Besides the relaxing tropical climate, Phu Quoc has a several unique qualities compared to the rest of Vietnam there for you to discover, from the islands own dog to the production of the highest quality fish sauce and black pepper, to local fruit wine. Learn more about these amazing sights on offer below.
Fish sauce factories
For a completely unique experience visit one of the many fish sauce distilleries in either Duong Dong or An Thoi towns. Phu Quoc is famous for its production of very high quality fish sauce which is exported worldwide and is a major contributor to the islands economy. Fish sauce or nuoc mâm is a dipping sauce which complements most Vietnamese meals to add a saltiness flavour. It is made from combining anchovies, salt, and water and sometimes the pepper grown on the island and fermented through various stages for six months up to a year before being drained from the large barrels into different grades from the top quality lighter coloured sauce to the basic cooking sauce, both of which are high in protein. Phu Quoc produces over an incredible 12 million litres of fish sauce each year and has around 85 factories on the island, so it’s well worth visiting one of the many factories on the island.
Most factories in Duong Dong are located along the river and they will let you have a look at the large storage barrels which flow into smaller vats and then plastic containers to the bottling process. Some of the organised tours visit these fish sauce factories, however if visiting on your own there’s no admission charge, however you may need a Vietnamese speaking guide. Some factories also have a small shop selling different grades of fish sauce. Please note that when departing Phu Quoc by air, carrying fish sauce on the airplane is not allowed and some airlines have banned it altogether because of risk of breakage and the pungent fumes that are extremely difficult to remove. You can however purchase some fish sauce at the airport in the departure lounge, and they currently organise delivery for you to Ho Chi Minh (somehow).
Local myrtle wine
Another specialty of the island is the Rose Myrtle Fruit Wine, which is actually quite drinkable compared to the other local wine that contains a wild mixture of herbs and sometimes snakes resembling the taste of kerosene. The Myrtle wine is a slightly sweet tasting wine similar to alcoholic blackcurrant juice that has a violet colour and smells of the sim fruit or tomentose rose myrtle fruit from which is made. The sim fruit grows wild on the island, and due to rising demand and prices many farmers are now growing the tomentose rose myrtle fruit to contribute to the wine production.
You can visit the production or this wine on some of the organized tours or try finding the Son Phat Company in Duong To Commune in the southern part of Phu Quoc where the wines inventor Trinh Cong Phat produces Myrtle Wine under the Vuon Tao Phu Quoc label producing “ Ruou Sim Rung” (tomentose rose myrtle alcohol) and “Mat Sim Rung” (tomentose rose myrtle honey) or pick up a bottle at local stores, it’s worth a try and at around 100,000 dong (US$6) it’s far cheaper than most of the imported wines. The wine is also good for digestion, though we’re still testing this theory.
Phu Quoc dog
OK, not your usual tourist highlight, but the Phu Quoc Dog is actually one of the worlds three rarest ridgeback type dogs that have whorls running down their backs. It is closely related to the Thai Ridgeback, though it is suggested that the Phu Quoc Dog is a completely different breed given the difference in their size and the 2cm whorl (line of raised fur).
There is a Phu Quoc Dog breeding center on the island and some organised tours will visit this breeding center. Visit out Tour Operators page for more information.
They are excellent hunters, unafraid of heights, intelligent and fiercely loyal yet are very trusting of strangers, so they make poor guard dogs. A mature dog is about 20-25kg, with a small head, quite a long snout, and thin ears. They love barking when strangers do approach, but they don’t take things any further. The wild female when pregnant disappears into the national park, digging a den to give birth and nurse their pups for up to a month before rejoining the wild pack.
Dog lovers are looking to have the Phu Quoc Ridgeback recognised as a seperate domestic dog breed for entry into international dog shows, check out the latest news here.
Drying anchovies & squid
One of the unique sights or smells when travelling around the island, are the many racks of drying anchovies and drying squid, which sell in the markets around Vietnam. These form an important part of the Vietnamese diet, used in many dishes to flavour food, and of course anchovies are the special ingredient used to make fish sauce that Phu Quoc is famous for producing, covered more below. You’ll see these racks mostly along the coastal routes if travelling around the island, from north to south.
Mount Chua at 603 meters is the highest mountain on Phu Quoc and forms part of the Ham Ninh sandstone chain of mountains that stretch for 30km along the eastern edge of Phu Quoc. There are plans in future to build a walking trail up to a lookout at the top of the Mount Chua. The views over the national park and the island should be excellent.
Phu Quoc island is still undeveloped for the time being and even during the high session there are still plenty of remote and empty beaches. Of course it may take a little work trying to find these beaches, so pack a lunch and towel, hit the road and venture out and see what you find. We’re not giving away any secret locations, though you’re best opportunities for empty sun drenched beaches under those coconut trees will be found around the northern and northeastern part of the island.
If your keen to see the Pearl farms of Phu Quoc you’re best bet would be start at the pearl farm shop run by an New Zealand based company in Duong To Village about 9kms south of Duong Dong along the dirt road that follows Long Beach. Here you will find some remarkable pearls and some information about the history of pearl farming on the island. You might find the prices are also quiet remarkable too, judge for yourself.
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