest and most expensive breeds in the world.  They are extremely independent and love roaming the beaches.  During the high seasons you can watch them race through courses and place bets on them.  Since I was here in October, I could only pet and feed them, but that was fine by me.  They were absolutely adorable:

My tour guide was extremely kind and gave me an extra bag of food.  He knew pretty much everyone on the island so people were always giving us souvenirs.  After I had fed every dog on the farm (and I mean EVERY dog), we decided to hit the southern Sao beaches.  I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was swimming, but it was extremely surreal to see cows grazing out here:

While I was swimming my tour guide told me I could stay out here as long as I liked because he was practicing meditation with an mp3.  I stayed until sunset and got to soak up a lot of sun.  Everyone that is native to this island practices spirituality, but they never try to force their beliefs upon you.  I really enjoyed every single moment here even though my time was short.

I would recommend this tour to fellow adventurers because it truly takes you everywhere.  I was exhausted by the end of my trip and was thankful I could rest in my hut.  My next article will be the last of my Vietnam series!  Thank you to all that have read up to this point.

Climbing the 1,237 steps of the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi (Thailand)

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An unforgettable journey in Thailand with my old best friend from college.

On my last full day in Thailand during Golden Week, I made plans to meet my best friend from college in Krabi and take on the Tiger Cave Temple challenge.  This involves climbing 1,237 steps up a mountain to a somewhat remote Buddhist temple with arguably one of the best views in Thailand.  It was quite a steep hike, not to mention we encountered some very hungry monkeys on the way up (one even stole my ice cream cone), but going on this journey together after being away from one another so long definitely proved our friendship to be worthy!

To reach this temple, it is recommended to fly to Krabi airport (which is relatively inexpensive and reachable from most airports because this is a popular beach destination), or take a ferry from surrounding islands.  We stayed in the Ao Nang area because it is extremely affordable and Ao Nang beach is within walking distance from most hotels.  Additionally, this area has a relaxed beach town vibe with tropical weather, a downtown market, and bars and restaurants galore!  There are also palm trees decorated with neon lights which give it somewhat of a retro/vaporwave aesthetic.

I stayed at Ao Nang Garden Home Resort which consisted of huts placed in a forested area but were still very close to the beach.  Starting at prices less than $20 per night, they were ideal for solo backpackers and those traveling in a small group.  I enjoyed looking outside my window and feeling like I was in a jungle when I woke up, plus civilization was just around the corner from here!

One of our favorite bars here was called Dr. Cat Cafe, which had a large menu of everything from pina coladas to happy shakes, and surrounding bars each had their own happy hour during different times of the week.  Essentially every hour is happy hour–you just need to find the right bar!  I also ate some delicious pineapple fried rice at a restaurant called “Cheap Cheap” near my hotel.  Not only was it cheap, but the flavor was also phenomenal!

To reach the Tiger Cave Temple (or Wat Tham Suea), we took a Grab taxi from central Ao Nang and split it, but you can also go by bus or choose this destination from tour packages.  The temple was rumored to have had a large tiger living inside one of its caves that was discovered by the meditating monk who founded it.  Evidence of tiger paw prints is said to have been discovered as well.  Now no tigers live here anymore and the place is overrun by rabid monkeys.  However, it still is a beautiful and sacred place you should check out if you have interest in Thai culture!  Please see the official website (Thai) for more information.

The hike was a bit challenging due to the heat, but fortunately it went by pretty fast and you can always take a break when you feel like it.  Bringing water is recommended, and there is a faucet where you can refill your bottle at the top.  The view is extremely rewarding and you’ll likely never forget your journey out here if you make it up all the way!  Though I was sad to be leaving Thailand the next day, I felt like I had spent my time extremely well by doing these exhilarating things that made me feel alive!