THE HOI AN GUIDE
HOI AN TRAVEL FORUM
DRINK & DINE
Anyone been to Con Dao recently? Heading there in August and want to do some diving.
I visited Con Dao for a few days about a year ago. It’s one of Vietnam’s best-kept secrets, I only saw a handful of tourists there. I particularly loved its rugged natural beauty and fascinating war history.
If you want to go diving then you should make a bee-line for Dive, Dive, Dive. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually dive or snorkel as conditions weren’t great when I visited in early March. Nevertheless, I found the guys and gals who work there to be a wealth of incredibly helpful and free information. They also rent motorbikes (although only to international license holders) and bicycles. Most importantly, they sell a home-made sand-fly repellent which is an absolute essential item for any stay on the island.
Bai Loi Voi beach
A long stretch of beach with white sand and lovely shallow water, which is usually deserted as the resorts are located on the town’s other (much more mediocre) beach. Its lack of popularity might also be due to the resident sandflies, but slather yourself in Dive, Dive, Dive’s excellent sand-fly repellent and they’ll leave you alone.
Ong Dung Beach: Bike a steep 3 kms (or cycle if you are a glutton for punishment!) then trek through rainforest to swim in tranquil turquoise water. The trek takes about 20 minutes and involves descending down approximately 100 steps amongst rainforest which leads to the beach. Look out for signs along the way that give interesting information about the forest. The beach itself isn’t spectacular – no sand, just sharp little stones that are painful on your feet (crocs would come in handy), but the sea and scenery is stunning - crystal clear sea, plenty of coral reefs (a great spot for snorkeling), and views of forested mountain all around. Be warned though, resident monkeys here are notorious for stealing unattended belongings – we watched one appear out of nowhere and snatch food out of a fellow traveller's hand!
Dam Trau beach:
Widely known as the best beach on the island, although I preferred the remote and rugged beauty of Ong Dung. When I was at Dam Trau, its beauty was marred by litter around the Vietnamese-style beach shacks to the left. The western-style shack to the right was leading a better example with no litter around it. The owner (Phoung) was really cool and was talking about having beach parties and events on the beach and possibly a hostel. He was planning on hiring out tents for camping on the beach – definitely worth looking into.
The best thing about this beach for me was the fact that it was directly under the flight path of incoming planes. Laying down, staring up at the blue sky and watching a plane fly straight over my head was a surreal experience and something that I’d recommenced for a quick adrenaline fix.
Phu Hai Prison (the site of the infamous Tiger Cages) and the Prison Museum: An absolute highlight of this island is its fascinating war history. Learn about the brutal conditions that led to Con Dao earning the title of ‘Hell on Earth’. Don’t make the mistake of visiting Phu Hai Prison or the Prison Museum between 11am and 2pm when they are closed for lunch and nap break.
The Market: Great for local-style breakfast (noodles) and stocking up on banh mi, fruit and pastries for picnic lunches.
Infiniti Café: A cool, quirky little place with great retro-style décor, friendly staff and the best Western food and coffee on the island. The highlights of the menu are the pizza, pasta and Greek cheese. The pizza is cooked in a proper pizza oven and you can build your own – prices range from 120k (vnd) for a small pizza to 160k for a large.
Cheap Local Eats: Next to Infiniti Café is a great spot for a cheap and tasty dinner of local noodle dishes and the lady who takes orders speaks English. The night market (near Red Hotel) offers great value seafood, as well as standard local dishes (noodle soups and stir-fries).
Seafood: The best seafood I had on the island was at Thu Ba restaurant - service can be slow, but the owner is friendly and speaks excellent English. The local fish steamed in banana leaf with ginger and lemongrass was exceptionally good.
Sand Fly repellent: Do not even contemplate hitting the town’s beaches without first purchasing Dive, Dive, Dive’s excellent Sand-fly Repellent. I do wish somebody had told me this before I hit Bai Loi beach and got massacred by the resident sand flies! I ended up with over 30 red, angry and incredibly itchy welts, not a pretty sight! Luckily Dive, Dive, Dive’s homemade sand-fly repellent works a treat.
Accommodation: For the best value accommodation on the island, I recommend Red Hotel. The family that runs this hotel are lovely, they don't speak much English, but try hard to communicate. They even gave me a free ' I love Con Dao' t-shirt and a discount for staying longer than I’d booked for. The room I stayed in was clean and comfy with a kettle, free green tea and a fridge. Also a great location near the night market, day market and Infinity Café. Free bicycles mean that you can get to the beach in 5 minutes. It was $20 a night when I stayed there – reduced to $18 when I extended my stay.
Hope my tips help you get the best out of your stay!
great tips thanks. I love crocs too, but not normally on my feet ! will rent a scooter and report back here.
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