March 15, 2021

Travel Tips

Con Dao Vietnam- an Island prison from “hell on earth” to “tourist heaven”

Con dao is located off the southern coast of Vietnam where is 185kms from Ho chi minh city

Before 1975, this island was used by the French and Americans as an island prison for anti-regime activists and criminals. They call it as a “hell on earth” for thousands of political prisoners. But at the present, Con Dao has been voted one of the best “secret” and most “appealing” islands on earth by Australian Lonely Planet and US Travel and Leisure magazines.

 

I planned to visit there 3, 4 years ago but just make it comes true lately and I would say this is my best trip since covid comes to the world until now.

How to get there!

1/ By plane

With only 55 mins flight you will reach to Con Dao. There are only 2 operating flight airlines are Vietnam airlines and Bamboo airways.

I recommend to go there by plane to save time and to see its two sides border the sea.

2/ Bus option + speedboat

Con dao is 115 miles far from land, to go there by bus you have 2 options

  • Take a long bus to go to Cat lo port in Ba Ria Vung Tau (98kms from Ho chi minh city) then take a night boat to go to Con Dao (8 hours on sea)
  • Take a long bus to go to Tran De port in Soc trang province (200kms from Ho chi minh) then take a day speedboat to go to Con Dao (2,5 hours on sea) è recommend this way

Flight cost is abt 150Usd for a return ticket (expensive because limit airlines and small aircraft)

For bus + boat it costs around 65Usd but it takes over 15 hours for a whole journey.

Where to stay!

The island is quite small, almost hotels are in walk distance to the beaches, so you don’t need to consider a lot. The cost average is abt 20-30Usd/ night.

There are also have a 6 stars resort which costing you >400Usd/ night named Six Sense Con Dao (I saved this place to go on honey moon if – I say if- my future husband is a millionaire 😊) this place is far from the town but they have private beach.

How to move around the island!

Renting a motorbike (available from most hotels for abt 5Usd/ day) will give you a nice experience to your tropical trip. Indeed the total distance from Ben Dam beach (at the southern end) to Co Ong Airport (at the northern end) is just 25km, with empty roads but a lot of monkeys running along the coast will make your riding become such a pleasure. I enjoyed it a lot.

Best time to visit ?

In general, we can visit it for all time of the year, “this beautiful island has been associated with the type of spiritual tourism and is also a destination for experiencing the rare nature and wonderful laid-back holiday” 

 

Top attraction!

History places

  • Con Dao Museum: is a good introduction to the history of Con Dao and its dark past when the French and Americans used Con Dao as a prison (also known as “Hell on Earth”) from 1862 – 1975.
  • Con Dao prison: is a must-visit attraction. The three main prison sites are open to the public for you to explore – Phu Hai, American Tiger Cages, and French Tiger Cages.

“It’s a solemn experience to think about how far the human race went to torture and kill thousands of Vietnamese fighters and revolutionary soldiers. You’ll see the tiger cages which were cells with bars and barbed wire so prisoners could get tortured and abused like animals”

  • Hang Duong Cemetery: is one of the somber locations which reminds you of Con Dao’s horrific past. While there are over 1900 graves with many unmarked tombstones.

Most Vietnamese people pay respect to the unknown prisoners of wars and famous martyrs, such as Vo Thi Sau. You’ll see a crowd of people praying in front of her grave. The center of the cemetery also has an impressive memorial.

 

  • Temples & Pagodas:

Lady Phi Yen temples: it is associated with a name of Nguyen Anh Lord’s concubine

There seem to be a few different versions of the story, but essentially it involves the emperor Nguyen Anh’s concubine, Phi Yen, being abandoned on the island to die as a result of her counseling the emperor not to seek French help in order to regain his power over the Vietnamese mainland”. The temple is one of the spiritual tourist Con Dao attractions alluring tourists.

 

Beaches

  • Dam Trau beach: is near to the airport, it’s undeniably the island’s best where you can capture some nice photos with the plane is landing.

Look at them 😀

I know many monkeys gather on the beach but I can’t believe a group of monkey was eating my foods, also throwing my clothes everywhere while I was posing .

This is the moment when I lost my foods to monkeys 😀 I still look nice in the photos right? Now you know a story behind. Haha

  • Nhat beach: It’s the perfect spot to see the stunning sunset from the warm and clear waters.

I also came there 3 times in late afternoon for the sunset view.

Lo Voi: At the northeastern end of Con Son town’s fabulous seafront promenade, Loi Voi Beach is a ribbon of white sand spreading out under a line of casuarina trees.

  • Ben Dam Bay & Port:

If you go there by boat you will reach to Ben Dam port, here is its harbor view

This is the southern end of the Island

  • Bay Canh Island: is known as the 2nd largest in 16 islands of Con Dao, travelers come there to watch how turtles are released into the sea, this place is also famous for green feature in the vast sky of the archipelago. To go there we must take motor-boat
  • Con Dao National Park

    If you want some hiking and to experience nature through the forest, then you must visit Con Dao National Park, it’s near to Nhat beach. While we didn’t do any of the hikes but we see many nice photos from Google with the view like this:

    Food tour

    As a food devout, I always to try foods as much as I can. During the trip I tried a lot of different snail, seafood. Fisher hunt and sell it on the day so it is really fresh but not really cheap comparing on land. It seems have the same price for all restaurant so no worries they will not overcharge you.

    I also asked around the local people for their food recommendation and can say that all good. Some speciality you should not miss such as: Bún Riêu Cua Bà Hai Khiêm (Crab Noodle Soup), Banh Xeo Chao Vit Kieu Tam (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe and Duck Porridge), Com Tam Thao (Grilled Pork with Broken Rice), Fermented Thick Vietnamese Vermicelli Soup, Vietnamese Sweet Gruel Soup

    At the end of my trip, I also dropped by a nice décored coffee shop

    They sell very nice drink but what I love the most is their slogan which you can see it on my head “ we are not only selling coffee, we are selling memory too” .

    Indeed, a trip to Con Dao is a remarkable for my youth. I love empty roads and fresh atmosphere on the island which I still dream of it sometimes in my dream! So, I definitely to come back again soon. So should you!

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