Con Son Town
Con Son Island, Con Dao district, Ba Ria - Vung Tau province, Vietnam
Con Dao town (or Con Son town) centre has a small historical district close to the old French prison complex. Amongst the remaining buildings include the former headquarters and residence of the French governors. Constructed in 1873 the building has remained unchanged for 137 years and is the oldest surviving building on the island. It now houses the Con Dao Museum. There are a number of other culturally significant sites close by, including Pier 914 - the name refers to the number of prisoners who died while construction the pier.
Various prison buildings remain on the island and can be visited by guided tours or on one's own accord. Today, none of the prisons are in use and most of Con Son, its surrounding marine area, islands and islets have been declared a national nature reserve. Additionally, the Vietnamese authorities have recently applied for the location to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The attraction for the visitor is that the islands tragic history, combined with its remoteness, has left them remarkably untouched. The Con Dao Islands are located in the South China Sea, 115 miles (185 km) south of Vung Tau, 143 miles (143 km) from Ho Chi Minh City. Of the 16 islands and islets, only the largest one, Con Son (also known as Con Lon), is inhabited.
Con Son, the only town on the island, feels like a sleepy village. The atmosphere is more relaxed than any other place I’ve seen in Vietnam. Cars are rare. Crime is non-existent: residents don’t even lock their doors or their bikes. It is surreal to stroll the seafront promenade in Con Son and see it totally deserted most of the day.
Some activity takes place at sunrise, mostly on the piers where fishermen unload their catch. However, it is in the evenings that the locals gather there. The main beach goes from almost empty to quite popular with a few street vendors offering foods.
The streets are lined with tall trees. Fading colonial-area buildings confer a sense of visiting an abandoned outpost of French Indochina.
The old custom house has been restored, and transformed into the only beachfront cafe, a great place for a drink or ice-cream.
Loi Voi Beach is at the north end of the promenade. An Hai Beach lies at the south end of the promenade. You’ll find there beach front resorts with stunning views of Con Son Bay and offshore islands and islets.