Urbanist Hanoi

Back Arts & Culture » Travel » [Photos] Con Dao: From Prison to Paradise

[Photos] Con Dao: From Prison to Paradise

Fast earning a place on travelers' radar, sleepy Con Dao is home to pristine beaches, ornate rock formations and some of Vietnam's best diving. Pair these natural attractions with the island's troubled past, filled with French tiger cages, a gruesome network of prisons and gracefully aging colonial-era buildings and you have plenty of reasons to make the trek from the mainland to this tiny island destination.

Still awash with French architecture, the archipelago's main island, Con Son, retains much of the charm quickly disappearing from the rest of Vietnam. Heritage trees line the avenues, historical markers are scattered along the streets and a cemetery filled with national heroes serves as a testament to the island's role in modern Vietnamese history. While tragic, the history behind Con Dao's political prisons are a crucial part of its story, and for many Vietnamese, a visit to the island's cemetery – final resting place of Vo Thi Sau, the first Vietnamese woman to be executed by the French – is all but required.

On the scenic side of things, jaw-dropping vistas are around every bend of the tiny road lining Con Son's coast. Much of the 15-island archipelago has be been deemed a national park, and its waters are home to green turtles, hawksbill turtles and even dugongs.

As the island becomes more and more popular with tourists, both domestic and foreign, Con Son will be faced with many of the problems with which other popular destinations struggle. The once-idyllic Phu Quoc, for instance, has recently come under fire for its lack of waste facilities, trash-strewn beaches and general lack of environmental upkeep.

Moving forward, Con Son may never develop into quite the glitzy island attraction presented by its larger neighbor, but if the archipelago is poised to become a destination in its own right, we're hoping the local authorities protect those natural features that make it so worth visiting.

Related Articles:

- Urbanist Getaways: Discovering Serenity in Bhutan – The Other Hermit Kingdom

- Urbanist Getaways: Exploring the Izakayas of Japan

- [Photos] Time Stands Still on Sri Lanka's Colonial-Era Trains

Related Articles

in Travel

Looking Ahead While Remembering the Past: Cu Lac’s Bomb Crater Bar

The village of Cu Lac in central Vietnam is a postcard image of rural life. Water buffaloes and cattle graze among low-slung houses, and verdant rice paddies stretch to the nearby Ho Chi Minh Highway....

in Travel

Urbanist Getaways: Exploring the Izakayas of Japan

“I always liked side-paths, little dark back-alleys behind the main road,” Dostoyevsky writes in his 1879 novel, The Brothers Karamazov. “There one finds adventures and surprises, and precious metal i...

in Travel

Urbanist Getaways: Vietnam’s Subterranean Wonders

The dense, untouched forests of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province hide some of the world’s greatest underground geological formations. Beneath the park’s stunning limestone mounta...

in Travel

[Photos] Cool, Calm and Collected: Life in Cau Hai Lagoon

Forty kilometers southeast of Hue, Cau Hai Lagoon is among the largest freshwater lagoons in Southeast Asia. Tucked between the East Sea and the mountains of central Vietnam, its placid waters are hom...

in Travel

[Photos] Down From the Mountains: Da Lat to Nha Trang by Motorbike

The winding northern route which snakes between Da Lat and Nha Trang is full of pine forests, mountain jungles and coastal plains.

in Travel

[Photos] Nature Takes Over Abandoned Chinese Fishing Village

On tiny Gouqi Island, one of the 394 Shengsi Islands at the mouth of China's Yangtze River, lies Houtou Wan, a long-lost fishing village which now sits abandoned.