Visiting the starfish kingdom in Phú Quốc

By Lê Hương

Anytime I visit Phú Quốc, I always go to Rạch Vẹm fishing village, located in the north of the ‘jewel island’, about 25km away from the main town of Dương Đông.

The scenery here brings me peace and tranquillity thanks to clear blue waters, tasty food and the opportunity to take beautiful pictures with starfish.

The village consists of 180 families on makeshift houses by the sea. Their main livelihood is fishing.

Starfish on Rạch Vẹm Beach. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

In recent years, some restaurants with floating cages of sea products have appeared in the area, offering another stable income for locals from tourists.

Floating restaurants are built hundreds of metres from the shore by firm bamboo pillars installed on the sea bed. Each 25-30sq.m room is covered with corrugated sheet metal, or bamboo and wood. The floating sensation is unmistakable.

Locals are friendly, gentle and frank, and may tell lots of interesting stories to strangers.

Vũ Đức Cường, a boatman at Con Sao Quán Restaurant, said he earns extra money from canoe services, carrying tourists from the shore to nearby Hàm Rồng Cape.

He also fishes offshore in low tourism season.

“The best season here is from September to March, when the waves are not too high and the weather is cooler,” he said.

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A wooden way leads to restaurants on the sea. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

Swimming in smooth and clear waters by the village or Hàm Rồng Cape is highly recommended to nature lovers.

There is no sound of vehicles, only nature in its true meaning.

Walking along the seashore is also relaxing to city dwellers, who have been fed up with crowds and noises of urban areas.

Watching sunset or sunrise in the village is also another unique experience.

“I feel as if the time stopped for me to enjoy the spectacular landscape of the village under yellow, orange and purple light from the sky in sunset,” noted visitor Nguyễn Quốc Bình from Hà Nội.

“The cool fresh atmosphere brings me the ease deep inside my soul,” he said.

Bình said he often watches the sunset here and has dinner at one of the floating restaurants.

Photographer Hữu Huyền from HCM City said he had a unique, self-designed tour with a local fisherman early in one morning, to catch the first ray of sunlight.

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People like to take photos with starfish in Phú Quốc. — Photo

Huyền said he enjoyed seeing the sun emerge from the sea, and took a lot of photos of local fishermen’s labour at the sea.

“I think I have recorded the most honest moment of life here, with weather-beaten men busy at their daily routines,” he said.

Starfish is another gift that nature presents.

Between October and April, one can see starfish flocking in the local sea.

Rạch Vẹm beach is a favourite place for starfish, as it is not too crowded.

“Playing and swimming with starfish is quite entertaining, not only to children but also adults,” said Lê Thu Hà from the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng. “In clear water, and white sand, highlights are red starfish, which is precious scenery that I believe no one can describe in any words, find in no movie, or photo.”

Like Hà, Lưu Khánh Vy from HCM City takes a lot of pictures to post on Facebook and Instagram.

“All my followers in the social networks are wowed by the scenery here,” she said. “I think Việt Nam possess scenes as magical as anywhere in the world. I’m so proud of that.”

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A sea urchin dish, a local delicacy, which is good for health. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

Dishes at the village are not diversified in forms and styles like those offered in the island’s centre. But they are processed from fresh seafood. Highly recommended dishes include simply processed ones like steamed, baked, grilled and stirred in fat seafood.

The simple way of processing will keep the natural freshness of the crab, shrimp, oyster, sea urchin, squid and so on.

So remember to visit Rạch Vẹm when visiting Phú Quốc, you will find another Phú Quốc: not so crowded, civilised, urbanised and noisy.

All you need to prepare is a swimming suit, sun cream, a hat, sunglasses and an open soul to nature, for sure.

Many visitors share the same wonder with me: will the area remain natural the same long or short? — VNS

201765 sunsetSunset as seen from Rạch Vẹm Beach. — VNS Photo Lê Hương

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