It's 1709. We listen in to the Emperor of China's master chef chewing out a merchant. The Emperor, Kangxi, of the Qing Dynasty is asleep with a concubine, on the other side of the palace, the master chef had no fear of waking him.
"You, you petty merchant," The Emperors' master chef screamed, "you call these sea cucumbers! These are inferior! They are unacceptable for the Emperor's table, or any other table but my dogs'!" The merchant looked flustered, but valued the business, so he listened to the master chef rant, then interupted him.
"If you desire the very best, may I suggest you open your purse a bit wider, and I will sail my junks to Phu Quoc Island. The islanders there catch the most succulent sea cucumbers in the world, they even have a special fish sauce that will make you cry when you taste it, though, you Sire, make equally delicious sauces I've never had the pleasure to taste."
"Lowly merchants do not dine with Emperors, nor will you, ever. I will open my purse wider for you, but you must bring me these sea cucumbers from Phu Quoc Island, I will make instructions how you will preserve them to keep well on the way back. And, bring me that fish sauce, too, I would like to try it to see if it is fit for the great Kangxi. Oh! And bring me one of those pure bred dogs from that island, a stud. I have heard of those dogs. It will make a good pet and gift for the great Kangxi."
With a wave of the hand he dismissed the merchant who strutted jauntily towards transportation. He must be on his way. His purse jingled with gold.
Phu Quoc Island, (pronounced: Foo Kwaa.) (pop: 70,000 approx. 2006) 65 miles southwest of the west coast of Vietnam. A jewel of an island, dubbed The Emerald Island, it is a triangular shaped island, about 1.320 square kilometers. It is some 48 kilometers long (north to south) and some 28 kilometers wide at the widest point, in the north. The island is dominated by the northeast peak Mount Chua, (603 meters) and the second highest peak Mount Da' Bac, (448 meters) some 20 kilometers due south of Mt. Chua, on the east coast of Phu Quoc Island. The island is still claimed by both the Khmer, (Cambodia, and Laos) and the Thai people, but is officially part of Kien Guiang Province of Vietnam. Phu Quoc Island is famous for its sea cucumbers. They were shipped to the Emperor of China's table, by Chinese merchant junks for many years. The island boasts the best fish sauce in the World. There is a fish sauce factory near the biggest town of Duong Dong located on the West coast of the island, named Khai Hoan Fish Sauce Factory. Phu Quoc Island grows peppers they claim are world famous, grown in and around a place called The Pepper Garden, near Duong Dong, and the Phu Quoc Dog Farm, near the town of Duong Dong, the biggest town on Phu Quoc Island. A pure breed of dog is raised at the dog farm, a yellow haired breed of dog, used to control pests of the pepper farming industry, and guard the homes of farmers.
Other points of interest are the oldest pagoda on the island, known as Sung Hung Co Tu Pagoda, and Dink Cau Rock, better known as the Temple of the Fishermen. Also, there are many bat caves which can be explored on the island, if you can stand the stench. Dry Season begins in December and lasts until March. The remaining months are the Wet Season. It rains most every day during the Rainy Season, short refreshing showers which usually last only minutes, more than enough to satisfy the lush jungle growing wild all over the island. The coral reefs are pristine. The island is underdeveloped, and offers the adventurous tourist unequalled beauty, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sun bathing, and superb fishing, especially for squid. The resort industry is in its infancy, one of the few islands of the world left relatively untouched, though there are enough resorts to keep the average tourist living in absolute comfort. The local populace live in nipa huts of one room construction, simple, but adequate.
Phu Quoc Island does have its place in history. In the years 1782-1786, the Vietnamese general, Lord Nguyen Anh, used Phu Quoc Island as refuge from the Chinese infuenced Tay Son forces of South Vietnam. Tay Son is the peasant uprisings of Vietnam. Lord Nguyen Anh later would become Emperor of Vietnam, Emperor Gia Long. He is credited with having saved the Vietnamese language. The Chinese were forbidding the use of the language, but Emperor Gia Long beat back the Tay Son forces, and the Vietnamese kept their language for eternity. In 1869, the French occupied Phu Quoc Island, and the coconut, (copra) and rubber industry began to flourish. In the years 1967-1972, the Saigon regime built a 400 hectare detention camp near the town of An Thoi, near the Southern tip of the island. It housed some 40 thousand inmates until the end of the Vietnam War, then was used by the victorious North Vietnamese forces as a rehabilitation camp to convert the South Vietnamese citizens, and soldiers to the ways of the government of Hanoi. The camp is still there, today, as a tourist attraction. U.S. forces in 1967 included a Swift boat detachment anchored at the port of An Thoi, housed on a floating barracks. The USS Oxford, or its sister ship the USS Georgetown, often anchored there. U.S. Army units guarded an airstrip used by short take-off and landing aircraft.
In 1975, the population of the island soared when South Vietnamese forces fled from the mainland, to escape from the advancing Viet Cong. The population reached 300,000 but the populace was soon to be driven out, back to the mainland when Viet Cong forces took over Phu Quoc Island. The Viet Cong take-over of the island caused the population to drop to less than 10,000 by the end of of 1975. The population now fluctuates anywhere between 60,000 during the Rainy Season, and up to more than 120,000 during the Dry Season. Fishermen from all the surrounding areas descend to Phu Quoc Island during the Dry Season to take advantage of the excellent fishing. Tourists arrive mainly in the Dry Season, to eat the fish and the famed sauce that goes with it. The islanders living there are friendly, honest, and hospitable.