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Con Dao (or Where I Could Stay Forever)

Con Dao (or Where I Could Stay Forever)

Before I arrived in Vietnam, I vowed that I would make the most of my time here. For me, a big part of this meant traveling every opportunity I had. So when a free weekend came up, I decided to make the most of it and head to the Con Dao islands off of Vietnam. A short 30-minute flight away, the Con Dao islands are everything I could want in an island vacation– plenty of beaches, snorkeling, jungle hiking, beautiful ocean and most importantly, completely devoid of people. I mean, there are people who live on the island and there are now a handful of hotels, but it has yet to become a major tourist destination and for this reason, I loved it.

We were confused about the lack of tourists, especially the lack of Vietnamese tourists, given the proximity to Ho Chi Minh City and the low cost of flights. But this confusion was cleared up when I returned and my roommate immediately asked me, “How many ghosts did you see when you were there?” From 1861 to 1975, Con Dao was used as a prison by everyone from the French to the Vietnamese and finally the Americans. According to the prison museum we visited, over 20,000 prisoners died on Con Dao. The prison has been closed for over 30 years, but the vast majority of Vietnamese hold that a person’s soul lives on after death. A vacation to an island where thousands of souls may still linger is out of the question for the majority of Vietnamese.

The possibility that the island was haunted aside, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful place to get away from the noise and chaos of Saigon. There were beautiful beaches with not another person on them. We saw monkeys leaping from tree to tree as we hiked through the jungle. I often ask myself, how did I get here and I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to see so much of the world while attending school.

Pictures here:

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