First published February 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Why you Should Visit this Beautiful Beach on Phu Quoc Island Now, Before it’s Gone
Vung Bau Beach is one of the last vestiges of ‘old’ Phu Quoc. Located in the northwest of the island, the undeveloped sands of Vung Bau Beach – lapped by the sapphire-coloured waters of the Gulf of Thailand that slowly eat away at the exposed roots of whispering casuarina trees – is a reminder of what most of Phu Quoc’s western shore was once like, just a few years ago, before development began in earnest.
Not long ago, the red dirt road, starting from the fishing village of Cua Can, led all the way up the deserted coastline, past Vung Bau Beach, and on to the long stretch of empty sand that was once Dai Beach. The latter has since changed in the most dramatic fashion: the rain forest that reached right to the waters’ edge was bulldozed, the dirt road closed off, and foundations dug deep into the sand, in order to make way for, and build, what is now Vinpearl Land, an enormous complex consisting of a water park, golf course, safari, resort, and residences. Needless to say, Dai Beach is now only accessible to guests of Vinpearl Land or, on payment of a high fee, to outside visitors.
Vung Bau Beach has so far been spared a similar fate, but only because the dirt road has yet to be paved. For now (February 2017) it’s still possible to ride up the dusty lane from Cua Can village, through the dappled sunlight of large tropical trees, and along the curving shoreline of Vung Bau, with its tall grass swaying in the sea breeze, and empty white sand inviting you to lay your towel under the shade of a casuarina tree, and idly pass the day on this glorious tropical beach.
But, already, change is on the horizon. The dirt road from Cua Can is in the process of being paved: trucks ply up and down the route throughout the day, kicking up clouds of red dust, coating the jungle in a red mist, as they deliver the necessary building materials. And, since the construction of a new resort has started in the middle of Vung Bau Bay, it’s no longer possible to follow the dirt lane all the way along the beach. Instead, to access the northern portion of Vung Bau, you must take the main road (DT45) up and beyond the river, behind the construction site, and down again to the beach.
Here, there is already a clutch of small, mostly low-impact, resorts on Vung Bau Beach. Of these, perhaps the most admirable is Bamboo Cottages, which is Vietnam’s first 100% solar-powered resort. In fact, all of the current properties on Vung Bau Beach – Wild Beach Resort, Mai Phuong Resort, Vung Bau Resort, and Gold Sand Bungalows – are small, fairly simple but comfortable, and surprisingly affordable, places to stay for a couple of extremely relaxing days on one of Phu Quoc’s loveliest beaches.
Vung Bau Beach today (February 2017) is still a beautiful place, with a few small, low-impact resorts
I wish it would stay this way, but it seems very unlikely that it will. However, maybe that’s a good thing after all. Because, although I may praise the present state of Vung Bau Beach, or write nostalgically about how the whole of the northwest coast used to be, I can’t ignore the fact that, like many of Phu Quoc’s other beaches, Vung Bau in the process of being ruined anyway, regardless of large resort development. The reason for this is not the big developers, or the bulldozers, or the trucks, or the local authorities: the reason for the ruin of many of this island’s beaches is us: the traveller, the tourist, the visitor. Ever since Phu Quoc’s star began to rise, the condition of the beaches has gotten worse and worse with each year. The trash left behind by day-trippers is appalling. It may not be you who has littered these beaches, but many, many people have done so. And this makes me think that maybe we don’t deserve beaches like Vung Bau: maybe they should all belong to large, high-end resorts, accessible only to those who can afford it, because you can be sure that, once Vung Bau has been developed, they’ll be no more trash left on the beach. Go to Vung Bau now, while you still can, and treat it well.
Trash left by day-trippers is ruining Vung Bau Beach; perhaps development is the only way to save it
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