It’s always interesting and rewarding to see how Vietnam is in the sights of travelers. This article was written and published by a New Zealand tabloid … Enjoy your day ! #MustSeeInVietnam Editor
The Con Dao Island archipelago offers intense tropical beauty. Photo / 123rf
Brett Atkinson uncovers destinations that few people have yet to venture to. This week, Con Dao Islands in Vietnam.
Located in remote waters off the country’s southeast coast, one of Vietnam’s emerging destinations combines intense tropical beauty with a tragic past. Visit soon before a new international airport makes it Southeast Asia’s latest travel hotspot.
What to see
Comprising 15 islands and rocky islets scattered 230km south of Ho Chi Minh City, it’s only been possible for travellers to visit the Con Dao archipelago for the past couple of decades. From the late 19th century to 1975, this strikingly beautiful destination was hell on earth for political prisoners, incarcerated in extremely harsh conditions during French colonial rule and under the American-backed South Vietnamese regime. In Con Son town, the sole settlement on Con Dao, the group’s only inhabited island, the Bao Tang Con Dao Museum provides a comprehensive overview of these tragic times, and also a broader history stretching back to a 1294 stopover by Marco Polo. Visiting the museum is recommended before exploring Con Dao’s historic prisons, now undergoing repair and rehabilitation, and explaining in unflinching detail the hardship inflicted upon inmates. Con Son town’s colonial waterfront, lined with French villas daubed in a soft shade of gold, provides a calming and contemplative counterpoint.
The Con Dao Island landscape is picturesque. Photo / Getty Images
What to do
With minimal traffic, Con Dao island is one of the best places in Vietnam to ride a scooter. Sweeping coastal roads are shadowed by forested peaks, and trailheads lead to remote beaches. Visit the island’s national park HQ for detailed hiking information and set off on well-marked paths. Beginning in the forests behind Con Son Town, the So Ray trail heads uphill through former fruit plantations to a pair of lookout towers with views right across the archipelago. The more challenging hike to Dam Tre (also known as Bamboo Lagoon) leads through dense forest and mangroves to a beach that’s good for swimming and snorkelling. Check tide times before setting off. Most guesthouses and hotels can arrange speedboat and snorkelling trips to Con Dao’s smaller islands, and March to September is the best time for diving with the Con Dao Dive Centre.
Con Dao island is one of the best places in Vietnam to ride a scooter. Photo / 123rf
Where to eat
Con Son town’s covered central market is the best place for breakfast. Begin the day with banh tieu (Vietnamese doughnuts) and an iced coffee, or get your noodle fix with bun thit nuong (grilled pork and vermicelli) crammed with fresh herbs. Sizzling steak and egg platters served with a crunchy baguette offer good sustenance if you’re going hiking, and there are also banh mi sandwiches to take away. For a lighter meal, Chay’s Day Vegetarian Kitchen is a simple place serving up meat-free renditions of Vietnamese classics like pho (noodle soup), spring rolls and banh xeo savoury pancakes. Don’t miss the homemade mango ice cream and coconut flan. Just north of town, Beach House Food & Drink is actually nowhere near the beach, but does offer Vietnamese-influenced versions of culinary classics like pasta and wraps. Try the naan bread wraps with coconut shrimp. For fresh Con Dao seafood, head along for hot pot at Thu Ba.
When in Vietnam, try banh xeo savoury pancakes. Photo / 123rf
Where to drink
Most places to drink around Con Son town also double as restaurants. Wood-fired pizza and cocktails are a winning combination at Infinity, and it’s also a popular coffee stop for Con Dao’s band of digital nomads, often checking their visa status and declining cryptocurrency balance over a morning latte. Vietnam’s social media-savvy crew of younger travellers frequent Phien Khuc Coffee, a retro, ramshackle affair that’s crammed full of heritage memorabilia. Bar200 – also home base for the Con Dao Dive Centre – is the best place to combine a bean bag and a cold beer with ocean views. Ula Bar & Kitchen has a beach bar vibe, and serves excellent juices, smoothies, and the occasional craft beer from Ho Chi Minh City’s Hoprizon Brewing Company.
Where to stay
Eden House & Coffee is a family-owned guesthouse in a garden setting on the western edge of Con Son town. It’s around 2km into town, but friendly owners Trinh and Hai can arrange scooter rental and have plenty of ideas for exploring the island. In Con Son town, The Lighthouse is a relaxed boutique guesthouse. Boat trips and snorkelling can be arranged.
The Con Dao Island archipelago is located in remote waters off Vietnam’s southeast coast. Photo / Getty Images
Getting there and around
Across recent years, the Con Dao islands have received regular flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, but the airport will be closed from April 2023 to the end of the year to enlarge the runway and upgrade the terminals. This will eventually open the destination up to international flights. While the airport is closed, fast boat and catamaran services – crossings take around three hours – leave from Can Tho and from Tran De port near the coastal city of Soc Trang. See superdong.com.vn and taucaotocmailinh.com.vn. To get around, rent bicycles and scooter from guesthouses in Con Son town.
For more travel information, visit vietnam.travel/places-to-go/southern-vietnam/con-dao
By NZ Herald https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/
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