Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Tourists Wanted

January 16, 2011

Story By Bryan Zimmerman

Photos By Kevin Radley

Coconut trees run along the length of the beach, shading those who have found their comfort. The sound of the waves crashing into the sand is like a mythical creature as the water laps at your feet. The sun glistens on the ocean as its vibrant blue body seamlessly blends into the horizon. Such a spectacular scene is one we all dream of yet its location is one that is not heavily visited.

Phu Quoc Island is a tear-shaped land mass located 45 kilometers off the western coast of Vietnam. It runs 50 kilometers from north to south and is home to the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen.

Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy, especially in the industrial sector, and while the country’s growth in tourism has certainly spiked since the American-Vietnamese war, it is a relatively small part of the country’s income.

Vietnam has awe inspiring scenery, whether it manifests itself in densely packed mangrove forests, cryptic expanses of melaleuca, or glistening stretches of pearl white beaches. Many people overlook what Vietnam has to offer as far as tourism goes. It is not heavily advertised, I had no idea these beautiful places existed in the country until I came and saw them for myself.

My visit to Vietnam took place during the dry season, which lasts from December to April, and is also the peak of the tourist season. While I did see many tourists in the cities, visiting monuments, war museums and remnants, the beaches at Phu Quoc were sparsely covered with people. The majority of the people I saw were indeed foreigners but I was expecting a scene from spring break Cancun. I’m not saying I was disappointed, I would prefer to have more of the beach to myself, but I was shocked that a place such as this would have so few tourists.

Vietnam is truly a diamond in the rough in the tourism industry. Not only is it beautiful, but your money goes quite a long way with around three times the purchasing power with the US. Dollar. While the rest of the world is in a hurry to go to places like Fiji, Jamaica, or Mazatlan, I’ll wait for the just as scenic, and far less crowded beaches of Vietnam.

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