(Day 314 to 318 )
01.10.2010 - 05.10.2010 38 °C
Goooooood Morning Vietnam!
Set in the very south of Vietnam, the island of Phú Quốc actually lies closer to the Cambodian coast than to the Vietnamese one. As expected, there is an ongoing rivalry between the two countries as to who should be the rightful owners but Vietnam is hanging on to its land.
Phú Quốc is a really large island and we based ourselves on the west coast, on a really nice long beach. It’s a beautiful spot, with only a handful of guesthouses, but its clear that this wont last for long We spent a few days enjoying the sun, then the weather turned and there was no more beach time...We explored the island on one of those “bad” days but the muddy roads made it really unpleasant and uber slippery on the bike so we turned around half way through our expedition. We also went to a night market where we were able to buy some of the renowned cheap pearls. (After doing every test in the sun to check that they were indeed real. We scratched on glass, bit, grated on teeth, burnt and so on!).
These few days were enjoyable but what we would remember would be the trip getting there. Of course. Who said travelling was simple in South East Asia?? But this time it wasn’t about the trip itself but the fact that we walked straight into what was an elaborate and well-oiled scam! Welcome to Vietnam!
On paper, this should have been a piece of cake. Hour by car to the border, get stamp on pre-organised visa, 15 min to the town of Ha Tien and hop on the ferry to Phu Quoc. Simple. Well, things worked out until we passed the border, when our pre-paid moto-taxi immediately claimed more money from us, which led to much discussion and bargaining. When this was sorted, we set off to the moto-taxi station on the motorbikes where some random man came to tell us that the ferry to Phu Quoc was broken, we thought he was leading us on so we ignored him and set off for a hotel, where we were thinking of spending the night anyway.
To our surprise the hotel owner confirmed the story and offered to take us to the bus stop on the way to the next ferry town Rach Gia. A bit gutted to have to do an extra 2 hours by bus and a longer ferry, we were still grateful for the help and went off as agreed. After a half hour by moto-taxi they stopped us in a restaurant on the road and we waited for the bus. The bus controller rushed us in as if there was a fire, and later we realised that this was for us to pay quickly and whilst in a frenzy to get on – we paid a ridiculous fee with our friendly hotel owner telling us this was ”very cheap”.. With the thousands and millions of Vietnamese dongs in our pocket, it was easy to get confused by all the zeros and new exchange rate to adapt to, especially when you’ve just crossed the border.
The minute we sat on the bus the penny dropped as we started piecing everything together. We’d been had like rookies!! After a year of learning how to be street-wise, and dodging a fair few bullets, we were caught like beginners!! Martin fretted for a good part of the trip and I think I was so surprised that I had serious giggles about the whole thing. They must all try their luck with tourists with that line and because 2 independent people said so, we thought it had to be true. So naïve!!! Tip – if someone tries this on you, go straight to the ferry and check for yourself (or buy a transfer including border crossing and ferry ticket).
Whilst this is now behind us, we learnt the hard way that Vietnam was a tough place and you must be aware all the time as they are just brilliant at making money off tourists. They are nice people, but they want nothing more than your cash! Lesson learnt. Check and re-check everything, bills, info and prices.