When on holiday in Vietnam, it’s worth taking note that the south is poised to be the next big thing among beach destinations in Vietnam. We opted to dip our toes in the water at a Phu Quoc and Cam Ranh resort for two different travel experiences.
Phu Quoc Island Getaway
Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island, though it’s actually situated in the Gulf of Thailand and south of the Cambodian coast. There’s been a resurgence of tourists following the lifting of COVID restrictions – including Vietnamese holidaymakers who know the island for its fish sauce, black pepper and pearl farms. And, thanks to a boost to Phu Quoc’s local farmers via a renewed push for sustainable tourism in Vietnam, this produce is now increasingly in demand by hospitality and F&B outlets catering to foreign travellers.
Stay at a Phu Quoc resort
Fusion Resort Phu Quoc is an oceanfront property of 130 pool villas situated in a private bay. The resort’s team of “Fusionistas” provide guest services such as sightseeing recommendations, excursion arrangements or simply seeing that your luggage is delivered or collected in a timely manner from your villa.
I stayed in a one-bedroom garden pool villa with a bathroom as large as the sleeping area, complete with a sunken bathtub and separate rain shower. The room was made up daily in the day and when I returned each night, there would be a different treat from the turndown. These ranged from fresh chocolates to fresh fruit, local black peppercorns and local honey.
My favourite part of the stay was the “breakfast anywhere, anytime” concept; you can choose to have your breakfast at any stage of the day and anywhere on the property, even on a tray floating in your villa’s pool!
A complimentary treatment at Maia spa as well as yoga, tai chi and meditation classes at the outdoor yoga areas and health club are included daily at this all-spa inclusive resort.
The signature Natural Living Pepper Therapy uses a custom blend of freshly ground Phu Quoc black pepper oil and Swedish massage techniques. I can’t remember much of the session as I dozed off after a few minutes!
Before experiencing the Pepper Seed Spice Scrub Ritual, you make your own scrub. As I ground and mixed ingredients such as pepper, turmeric and mung bean powder with a mortar and pestle, my therapist explained how these particular ingredients would result in super-smooth skin afterwards. The spa is set around a pepper garden of 88 trees and guests are welcome to walk among them. Next to the spa is The Farm Village. Here, adults and kids alike can get close to the resident goat, chickens and ducks. They can even help tend the vegetable garden.
It’s tempting to opt for dining in-villa the whole day since all food and beverages can be delivered. However, do try the daily buffet breakfast at the Secret Garden dining room as some items – the Chai tea latte and pastries, for example – aren’t available from the in-room dining menu.
It’s also pleasant to watch the culinary team working at the resort’s seafood restaurant, Pezca. The extensive menu includes local dishes – pho, oyster porridge, steamed clams, Phu Quoc pepper spice pork belly – and international flavours – lamb loin, ribeye, pastas, cheeses and 11 dessert options.
Sunsets here are best viewed with a drink in hand. There’s a selection of beers, G&T’s, refreshers and cocktails at Soul Kitchen. If you want to try something with Vietnamese gin, the bartender can concoct something off the menu on request.
The night market in Duong Dong town may be touristy but it’s worth a visit when on holiday in south Vietnam to sample local street food such as braised fried rice, jaggery balls, coconut candy and an assortment of fresh, grilled and sun-dried seafood. There are also retail stores that carry local black pepper, fish sauce, local honey and sim wine made from local rose myrtle, all great as gifts.
The resort can also arrange for excursions such as a visit to a local bee farm and private tours of Phu Quoc’s famous sights to complete your holiday in south Vietnam.
Cam Ranh City Sights
Cam Ranh is a name you’ll probably be hearing more of in travel magazines and blogs. Very close to the better-known Nha Trang on the south-central coast, the city opened up to tourism in 2019 with a new international airport. And then COVID hit…
Now that Vietnam has opened its doors again, there’s a buzz around this being one of the best kept secrets for a holiday in Vietnam.
Stay at a Cam Ranh resort
Alma Resort is a sprawling 30-hectare beach resort that’s a 15-minute drive from Cam Ranh International Airport. There are 384 oversized suites and 196 pavilions in a contemporary design at this Cam Ranh resort. Word has it that it’s popular with local celebrities and media personalities for short breaks and family vacations.
I stayed in a one-bedroom ocean-front pool pavilion on the ground floor. It had a living room, fully equipped kitchen and private pool accessible from the bedroom and living room. The ensuite bathroom had a bathtub and separate rain shower. No prizes for guessing that I spent the most time in the pool and bath!
This Cam Ranh resort has plenty of modern facilities to keep guests of every age occupied. Try the 12 pools and jacuzzis, for starters! Children can spend the entire day at Splash waterpark, which has a wave pool, or putt a few rounds at the 18-hole mini golf course. There’s also a youth centre with virtual reality games, a 70- seat cinema with three daily movie screenings and an interactive science centre. The resort can also arrange for Vietnamese cooking lessons onsite.
Entertainment choices in the evening include a flair bartending show, live concerts at the amphitheatre, and live performances at Alma Lounge – or you can sing your heart out in one of five karaoke rooms.
The six F&B outlets all open from morning to evening. A daily buffet breakfast is available at Alma Garden, though I opted for a quieter à la carte breakfast at Alma Lounge. For all-day dining, there’s a good selection of pastas and other Italian dishes at La Casa. Atlantis, meanwhile, serves fresh local seafood by the beach.
For fuss-free meals, the Alma Food Court has six food stalls including a bakery and coffee corner. Still peckish? The Alma mini mart has a good selection of snacks, beverages including beer and wine, and fresh fruit.
We hopped on a dive boat to explore Nha Trang Bay, home to floating restaurants and local fishermen who still use traditional woven baskets for fishing boats. As we sped down the bay, we had great views of the mainland and other beachfront resorts from the boat.
We stopped at Ninh Van Bay for lunch and a property tour of another resort, L’Alya (lalya.com). This property’s design incorporates natural materials such as coconut thatch, wood and rock. It’s a tranquil and romantic retreat, accessible by road from the airport.
The highlight of the city is Skylight Nha Trang, Vietnam’s first rooftop beach club. From the 47th floor sky deck of the Premier Havana Hotel, you’ll get 360-degree views of city and bay. At night, locals and tourists alike come to the open rooftop club for a crazy night out. Expect dancers on stilts, dancing mascots and bottle presentations at tables!
There are no direct flights from Singapore to these two destinations. However, Vietnam Airlines is apparently in discussions about launching them. Currently, you’ll need to fly to Ho Chi Minh City then hop on a quick connecting flight. It’s 45 minutes to Phu Quoc, one hour to Cam Ranh.
The ideal time to visit Phu Quoc is from November to April. Cam Ranh is at its best from January to October.
This article first appeared in the September 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
Wondering where to go to for your next beach holiday? Read Beachfront villas in Krabi, Thailand.