Besides the relaxing tropical climate, Phu Quoc has a several unique qualities compared to the rest of Vietnam there for you to discover, from the islands own dog to the production of the highest quality fish sauce and black pepper, to local fruit wine. Learn more about these amazing sights on offer below.
Drying anchovies & squid
One of the unique sights or smells when travelling around the island, are the many racks of drying anchovies and drying squid, which sell in the markets around Vietnam. These form an important part of the Vietnamese diet, used in many dishes to flavour food, and of course anchovies are the special ingredient used to make fish sauce that Phu Quoc is famous for producing, covered more below. You’ll see these racks mostly along the coastal routes if travelling around the island, from north to south.
Phu Quoc dog
OK, not your usual tourist highlight, but the Phu Quoc Dog is actually one of the worlds three rarest ridgeback type dogs that have whorls running down their backs. It is closely related to the Thai Ridgeback, though it is suggested that the Phu Quoc Dog is a completely different breed given the difference in their size and the 2cm whorl (line of raised fur).
There is a Phu Quoc Dog breeding center on the island and some organised tours will visit this breeding center.
They are excellent hunters, unafraid of heights, intelligent and fiercely loyal yet are very trusting of strangers, so they make poor guard dogs. A mature dog is about 20-25kg, with a small head, quite a long snout, and thin ears. They love barking when strangers do approach, but they don’t take things any further. The wild female when pregnant disappears into the national park, digging a den to give birth and nurse their pups for up to a month before rejoining the wild pack. There’s even a web site that explains more at www.phuquocdog.com
Dog lovers are looking to have the Phu Quoc Ridgeback recognised as a seperate domestic dog breed for entry into international dog shows, check out the latest news here.
Fish sauce factories
For a completely unique experience visit one of the many fish sauce distilleries in either Duong Dong or An Thoi towns. Phu Quoc is famous for its production of very high quality fish sauce which is exported worldwide and is a major contributor to the islands economy. Fish sauce is a dipping sauce which complements most Vietnamese meals to add a saltiness flavour. It is made from combining anchovies, salt, and water and sometimes the pepper grown on the island and fermented through various stages for six months up to a year before being drained from the large barrels into different grades from the top quality lighter coloured sauce to the basic cooking sauce, both of which are high in protein. Phu Quoc produces over an incredible 12 million litres of fish sauce each year and has around 85 factories on the island, so it’s well worth visiting one of the many factories on the island.
Most factories in Duong Dong are located along the river and they will let you have a look at the large storage barrels which flow into smaller vats and then plastic containers to the bottling process. Some of the organised tours visit these fish sauce factories, however if visiting on your own there’s no admission charge, however you may need a Vietnamese speaking guide. Some factories also have a small shop selling different grades of fish sauce. Please note that when departing Phu Quoc by air, carrying fish sauce on the airplane is not allowed and some airlines have banned it altogether because of risk of breakage and the pungent fumes that are extremely difficult to remove. You can however purchase some fish sauce at the airport in the departure lounge, and they currently organise delivery for you to Ho Chi Minh (somehow).
Here’s a few addresses to start with:
- Khai Hoan
- Hung Vuong Street
- Phone: 077 848 555
- Location: go towards Ham Ninh on the east coast along 3 Thang 30 Street then turn left onto Hung Vuong Street and you’ll see the buildings to the left near the river.
- + Hung Thanh is the largest Phu Quoc fish sauce producers
- Address: Area 3, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc
- Phone: 077 846 124
- Web: www.hungthanhfishsauce.com.vn
- Admission free; 8-11am & 1-5pm
- + Nam Huong is based in An Thoi Town
- Address: 95 to 3, Area 1, An Thoi, Phu Quoc
- Phone: 077 844 003
- Web: http://www.namhuong.com/