Perfect Island Retreat for Couples in Con Dao, Vietnam
The pilot announced we were landing and insisted the flight crew take their seats. The view from my window showed a vast open ocean. The small propeller plane continued to sink lower, descending fast. I saw the white foam whipping off the top of rolling waves, a couple of large transport ships, fluffy clouds on the horizon. What I did not see was land. We were meters above the water and I started feeling around beneath my seat. "In the unlikely event of a water landing...pull firmly on the red cord...blow into the tube..." Oh my god! What if I do it wrong??
Wheels touched down on solid ground before my brain could even process the beach that flickered by in my peripheral vision. Palm trees lined the runway and we rolled to a complete stop. Welcome to Con Dao, a tiny tropical island off the coast of southern Vietnam.
If there were rice paddies in paradise, I didn't notice. That's because my eyes were transfixed on the turquoise sea sparkling from just about everywhere in Con Dao. Pristine beaches expanded and receded with the tides, beckoning us to come, visit, stay a while.
We spent most afternoons basking in the warm sun, napping to the lullaby of soft waves, snacking on fresh-cut mango and papaya, sipping 50 cent beer. Except for a few industrious crabs, intermittent parades of herded goats or cattle, and the occasional lazy dog, we had vast stretches of beach all to ourselves. When the shadows started creeping, we'd hop on the scooter and chase the setting sun to the other end of the island.
Con Son is the name of the tiny town on the island. While we were visiting in early February, the village was in full preparation mode for Tet, the Asian Lunar New Year. We enjoyed the festive holiday displays: flowers by day, light show in the evening. One spunky afternoon, we walked a mile across Vong Beach and then headed into the jungle along a cement-paved trail. We hiked about two more miles to Dam Tre fishing bay and then scrambled up a steep, rocky slope. Short tinder-dry scrub grass sprouted from the nooks and crannies of what looked like the remnants of an ancient coral reef. Salty air rode in on the warm ocean breeze. It felt like we had the island to ourselves.
Con Dao is known for its magnificent coral reefs and diving. We tried to book a diving excursion, but there is only one operator in town and he was booked. There is no night life on the island; no tiki bars selling cute cocktails with umbrellas; no boardwalk, amusement park, or carnival games. But Con Dao is perfect if you love a quiet beach, an eye-opening dip in the salty bay after a hot morning run, hugging your loved one on the back of a scooter as you zip along seaside cliffs in the cool evening air, and long stretches of simply staring in amazement at nature's glorious beauty. (Just don't feed the monkeys! Definitely do not feed the monkeys!)