CNN’s Go travel website caused a stir earlier this month when it predicted that a new generation of “Asian tourist hot-spots” would soon eclipse old guard favorites like Phuket, in Thailand. According to article author Tiffany Lam, the “new-gen” Asian attractions would include Marinduque (The Philippines), Hainan Island (China), the Ho Tran Strip (Vietnam), and Phu Quoc Island. “The sprawling, tear-shaped island of Phu Quoc is being fashioned as the next Phuket, and with good reason,” Lam enthused. In a later report, CNN Go named Bai Dai Beach as one of the top 20 beaches in Asia.
Is Phu Quoc the new Phuket?
The Phu Quoc versus Phuket debate was picked up by the Phuket Gazette, and generated considerable comment and argument at Teak Door, a forum for ex-pats in Thailand. One poster, Beadle, complained: “The Vietnamese are nowhere near as friendly as the Thais and the rip-offs will start from the moment you get off the plane and continue until you leave.” Rooting for Phu Quoc, Bower from the UK argued: “Vietnam has every chance of taking the quality tourists from Thailand, at least in Vietnam you don’t get accosted by drunken ex-pats who want to moan about the place, the people etc.”
Phu Quoc is indeed taking off as a major travel destination in Asia. The Vietnamese Government is sparing no expense in ensuring that this happens. The China Global Times reported, with some alarm, that Vietnam has launched a US$8.5 billion economic and defense development plan for a string of islands in the South China Sea stretching from Phu Quoc in the southwest to Cat Ba island, off Haiphong in the north. Some of the islands included territory claimed by China.
Cycling Phu Quoc and the Mekong Delta
While agreeing that Vietnam has world-class potential, many cyclists have complained about the difficult and dangerous riding conditions. It seems that local knowledge is essential here, particularly if you are cycling in the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc. Grasshopper Tours promises to get you away from the traffic so you can see the best of Phu Quoc and the Mekong Delta (that is, by riding the back-roads!) The package tours they offer are not particularly cheap, however.