Con Dao islands are a group of 16 islands. Con Son, the largest of them, served as political prison during the French colonial era – the infamous prison cells, where Vietnamese nationalists were sent to serve their sentence for anti-French activities, were called “tiger cages”. Being the prisoners considered traitors to their own country, the conditions on Con Dao were especially harsh. Many Vietnamese Communist leaders were “schooled” on Con Dao Island as well. The prison closed in 1975 and since then Vietnamese come on sombre pilgrimages to remember national heroes or relatives (apparently about 22.000) who were imprisoned or died on the island.
Con Son is 80 km from the mainland Mekong Delta region and 230km from Saigon. The island’s remoteness and former use as a penal colony have kept it in relatively pristine condition: 80% is still forested. The thick canopy provides habitat for all sorts of exotic sounding animals endemic to the archipelago: the Con Dao bow-fingered gecko and Con Dao black giant squirrel are just two. The archipelago itself is a tropical paradise made of deserted coast roads and white sand beaches.
These islands are very seldom visited by tourists because it is both remote and expensive. Some of the resorts are really high priced but there are a few places to stay that are easier on the wallet.
Con Dao now connects with Ho Chi Minh City by regular fixed-wing flight. Vasco Airlines, a division of Vietnam Airlines, flies a 30-seater Russian Antonov 38, a twin-engine turbo prop plane left over from years when Russia and Vietnam shared both technology and ideology. The ride itself is part of the adventure of visiting Con Dao. The operation is reliable, however small-time it may look when you are boarding. Flights leave from Ho Chi Minh City’s Ton Sa Nhat Airport early every morning (one-way flights cost 761,000 VND).
There are no banks on the island, and Visa is the only credit card accepted – for a room only – at the Saigontourist Con Dao Resort. Bring cash. There are a few little Internet cafes, but the connection is so slow it’s just not worth it.
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Tip’s Creation Guidelines
Tips must be in English (Quality of English will be evaluated and any tips in another language will not be accepted)
Each tip must be at least 150 words
Topic of tip must be travel
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Quality of text (i.e. well-written, in fluent English, unique/original, off the beaten path, avoids mainstream travel topics, etc.)
Authenticity of information provided
“Smartness” of tip
Ability to select the proper category and location for each tip
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