Con Dao is not only the biggest archipelago in Ba Ria- Vung Tau province, but it is also the most famous one in Vietnam tourism. This archipelago contains 16 islands with the total size of 76 square kilometers, and Con Lon island is the largest among them. Con Dao is notable for its paradoxes, namely one of very few “Hell on Earth”- an evidence of a woeful but noble period of Vietnamese history on Con Dao islands, but nowadays Con Dao islands have become a paradise for both domestic and international visitors joining tours in Vietnam. This abnormal combination explains for astonishing looks at the island: the beauty of nature and the evilness of human.
The noted place in Con Dao is Con Dao prison – the place to jail prisoners in Vietnam War. Compared to Phu Quoc prison, Con Dao prison was still left behind in terms of torturing method variety, but it is well-known for a much longer history. Established in 1862 by French Colonists, Con Dao since then is known as a “Hell on Earth”; anyone arrested there would surely suffer the death painfully.
From 1862 to 1975, Con Dao captured and detained thousands of prisoners, mostly patriots. Con Dao prison conjures up a dark memory that makes everyone trembling when reminding of the past. In Con Dao, the French Colonists and American Army have built a system of torturing, beating and killing prisoners very slowly and painfully. They established some special departments to easily torture prisoners.
Female revolutionaries were sent to the Tiger Cages without water to bathe and lime and waste were poured onto them.
The most famous one is separated “tiger cages”, which once shocked American public in 1970s, with unbelievable methods applied to prisoners. These tiger cages are small basements built by stone with steel window on the top, with the aisles between basements for jailers and soldiers to guard and insult prisoners with dirty water and lime. Jailers even invented “sunbathe room”, known as the tiger cages with no roof to force people inside to suffer from the sun heat for days. Another noted invention is separated cow sheds, which had been used to keep cow inside, but jailers transformed them into rooms for prisoners. They kept prisoners among animals with very poor conditions.
After being tortured, prisoners had to stay out in the sun and rain.
More terribly, they sent some “dangerous” prisoners to the basements under the sheds and let them rot away due to the waste from the animals. Prisoners here were chained with cuffs all the time, and the foods was just enough for them to survive. The jailers beat prisoners whenever they wanted, and tortured them by different methods that could not be seen anywhere else, including taking teeth, nailing into body, burning, etc. Con Dao nowadays has become a dreadful museum for people to visit, but it still attracts many tourists to witness the remaining of the evilness of human. It could be a useful and interesting history lesson for all adventurous tourists.
After 36 years of liberation, Con Dao archipelago is extremely stunning in tourists' eyes with green grass field, beautiful rivers, high mountains, lovely climate and fresh air; it is a poetic picture of natural beauty. Opposite with the trembling fears from Con Dao prison, the wildlife of Con Dao brings peace and comfort to tourists in Vietnam travel.
Con Dao has now become a paradise for visitors in Vietnam tourism.