On a holiday in Vietnam I flew to Phu Quoc Island, way down in the South. The problem is, Phu Quoc isn’t the cheapest of places to visit in Vietnam!
After a fair bit of searching online for satisfactory and budget-friendly accommodation, I finally looked at Tripadvisor, not thinking for a second that the #1 accommodation would be a place I could actually afford. And that’s how I discovered Freedomland Phu Quoc.
The owners of Freedomland, Peter and Rita, bill it as a homestay rather than as a hotel. It consists of several small bungalows that are described as “basic” but really are far nicer than most I’ve stayed in before. The homestay part comes in when you get to the common areas. Aside from a sitting area and a bar, dinner is served as one big communal meal where everyone eats the same thing (unless you have specific dietary requirements).
There is no obligation to eat dinner at Freedomland, but there aren’t many other options nearby, and after my first meal I knew I wouldn’t be eating dinner anywhere else.
It’s not cheap, by Vietnam standards. The cost of the meal depends upon what Peter has to pay for ingredients at the market, and usually comes in at around $14-15. However, it’s a five course meal every night, made with the freshest produce and freshly-caught seafood.
It’s presented with incredible attention to detail, with superb combinations of flavours and textures. For a meal like this in any major city in the world you could easily pay $100. I asked Peter where he’d learned to cook. He said, “I didn’t. I just improvise.” Oh to have that kind of talent!
The second night I was there, instead of having the usual 5 courses we only had 3, but the middle one was all-you-can-eat seafood hotpot!
As this was added to the hotpot they kept adding more and more and more to the plate, until we had to beg them to stop!
I joined a German couple to ride bikes up to the northern beaches one day, where we stopped at a little seafood restaurant with beachside huts and hammocks. Unfortunately, my companions were non-fish eating vegetarians, and the restaurant had very few veggie dishes so they ate french fries while I had fish grilled with chili and salt. It was amazing – cooked absolutely perfectly and SO delicious!
Back at Freedomland they had these barbecue buckets that they used almost every night to cook meat, fish or seafood. I saw them in the market for 60,000 dong (about $3) and seriously considered bringing one back with me! Too bad they’re so heavy.
Build a fire in the bottom, put a wire rack on top and you have an instant barbecue!
On another night I was there we started with a pumpkin soup, then had these beautiful noodle baskets of cucumber, tomato, and pineapple salad.
After that it was up to us to wrap our food: fresh spring rolls with meat and my old favourite bánh xèo.
I was going to ask if I could watch them making the bánh xèo so I’d know how, but got a bit too distracted with the eating and forgot!
The next night started off with a beetroot soup (but not like borscht, it was really good!), then we had tuna on a bed of noodles with pomelo sauce.
And then a crab cake tower. The tomato was hollowed out and the inside was replaced with salad.
After that there were prawns skewered on lemongrass and noodles with a sort of pesto-like sauce.
And finally they followed it all up with pannacotta!
Yes, I ate like this every night. This is NOT a place to go if you’re on a diet!
Here’s more…crunchy bread stacked with eggplant, prawn and squid and a delicious garlic aioli.
It’s time to roll stuff again! Herring this time.
The contents of my roll, before it’s rolled.
There’s a big piece of fish somewhere under all that.
And finally banana fritters with chocolate sauce. So good!
On my last night there we had a sunset barbecue on the beach.
The bucket barbecues again!
Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of the other food. But I did get one of the glowing sky.
When it got dark they built a bonfire on the beach so we could have some light and hang out longer. What a perfect last night!
And finally, Freedomland’s Phú Quốc dog Piggy had just had puppies! (no, sorry, not food!)
So cute! I wanted to take one home!
Freedomland is not for everyone. They make it quite clear when you book that there is no AC, no TV, and no pool, and that the beach is actually about a 10 – 15 minute walk away. If you’re looking for town-type amenities, you have to drive or cycle 7km. However, they do everything they can to help you out and make sure you’re comfortable, and I would absolutely not hesitate to stay there again. It was exactly what I needed. It was kept sparkling clean, the staff were sweet and friendly, there’s a great social atmosphere, and that food….all I can say is wow. Go there!