Southwestern Vietnamese island very near the Cambodian border – looks like it came straight out of a postcard. From Saigon if you don’t fly you’re in for a 7 hour bus ride to Rach Gia and then a 3 hour ferry from there to the island. In terms of appearance and landscape it’s very similar to Thai islands on the Gulf and it’s just starting to reach a high level of development. Outside of the harbor and most developed area (Long Beach), the roads are not paved. This is the kind of place I had come to Vietnam looking for. Outside of Long Beach the people are overwhelmingly friendly and interested in people who venture out to pay them a visit. The food is outstanding – several days in a row I ate fresh fish on the beach (red snapper, barracuda) which was caught and grilled in front of me.
The water on the island was perfect for swimming. Long Beach and the other remotely developed beaches are on the west coast of the island, where the sun sets on the watery horizon every evening. The atmosphere was really incredible and I didn’t want to leave, having the strong urge that this island holds much more than I’d find at first glance. After all, it is 50 x 20km in size. I mostly stuck to the west coast, taking day long motorcycle trips up and down the coast and swimming every day.
Interesting quirk is that this island is heavily trafficked by Germans – and I never could figure out why. One afternoon I was trying to communicate with a Vietnamese man and when he struggled to understand my English and asked if I spoke German. I’ve never been anywhere in my life where German is preferred over English by non-Germans. I asked a few Vietnamese why there were so many Germans on the island (and evidently no Americans – it was all Europeans) and couldn’t get an answer from anyone. I asked a middle aged German guy eating at a table next to me how so many Germans ended up on the island he took offense until I told him that I’m of German heritage. We chatted for a few minutes after wards but he didn’t offer an explanation for the enormous German presence.