I am 28. Yup! I was yelling that out loud since early May this year. Nobody has the second 28th in the life. So, why not? I had made a couple of travel plans getting away from Saigon; just myself for a few days. Sapa – conquering the Mount Fanxipan; Ca Mau – the south-most cape of Viet Nam; Con Dao – the island I had never been before. I could not travel abroad because of my current job. I also had looked for some friends joining me.
Finally, D – a friend of mine and I decided to go to Con Dao; aka Hell and Heaven Island in Viet Nam. He loves the water/ocean/beaches. I like beaches/sun/wind and the wildness. We both love tigers. Hey, there is no real tiger animal in the island; but Tiger Cages – terrible prison cells are still in Con Dao, thanks to the French and American armies back to the past.
Con Dao map – We stayed in the yellow part
How to get to Con Dao
Flight tickets to Con Dao are quiet expensive; costing around 100USD++ for a round trip ticket. There are two options: VASCO/Vietnam Airlines or AirMekong. Plus, on Jun 01, 2011, there is a direct flight from my hometown – Can Tho – to Con Dao. Flight duration is about 40 minutes on a small jetplane. When we flew, there were around 60 people on the plane. Most of them were veterans.
Small air planes – so, the airport in Con Dao is small as well (my thought). They use a mini truck to carry our bags from the plane to the terminal. It took the terminal staff a while to figure out how to use the the bag transfer system. I heard from an Aussie man who is working for Six Sense Resort and whom we met in the airport that a couple of months ago they put all bags on the table by hands before the passengers received their bags. Oh well, small airport seems similar everywhere in S.E.A.
I read a warning that there is no taxi or xe om near the airport. Distance from the airport to the town is around 14km. We had a plan of hiking to the town with our bags. The plan was canceled. The terminal staff and an American girl asked us to leave the terminal as soon as possible to hop on the shuttle bus. Ok, no problem. We got 2 seats on Saigon-Con Dao hotel’s bus; costing 40,000VND/person/way.
Scenery along the way to the town was amazing. Mountains, islets, the sea attracted me a lot. I saw less than 10 motorbikes on the road in that morning. I started to fall in love with the island.
How to get around the town
Walking is my strong recommendation. The town is very small. Wide streets. Super light traffic. D and I walked in the middle of the street and nothing happened. A lot of tree along the streets as well. You can walk by the beach; enjoy the wave and wind sound or walk in the trees’ shade. I love to walk around the town honestly; esp in the evening and at night.
Too lazy to walk; then you have another option which is to rent a motorbike. Do not worry much about the traffic police there. I did not see any during the time I stayed there. Oh it does not mean that you can break the rule 🙂 If you want to practice riding a motorbike, it is a good place 🙂 Riding in town was peaceful and slow. Riding outside the town needs more attention. There are a lot of sharp curves, uphill and downhill ways. Plus, in some area, there is no light. It was cool for me though. I love to ride in mountainous areas.
You can rent motorbike anywhere in the town. If you can speak Vietnamese, things seem easier. If not, it is not a big problem. You can contact all hotels, guesthouses. We were lucky to meet a nice couple who owns 2 brand new rooms for rent. They have 2 motorbikes for rent as well. Good quality and reasonable rates. They gave us a discount on renting their motorbike (as we stayed there for more than 2 nights). 70.000VND/bike/day was not that bad at all. Full of gas when we rented the bike by the way.
Roads in Con Dao island
Where to sleep
D and I did not make any reservation or find any info about the accommodation in Con Dao. I knew that there are not many guest-houses. We thought about sleeping on the beach as well in case we could not find any in the first day there.
We walked around, decided to have breakfast and cafe first. We met a local and she introduced us to our new guest-house. My bad that I did not trust that lady as I was afraid of being scammed. I was totally wrong. The room was very new. Plastic cover was still on the mattress. There were air-condition, fan, cable TV, hot&cold water machine. Bathroom is en-suit. A spacious front yard. I had no more request for that 12USD-per-night room. The location is great: 5 mins to the beach and 5 mins to the local open market; around 10 mins to the museums and the pier 914; around 20mins or more to other prisons’ remains. And, it is right next to Hang Duong cemetery – the biggest one in the island.
The beach next to our guesthouse
to be continued…