After a few days lounging around and trying to fit in with the beautiful people (BP’s or TC’s for William Boyd fans), we got bored and wanted to explore the island some more. There are huge developments on Phu Quoc and the island feels like it will be something different in the next 5 years. To help us get around we hired a scooter from one of the shops selling almost everything just up the road. For about $15 we had mobility for the next week, dirt-cheap petrol and an automatic gearbox ensured we wouldn’t get into too much bother, and off we went. The roads where development has happened or is happening are good: sealed roads with signs and everything. When you get to the extent of development, the roads stop. The only other place I’ve seen like that is the SA1 development in Swansea docks.
We ventured to the South East of the island to Sao Beach close to An Thoi. After an hour or so of red dust roads, oncoming trucks and small roadside houses we arrived and relaxed on the beach for a while. The water is definitely cleaner here compared to Duong Dong, but the downside is that the BP quotient is a lot higher. Give it a few years and this place will be ruined.
Next day we decided to go north. The North is less developed and large areas are still under military control, rather like areas in Da Nang. Development will happen here, so it was a good chance to see the area before it happened.
We stopped at the junction in Duong Dong and waited for the lights to turn green, then moved off and swung left. The next thing I knew we were on the ground at the apex of the corner. I was lying on my side with the scooter on top of me, and D was still sat on the back seat. The front wheel had lost grip on the corner and the bike had slammed down onto its side. Luckily D was OK, the foot pegs and my camera bag had taken the brunt of the fall so she could just stand up. Thank god for Domke camera bags and Leica cameras: built like tanks and surprisingly good in crashes. I got up from under the bike and watched as my knee, then my elbow, then my foot went from purple to red and then started to cover everything with blood. Luckily we were both wearing standard Vietnamese safety gear: sunglasses, ill- fitting helmets, shorts, flip flops and tee shirts, so the blood flow wasn’t hindered and the full extent of the wounds were clear to assess.
We cannot praise the locals enough for helping us, for picking the bike up and sorting it out, for directing us to a roadside pharmacy and just generally looking out for us. I haven’t seen that kind of genuine concern for strangers anywhere else, ever.
It ended our exploration of Phu Quoc, and put paid to any more documentation of the developments. To be fair it put paid to pretty much anything, as I was bed bound for a few days, so no more moonlight swimming. It turns out that an Aussie bar owner had done exactly the same thing a few weeks earlier in exactly the same place, and that local government policy was to spread sand on the corners to slow people down. I’ll take something from that, albeit not much.
- D was OK (although she was injured swimming in rough seas a few days later on coral!).
- Domke bags and Leica’s are tough and surpassingly effective in scooter crashes.
- We still want to ride motor bikes around Vietnam.
- We didn’t get to see Phu Quoc as much as we wanted, and document the developments.
- We’d been travelling for close to 12 weeks and not even been sick.
- I will never, ever forgive myself for not taking pictures whilst receiving first aid on the roadside. It was picture perfect, me standing, whilst blood poured from my knee, elbow and foot, and the pharmacist crouching down patiently scraping dirt and crap out of the wounds whilst applying, stinging PVP iodine, and his young son grinning, laughing and pointing at the sweat pouring off my brow, as I tried not to pass out. The best picture I’ve never shot.