Rach Gia is something of a southern boom town, flush with funds from the thriving port on the Gulf of Thai Lan, but also benefiting from a serious injection of Viet Kieu money, as former boat people ride the wave of development. The population includes significant numbers of both ethnic Khmers. Most travelers give the busy centre short shrift, heading straight to the port for boats to Phu Quoc Island. Those who linger can explore the lively waterfront and bustling backstreets, where there are some inexpensive seafood restaurants.
With its easy access to the sea and proximity of Cambodia and Thai Lan, fishing, agriculture and smuggling are profitable trades in this province. The area was once famous for supplying the large feathers used to make ceremonial fans for the Imperial Court.
Like Ha Tien, there are big plans for the expansion of Rach Gia. New suburbs have been carved out along the coastline to the south of the centre and this looks to be where much of the action will shift in years to come, with new hotels and malls under construction.
What to Do ?
In wet season, the boat timetables can be haphazard due to bad weather and the boats often do not run. Because of this people often fly -- either from Saigon or Rach Gia, but even though there are multiple daily flights, the flights fill up quickly, so if you arrive in Rach Gia and the weather is foul, book yourself on a flight quicksmart -- the flight is only 100,000D more than the boat. Likewise, leaving Phu Quoc by boat can be a little erratic in the wet season -- but according to locals the flights almost always run, so if you're tight on time, wedging Phu Quoc into the last few days of a Vietnam trip, consider flying back to Saigon to be sure of not missing onwards connections out of the country.
One more word on the boats in bad weather fishing boats may still make the run to Phu Quoc from Ha Tien -- we strongly suggest you skip this option -- the run is dangerous -- and the boats do sink. Be patient and wait for a ferry from Rach Gia, or fly -- do not take a boat from Ha Tien.