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A shop selling all kinds of deep-fried pastries in the morning.

A shop selling all kinds of deep-fried pastries in the morning.

Feasting Off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Phu Quoc is Vietnam's largest island, and it might be geared to visitors looking for awesome beaches, but foodies will delight in some of its fabulously chaotic markets.

A woman walking down Nguyen Trung Truc Street, carrying her morning shopping.

A woman walking down Nguyen Trung Truc Street, carrying her morning shopping.

Southeast Asia is one of the most popular holiday destinations with its vibrant culture, iconic street food, world-renowned beaches and value for money attracting visitors from all over the world. But these destinations offer so much more outside of the popular and well-known locations where authentic food experiences can be discovered and enjoyed.

The Southern Tourism Corridor is a tourism cooperation corridor among Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established in 2007, with Myanmar invited to join in August 2018. Phu Quoc Island is one of the Vietnamese provinces included to participate. I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to explore the corridor from a gastronomy perspective, and this was the last part of the trip.

From Kampot in Cambodia (read my previous article here), I headed to the Prek Chak border, and crossed into Vietnam at the Xa Xia border. I stopped for a well-deserved and traditional Vietnamese lunch at The Sammy Hotel in Ha Tien, before heading to the Ha Tien Pier and board the Phu Quoc Express to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam.

“It is at the markets where you will find the real Vietnam”

Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s biggest island, is just off the coast of Cambodia, with its twenty beaches mostly visited by local tourists. Dotted with beach resorts catering to all budgets, the gastronomy offer might not be the best example of traditional Vietnamese cuisine for foodies looking for the real experience.

But it is at the markets where you will find the real Vietnam. Duong Dong is the largest town on the island, with a vibrant market to match. Located next to the river also called Duong Dong, the morning market offers the freshest produce, seafood, poultry and meat. Enjoy the sunrise reflecting on hundreds of fishing boats moored on the riverbank, followed by a walk down Nguyen Trung Truc Street, and take in the vibrancy and energy of the market as the sun rises. Just be careful of the motorbikes hooting at you to get out of their way if you walk too slow!

The Cau Sau market is an evening market that sets up shop on one lane of the DT46 highway. This makes navigating the market even more trickier than usual, as cars speed past while locals on motorbikes stop to buy seafood, vegetables and snacks before jumping back on their motorbikes, heading home with their purchases. There is so much to take in and see but here you need to be aware of being in the way of motorbikes and cars. 

For a more tranquil experience head to the Truc Lam Ho Quoc Buddhist temple, climb to the top and enjoy a magical sunset with probably the best view in Phu Quoc. Or take the Hon Thom cable car to Pineapple Island and back. With its eight kilometers, this cable car is one of the longest in the world, and offers a breathtaking view of some of the twenty-eight islands that make up the Phu Quoc district.

One of the most wonderful things in life is a chance to see something for the first time and even though Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are well-known destinations they offer so much more to see and taste when veering off the usual routes. Not only do you get to see something for the first time but you get to see and taste in a very authentic way.

Breakfast is served at the Duong Dong market.

Breakfast is served at the Duong Dong market.

A butcher preparing a cut of meat while a customer waits on his motorbike at the Duong Dong market.

A butcher preparing a cut of meat while a customer waits on his motorbike at the Duong Dong market.

Traders sorting through freshly caught fish at the Cau Sau market.

Traders sorting through freshly caught fish at the Cau Sau market.

A Vietnamese woman selling fresh eggs at the Cau Sau market.

A Vietnamese woman selling fresh eggs at the Cau Sau market.

A woman keeping an eye on the day's catch at the Phu Quoc fishing port.

A woman keeping an eye on the day's catch at the Phu Quoc fishing port.

Sunrise over the Duong Dong river.

Sunrise over the Duong Dong river.

A trader enjoying her breakfast while selling fresh produce at the Duong Dong market.

A trader enjoying her breakfast while selling fresh produce at the Duong Dong market.

ARTICLE CREATORS
Photographer, Stylist
Baking, Cooking
Photographer, Videographer and Food Stylist, Hein van Tonder is a native South African with a combination of local, continental and global creative experiences.
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