Phu Quoc Island
Fringed with white-sand beaches and with large tracts still cloaked in dense, tropical jungle, Phu Quoc rapidly morphed from a sleepy island backwater to a must-visit beach escape for Western expats and sun-seeking tourists. Beyond the resorts lining Long Beach and development beginning on the east coast, there's still ample room for exploration and escaping.
The boulevards of Tra Vinh, one of the prettiest towns in the Mekong Delta, are still lined with shady trees, harking back to an earlier era. With more than 140 Khmer pagodas dotting the province, Tra Vinh is a quiet place for exploring the Mekong’s little-touted Cambodian connection.
Until his imprisonment for anti-government activities and the consequent dispersion of his flock, the Coconut Monk (Dao Dua) led a small community on Phoenix Island (Con Phung), a few kilometres from My Tho. The Coconut Monk left his family to pursue a monastic life and for three years he sat on a stone slab under a flagpole and meditated day and night.
The capital of Vinh Long province, plonked about midway between My Tho and Can Tho, Vinh Long is a major transit hub. Flee the mayhem by heading to the riverfront, where a handful of cafes and restaurants afford respite. Vinh Long is the gateway to island life, Cai Be floating market, abundant orchards and rural homestays.
A sacred place for Buddhists, Sam Mountain (Nui Sam, 284m) and its environs are crammed with dozens of pagodas and temples. A strong Chinese influence makes it particularly popular with ethnic Chinese but Buddhists of all ethnicities visit here. The views from the top are excellent (weather permitting), ranging deep into Cambodia.