Ha Tien to Phu Quoc Island
Public transportation with a bike is always an adventure. This one went well.
For the 0800 sailing, I arrived at 0645, just allowing a bit of time for the unexpected. Aside from Google getting lost, no excitement, and even that was simple to correct following my French nose.
Boarding public transit with a touring bike usually mystifies me. This morning’s 0800 sailing did not disappoint. I knew I needed to buy a ticket for the bike in addition to my passenger ticket purchased last night. But who, where, when? This is a sleek passenger ferry that accommodates limited freight and a few two-wheelers. Finally after a number of freight items were stowed, an official with a pad of tickets showed up, directed me to open my luggage for “inspection” and indicated I should remove the bags from the bike. Porters rolled the bike onboard. I hope they handled it with care. Panniers stowed by the gangway, I found my assigned seat on the lower deck and settled into videos of heart-wrenching Vietnamese popular songs.
The fast ferry “SuperDong 9” (you can’t make this stuff up!) takes 70 minutes to cross the Gulf of Thailand from Ha Tien to Phu Quoc Island. Known for jungle beaches, the West side of the island is overrun with fancy resorts along the 12-mile long, creatively named, Long Beach. I avoid staying in such places. I prefer the tranquility of the East side, facing the mainland.
Rocks Beach Boutique Bungalows, has just four units, a private beach, gorgeous pool, excellent kitchen and the best staff I could imagine.
The only drawback is the last 6 km of the road getting there; rough, rutted red mud, broken only by short stretches where contractors have begun preparations for paving the road by next October. Those 6 km took me an hour, and I felt beat up by the end. Here’s a vid from the front seat of a taxi taken the next day.
As soon as I could change from sweaty bike clothes to swim shorts I headed for open water in the Gulf of Thailand. The host told me I would need to wade out quite a ways to get into water deep enough for swimming. A couple hundred meters later, just past the large rock in the picture, I was finally in belly-deep water. It was a slow walk because the water was so turbid I could not see my feet even in less than 1/2 meter deep water. So I moved cautiously. After a few strokes my hand scraped a submerged rock. I decided that was enough open water swimming for the conditions.A young German couple relaxing on the islet next to the pier, was astounded to see someone in the water, thus began our friendship. We enjoyed drinks and dinner together sharing tales of adventure and other lies. As we chatted, the wind came up and rain began. Wind and rain both grew, accompanied by a light and sound show; we finally had to retrench to as far back in the dining patio as possible to avoid getting a bath. The rain overwhelmed the area drains and flowed across the dining area. And then it stopped. A dramatic welcome to Phu Quoc Island and new friends Susann and Andre.