Afloat in the South China Sea, far south of Saigon and almost level with Vietnam’s southernmost tip, lies the Con Dao Archipelago.  


The largest of these islands is Con Son, its remote location having secured its use by the French colonialists as a penal colony for those showing the temerity to question French business in Vietnam. Inmates were inhumanely kept in grilled pits known as ‘tiger cages’ and subjected to a host of brutally imaginative treatments.

Following the French withdrawal the prison remained in use by the American backed South Vietnam government of Saigon and likewise characterised by a concoction of cruel procedures that might even have shocked the French, up until the eventual reunification of the country following the victory of the independence forces from the north.

Mercifully now abandoned, the former prison is now a visitor attraction for the historically curious visiting Con Son town, and also acts as a pilgrimage site and memorial to the Revolutionary Movement.

The most popular modern reason to ‘exile’ oneself to the archipelago is to visit its splendid uncrowded beaches, enjoy snorkelling and diving, watch nesting turtles, and wander the pristine forests and trekking trails of Con Dao National Park.

Con Son island’s best beaches are Bai Nho, Bai Ong Dung, Bai Nhat and Bai Dat Doc. Con Son town also has a couple of nice enough beaches, An Hai and Lo Voi, though these will have to be shared with the fishing fleet.

For those wishing a more far-flung experience, the islands clustering the surrounding waters offer many hidden bays, beaches, snorkelling and diving opportunities.