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It was Devil's Island East only a generation ago. Developed by the French in the 19th century as a penal colony for political dissenters, ax murderers and tax cheats, it carried on as such under the old South Vietnamese regime until 1975. Many a Viet Cong operative has done time here. But nowadays this idyllic island cluster is a Bali or Hawaii waiting to happen. So get here while you can. The former prison can be visited, and is worth a wander for a while. The “tiger cage” cells are the most haunting. But the best of Con Dao is its feeling of isolation. The world is very far away from Con Dao. You can get here by boat or airplane, but it's ...

It was Devil's Island East only a generation ago. Developed by the French in the 19th century as a penal colony for political dissenters, ax murderers and tax cheats, it carried on as such under the old South Vietnamese regime until 1975. Many a Viet Cong operative has done time here. But nowadays this idyllic island cluster is a Bali or Hawaii waiting to happen. So get here while you can. The former prison can be visited, and is worth a wander for a while. The “tiger cage” cells are the most haunting. But the best of Con Dao is its feeling of isolation. The world is very far away from Con Dao. You can get here by boat or airplane, but it's more fun to take the helicopter from Vung Tao. When you get here hang your troubles in your closet, don your swim togs, order a beer and then don't think about anything till dinner time. Next day go for a snorkel. Or sit on the beach and watch for dolphin, sea tortoise or the “dugong” a manatee-like creature unique to this area. Find a beach or a cove that you can call your own, while you can. There is now a five star resort on the main island. It's only a matter of time till the next one.

Richard Sterling
About the Expert

Richard Sterling is the author of Lonely Planet's World Food: Greece, Eyewitness Travel Guide Vietnam, and many other books.

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Richard Sterling for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Con Dao Islands are located in Southeastern Vietnam
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Currency: Vietnam Dong
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
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