My Review of Phu Quoc, Vietnam

 

As I sit here and watch the sun rise on a grateful universe, I wanted to share my thoughts on Phu Quoc, Vietnam. I was warned ahead of time by locals and travelers that I might get bored after more than a few days in Phu Quoc. Is it true?  Read on to find out.

What is Phu Quoc?

Phu Quoc is an island in the gulf of Thailand that lies in the middle of Cambodia and Vietnam. Currently you can enter  without a visa (whereas if you enter anywhere else in Vietnam, you need a visa or apply for an invitation letter in advance).

Phu Quoc Map

My first impression of Phu Quoc

You can immediately tell that Phu Quoc is undergoing rapid expansion and development. The entire island feels like it’s under construction. If you’re looking for a developed island like Phuket, this is not it. I’m guessing this is what some of the Thai islands felt like 10-20 years ago. This island definitely feels unfinished, even in the more developed areas.

One thing that really disappointed me was how many makeshift landfills I’ve seen across the island. It doesn’t seem like recycling or showing respect for where you live is something the island is focusing on just yet. 

However, on the flipside, I’m currently at Golden Sand Bar and this is one of the most Instagrammable places I’ve been to in Vietnam. It’s almost like a playground for adults. Beautiful sculptures, great music and cocktails make this bar one of my favorites on this side of the world. Plus, unlike the neighboring Sunset Sanato Beach Club, this bar is dog-friendly. There’s 2 cute pups that live on premise. This is the kind of place that you bring a significant other to such as your dogs.

Is Phu Quoc Good for Single People?

Speaking of significant others, Phu Quoc is not an island I would recommend for bachelors or bachelorettes.  Unless you’re open to sharing a bedroom with 7 other people in a hostel, you’ll have a hard time meeting singles. I’ve never stayed in a shared room before simply because I started traveling after my career was established in my late-20s. If you are open to staying in a hostel, your experience might differ from mine. 

For example, look at my Bumble results after 5 minutes of swiping …

Bumble is empty

Everywhere across Thailand (except for the remote towns), it seemed that local women preferred dating farangs (foreigners), a subject I’ll discuss more in the future. This relationship dynamic doesn’t seem to exist in Phu Quoc on a mainstream level. It’s such an isolated island it seemed like every local girl had a local boyfriend. I can appreciate that but as their tourism industry continues to grow, I’m sure the dating culture here will start to shift. If you want to meet singles or experience a good nightlife, Phu Quoc may not be for you. This is the type of island where I recommend bringing sand to the beach (in other words, it’s a slow-paced, romantic island that’s a great choice for couples to get away).

Is Phu Quoc cheap?

I was also surprised at how expensive some of the activities in Phu Quoc were compared to Thailand. It was very difficult to find a massage for less than. 300,000 dong ($12 USD) whereas in Thailand I saw 200 baht ($6 USD) massages everywhere.

This of course changes if you go to the beach and find makeshift massage tables. Here they typically charge 200,000 dong ($8 USD) for the hour and it’s my ideal way to get a massage. Nothing beats the sounds of the ocean and a cool breeze against your skin offering relief from the heat while a Vietnamese woman soothes your soul by way of deep-tissuing your muscles. For a few extra bucks, you can get an aloe vera massage which is good if you’ve been laying out in the sun.

Phu Quoc Massage
Ahhh that’s the spot

And please tip your service workers generously if you can. They work hard and a dollar to an American or European or Australian is much easier to come by. Tipping your masseuse 20% just simply isn’t enough. I always tipped at least 50%. If a massage cost $6 USD, I would tip $3-5 USD. Even at $11 USD all-in, this is still less than just the tip for a massage in America (which are usually $50+/hour and a $10+ tip)!

Is the food good?

This one is purely subjective. Some people love Vietnamese food (I never got into pho). I was disappointed with it. I guess when you spend so much time in Thailand which arguably has the best (and cheapest) street food in the world, the bar is set so high that anything else is going to disappoint you.  Thailand … you’re like dating a 10. Dating anything less (even a 9) will feel disappointing after that!

One standout restaurant that I really enjoyed that was recommended to me by a couple that has been living in Phu Quoc for 3 years was Crab House. It has a really cool Western vibe, great customer service and amazing seafood boils. It was a bit on the pricier side so if you’re looking for cheap eats, then this place isn’t for you.

Another important story that I would be remiss to not include is how I got my first gout attack. I stayed at a really nice hotel called Sunlight Bungalow which was steps from the beach. Nice little hotel with great staff and customer service. They also have a restaurant attached to the hotel which was always busy for dinner so you know the food is good. Their speciality is fresh fish caught daily and BBQed to perfection. 

Normally the only seafood I eat is sushi and I typically stick with salmon and eel. I figured if I’m on an island, why not eat a fish every day? Well, seafood is one of the major triggers of a gout attack due to the high levels of purines.  This seafood overload (which is not part of my normal diet) completely ruined me. I woke up in so much pain that I couldn’t even walk. 1,000 MG of aspirin barely made a dent in the pain. I didn’t find out that I had suffered my first gout attack until days later. No fault of the restaurant but it reinforced a lesson in a painful way : too much of anything is never good.

At least Vietnam airlines has a great special services team.

English on Phu Quoc

Another challenge that I faced in Phu Quoc was a lack of English. I had to use Google Translate almost everywhere I went. There were a few people that I could talk to without a translator, but more often than not this wasn’t the case. In comparison, I almost never needed a translator in Thailand.

Is Phu Quoc dog-friendly?

I was pleasantly surprised at how dog-friendly the island was. Not once did I have a problem bringing my dogs into a bar, restaurant or coffee shop. Many of them even had dogs themselves! Unlike Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi where there is a dog-kidnapping market (either for ransom to sell back to the owner or to eat), Phu Quoc doesn’t seem to have that industry. It feels much safer for my dogs. In general, people reacted very positively to my  dogs (similar to my experience in Thailand).

Phu Quoc Massage

Summary of Phu Quoc

In summary, if I had to choose between Phu Quoc and Thailand, I would choose one of the Thai islands instead. In my opinion, it has better food, a better nightlife, more options for singles, more English-speakers, and in general is much cleaner.

This is not to say that Phu Quoc isn’t worth visiting … I would just recommend it for a couple looking for a chill, romantic getaway. 

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Have you been to Phu Quoc? Let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

 

So I Have Gout…Now What?

 

I’m sitting in the hospital waiting room in Nha Trang, Vietnam to get x-rays and blood tests to see what’s wrong with my big toe on the right foot, and on the TV screen I see a list of medical-related video links.

befreemysheeple nha trang hospital
None of this seems good

“Endoscopic carpal tunnel release.” I’m guessing this has something to do with carpal tunnel syndrome and repairing the tendons by releasing the stress?

“Proximal humerus percutaneous aiming system technique.” This sounds like a kill feature in one of Iron Man’s latest armors. “Activate humerus percutaneous aiming system.”

befreemysheeple Iron Man Tony Stark
“Activate humerus percutaneous aiming system”

While I don’t know what some of these words mean, none of them sound good. They all sound like medical procedures to repair or fix a body part that is no longer working properly or is broken. Kind of like my big right toe.

I’m 35 and I just found out that I had my first onset of gout. My blood results came back and I’m above the normal range for men (not scarily above, but comfortably above). They say symptoms first appear in men 30-50. Well I had all the symptoms and let me tell you that this was one of the most intense pains that I’ve ever felt. It was so bad that I needed wheelchair service from Vietnam Airlines. I could not put any pressure on my foot.

  • Intense joint pain – it felt like I had a broken toe
  • Lingering discomfort – 3 days later and I still can’t walk properly
  • Inflammation and redness – my right foot looked like a tomato
  • Limited range of motion – I couldn’t move my big right toe more than 10 degrees
befreemysheeple gout
Yeah, this looks normal

They also call it a disease of decadence or “King’s disease” because “people have incorrectly linked it to the kind of overindulgence in food and wine only the rich and powerful could afford” (link). And this makes sense because I have been living like a king these past 6 months on the beaches of Thailand and Vietnam. While I haven’t been drinking too much alcohol, my diet recently spiked in seafood during my time in Phu Quoc. The overload of purines from seafood likely caused my big right toe to blow up like a balloon and heat up like a heat pad.

Fortunately for me, while gout is one of the most physically painful things I’ve experienced, it is an illness that can be managed through diet, hydration, vitamin c, and exercise. I am looking at this as motivation to get myself into even better shape to minimize another attack. There are silver linings to everything in life.

Finding out that I am now in for lifelong battle with gout is a stark reminder that my time on earth as fully-functional, healthy being is not going to last forever. My youth and relatively good health, will slowly crumble away like removing pieces from a completed puzzle. New health issues are certain to arise in my future and I’ll think to myself, “remember when I just had gout?”

Our greatest assets – youth and health – are fleeting, a slowly but surely diminishing resource. Every second alive we are one step closer to our inevitable deaths. The grim reaper is coming for all of us. As my brother once told me (I’m sure he heard this from someone else), “we are all dying the second we are born.” The cruelty of existence. Sigh.

This is a why it’s important to never lose focus on the present because this is all that’s guaranteed. Minimizing stress and maximizing health and happiness should be everyone’s goal. The less stress you have, the longer your life expectancy is. The more you exercise and focus on having a clean diet, the longer your life expectancy is. And if you’re healthy today, be grateful and be thankful and use it. Don’t waste it sitting in an office 60 hours a week. If we weren’t supposed to travel, we would have roots instead of feet!

 To have a career, or live in a city, or to be in a relationship that isn’t making you net happier will slowly kill you.  Health above wealth, experiences over appearances. And as my friend Alicia said:

befreemysheeple alicia

Bonus Vlog!

 

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Do you suffer from gout as well? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

I Almost Had My iPhone Stolen My First Night in Ho Chi Minh City

 

After spending an incredible 6 months in Thailand with my dogs, I wanted to spend some time in Vietnam before heading back to USA (where I will start my real estate empire). My original flight itinerary was Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City (3 hour layover) to Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island that lies between Vietnam and Cambodia. But once my plane landed in Ho Chi Minh City, I made the spontaneous decision to leave the airport and skip the second leg. Ho Chi Minh City…here I come!

I’ve been to Ho Chi Minh City several times before and I’ve always had a good time which is why I wanted to spend time here before returning to the beach life of Phu Quoc. This decision almost proved to be a bad decision when my iPhone almost got stolen my first night here. I say “almost” twice because this story was an inch away of ending very badly for me. What’s a blogger without his phone? 

I’ve always heard that pick-pocketers are something to look out for in Vietnam but I personally never experienced it any of my previous visits here over the past 3 years. 

I had time to reflect on what almost happened last night and it’s kind of my fault to have put myself in that situation. It was late at night, I came from the bars so if they had been watching me they knew I had a few drinks so I was an easier target, there weren’t a lot of lights on the street, it was an empty street, I was distracted on my phone, and I was walking 2 dogs. So if you look at all the things to do to not get pick-pocketed, I was doing none of them. When you make a mistake, the first step is to admit you were wrong so I’ll admit that I was doing everything wrong and I made myself look like an easy target.

But the two things that I did do right, was when I saw 2 suspicious-looking guys on a motorbike heading towards me on the sidewalk, I instinctively applied more strength to my grip, and I moved the phone closer into my body (which caused him to miss getting a clean grab). I vlogged within seconds after this happened and then reflected on the incident today.

After he drove away empty-handed, I stared at him like “really bro?” and he stared at me like “you’re lucky.” I really hope that his life takes a turn for the better. 

So after almost getting my iPhone pick-pocketed in Ho Chi Minh City, I thought I would turn this almost negative experience into a learning lesson for myself and a word of caution for my fellow travelers. This is my quick guide on what NOT to do if you don’t want to get pick-pocketed. 

How To Not Get Pick-Pocketed Guide

Don’t Look Flashy

If you typically wear things like jewelry or a nice watch, keep it at home. If you look rich, then you become a target. Not only do they want what you have, but they won’t feel guilty because you look like you can buy it again. 

BeFreeMySheeple Rich Guy

Don’t Walk on Empty Streets

Never walk on an empty street, especially at night. When a street is empty that means that there are no witnesses to any potential crimes and there is nobody nearby that is able to help you so you’re on your own. And pick-pocketers know this.

Don’t Walk Home at Night

If you’re walking home at night, that means that you probably had a few drinks which makes you an easier target. When you’re drinking, you have slower reaction time. Take a taxi or cab home, especially when you’re in a country like Vietnam. It’s worth spending the extra dollar. Seriously – my cabs all day today were 16,000 dong which is the equivalent of $.60 USD.

Don’t Walk While Looking At Your Phone

In places like America that are relatively safe, we can walk down the street with our faces buried in our phones and almost always nothing happens to us. This is such a bad habit that it’s easy to forget that this behavior is not acceptable in other parts of the world. Always keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings. If you’re staring at your phone while you’re walking, not only are you distracted but your phone looks like bait to a fish.

Walking while staring at phone
Don’t be like this cool kid abroad.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

One of our most important senses is hearing. If it wasn’t for my dolphin-like hearing and spider-like reflexes, I wouldn’t have seen the pick-pocketers coming because they were coming full speed at me on a motorbike. Instead of relying on one sense, it’s better to apply all of your senses on your surroundings. Try to keep distance between you and anyone else on the street. The only way for a pick-pocketer to steal from you is if they’re close to you.

BeFreeMySheeple Dolphin Hearing
My sense of hearing resembles that of a dolphin.

Turn on Find My Phone

If you have an iPhone, please use the “Find My Phone” feature. If your phone does get stolen, this feature enables you to remotely wipe your iPhone and render it useless. You can also send the thief messages that will appear on the home screen  such as “If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

Turn on iCloud Backup

One of the worst feelings in the world is to lose all of your memories because you never got around to turning on your iCloud backup. Always turn iCloud backup on! And also make sure you connect to your hotel WiFi so that everything gets backed up to the cloud.

And I am extremely fortunate that I can end this blog post with the following words…

Sent from my iPhone

Bonus Food Vlog!

And if you’re in Ho Chi Minh City and looking for a delicious place to get poke, check out Poke Saigon.

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Do you have additional tips to stay safe in a foreign country? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!