Mountainous and forested Phu Quoc Island is in the Gulf of Thailand,
45km west of Ha Tien and 15km south of the coast of Cambodia. This
tear-shaped island, which is 48km long and has an area of 1320 sq km,
is ringed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. There are
fantastic views of marine life through transparent blue-green waters.
Phu Quoc is claimed by Cambodia; its Khmer name is Ko Tral. Needless to say, the Vietnamese view it very differently and have built a substantial military base covering much of the northern end of the island. Phu Quoc is governed as a district of Kien Giang province.
Phu Quoc Island served as a base for the French missionary Pigneau de Behaine daring the 1760s and 1780s. Prince Nguyen Anh, who later became Emperor Gia Long, was sheltered here by Behaine when he was being hunted by the Tay Son Rebels.
Phu Quoc is not really part of the Mekong Delta and doesn't share the delta's extraordinary ability to produce rice. The most valuable crop is black pepper, but the islanders here have traditionally earned their living from the sea. Phu Quoc is also famous in Vietnam for its production of high-quality fish sauce (nuoc mam).
The island is also known for Phu Quoc hunting dogs. The dogs have been a great success - with their help, the islanders have decimated most of the island's wildlife. These dogs are said to be able to pick up the scent of their master from over 1km away. The classic Phu Quoc. pooch has a ridgeback, curly tail and blue tongue.
Phu Quoc has tremendous tourism potential, bui although ii is beginning to ramp up it is mostly unrealised. Transport difficulties, not to mention some of the best beaches being occupied by military bases, have contributed to keeping the visilors away. Bui since il became a national park in 2001, the island is gaining more attention. Phu Quoc National Park covers close to 70% of the island, an area ol 31,422 hectares
Phu Quoc's rainy season is from July to November. The peak season for tourism is mid-winter, when the sky is blue and the sea is calm; however, when it's not raining it's stinking hot. Bring sunglasses and plenty of sunblock. Don't set oui to explore the island I unless you've got at least two litres of water IBI your day-pack or you'll dehydrate.