During our stay in Phu Quoc, we tried a couple of tours around the island. Our hotel (Famiana) used a company called John’s Tours which offered a menu of land and boat/snorkeling tours. Another company called Red River offered similar tours.
My kids weren’t big enough (nor could they swim well enough) to go snorkeling, but even if they had been old enough, I had read (and heard) too many poor reviews of the snorkeling around Phu Quoc island. Based on what I had read, Phu Quoc is not the best place to go snorkeling.
But we still decided to give a couple other tours a try. We went on a Night Squid Fishing Tour and a South and East Island Land Tour.
For both of these tours, we had a friendly guide who conducted the tour in both Vietnamese and English, but with Vietnamese being his preference, the Vietnamese portion of the tour seemed to be more in-depth than the English provided. But that didn’t bother us all that much. My family usually enjoys our time together no matter what we’re doing, and the kids are more interested in spending time with Mom and Dad than listening to a tour guide talk about how to grow peppercorns anyway.
Both tours were about 12 USD per adult. Children were half price or free depending on their age.
Night Squid Fishing
I didn’t read any reviews of the squid fishing tours before going on this one. I had it in my head (based on the title of the tour) that people (someone . . . anyone on the boat) would actually catch a squid, but when no one caught anything, I was scratching my head wondering why . . . Was there a certain time of year that squid are in season and the tours run no matter what and the guides just don’t bother to tell you if they know you won’t catch anything? That was my suspicion. And then I came back and read the reviews and apparently no one ever catches any squid on these tours. Ever. I don’t really know why. Did the kids have fun dangling their hook in the water. Yes, they did. For about thirty minutes. And then they got bored.
Dinner was included in this tour, and the food was somewhere between okay and mediocre.
I am glad we went, but I wish I would have gone into it with different expectations. It was a sunset boat ride that allowed me to see a different part of the island. It was a dinner-out and a mini-adventure that only cost thirty dollars for my family of four. When I look at it that way, there’s really nothing to complain about. If my expectations had been more realistic, I probably wouldn’t have been disappointed. After all, the sunset really was gorgeous, it was interesting looking at all the fishing boats before we left the dock, and my family really did just enjoy being with each other and trying something new.
But would I recommend this particular tour to a friend? Probably not. I don’t think anyone would miss out on much by skipping this one.
South and East Island Land Tour
For this tour, we had the option to pay extra and have lunch included with the tour. Based on the experience we had with the food on the squid boat, we decided we’d rather do lunch on our own (and that was a good decision).
This tour went to seven different places:
The Pearl Farm:
We watched a five minute demonstration of why the oyster makes a pearl and what it looks like to get the pearl out of the oyster. Then we spent thirty minutes in the store with showcase after showcase of dazzling jewelry for sale. Of course the tours probably get some kind of commission for the number of customers they bring here. That’s not a surprise. I can understand. Tourism is a huge industry here and everyone’s just trying to make a living. Even though we didn’t have any intention of buying any jewelry, it was fun to browse the displays. This place wasn’t like some of the other markets I’ve been to where you can’t browse without being hassled. There was no pressure to buy anything here. It really was okay to wander and admire the jewelry without purchasing anything.
Sim Wine Factory:
Again, I’m sure the tour companies get a commission for bringing tourists here, but the wine, syrup, and liquor samples were fun to try. And it was interesting to wander the grounds and find and taste the berries of the Rose Myrtle trees that the wine was made from.
Fish Sauce Factory:
This is the place where our tour guide gave the most descriptive explanation of what we were looking at. I didn’t expect to like this part of the tour, but it was surprisingly interesting. And (as expected) it was pretty stinky, too.
Our guide gave a lot of explanation about how they produce pepper, but my kids were much more interested in wandering through the plants, tasting the pepper corns, and playing hide-and-seek among the maze of plants. With the exception of the beach, the pepper farm—the hide-and-seek among the plants—was probably their favorite part of the tour for the kids.
This is where we stopped for lunch. We chose to do lunch on our own rather than with the group and we were glad we did. We found a restaurant and had hot pot and then watched the kids play in the surf. We told them not to get wet (yes . . . I know . . . unreasonable expectations for a five-year-old), but the water was just too irresistible for them, and we ended up having to buy a new shirt and a shorts for Daughter because I hadn’t brought extra clothes for her. Sao was the the favorite stop of this tour for everyone in the family.
Ho Quoc Pagoda:
This pagoda was the other best stop in this tour for the grown-ups, but the kids got a little bored. The view was fantastic and the architecture and religious practices were interesting.
The Coconut Prison was the last stop on the tour. I didn’t know anything about this prison until we stopped here. I’m sure I would have found it interesting if my kids weren’t with me, but when I walked into the museum and saw pictures of tortured dead people hanging on the wall, I turned them around and took them right back out again. I thought the outside portion of the museum would be okay . . . Just a bunch of barbed wire and cells, right? Nope. Inside the cells are life-sized mannequins depicting the torture that went on inside the prison. I spent the duration of the tour standing outside the various buildings waiting the the rest of the group to finish. I do love history and without kids I probably would have been interested in this museum, but it’s not really a place for kids, so I can’t really say much about it.
Missing Stops on the Tour
We were supposed to go to Tranh Stream and Ham Ninh fishing village (which I was really looking forward to), but apparently we ran out of time. No explanation was offered as to why these stops were left out. Whatever the reason, it was disappointing that these two stops were left out instead of some of the others that I didn’t think were as fun. (Maybe these two stops didn’t have a big store that offered a commission for however many people the tour company brought by?)
Would I recommend this tour to a friend? I’m not completely sure. It was only thirty dollars for my whole family to spend the full day and we saw things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Overall, this tour wasn’t my favorite thing we did in Phu Quoc, but it was nice to get out and do some different things.
If I were to do it again, rather than a tour, I’d look into how much it would cost to hire a car to take us to the particular sites we wanted to go to. If we had had a private car we would not have gone to the pearl market and gone to the fishing village instead. Maybe we would have tried out some of the other beaches, too.
If you’d like to read previous posts from this Vietnam series or would like to see what’s coming next, visit my introduction in which I list all the posts in this series.