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Time passes slower on Phu Quoc IslandBy Kim Hae-yeon
Published : April 8, 2023 - 16:01
PHU QUOC ISLAND, Vietnam – The number of Korean travelers to Vietnam was some 965,000 in 2022, accounting for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s foreign tourists, according to the Vietnamese General Statistics Office. With the full resumption of international flights, their presence is expected to continue this year.
In addition to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang, the three most popular destinations for first-time travelers to Vietnam, there is a hidden gem of an island that is relatively lesser known to travelers -- Phu Quoc Island.
Located off the southern coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc Island is a six-hour flight away from Incheon Airport.
Known for its fine white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters, Phu Quoc is rated one of the best spots for scuba diving, kayaking and windsurfing among water sports enthusiasts.
Time passes slower in Phu Quoc, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Such a new pace may require some getting used to, but it won't be long before travelers find themselves fully at home in the relaxing surroundings.
After hopping or bicycling around the city's tourist spots during the day, the island's beach welcomes weary travelers to soak up the day's remaining sun over fresh mango juice and cocktails.
While it take more than several minutes by foot or car to reach the seashore from most accommodations, Sheraton Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, located on the northeast side the island, has a private beach just a few steps from the hotel. Connected to a large outdoor pool, a swim-up bar offers guests refreshments while they enjoy the sunset.
"The hotel’s location on the island is one of the best spots to watch the sunset,” Prem Joseph, director of sales at Sheraton Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, told The Korea Herald. The director added that there are plenty of activities to do within a few minutes drive, such as the amusement park and safari, Vinpearl Wonderworld, and a top golf course, Vinpearl Golf.
Koreans account for some 35 percent of the guests and the hotel is responding to the increase in demand by launching a new restaurant, "Wok and Curry," serving various Asian cuisines such as Korean, Indian and Vietnamese. Kim Do-won, a chef who recently joined Sheraton Phu Quoc's culinary team, is to head the Korean cuisine section of the restaurant.
To discover local dishes, a family-owned pepper farm, Phu Quoc Countryside, may be worth a try.
Vietnam is among the world's leading exporters of black peppercorns, and pepper from Phu Quoc is regarded by chefs as one of the highest quality in the world.
At the farm, you will get a 30-minute tour introducing the farm's fruits, herbs and pepper. An optional cooking class follows, where visitors can make spring rolls, papaya salad and banana pancakes. Various kinds of ground pepper are also sold.
Meanwhile, the island's painful history can be glimpsed at Coconut Tree Prison, located at the southern part of the island.
The prison was built by French colonialists to detain Vietnamese political dissidents during the First Indochina War and expanded by the Americans to detain communist soldiers during the Vietnam War. Known as the largest prison in southern Vietnam, the notorious camp once imprisoned up to 40,000 people at its peak. An exhibition at the prison bears witness to the brutal forms of torture that took place there.
Just a few blocks away from the Coconut Tree Prison is JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa.
Designed by American architect Bill Bensley, the resort operates under the concept of a fictional university, called Lamarck University after Darwin's predecessor, where guests become students on the 19th-century campus.
While there are criticisms that the resort's concept might distort or confuse visitors in their understanding of Vietnam’s history, the hotel itself is undeniably one of the most luxurious resorts one can experience in Vietnam.
Guest rooms as well as restaurants and cocktail bars are named after different academic departments, ranging from Zoology to Architecture and Chemistry. Each "department" is decorated with details including leather bound books, patterned murals and wall carvings.
The colonial revival-style buildings are painted in pastel tones and placed around the vast resort area, while Vietnamese touches are blended into the design, as can be seen from the walking paths adorned with colorful lanterns.
There are various activities offered from morning to dusk, provided in a student activity calendar format at check-in. Activities include morning yoga sessions, jogging and bike tours, as well as arts and crafts, painting and baking sessions.
One will feel as if on an adventure in a mysterious school of the past the moment they enter, and soon find themselves lost in a resort that satisfies all senses.
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