On the food front, it’s worth heading out just a few miles to Phu Quoc’s main town for their night market, a cacophonous, compelling mix of stalls serving stellar local seafood straight from the barbecue, fresh coconut, ice cream hand-made in front of you and all manner of trinkets and treats.
Phu Quoc is said to produce the best fish sauce in Vietnam, no mean feat when it represents the absolute soul of the nation’s cooking. If you stock up on some to take home, just remember that most airlines ban you from carrying it anywhere other than the hold, such is its pungency.
It’s also a key ingredient in the island’s most famous dish, bun quay. It’s a collaborative and engaging dining experience at the Kien Xay chain who popularised it. You follow their orders to “Make your sauce”, mixing chilis, fish sauce, calamansi, salt, sugar and yes, MSG – the quartet of flavours (sweet, salty, umami and sour) in one.
You then add it into their steaming bowl of rice flower noodles which contain your choice of seafood and beef, herbs and onions, for a simply sensational bowl.
At the end of the trip, we can certainly empathise with another of Bourdain’s comments: “I’ll come back to Vietnam – always.”