Ride to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam

In general Vietnam is off limits for foreign motorcycles. Vietnam has some absurd import duties that has driven the domestic vehicle prices up. The communist dictatorship fears that you will sell your bike in Vietnam with lost import duties as a result. Two exceptions exists however, one is guided tours were you are under constant watch of a politruk, the other one is Ha Tien free zone which borders Cambodia by the coast. You can ride along the coast, or any other route, through Cambodia and cross the border to Vietnam at Ha Tien. From Ha Tien you can take a ferry to Phu Quoc island which is a tourist destination.

All you need is your passport, a passport photo for Cambodia's immigration and the bike's green book. You have to own the bike or bring an authorization from the owner. VISA on arrival is available for Cambodia. VISA is not needed for Vietnam at Ha Tien.

This ride was inspired by Grathiam's RideAsia story and took place 19th to 27th of February 2012

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Feb 19th 2012

Drove from Pattaya towards Cambodia on small roads along the coast. The main Sukhumvit road is very boring so this was mostly to avoid it.

Passed a dug down WW2 era navy ship00 on the way. It turned out to be USS Gallup

Crossed the Taksin Maharat bridge01 over to Laem Sing

Spent the night in boring Trat at extremly boring Trad hotel02. Later we found out that the place to be in Trat03 is down by a river.

Feb 20th 2012

Drove the 318 to Hat Lek.

Crossed the border from Thailand into Cambodia04 at Hat Lek/Koh Kong crossing around noon. Not too much hassle here as usual. Got the required papers from Thai customs. The only things needed are your passport and green book. No bribes asked for, nor payed. Once stamped out we crossed the actual border and started the process on the Cambodian side. As usual we were hit up by "helpers" and "fixers". We payed +1000 bath for our $20 VISA but in return we only had to sign the application and was stamped in very fast. There was a health check too. They check for fever in your ear and charge you one dollar for that. Cambodia customs did not care to give us any papers as usual.

Once in the country we drove the 10 kilometers to Koh Kong and crossed the toll bridge in the process. I don't know how much the bridge toll is but I payed $1 for both of us and got change back. US dollars are still king in Cambodia by the way.

For the person new to Cambodia I can inform that US Dollars and the local Riel are accepted pretty much everywhere. Thai Bath works fine too if your are in the provinces that border Thailand or in an area that tourists vist.

From Koh Kong to the next proper gas station, which is a "Lim Long" station08, it is about 140 kilometers. Gasoline is sold from hand cranked barrels in some places closer but that gas can be bad. Koh Kong has a PTT gas station05 by the river where the pumps go by Thai bath.

We did not stop in Koh Kong but continued to Kampot.

The road from Koh Kong is a paved two-lane road. It is good for the most but has some holes in it. This road is one of the nicer ones to ride in Cambodia if you ask me. Traffic is also pretty low. All the road from Koh Kong to Ha Tien is paved two-lane road except for the last piece to the Vietnamese border which is dusty dirt.

You will pass Tatai waterfall06 18 kilometers from Koh Kong. Photo from previous trip.

About 60 kilometers from Koh Kong are some road side resturants07, a good place to re-hydrate.

On the way to Kampot we drove up to Bokor hill10. The road up there09 is brand new and a joy to ride.

Up on the hill they are constructing a new casino12. The movie City of Ghosts comes to mind.

They are fixing up the old historic French casino11. Not much historic atmosphere left.

An old church.

Spent the night in Kampot in Borey Bokor hotel13. I don't remember the rate but it is not expensive. This hotel has a pool in the back but you have to look for it to find it.

Had food and drinks at Rusty Keyhole14. Kampot is a pretty quiet place at night.

Feb 21th 2012

Headed towards the Vietnamese border at Ha Tien16+17+18 with a stop to buy some of Kampot's great pepper15 that I have become abdicted to. 3 years ago they were selling pepper from large bins for $6/kilo at the farms. Now they pack it in small bags and charged me $15 for a 500 gram bag. This is tourist pricing after the area has become more popular for tourists.

At the border we were asked on the Cambodian side to go over to the Vietnamese side and check if it was okay to bring the bikes in.

We drove over there and asked and they said no problem. Back to the Cambodian immigration to stamp out and then back to the Vietnamese immigration. We were charged $5 for a stamp allowing us one week in the economic zone of Ha Tien. We got no papers for the bikes.

When we were getting on the bikes some crook approached us outside the building and said the Vietnamese customs do not allow bikes in. He was trying to scams us for a bribe. We just drove off to the next and last check point where they check your passport and stamp one final time and they let us and the bikes in without any protests.

The border also have a casino.

Once in Vietnam we drove the short distance to Ha Tien and stayed at Du Hung 2 Hotel19. The hotel was okay but not exciting. Up-side was they have a designated place to park inside.

At the hotel we met Yellowbird all the way from Singapore. His plan was to drive to Saigon. He had bribed the border crooks 200 bath to give him a stamp not limited to the economic zone.

About the only watering hole in town is Oasis bar20. Not much food on the menu but they have some good baguettes at least. The owner informed us that the economic zone ends at the river. However, many people goes out to Phu Quoc Island and the system looks the other way.

Feb 22th 2012

Up in the morning and off to the car ferry to Phu Quoc21. The ferry is located in the mouth of the river on the far river bank seen from central Ha Tien.

Cross the bridge and make first possible left and you are at the ferry.

It departed 08:20. Be there 07:30 because they want to load the bikes first. There was a cantina on the boat with beverages, candy and noodles to keep us going. The ferry ride was 45 kilometers and took 3 hours. Price for one way was 165.000 "Dongs" per person and 80.000 per bike.

Our bikes got some attention.

Seating upstairs.

The ferry landed on the east side of the island30. Here you have two options. You can go the better and longer road by going north or you can take the shorter track going south.

We drove the longer road to Doung Dong and saved the track for later. Our first stop was Buddy Ice Cream Resturant24.

Checked in at Thien Phu An Guest House22, you can park inside. Not on the beach but good enough for me.

Had a look at the Coconut prison23.

Feb 23th 2012

Site seeing on Phu Quoc. Made a loop around the island. Most roads were small bumpy dirt roads. One good stop was Vung Bau Beach which has a resturant27.

Road construction on new divided road seemed slow. How long has this truck been here?

Thom Beach near the ferry landing.

Drove the track going south from the car ferry landing, it was pretty easy even on my SM wheels but in the rainy season it may be hard as some bridges were out on the way.

Sao Beach29

Interesting KTM was seen outside the DS bar28.

We looked for a place called the "Dog Bar" we heard about in Ha Tien but we were told it had closed down.

Had food at Oasis resturant, good grub.25

Amigos, the place to be in the evening, right on the beach.26

Feb 24th 2012

Back to the ferry30, it departed 13:45. Be there 13:00 as they load the bikes first.

Car ferry terminal, drinks and some food available.

Checked in at Du Hung31 in Ha Tien, Du Hung 219 was full. Baguettes at Oasis bar20. Sleep.

Feb 25th 2012

Drove back to the Cambodian border18. Stamped out from Vietnam. Over the border. Got new Cambodian VISA for $22. Drove to Kampot via the Kep loop.

Checked in at Borey Bokor Hotel13 in Kampot. Met up with Yellowbird, he was not stopped going to Saigon and back. I would not recommend pulling that stunt tho.

Went to see Kampots waterfall32. The "waterfall" turned out to be a dam overflow. They charged $1 for this view.

Wedding in progress in Kampot

Food and drinks at Rusty Keyhole14 by the river.

Feb 26th 2012

Drove to Koh Kong with a detour to Shinoukville and the waterfall33. Pretty dry this time of the year.

Got soaked in a burst of rain not far from Koh Kong. Stayed at the Dugout34. Not very luxurious but we could park inside, friendly owner and western food.

Cafe Laurent36 by the river for drinks.

Feb 27th 2012

Checked out the "Mangrove Adventure Passway"35. It is a raised footpath in a funky plantation.

The passway sports a suspension bridge and some sort of observation tower.

Crossed the toll bridge and the border, very easy coming back. Stamp out from Cambodia, ignore the "helpers" and "fixers". Cross border. Fill out the Thai immigration form, stamp your passport and return the bike papers to the Thai customs.

Rode the boring sukhumvit back to Pattaya.