Paradise in transition
When you’re in Vietnam you do not need to fly to Tahiti, Bora Bora or the Maldives in order to visit paradise. Why? Because some of the world’s most beautiful beaches are right here in the East Vietnam Sea. Con Son Island is a case in point. An island in the process of transitioning from a once infamous penal colony into a newly developing high-end resort destination.
The Con Dao archipelago is a mere 50 kilometers off the mainland and a quick 45 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City. The the only populated and largest island, Con Son, is home to amazing beaches considered to be some of the world’s most beautiful.
Con Son Island is an island in transition. Con Son town is home to the islands 6,000 permanent residents. The towns beachfront location is spectacular being right on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The town’s front is bordered by a concrete promenade perfect for strolling along the beach. Heading toward the northeast end of Lo Voi Beach, a ribbon of sparkling white sand spreads out under a line of casuarina trees leading to a sea of turquoise blue water. Not surprisingly many of Con Son’s hotels are located here where they share this stunning ocean-front view. These hotels are mainly mid-range with budget hostels and inexpensive home stays available as well. And for you elitist travelers there is an amazing “Six Sense Resort” just outside of town exclusively situated on its own private beach. Rated one of the world’s best resorts by those in the luxury travel business it is an amazing place in which to stay.
Fun things to do in the Con Dao islands.
1. Sunning on a spectacular beach.
it’s no surprise that the number one favorite tourist activity on Con Son Island is soaking up the rays and loving the view on one of the island’s incredible beaches. Tourists that just normally “like” beaching, will “love” beaching on Con Son Islands spectacular beaches. In addition to sunning and swimming all the usual beach activities like “wave runners” are available for hire on Con Son’s main town side beach.
2. Snorkeling and skin diving
Experts rate the coral reefs around Con Son Island to be the best in all of Vietnam or all of Southeast Asia for that matter. The variety of reefs and marine life is without equal. The visibility during much of the year can be over 30 meters. The brilliant colors of the multiple specimens of rare tropical fish is stunning. And coupled with the water’s clarity the diving experience cannot be matched.
3. Hike in the Con Dao National Park
The Con Dao National Park, at 6,000 hectares, comprises over 80% of the land mass on Con Son Island. With many kilometers of excellent trails on which to hike there is plenty of opportunities to trek through the jungle and up on the mountains where one can take in the stunning views available to the hikers. This park is considered by many to be some of the best trekking to be had in all of Vietnam.
4. Motor Bike around the Island
Con Son Island is surrounded by an excellent and lightly traveled paved highway. Visitors to the island will often rent a motor scooter or motor bike to explore the island for a day or two on their own. Many choose to hire a local guide and ride on the back of their motor bikes. Others will simply hire a taxi and driver. The trip around the island is beautiful and exhilarating—filled with jungle scenery and mountain top views of both the ocean and the mountains. Most agree that this is definitely a productive way to learn about Con Son Island.
5. Visit the Con Dao Prison Museum
The prisons of Con Son island have an infamous history dating back to 1861 when they were first built by the French to hold radical political prisoners. The prison was closed in 1975 when the north and the south were reunited at the end of the American War. The original prison is know memorialized as a museum. This museum is a realistic and grim reminder of the horrors that were suffered here. The prison cells are made even more dramatic by life sized mannequins posed realistically as in the past incarcerations.
During the American War thousands of prisoners were held captive and inhumanely tortured. Some of whom were held secretly in small steel enclosures known as the Tiger Cage. These 120 overcrowded cells had no ceilings and were open from above so the naked prisoners could be poked and prodded ruthlessly by sadistic prison guards using long bamboo poles.
At least 20,000 prisoners died from the horrific torture and malnutrition suffered at the hands of the South Vietnamese during the American War between 1954 and 1975. Of this number 914 prisoners died while constructing the “914 Pier” in the local harbor. A pier named after the number of prisoners who died during the piers construction. Some of whom were buried in a small cemetery located next to the main prison.
Every year thousands of Vietnamese make a pilgrimage to the island to honor the memory of friends and family members who died here while imprisoned. A midnight ceremony is held nightly in honor of the martyred female prisoner Vo Thi Sau who the French executed, when she was only nineteen, by firing squad in 1945. Many Vietnamese believe her ghost haunts the prison to this very day.
6. Visit a neighboring island
Another fantastic way to spend a day is to rent a boat and captain and explore a neighboring island. Going ashore on an uninhabited south seas island is a once in a life time adventure. And you will also have the opportunity to skin dive in Vietnam’s most spectacular and most remote coral reefs.
Visiting the Con Dao archipelago is one great reason to visit Vietnam. Con Dao may be the most beautiful place you have ever seen. So call your travel agent or go on line and book your trip to Vietnam. Wait until you’re actually in Vietnam before you try to book your flight to Con Son Island with VASCO a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines. I recommend using a Vietnamese travel agent as the best way for booking this flight. The one round trip airfare is about $160.
When you have completed your reservation and have your flight for Vietnam booked then you can email evisa-vietnam.com and arrange you super easy Vietnamese visa-on-arrival and you will be ready to depart on the greatest vacation of your life.