Thursday, June 28, 2012

Con Dao

I like to travel, a lot. Some people even joke that I'm out of Hanoi more than I'm in it. While this isn't exactly true, I admit that I have a good deal in terms of vacation time, and I utilize it as much as I can. However, I work hard for it, long hours, high stress levels, so when the vacation rolls around it's usually just in the nick of time. I grew up as a globetrotter, flying back and forth to Europe several times a year (on account of my mother's family) and my parents have never been interested in purchasing designer bags or clothes, rather opting to fly us all over the world during school holidays. I'm the same. I want to see and do as much as possible. I start planning my next getaway before I've even returned from my current one.

Sure enough, that's how this trip unfolded. Within minutes of touching down in Bangkok (after a week and a half in Burma/Myanmar) my boyfriend informed me that four days in Con Dao is what he wanted to do for his birthday, and so that's what we did.

To be honest, I am never overly impressed with beaches. I grew up on the southeast coast of Florida, a spot world renowned for its beaches, so I've often found places such as Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia etc, nice... but not living up to the hype that surrounds them. In the weeks preceding this trip, I kept looking up images of Con Dao, hoping that the professional photographers hadn't airbrushed too much, because what is seen online is spectacular. When I arrived there I was shocked to discover that, in person, Con Dao is more breathtaking than any photo I'd seen (or took) of it.

This is what all of the beaches look like

The island itself consists of miles of deserted white sand beaches that lead in to the calm, warm turquoise blue ocean. Looking out across the ocean, you see endless stretches of ocean with a few other islands thrown in for good measure. Facing away from the ocean is lush green tropical landscape, all sloping upward. Green one direction, white and turquoise the other. Something you don't see? Buildings. Cars. Roads. Development. This is due to Con Dao's "national park" status...something I hope preserves it in the many years to come.

view from bedroom
Scenery aside, what makes Con Dao the ultimate getaway is everything about its condition. The island is tiny,  with one real main road. The town itself boasts one stoplight, one bank, one gas station. The roads are empty, we drove for over an hour and came across (maybe) two people. The air is clean and clear, the sound of horns honking and loud voices is replaced with waves crashing and the occasional bird chirping. (In just the amount of time it took me to write that paragraph, I counted 27 horns honked right outside my window)  The seafood and vegetables are fresh, the surrounding environment promotes tranquility and serenity. Within minutes of taking in what was around me, my body and mind let go of all of the stress and frenzy that is a part of my daily life in Hanoi (and believe me, I was at the end of my emotional tether before getting there)

Every trip I go on is unique and wonderful in its own way which is way it's hard for me when someone asks me to choose my favorite. For me, it's not really fair or possible to weigh them like that. I label my vacations differently "dynamic" "cultural" "active" as to properly define them. Aside from being the most stunning beach I've been to in Asia, my time in Con Dao, was hands down the most relaxing trip I've ever been on. I came back recharged and revitalized.

I almost don't want to talk about Con Dao, because I want to keep it a secret, I want it to remain in the pristine condition in which I found it. I don't want what's happened in other stunning locations to occur here, the idea of the beaches becoming overcrowded and commercialized is not one I even wish to think about. That being said, I want to share this secret with everyone so that they can experience a piece of heaven for themselves, because that's what Con Dao is...
*note: If just chilling out is too mindless for you, there are other things to do. We spent some time touring the historic prisons, driving around, and there are also day trips available for diving.

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