Con Dao, Vietnam is one of the quieter and relatively unknown places that should be on the South Vietnam itinerary. Con Dao (Côn Đảo in Vietnamese), located in Ba Ria-Vung Tau (Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu), southeast of Vietnam, is an archipelago consisting of 16 islands. Together with Con Son (Côn Sơn), it is the largest and most populous island. There is no doubt your trip here as you learn about the dark past of his 113-year-old prison and the infamous “tiger cages” to relax on a beautiful, pristine beach.
Top things to do in Con Dao Island
1. Con Dao Museum
The Con Dao Museum (Bảo Tàng Côn Đảo) provides a good introduction to the history of Con Dao and its dark past. First French and then Americans occupied Con Dao and used it as a prison (also known as “Hell of Earth”) from 1862 to 1975. We recommend that you visit the museum before visiting the island prison. The museum has many signs translated into English as you walk through the gallery.
There are two parts to visit: 1) a general description of the biodiversity of Con Dao and 2) the history of the prison system. The history section is extensive, with over 2,000 relics and photos of life in prisons, and influential Vietnamese fighters, including Vo Thi Sau (Võ Thị Sáu), who fought against France, were captured and tried at the age of 19, I was executed. You will also see how two American lawmakers, Augustus Hawkins and William Anderson, have exposed the horrible tiger cage to the world.
If the outdoors at Con Dao are too hot, you can cool it down with air conditioning everywhere, at the museum.
2. Con Dao Prisons
The three main prisons, Phu Hai, American Tiger Cage and French Tiger Cage, are open to the public. It is a solemn experience to consider that humanity has tortured and killed thousands of Vietnamese fighters and revolutionary soldiers. As prisoners are tortured and abused like animals, a tiger cage, a cell with a bar and barbed wire, is displayed.
3. Relax on the Beaches
Con Son doesn’t have a shortage of beaches. You’ll find that many of the public beaches are in pristine conditions with the superfine white sand and the lack of garbage. It’s truly paradise! Let’s hope everyone makes an effort to sustain these beautiful beaches for future visitors.
Con Son it is not short on beach choices. Many of the public beaches are in a primitive state with fine white sand and no trash. It is really paradise! Hopefully everyone strives to keep these beautiful beaches for future visitors.
4. Take a boat trip and snorkel on Con Dao’s other islands
If you drive a motorcycle around Con Son, you will see many phone numbers and signs for boat trips. Collecting these numbers and making phone calls will allow you to find boat excursion operators who explore other Con Dao islands on a day trip. Since English is not widely spoken, it is recommended that you speak Vietnamese to make arrangements.
Day trips include two swimming tours and a relaxing day on a private island. Coral reefs were the most impressive in Vietnam, even after diving in Ly Son, Phu Quoc and Quy Nhon. The water is also light blue due to the small number of visitors. There was no one on our “private” island, and only a few people dived in second place to swim.
5. Con Dao National Park
If you want to walk or experience nature in the forest, you must visit the Con Dao National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Côn Đảo). Spend the day here depending on your interests and time.
6. Hang Duong Cemetery
The practical cemetery (Nghĩa Trang Hàng Dương) is one of the quiet places that recalls the horrible past of Con Dao. There are more than 1900 graves with many unmarked tombstones, which are quiet places to walk. Most Vietnamese respect unknown prisoners of war and famous marine religions such as Vo Thi Sau. Many people are praying in front of her grave. There is also an impressive monument in the center of the cemetery.
7. Eat delicious food and seafood!
Given that Con Son is surrounded by the sea, eating delicious fresh seafood here is not difficult. Remember to bring your cash since many places do not accept credit cards.
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