Reality In Phú Quốc Vietnam…
Having just been to Costa Rica, Vietnam was a bit of a culture shock. From a country investing heavily in being eco-friendly, looking after its wildlife and fauna, to the eye-opening experience of a country that has yet to understand the need to balance tourist growth with eco-responsibility. All you ever see on social media are unspoilt beaches and pictures of natural beauty. The reality in Phú Quốc is very different once you move outside of the tourist hotspots.
Sao beach is a perfect example of this. They have the famous swings in the water where people take selfies. The sand is beautiful and the water has a lovely color. But it’s overcrowded with jet skis and banana boats and all sorts of chaos. It’s fairly clean where all the restaurants and beach beds are, but stroll further down and you will see how it really looks. You can clearly see the line where the cleaning of the beach starts.
You are a guest. Leave this earth a little more beautiful, a little more human, a little more lovable, a little more fragrant, for those guests who will be following you…
Driving to the famous pagoda and temple there are many small untouched beach spots along the way so we stopped to have a look at one of them. What you will see is shocking and its the real and true face of the state of the island as no-one is there to clean and cover it up. At this spot, a family with young children were having a bbq and a day out, sitting amongst all the garbage.
For our boat trip to the An Thoi islands, we rented a private boat and driver. We were excited as we heard great things about these islands. We did snorkeling in a few spots but unfortunately, the reefs are damaged and not looking healthy with very little life in the ocean. All the island we visited have severe problems with plastic and pollution but the most shocking and disturbing experience we had was on the famous Fingernail island. Where one of the bout tour organizers casually strolling down the jetty and just chucking his empty water bottle into the sea, like the ocean was his own personal dumpster. “You make a living bringing tourists to these islands to see beautiful places and you do this, without even blinking”!
With that mentality and attitude, we fear for this region.
All these islands have the potential of being paradise or was once in the past, but from what we’ve seen it’s not going in the right direction…
When speaking to locals and expats we were told it’s not only a huge problem in Vietnam, but also in the rest of south-east Asia. One expat we spoke to, told us he used to live in Boracay Philippines, a very famous place. This island had to shut down for almost 1 year to be cleaned. The main beach there was once voted the nicest in the world by TripAdvisor!
Without sounding too ignorant, we know there’s a massive problem worldwide with pollution and plastic, but this was actually the very first time we experienced this hands-on and it really affected us. We have either been very lucky with our holiday destinations in the past, or it could be simply because we haven’t been to South-East Asia for a few years.
For the region to truly prosper, they will have to embrace a greener, more sustainable lifestyle or they risk not only damaging their revenue, but irreparably damaging the very place itself.