Dreams come true – my life on a tropical island

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Have you ever played with a thought of quitting your 8-to-5 day job and moving to tropics? You feel fed up sometimes with winter, snow, cold and darkness during a considerable part of the year? Half a year here in Stockholm, Sweden actually…

No, I’m not gonna sell you any timeshare or retirement plans. I’m going to explain the 4 years gap in my posts here.

You see, I did have those thoughts a lot. Added my every month colds and flues from October to May. Added a relationship ended after 11 years together. Added my day job employer gone bankrupt…

And voila, January 2018 the thought finally transformed into a decision – I’m moving to tropics! Where, how, when? All big questions, right?

I started with the “where”. It should be tropical, really tropical with temperatures above 20C (70F) all year round. Giving my modest budget, the cost of living shouldn’t be high, but it shouldn’t be dirt poor neither. I always had a romantic image of a tropical island in my head. So it preferably should be an island.

I immediately thought about my vacation to Vietnam a couple of years back. A quick googling gave me a possible destination: Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam, near the coast of Cambodia. According to the online info it was designated as a special economic zone, where foreigners could own land and real estate (unlike mainland Vietnam); ideal climate with 25C (77F) by night and 32C (89F) by day all year round; developed tourism and infrastructure.

Phu Quoc Island, Sao Beach (Bai Sao)
Long Beach Phu Quoc

All sounded good to me. So, I booked a two weeks trip to check it out already in March same year. That trip checked all my expectations: beautiful island, amazing sea with white beaches and coconut palms, reasonable price level for accommodation and many resorts meaning a good possibility to find a job. I met many expats living there for years and having their own businesses.

So, the next step was to book a one-way ticket, say good by to my friends in Stockholm and already in May 2018 I could call Phu Quoc Island my new home.

The plan was to start a small landscaping business finding the customers among smaller hotels and resorts as well as restaurants and house owners. However, just a couple of months later it was obvious that it’s not going to work. Local business owners simply don’t see a value in a proper landscaping. The plants exotic for western tourists are something very mundane for most locals.  They think it’s enough to take some cuttings or divisions and plant them somewhere… Why pay money? While larger resorts do understand the value, they most often have their centrally provided landscapers and suppliers.

Some landscaping projects I did first months on the island

I had to adopt my visions to the reality, to find some other means to finance my life on the island. Luckily, while looking for accommodation, I found an Interesting newly build house. Four floors and an amazing 360 view from a spacious rooftop terrace. Clearly too big for living just on my own, but I saw a potential to convert it to a guest house.

At the same time an offer to rent a bar came around. I decided to take them both. The bar, after a complete reconstraction, became the first gay bar on the island, while the house became the first gay hotel in Vietnam.

The first gay bar on Phu Quoc – Secret Bar

On my reconnaissance trip to Phu Quoc, I had an uninspected a few days stop-over in Guangzhou, China. A missed flight connection because of bad weather, turned out to be a strike of luck as I met there my “partner in crime” for the years on Phu Quoc, a Ukrainian dancer working in China. By the autumn 2018 he joined me on Phu Quoc and since then we ran our gay hotel and bar together.

Tourist season (dry season) on Phu Quoc lasts from mid of October to mid of April. With many direct charters coming from all over the Europe and many tourists even from US, Canada and Australia, we had very busy seasons 2018-2019 and 2019 up to March 2020… That’s when Vietnam completely closed its borders for tourists because of the pandemic. As for now, December 2021, the borders remain closed.

Two years in hospitality business without the tourists and looks like at least one more year at best with very few tourists. Unfortunately, that became economically impossible, and the decision had to be made. So now I’m back in Sweden.

The plan is to concentrate more on this website and the plant shop, which actually were paying for our last two years in Vietnam. I will make a dedicated post about the shop telling how it works, which is quite an interesting setup.

I will definitely go back to tropics for extended periods, exploring and blogging about whole countries and regions there. Hopefully next year it will be Thailand.

To some up my Vietnamese period of life – I’m glad I did it! It was an amazing experience so different to my life in Sweden. I’m happy I met so many new friends. I didn’t miss winter at all, but I do miss now so many plants I had to leave behind.

Here are some of them in our hotel’s back yard as well as a couple of photos of our beautiful island:

8 Comments
  1. Sounds like you had a real adventure Alex and such a shame this fucking virus made you have to leave it behind. But as you mentioned in this blog, you will be back in the tropics..

  2. Well done Alex for bringing the concept Gay bar to the island. It turn the island to multicolor as it has to be. Nice to know you even late. Good luck to your future and hope to see you again

    • Thank you, Pamela! I would love to check out the island in a few years. Hope someone will take over the rainbow niche there soon. Wish you all the best with your business and life!

  3. Well done Alex , thanks for sharing your story, was hoping to come and stay in your guest house one day but ya because of covid nothing has been possible to travel from Australia. Hopefully will see you in Thailand one day.All the best.

    • Thank you! Maybe see you in Australia one day! Will try to travel more without attaching me to one place too much.

      • I admire your courage! you have set yourself a goal and fulfilled your dream!it’s really amazing to read your story. And of course an inspiration.

        Very admirable! I wish you lots of fun and success for your time in Sweden. I am really looking forward to your Plan Shop!I’m looking forward to read more about it
        Wish you all the best

  4. Reply
    humanisticapproach July 31, 2022 at 9:35 am

    Hi Alex from Texas. I’m new to your website and am inspired by the story you are telling. Awesome to hear that you created a gay area in your short time there and I too hope it continues on. I hope to hear more and I will try to catch up on your blogs :) I’m sure I will be saying hello again soon
    -Matt

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