As Ha Tien and mainland Vietnam slowly slip out of view, the car ferry takes me closer to Phu Quoc Island, where I’ll spend my last three days in Vietnam. A month is not nearly enough time for this beautiful country. It took two days of driving to reach the seaside border town of Ha Tien from Saigon. My wallet and senses could only handle two nights in Ho Chi Minh City, which is quite different from the capital – more modern, more skyscrapers, more lights, more energy, and more attractive girls (namely prostitutes). I was propositioned left and right for girls, drugs, and massages in the backpacker ghetto of Pham Ngu Lao. My most heart-breaking experience occurred at the War Remnants Museum – I teared up at the sight of the extensive collection of American War photos, depicting the collateral damage from relentless bombing and Agent Orange (Dioxin). Sadly, the aftermath is still felt over 40 years later. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel or be welcomed in a land that my country literally wiped off the map. Bomb craters are still visible, amputees are a common sight, but since my interaction with the locals has been limited to mostly the younger generation, I haven’t felt any animosity when I mention I’m American. The Vietnamese I’ve met at guesthouses, restaurants, and bars, and I’ve passed in villages have been extremely friendly, and more than anything, just want to practice speaking English.
Considering Vietnam has more than 2,000 miles of coastline, it’s strange that Phu Quoc, on the southern tip of the country in the Gulf of Thailand, is my first taste of a Vietnamese beach. It doesn’t have world-class sand and it’s more developed than I’d prefer, but it’s a nice change from the mountains. I did two fun dives, relaxed on Long Beach, found a pristine “secret” beach on the north shore (an ex-pat living on the island gave me directions ), and ate some great seafood at the night market.