Life in the 852 really does spoil us. With a seemingly endless amount of public holidays, low cost flights and exotic destinations on our doorstep, we’ve become used to jetting off somewhere fabulous for a long weekend. But the problem with being spoilt is that we easily become fussy. Koh Samui? Too crowded. Bali? Too far. Boracay? Don’t get me started on Philippine air travel!
Our requirements for a quickie girls’ getaway were pretty demanding – we wanted a beach break in beautiful surroundings with delicious food, a relaxing spa and most importantly, utter seclusion. So we thought outside the box, deciding on an island that no-one had heard of – Phu Quoc in Vietnam. Currently only accessible via internal flights from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, this beautiful island is nestled down off the South Coast and remains mostly untouched. With gorgeous white sand beaches, sleepy fishermen’s villages and shacks serving some of the tastiest Vietnamese seafood around, it’s definitely worth heading there now before Phu Quoc becomes just another Phuket.
One downside of Phu Quoc’s underdeveloped nature is finding somewhere good to stay; however, we found a slice of heaven in Chen Sea Resort & Spa. Owned by Centara (a leading Thai hotel chain), its more corporate management system ensured high quality but at prices much lower than the other competing beach resorts.
The resort is a 20-minute drive from Long Beach, the most tourist-y section of the island – far enough away for seclusion, but close enough if you want a bit of variety in your evenings. It occupies its own stretch of beautiful white sand beach, with egg chairs dangling from palm trees that invite you to sit and marvel at Phu Quoc’s beauty. The infinity pool is equally as breathtaking, with enticing turquoise waters that are bound to result in lots of #nofilter Instagram pics!
On our arrival, we couldn’t figure out where all the other guests at Chen Sea were… we had the pool totally to ourselves! But when we finally checked out our two-bedroom pool villa properly, we understood the temptation to stay room-bound – we actually had a private small pool, four sun loungers and tranquil garden of our own!
The villa itself was incredibly beautiful and authentic; it was actually an old house shipped in from Hoi An! The downstairs of the villa was a little sparse but perfect for a group, with a dining table, sofa and small kitchen area. There was a perfectly comfortable twin bedroom off to the side with a luxurious bathroom, but the showstopper was the main bedroom upstairs, with a sprawling double bed large enough for two friends to share without spooning, plus an open-plan bathroom with a humongous bathtub, double showers and a walk-in wardrobe. To top it all off was the view beyond the balcony, overlooking the rooftops below out over the glimmering sea. This spectacular view practically forced us to stay in bed watching the morning sunlight cast its glow on this island paradise.
There are a number of day trips you can take around Phu Quoc and the high season diving is meant to be incredible, but we chose a trip to the hotel’s spa as our daily excursion instead! The spa is rustic with open-sided salas and bamboo blinds that maintain the untouched feel of the place, whilst offering a range of delightfully relaxing, professional massages.
Meanwhile, the food at Chen Sea Resort was delicious but expensive compared to local offerings. Instead, we took a five-minute taxi down the road to an empty local restaurant called Sakura, which wowed us with its fresh seafood, wonderful flavours and reasonable prices.
We checked out Long Beach on our second night, and whilst it was definitely livelier, it only made us more appreciative of Chen Sea’s isolation – hotels were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder on the beach here! We had pre-dinner drinks at the other more luxurious hotel on Phu Quoc, La Veranda. Colonial in its feel, the service was fantastic and cocktails delicious… but we still much preferred Chen Sea. Compared to our virtually deserted pool with its magnificent views, La Veranda offered a much more limited beach frontage, and we eyed their guests with a smug glint in our eyes!
We left Phu Quoc feeling utterly content – that we had stumbled upon such an untouched island, and that Chen Sea had proved so wonderfully well suited for our exacting demands! There were a few language barriers with service, but that’s to be expected on an island that’s only recently opened up to Western tourists. We also visited in the less busy low season, where the rough seas meant that watersports were not available and the outdoor dining was shut, but otherwise the resort was perfect.
I reckon that Chen Sea is a total island paradise. If it wasn’t for my duties as an intrepid Sassy reporter, I might be tempted to keep it all to myself!
Beach Retreat Package starts from US$238 per night, until 19 December 2013; see other promotions here
Chen Sea Resort & Spa, Bai Xep, Ong Lang, Cua Duong, Phu Quoc, Vietnam, +84 (0773) 995 895