|Uplifting: A Buddha statue on top of Cao Cat Mountain. – Photo Runhau.vn
by Hoang Trung Hieu
Located 103km from Phan Thiet City in the central province of Binh Thuan, the Phu Quy island district has become a destination for visitors who love exploring the wild.
In Phu Quy, a group of ten small islands, only the biggest island, known as Hon Lon (Big Isle) has residents. Hon Trung (Egg Isle) is "the capital" of the sea birds while Hon Tro (Ash Isle) is a new volcanic island formed in 1923.
Every day there is a transport ship leaving the port of Phu Quy in Phan Thiet City to bring locals and visitors from the mainland to visit Phu Quy Islands. The fares are between VND150,000 and 200,000 either way.
There is also a speed boat that can take you to Phu Quy that takes only two hours instead of the usual five to six, and costs around VND330,000 (US$15). Therefore, Phu Quy island district has now become closer to the mainland.
The landscape of Phu Quy is really beautiful and has some sumptuous cuisine. Despite the long voyage to get there, the tour to Phu Quy still attracts many visitors. As a Vietnamese saying goes, "Yeu nhau may nui cung leo" or "High mountains can't hinder lovers".
|Panorama: Phu Quy district includes ten small islands, only one of them inhabited. – VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang
The island has an unspoiled charm that woos visitors.
Phu Quy has an abundant source of seafood, contributing towards making Binh Thuan the second largest fishing area in Viet Nam after Kien Giang. The island district has a total area of 32sq.km with a population of 27,000 who live in spacious houses.
Phu Quy is like a generous host who will try to compensate the visitors after a long hard journey. The food is fresh, tasty, cheap and different. It includes "Moon crab" that has red spots on the back that look very strange, and should, perhaps, be called "Sun crab".
|Feeling crabby: "Moon crab", which has red spots on its shell, is a specialty of Phu Quy. — Photo Binhthuantourism
Another type of "King crab" is of better quality than those in other areas. Both moon crabs and king crabs have fragrant, sweet meat. Lobsters can be steamed or grilled and make your tongue really "numb". There is buffet of snails which are soft, sweet, delicious and fat.
Fish buffet is another feast that people can't forget that easily, with enough and more of boiled, grilled, fried, steamed fish, cooked porridge, fish soup, and fish rolls, which are always extremely tasty.
Visitors will be surprised by the wealth of Phu Quy. The roads are wide and covered by asphalt. Basaltic soil has made the fruit trees grow luxuriously. These trees include the famous Hoa Loc mango and guava that have a sweet taste, thanks to the climate and soil characteristics.
"Anything in Phu Quy is fresh and surprisingly cheap, from seafood to fruits and meals," said Nguyen Phuc, a visitor from HCM City.
When visiting Phu Quy, happiness meant renting a motorcycle to tour the island, he said.
"We should also get up early to catch the sunrise and wait for the fishing boats to come back. You may pass out in contentment after eating all the different varieties of seafood," Phuc said.
A local fisherman, Nguyen Vu, told guests how to identify different fish, and how to recognise fresh fish by checking the eye of the fish instead of its gills.
Some visitors have fun travelling to the boat houses to learn how to feed the fish and crabs, and have lunch on the sea.
Another destination here is Linh Quang ancient pagoda, built in 1747 with the sacred ancient Buddhist statues. Van An Thanh Temple was built in 1781 to worship the Nam Hai (East Sea) Spirit and exhibits a 20m long skeleton of a whale.
The Cao Cat Mountain, which is nearly 100m high, with the Linh Son Pagoda on top and the giant boulder cliffs, is an ideal spot to contemplate the panorama of Phu Quy.
The Nho (Small) and Trieu Duong beaches are very beautiful and clean as they are away from the residential areas.
There is no big hotel here, but there are decent rest houses, and local people are friendly, Phuc remarked.
Tran Ngoc Can, an official from the island district authorities, said Phu Quy is wild and attractive, but local tourism was still not developed because of poor traffic conditions.
"According to our tourism development plan from now to 2015, with a vision to 2020, Phu Quy District will promote tourism as a key economy sector, improve roads, build more transport ships, and attract investors to build infrastructures on the islands," he said.
But for many visitors, exploring the wild is the ultimate happiness.
"We visit Phu Quy to wash our lungs, eyes and stomach and get rid of all the troubles which we find in town," he said.
When to go
The ideal season to visit the Phu Quy islands is from the 3rd to the 6th month of the lunar calendar. All you need is four days to have a wonderful trip. After the 8th month of the lunar calendar, it will be difficult to visit Phu Quy because one can encounter rough seas. — VNS