We rented a couple of scooters (5 dollars a day) and set out to explore the northern beaches, it turned into a bit of an adventure.
We are staying in Long beach located on the west of Pho Quoc. The northern end of what is a pretty decent sized island is largely national park and we wanted to see the forest as well as the beaches of Bai Dai and Bai Thom. Until relatively recently many of the beaches have been inaccessible due to military installations, and some still are. Pho Quoc is claimed by Cambodia and was given to the Vietnamese via the French annexation of the Mekong delta in 1949, hence the previous military presence.
Of course we got lost on the way to Bai Dai probably around the time the roads literally turned to dust. Some enterprising kids however decided to take us to where we ‘needed’ to go. Fair to say our scooters were not designed to actually ride through partial jungle. A slightly nervous 20 odd minutes later we were back on tarmac, with the growing collection of local kids now all wanting payment for their good work. Clearly sharing money out is not kid etiquette here or probably anywhere.
We did, we think, find the beach or something near to it. We stopped and had a beer at the Mango bay hotel, secluded and definitely more upmarket than ours. Not a bad beach, but you are in the middle of nowhere in this part of the island.
From here we decided to go to the north-east to Bai Thom which was probably another 30km. All the way from the airport to the north-east they have been building a new road. The problem is that they haven’t actually finished it. Dual carriageway (why?) most of the way, but one side is partly finished or the other side is, you have to keep swapping sides, sometimes it’s not clear which side to be on which is a little disconcerting. Then large portions of it are not finished at all and are pretty hairy to ride on as it is large shingle or just small rocks. Then there is the sections which have nothing on but dirt. Comforting for those stuck in road works in the UK, nothing of course is happening or being built. Between the sections are ramps, dips, holes and potholes. Adding to the fun are cows which wander across the road, and dogs which play chicken with you. It is not a good choice for newbie motorbike riders.
Eventually we made it to the north and after a couple of false starts of local rubbish strewn beaches we found our destination. On a clean beach in a warm lagoon we had a great lunch of local grilled squid, and a lukewarm beer. It was truly was what we were looking for, the food was great and so was the service in what was basically a brick shack on the beach. At some point they might finish the road and when they do this area will change radically as it gets built up. After a swim and a great local coffee we ventured back.
We finished the day very late playing pool with some locals but suffering from very badly bruised bodies from the ride. We had been totally covered in dust, sand and a fair smattering of bugs but it was worth the trip.