South Korean reporter praises Phú Quốc as “Maldives of Việt Nam"

April 19, 2024 - 14:45
Kim Ji-won, a reporter from South Korea's largest mainstream newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, had a 3-day, 2-night vacation to Phú Quốc in February 2024. Below is the author’s original article about her journey, published in Chosun Ilbo on April 9, 2024.

It's been a while since I took a red-eye flight. After 6 hours in the air, we arrived at Phú Quốc when it was still pitch dark. There was no time to feel the excitement of stepping foot into a new land, I went straight to the hotel and climbed into bed.

I couldn't imagine that a few hours later, I would wake up to the beautiful sunrise. The sparkling sunlight reflected on the emerald blue sea made me feel like I was still dreaming.

There is no doubt that Phú Quốc is the most attractive destination in Southeast Asia for South Korean tourists since the COVID-19 pandemic. It took over 10 years for Phú Quốc - an island known simply for pepper cultivation and fish sauce production - to become the "Maldives of Việt Nam."

Until now, the island still boasts pristine, refreshing natural landscapes, with over half of its area designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. I was impressed by the southern area of Phú Quốc, which is being heavily invested in and developed by the Sun Group. Visitors can enjoy their vacation on beautiful beaches or embark on adventurous activities at the giant amusement park.

Kem Beach - The first impression of Phú Quốc

Despite not having slept for long and feeling disoriented from the long flight, I still managed to get out of bed to head to the balcony, captivated by the sun rising over the horizon. I quickly put on a thin jacket and headed to Kem Beach in front of the hotel. It is said that this is the only beach in Phú Quốc with white, soft sand, resembling cream, hence its name - Kem Beach.

Kem Beach with its paradise-like beauty

I took off my sandals and slowly walked on the soft, smooth "cream sand." It was refreshing to feel the fine sand between my toes, with the waves crashing like frothy cappuccino. After about a 10-minute walk, the pink sky and sea gradually regained their original blue colour. Tourists flocked to the beach to enjoy the warm morning sun. The tranquil beach quickly became lively.

Most flights from South Korea to Phú Quốc arrive at around 5 or 6 in the morning. Therefore, there is usually more than half a day before check-in time at the hotel. If you're staying in a hotel in the southern part of Phú Quốc, why not start your journey at Kem Beach?

Just 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel, you can immerse yourself in the clear seawater, the soft sand between your toes and the refreshing sea breeze. Phú Quốc will leave you with the first impression of an experience that satisfies all five senses.

European-style "town" by the seaside with million-dollar views

Sunset Town reminds the reporter of the colourful Cinque Terre in Italy

Visiting Sunset Town, located in the heart of southern Phú Quốc, you will surely be amazed because you may feel lost in a Mediterranean seaside town rather than Việt Nam. The perfect design of ancient European buildings is recreated, from faded yellow walls and orange tiled roofs to arched windows. At first glance, the colourful buildings lining the coastline might remind you of the famous Italian coastal town of Cinque Terre.

Don't stop too long to snap photos in the colourful alleys of Sunset Town because the highlight of your Phú Quốc trip is still ahead. Passing through a building resembling the Roman Colosseum, you will reach the cable car station leading to Hòn Thơm.

With a length of about 8 kilometres, it is recognised by Guinness as the longest 3-rope cable car in the world. You'll be amazed on the cable car by incredible views of the blue sea and the entire Sunset Town.

20 minutes on the cable car to Hòn Thơm goes by in the blink of an eye as you admire the ever-changing scenery below your feet. Especially, only from the cable car can you see the panoramic view of the fishing village where fishermen live and countless boats floating on the sea.

South Korean reporter "falls in love" with sea-view cable car experience to Hòn Thơm

Entertainment paradise to beat the summer heat

Hòn Thơm is a completely different world. The entire island is a super-real amusement park. The round-trip cable car ticket is VNĐ650,000 per adult. At first, I thought this price was quite expensive for Việt Nam, but it turns out that the price includes the entrance fee to the theme park and the water park on the island.

As I was constantly fanning myself under the scorching Southeast Asian sun, the guide asked me: "There's a way to cool down immediately. Would you like to try?" Without hesitation, I nodded.

But wait, where the guide led me to was the high-speed roller coaster area. While I hesitated due to the sound of the wooden rail creaking and the screams of the people on the previous ride, the safety bar was lowered. I don't remember clearly what happened two minutes later, but my sweat flowing down my back gradually cooled down, my arms got goosebumps and I successfully "cooled off."

The "Mộc xà thịnh nộ" (the anger of the wooden snake) at Sun World Hòn Thơm makes the South Korean reporter want to ride over and over again

If you want to beat the heat even more, jump into the wave pool at the water park. The biggest advantage is that you can take many different water slides without waiting in line. If you are in South Korea during peak seasons, you may have to wait more than an hour.

Not only the water park, but the island also offers activities on the beach. Canoeing about 5 minutes from the beach, you will reach the "walking under the sea" experience centre at Eco Beach Club.

After putting on a helmet resembling that of astronauts, you can walk on the ocean floor as if walking on land and witness the colourful marine ecosystem and corals. For a moment, my ears were ringing and my breathing was interrupted because of the water pressure. But "wow," a school of hundreds of fish passed before my eyes. Suddenly, someone tapped my shoulder, and when I turned back, the guide put something on my hand. It was a live starfish covered in a pink shell.

Walking under the sea with an astronaut-like helmet is an experience not to be missed when visiting Hòn Thơm

Love under the sunset

Late in the afternoon, I took the cable car from Hòn Thơm back to the town. Gazing silently at the town in the twilight, I immediately understood why it was named "Sunset Town." We quickly reached the "Kiss Bridge" before the sun completely set.

Designed by the Italian architect Marco Casamonti, the bridge has a unique concept. Its two branches, each 400 metres long, face each other but are separated by only about 30 centimetres. This might be considered a real-life version of the Ojakgyo Bridge in the "Gyunwoo and Jiknyeo" fairy tale (one of the most famous fairy tales in South Korea, similar to the story of “Ông Ngâu - Bà Ngâu” in Việt Nam).

When the red sun began to set on the horizon, each couple held hands and walked around the bridge. They positioned themselves at the two ends of the bridge to create romantic moments in the backdrop of the twilight sky.

When they leaned over the railing and moved closer to the face of their loved one standing on the other side, the crowd cheered excitedly. The silhouettes of the two lovers finally touching each other were like a scene from a Woody Allen movie.

Kiss Bridge exudes romantic charm like a scene from a movie

While I was mesmerised by the romantic sunset scene, I started to hear music from somewhere. A parade of jet skis carrying the Vietnamese flag appeared, cutting through the waves. I was excited, watching them move freely across the sea at astonishing speeds. The "Love Hurricane" show takes place daily at sunset.

After the young men on the jet skis held torches and divided the water to form a heart shape, an athlete shot up from under the Kiss Bridge.

They hovered on a jet board at a height of 5 to 6 metres, then somersaulted many times for an amazing show making visitors reminisce about Cirque du Soleil.

The world's top athletes perform the show "Love Hurricane" at sunset at the Kiss Bridge

The moment the sun completely set was when visitors gathered at a destination after dinner. That place is the Infinity Theatre, modelled after the architecture of the Roman Colosseum.

When all 5,000 spectators were seated, the "Kiss of the Sea" show began on the stage set upon the sea. Multimedia effects, lasers and water music narrated a futuristic story of "love forged through struggle." The grand fireworks display immediately after the main show was the highlight. Adults and children alike gasped in awe at the colourful fireworks adorning the night sky.

The nightly fireworks art show at Sunset Town dazzles spectators with its explosive brilliance

Even after the final fireworks lit up the sky, people were still reluctant to leave. Thousands of stars embroidered the dark canvas of the sky. At that moment I knew, the journey to experience Phú Quốc had officially begun.