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Southeast Asia is the destination of today, a region rich with historic treasures, exotic cultures and amazing landscapes. Uniquely beautiful,...

Con Dao Island - "From Hell to Heaven"

National Times - Still infested with remnants of a “prison island” notorious for its brutality that was once nicknamed “Hell on Earth”, Con Dao is still now one of the foremost tourist attractions and historical sites of Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

Surviving over a century of brutality

Founded by French colonialists in 1862, Con Dao Prison was meant for the detention and torture of patriotic Vietnamese communists with its dense and gory jail cell network that earned it the nickname “Hell on Earth”. Locations such as the Ox Stables, Tiger Cages and Phu Hai Prison were places where French rulers held political prisoners in captivity and brutally tortured them.

“Heaven on earth”

Con Dao surely looks different than it used to in the early days of liberation. A “Hell on Earth" infested with jail cells, “tiger cages” and ossuaries is now not only a historical site for people to recall its mournful and epic past and pay homage to martyrs, but also an enticing resort heaven blessed with vast and pure natural landscapes,  unspoiled sandy beaches and a peaceful lifestyle.

Recently, Travel Column of CNN voted Con Dao the fifth most attractive tourist area in the East Sea out of nine. By the time Cao Dao received this accolade, it had already become world famous.
Previously, the famous British travel guidebook Lonely Planet listed Con Dao as one of the ten most mysterious islands in the world to attract those interested in discoveries in 2011. Besides, the famous US-based New York Times also regarded Con Dao one of the most enchanting and pristine destinations in Southeast Asia.

That the “Hollywood golden couple” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who visited and stayed in Con Dao, stirred up the domestic and global press in 2011 and served a most forceful example of Con Dao’s enchantment.

Visitors to Con Dao Island are largely pleased with its picturesque beauty and friendly, serene life here. As rumors have it, one can hardly spot out a parking place in Con Dao; however, one can leave their motorbike key in the slot without fearing it to be stolen.

Although no policeman is seen on the island, speeding and rashness are absolutely absent as all people strictly abide by the traffic laws. A famous tourist site, Con Dao still doesn’t have many restaurants and service stores. It is pleasant that all restaurant owners and staff are quite honest and unfamiliar to overpricing and hassling tricks as witnessed in other tourist sites. Perhaps such simple things turn out to be a lovely attraction of Con Dao.

 Besides, a particular feature to set Con Dao apart is its lively historical relics that witnessed the indomitable resolve, unmatched fighting spirit and patriotism of myriads of communist soldiers. At Con Dao, visitors can hardly ignore the tomb of martyr Vo Thi Sau at Poplar Cemetery, Lady Phi Yen Temple, An Son Shrine which is the shrine and tomb of Prince Cai and Nui Mot Pagoda with its best fengshui position in Vietnam. Jail cells, “ox stables”, “tiger cages”, rice mills, Wharf 914 or the Poplar cemetery always hugely attract visitors to recall the nation’s illustrious history and educate younger generations of the losses and sacrifices and the fighting spirit of valorous martyrs.

It’s obvious that Con Dao has transformed itself from a hell to a “Heaven on Earth"

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