It cost 190,000 Vietnamese Ðong – about US$10.50 – for a one-way passage on the one o’clock fast-boat from Ha Tien out to Phu Quoc island. There was only a dozen or so passengers and just three other foreigners on board: a European couple and Brent, an electronics engineer from Alaska. He was a burly man, much younger than me, and one you would want on your side in a bar fight. An avid outdoorsman and airplane owner, we traded bush flying stories from the Last Frontier and the hour and a quarter-long crossing passed quickly on calm seas.
The usual crowd of motorbike taxis swarmed the Vong Bai Pier as we docked.
It was Brent’s first trip to Phu Quoc so we got two drivers and crossed the island to Long Beach. Most of the route was familiar until we turned onto a new-cut road through tropical forest that will eventually lead past the new international airport yet to be constructed. The track was rough and muddy from a recent rain. We finally reached the opposite coast and the Phu Quoc Bungalows where I had stayed on my last two visits. Nga greeted me with a big smile and a hug. She was happy that I returned and even more thrilled that I brought another customer. We took A2 and A3, getting the rooms for $10 a night. When the ‘season’ begins on December first, they’ll go up to twenty. A1 was taken by yet another American – Steve who was a longtime world traveler, a retired musician from the east side of Chicago, and a brief acquaintance from last year. It was a small world.
We strolled up the nearby hill to the Oasis and had a meal and a few beers with the British owner, Steph. He had turned a good year and was about to expand into a larger place just across the narrow road. Heavy rains prevented sunset beers down at the beach.