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Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

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Kuala Lumpur
posts: 1
reviews: 3
Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

Hello,

I spent few days in Con Dao in October 2010, and although we had a fun week-end full of 'experiences', I might still say this is not the dream island you might think of to spend few days - especially if you are a backpacker and have the correspdoning budget!

First of all there is no transport from the airport, therefore your have to take a van of a hotel (i.e. that you are supposed to stay in the corresponding hotel). If you want to chose the hotel only once you arrive in Con Son city, then you should pay the driver of the hotel van to drive you there.

If the island attracted many tourists in 2006-2007, it seems most of the tourists now are Vietnamese, and the few hotels that you will find beside ATC, Con Dao resort, Six Sense are reserved for locals and forbidden to Vietnamese.

There are very few hotels on the island, and the prices are, for most of them, a rip-off, at least USD65 (promotion price). We had found some rooms in a guesthouse (in a family) but the police refused the authorisation for us to stay there.

SO we headed to the cheapest hotel, Phi Yen Hotel (300 000 dong/night/pax if i remember well), is the cheapest but in a quite terrible state, not maintained, dirty, falling apart...anyway, just consider this place to sleep and take a quick shower.

There is no pristine beach on the island itself, as far as we have seen, maybe on the islansd around.

The Con Dao national park has a new guesthouse, which was closed at the time fo our visit, and the rangers told us it was not opened to foreigners.

The dive centre, 'rainbow divers' has closed down and although it was supposed to open, is still not opened. However, on our way back to HCM, we met at the airport a young couple who should start a dive center in the coming months (early 2011) there...to be followed.

We enquired at the park for diving but the officer was not really aware of what was possible (I must however say it was not the diving season in Con dao).

We also did a 1-hour walk from the national park office to the opposite side of the island to an 'isolated' beach, where there is a bungalow and spartiat rooms, a beach of rocks and gravels, and waste...

There is one 'travel agent' (con dao travel agency), which hardly speaks english and is rather lousy.

We made a walk in the jungle (strating from the airport) with him to go to one of the supposedly best beach to snorkel, and throughout the jungle the guide did not explain anything about the flora (we did not see any animals), and was simply rushing forward, hardly waiting for us. We arrived at the beach (northern bay of the island, bamboo lagoon), where the national park office is building a new office, and where cement bags where piled up on the shore...what a disastrous view!

Even though the landscape can be nice it is simply spoilt by the developments going on. Moreover the wlak on the aiport beach after the high tide gives the impression to be walking in an open-air supermatket as all the waste from the fishermen are dragged to the shore with the tide, you can chose from flip-flops, hat, polystirene boxes, toothbrushes, bulbs, etc...

We however found a great restaurant where we ate delicious food for nothing, and i must say it made-up for our stay!!!!

In conclusion, unless you are a diver and wants to go diving there (and if some dive centre has opened), there is no point of going to Con Dao. We had a good and fun 4 days there, but there is nothing special in this place. It does not hurt to go there but it does not deserve a special trip.

Bon voyage!

24 replies to this topic
Vancouver
posts: 704
reviews: 53
1. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

Thanks for your report, because I was seriously thinking of going there next December.I like smaller laid back isolated islands and I was hoping Con Dao would fit the bill.

At almost every island location throughout the world, there is almost allways someone there to greet you to take you to THEIR hotel, with their ride.

I like to check a place out before commiting to a rental.

I haven't ruled Con Dao out entirely, however, I will be seeking other opinions

Thanks for yours, much appreciated,

Kevin

Ho Chi Minh City...
posts: 4,359
reviews: 4
2. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

The problem with Con Dao is that it is one of the few remaining Communist strongholds of Vietnam, mainly because it was home to war martyr Vo Thi Sau, and thus attracts lots of Vietnamese visitors visiting her shrine & the Con Dao museum (which is actually one of the most interesting museums in Vietnam).

Most of the land is owned by northerners who were granted it after the war, or by the military. The people there are, in my experience, the least friendly you will find anywhere in Vietnam, though this may be due to them being woken up by propaganda loudspeakers every morning :)

I went there in 2008, booked 3 nights, changed my flight & came home after 2. The beaches aren't great (the best beach is now owned by Six Senses), the old colonial prison is amazing but won't take up more than a couple of hours of your time, motorbiking is OK but there aren't many roads, and the national park would be interesting if it was staffed by enthusiastic volunteers rather than people forced to work there for national service (this may not be accurate but it's the impression I got - they knew nothing about the park or its wildlife, and cared even less). The main town has some splendid old colonial architecture but it's not being well maintained and will undoubtedly get bulldozed at some point to make way for something uglier.

If you can afford to stay at Six Senses, go for it. Otherwise, wait until the place gets its act together, if it ever does. It could be a real gem but at the moment it's wasted.

Pictures here:

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3. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

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Australia
posts: 36
reviews: 1
4. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

My husband is very interested in going to Con Dao in Sept 12. This will be our 4th trip to Vietnam so we are familiar with culture etc.

We have been to Phu Quoc and found that OK not as special as some of the literature tries to make out. . From your reviews Con Dao sounds lousy. Is it worth visiting or not?

Re accomm Six Senses is not really us are there any other good clean alternatives & restaurants as well any recommendations?

Would Mui Ne be a better option with more to do?

We are not divers but very keen snorkellers/surfers.

pacific palms
Destination Expert
for Mui Ne
posts: 5,882
reviews: 31
5. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

sms, Mui Ne cannot be recommended for snorkeling as the South China Sea is not known for the best of clarity, being a sedimented sea. You may get a better chance at Nha Trang. Mui Ne is a kitesurfing centre and you may have some fun bodysurfing in the shorebreak that gets going with the onshore wind after 11am.

Nice place to rest though, and handy to HCMC.

Cheers Ross

Australia
posts: 36
reviews: 1
6. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

Thanks for the info Ross, have snorkelled at Nha Trang and enjoyed it. Re Mui Ne any recommendations re accommodation, I believe the dunes and fairy springs walk are must do things do you agree?

Cheers

SMS

Ho Chi Minh City...
posts: 4,359
reviews: 4
7. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

I was in Con Dao in July where I stayed at the new Six Senses resort. Yes, it's the nicest resort on the island but boy do you pay for it. Well, I got a freebie but you know what I mean :)

If the island is ever properly managed it could be a beautiful place to visit, but that's highly unlikely in a country where $$$ wins out over the traveller experience every time. The main town is a real colonial gem but most of the colonial buildings are crumbling; the best beach is private (Six Senses own it), and there is still virtually nowhere to get a beer & a good meal in the evening. Sometimes you get tired banging your head against the same wall over & over again.

pacific palms
Destination Expert
for Mui Ne
posts: 5,882
reviews: 31
8. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

sms, the best value I can find currently is Hiep Hoa in Ham Tien. This is right in the centre of the Resort strip and handy to everything you want. Joes Cafe for a nice evening with music (not great for food), Jibes for lunch, Lam Tong for good cheap seafood and Sankara for a dose of luxury. Cost last November were $18 an aircon room to $35 a Beachfront bungalow. They book via email (slow). If you cant get in there try Vietnam Austria House or Joes. September should be OK though. Coach from HCMC is 5 hours max with a stop or 2 and all these places are where the coach terminates, just tell the driver where you are booked.

Sand dunes and Fairy Springs I suppose you should have a look at but these places are spoiled in my mind by the boys touting for guides and sand sled rides. Personally I'd rather get thumped in the shorebreak, but if there's nothing else on then do it. muinebeach.net gives agood overview.

If you like good seafood then walk about half a km east, past Shades, to the dirt floor restaurants. Local fishing family run place that is completely devoid of ambience but the food is really good.

Cheers Ross

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 1
reviews: 6
9. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

I've just returned from a 2 week trip to Vietnam of which 4 nights were spent at Con Dao. We also visited HCMC, Dalat & Nha Trang. Con Dao was definitely the best part of our trip.

Larry at Dive, Dive, Dive was fabulous. He organised our flights from HCMC at the end of last year. He recommended Con Dao Camping (AUS$30/night for a double) which was basic but reasonably priced and right on the beach. When we arrived he gave us a run down on what to see, which restaurants to try, maps, books, motor bikes (AUS$5/day) as well as taking us on a great (if blustery) scuba dive trip.

I found the locals to be extremely friendly, even if they cannot speak much English. We did the hike with a National Park guide who could barely speak any English but I still had a great time, fed monkeys, swam and snorkelled.

One downfall of the island is its one ATM which only lets you take out a minimal amount per day. The bank next door will not change any currency. Con Dao Camping accepted credit card, but Dive Dive Dive had problems processing our payment (so Larry has let us complete the payment on our return home!)

I found that there was so much to do that I didn't have time to visit the prisons, but I wasn't really there for that. The island is unique and beautiful. I would love to go back and visit some of the other islands. It looks like there are big changes coming to Con Dao (more resorts and major development on the waterfront). It might make life more convenient for tourists but the island I fell in love with will be gone for ever.

Hanoi, Vietnam
Destination Expert
for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
posts: 440
reviews: 53
10. Re: Con Dao - Vietnam: it might not get better

I agree the beach is not that fabulous, but I love the island because it was so quaint when I was there. Was there the first time April last year and stayed at Con Dao sea travel, the place was overpriced (70$), good location, right on the beach but can be very loud at night if they have a wedding or fire-camp for Vietnamese crowd. Also did a snokerling trip with Larry and yes, the guy and his team is awesome. I will absolutely vote for his dive shop.

I just came back last Christmas, did the trek around the National Park, lazy on a windy beach and stayed at Con Dao Camping (30$) and loved it. They arranged shuttle bus from airport to hotel at 50,000vnd/person.

Food was not the best experience and actually quite expensive (you are on the island anyway). A lot of things could be run out of stock pretty fast if the bad weather is coming. I tried to find yogurt and had no luck. ice-cream can only be found in Six Senses

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