Most of us have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of sunrises and sunsets. Yet when the sun hovers above the horizon, it can’t help but capture our attention. So why are we so awestruck by something that happens every single day?
The sun itself does not change much, alternating between a brilliant golden light in the mornings and a deep red ball of fire in the evenings. The sky, of course, is the real spectacle – and one of the best places in the world to watch a sunset is Long Beach on Vietnam’s magical Phu Quoc island.
And that’s what brings me here, to a sun lounge beside the beachfront infinity pool at Regent Phu Quoc. It’s a warm and balmy evening, I have a cocktail in hand and I’m ready to experience the majestic sunset that everyone has been talking about since the moment I arrived here.
As the sun slowly edges closer to the horizon, I feel like it is teasing us. It’s glowing fiercely, but keeps slipping behind hazy clouds, which seem to dilute the color and make me worry that I’m not going to see the wondrous sunset that I’ve heard so much about.
In fact, eventually the sun disappears altogether, completely obscured by the cloud.
The sky’s honey glow is fading and I’m ready to declare sunset over – that is, until I notice a pink tinge forming in the clouds.
The rosy hue soon spreads across the sky and the golden light returns. I start taking photo after photo, convinced that this is the ultimate sunset, perfectly framed by the silhouettes of coconut trees leaning into the shot.
The sky darkens and once again I’m ready to declare sunset done and dusted, however, it seems we’re being treated to an encore performance this evening.
A deep violet emerges, transforming the horizon into what can only be described as a beautiful watercolor painting. Shades of lilac, magenta and mauve reflect on the ocean and infinity pool in such a way that it’s difficult to decipher where the water ends and the sky begins.
Suddenly, I completely understand why some people describe Phu Quoc’s striking sunsets as the sky “kissing the ocean”, and I feel fortunate that I’m able to witness this gorgeous goodnight kiss as day segues to night.
A Haven of Relaxation
Just a one-hour flight away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh, Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam. In fact, it’s much bigger than most people expect and is roughly the same size as Singapore.
Rich in natural beauty, Phu Quoc features dense evergreen forests, pristine beaches and diverse coastal ecosystems. Although about 70 percent of Phu Quoc is protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, it’s an island of contrasts, with some areas completely untouched and others heavily developed.
While some tourists are drawn to Phu Quoc’s picturesque hiking trails, others are keen to visit the pearl farms, immerse themselves in local culture at fishing villages and temples, explore the night markets or take a step back in time at the Coconut Tree Prison.
And then, of course, there’s the many visitors, myself included, who simply want to relax, soak up the sunshine and enjoy the beautiful beaches and marine life.
I usually love having a jam-packed holiday sightseeing itinerary, so at first it feels strange – and almost too indulgent – to spend my days doing little more than swimming, eating and drinking.
But I soon find a gentle rhythm in migrating from one swimming pool to another, with a stopover at the beach to lie in a hammock and gaze at the coconut trees gently swaying in the breeze.
Regent Phu Quoc boasts four swimming pools – two infinity rooftop pools, one beachfront infinity pool and a family lagoon pool – but the majority of the ultra-luxurious 176 suites and 126 villas have their own private infinity or plunge pools.
I can only assume this is why there are only ever a handful of people swimming in the main pools during my stay, making it feel like my own personal oasis.
After a couple of days poolside, I manage to drag myself away from the azure waters to experience The Spa at Regent Phu Quoc. And from the moment I lie down on the bed for my Alpha Quartz Sand Cocoon Therapy, I feel my muscle tension ease as the warm quartz sand envelops my body in a cozy cocoon.
It’s a little like nestling into dry sand when I lie on my towel on the beach, except the quartz molds perfectly to my body. The massage therapist uses a combination of Balinese and Hawaiian techniques to melt away tension, and by the end of the treatment I’m almost asleep.
The following day, I’m drawn back to The Spa to give my hands and feet some much-needed attention. Regent Phu Quoc is one of only 22 ultra-luxury hotels and resorts in the world that boast a Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez.
Internationally renowned as the ‘Foot Virtuoso’, Gonzalez personally selects and trains all the members of his team in his treatment techniques, so I know I’m in great hands for my Bastien’s Duo treatment.
During this synchronized treatment, the two therapists work in tandem to do a complete manicure and pedicure, followed by a simultaneous hand and foot massage. I’m impressed by how in sync they are, almost like a choreographed dance routine, as four hands work their magic.
Interestingly, it’s a completely dry mani-pedi primarily using surgical instruments in combination with Révérence de Bastien products made from natural ingredients. The treatment is focused on restoring feet and nails to their optimal condition and essentially putting the ‘cure’ back into pedicure.
There’s no nail polish used during the mani-pedi, but it brings out the natural shine in my nails and the end result is incredible – much better than any topcoat polish. I’m told the shine will last for at least a month on my fingernails and up to three months on my toes.
Sailing in Paradise
The majestic sunsets are such a drawcard on Phu Quoc that the Regent Phu Quoc has its own luxury custom catamaran, Serenity, on which guests can watch the setting sun while eating gourmet canapes and sipping Champagne.
While the sunsets are no doubt even more striking from the ocean, I decide to embark on a morning cruise aboard Serenity instead to see more of the island. Perched on the front deck, I take in the spectacular coastline dotted with palm trees and the lush mountains beyond.
We sail past dozens of traditional fishing boats and the occasional floating fishing house. Phu Quoc is a tourist magnet, but I’m reminded that you don’t have to venture very far from the luxury resorts to see that fishing is still very much part of life on the island for locals.
In stark contrast to the quaint fishing boats, the southern tip of Phu Quoc is home to a massive development reminiscent of a vibrant Mediterranean village.
With winding roads and colorful villas nestled into the hillside above the ocean, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d sailed all the way to the Amalfi Coast and not just an hour south of Long Beach.
One of the biggest highlights here is the eight-kilometer cable car that connects Phu Quoc with Hon Thom, also known as Pineapple Island. Recognized as the longest non-stop, three-way cable car in the world, the journey takes only about 15 minutes and allows tourists to enjoy 360-degree views of the pristine An Thoi archipelago.
The cable car offers a bird’s-eye view, but Serenity takes us right into the archipelago to experience its beauty up close. Here, we anchor in a picturesque inlet just off the coast. With snorkels, fishing rods and stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) at our disposal, it’s difficult to decide what to do first. As we’re in a sheltered cove with calm waters, I decide to try a SUP.
It’s my first time on a SUP, so I get off to a shaky start, sitting down at first and then slowly building the courage to kneel and then stand up – with plenty of encouragement from a crew member who paddles alongside me. Once I’m on my feet, I’m surprised by how easy it is and before I know it, I’m comfortably paddling in circles around the catamaran.
Eventually, I’m overcome by an urge to plunge into the emerald green sea. I return the SUP to the yacht and dive into the water, bracing myself for the cold temperature that I’m expecting. I’m surprised to discover the water, albeit very deep, is incredibly warm. I spend the next hour swimming, snorkeling and reveling in this island paradise – it’s the ultimate serenity.
Regent Phu Quoc is not just a paradise for beach lovers, it’s also the ultimate destination for foodies. From traditional local fare to elegant Japanese-French cuisine and innovative cocktails, the resort’s casual restaurants, eclectic bars and fine dining options cater to all tastes. Here’s a few of the highlights.
The resort’s signature dining restaurant, Oku combines the best of Japanese and French techniques and flavors to create a truly sensory dining experience. It’s the only restaurant in Phu Quoc with an Omakase counter.
Former Nobu Chef Andy Huynh heads up the Oku team, who are focused on using the freshest seasonal produce to create highly original, flavorsome and artistic dishes.
You won’t see any signs within the resort directing you to this hidden gem, but if you ask the friendly staff they’ll point you in the right direction and guide you through the secret door. A speakeasy parlor reminiscent of a luxury train carriage from a bygone era, Bar Jade offers a warm and intimate setting for after-dinner drinks.
There’s a rooftop mirror over the bar so you can watch the expert mixologist at work as he prepares cocktails inspired by gemstones.
With a focus on Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, Rice Market’s menu features modern and beautifully crafted interpretations of traditional dishes. The restaurant’s open kitchen creates a bustling atmosphere with fragrant aromas drifting through, making it hard to choose what to order from the extensive menu.
Rice Market is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the sumptuous buffet breakfast, complete with a live cooking station and a dedicated bakery room, is undoubtedly a highlight.