Monday, April 5, 2010

Ocean island idyll

Phu Quoc island looks like a large tear drop cast adrift in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s got the best golden-sand beaches in Vietnam and the sea is at bathwater temperature. Five years ago, it was relatively undeveloped with just a handful of resorts on the main Long Beach and the western bay of Ong Lang. Its interior is sewn with pepper trees and forest and its edges fringed with the busy fish sauce factories. Phu Quoc produces some 18-22 million litres of the tasty liquid. It’s pungent and delicious but so pungent that Vietnam Airlines refuses to carry it on its planes. There’s a pearl farm too and a few whale dedication temples. The whale is worshipped in Vietnam as it is credited with saving the lives of fisherman and is believed to bring good fortune at sea. Nguyen dynasty emperor Gia Long annointed the whale ‘Nam Hai Cu Toc Ngoc Lam Thuong Dang Than’ (Superior God of the Southern Sea). In early March, a 15-ton whale found off Bac Lieu Province in the delta was given a full funeral attended by thousands of worshippers before being encased in a glass tomb, paid for by locals.
Phu Quoc is also known for its dogs; the Phu Quoc ridgeback has curly tails and a line of hair along the spine that runs in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. They love frolicking in the waves too...

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