On 1 September 1858, the French attacked Da Nang. They occupied Son Tra Peninsula and prepared to attack Hue. In April 1861 they attacked Dinh Tuong. It was at this time the French were anxious to occupy Con Dao, being afraid that Con Dao Island, an important strategic site, would be occupied by the English. At 10 o’clock on 28 November 1861, the French Admiral Bornard commanded the invasion of Con Dao and Lespes Sebastien Nicolas Joachim, Lt. of French Navy, established “lire Protocol of Declaring Sovereignty over Con Dao” of France. On 14 January 1862 the transportation ship Nievere conveyed a number of persons to Con Lon. They were assigned the task of finding a favorable site for building the Con Dao Lighthouse Station to oppose any countries that would resist the French declaration of sovereignty over Con Dao. On 1 February 1862 Bornard signed the decision to establish the Con Dao Prison to jail prisoners of the especially dangerous categories (political prisoners and prisoners sentenced to the death penalty). Under French domination Con Dao Prison was the place where the communists and patriots against the colonial regime were contained. The most famous place in this prison area is the “Tiger Cage Zone”.
In pre-French times, Con Lon belonged to Ha Tien province. Later it was managed by Vinh Long province. On 16 May 1882, the French President Jules Grevy signed a decree recognizing Con Lon archipelago as a district of South Viet Nam. From September 1954 the Ngo Dinh Diem administration continued to maintain the Con Lon Prison left from the French times and renamed Con Lon archipelago as Con Son archipelago. After the Paris Agreement, the Nguyen Van Thieu administration renamed Con Son as Phu Hai. The word “Phu” was added to titles of the prison camps. In this period, there were up to 8000 prisoners. From 1862 to 1975, about 20,000 Vietnamese people, revolutionaries and patriots died from the brutal prison regime and bad living conditions. They were buried in the Hang Duong cemetery, which now has been upgraded; its area is about 20 hectares.
At the present Con Dao is one of the 21 national tourist areas of Viet Nam. Many tourists regard it as a relaxation paradise and a place of nature discovery (discovery of forests and the sea).
Phu Quoc Island
Ngoc Island is the other name of Phu Quoc Island- -the largest island of Viet Nam. The words Phu Quoc mean “wealthy land”. It is located in the Gulf of Thailand, southwest of Viet Nam, stretching from North latitude 9053’ to North latitude 10°28’ and from East longitude 103049’ to East longitude 103°05’. The northeast headland of Phu Quoc is four nautical miles from the neighboring state of Cambodia. It is about 62 nautical miles to the east of the Rach Gia capital of Kien Giang province and about 25 nautical miles from Ha Tien town. The longest distance from north to south on Phu Quoc (calculated as the crow flies) is 49 kilometers. The widest distance from east to west of Phu Quoc (in the northern part of this island) is 27 kilometers. The perimeter is 130 kilometers and the area is 56,500 hectares.
In Phu Quoc Island zone there are 22 small and large islands, of which Phu Quoc is the largest and most elevated. The Chua peak in Phu Quoc is 603 meters in height. The terrain gently slopes from south to north and has 99 mountains and hills.
The sea around the island is shallow, just under ten meters in depth. However, the depth of the strait between the cluster of islets at An Thoi port and the southern side of Phu Quoc Island is 60 meters. Phu Quoc Island together with other islands constitute the Phu Quoc Island district of Kien Giang province. On Phu Quoc Island there are eight communes and two towns. Duong Dong town in the northwest of Phu Quoc is the capital of the island district.
The people of Phu Quoc are engaged in many traditional crafts, but production of fish sauce and pepper growing are the most famous crafts. Phu Quoc fish sauce has been widely known in the world since early times. Apart from these two crafts, other economic mainstays of Phu Quoc are the exploitation of sea products and the provision of tourist services.
The monsoon climate of Phu Quoc is mild because this island is surrounded by the sea. Moreover, it is located at a low latitude and far into the Gulf of Thailand. There are two seasons, dry and rainy, in a year. The dry season lasts from the 11th lunar month to the 4th lunar month. The rainy season lasts from the 5lh lunar month to the 11th lunar month. In the dry season Phu Quoc is affected by a rather strong northeastern monsoon. The average humidity in the dry season on Phu Quoc is 78%. In April and May there is the highest temperature of 35°C. In the rainy season Phu Quoc is like a “great door” facing the southwestern monsoon; the average rate of wind is 4.5 meters per second. In the rainy season humidity is high (from 85% to 90%) and there are lots of clouds. The average rainfall is 414 millimeters per month. In the north of Phu Quoc the average rainfall may reach 4000 millimeters per year. In some months, rain may go on for 20 consecutive days.
Phu Quoc suffers little from natural calamities because it is located in a particular site in the Gulf of Thailand. The special condition of its climate endows Phu Quoc with valuable natural resources. Tropical forests of Phu Quoc are rich in endemic biological species. Natural resources help to develop ecotourism on the island. Phu Quoc is a large island so besides forests there are also soil and water resources favorable for economic development and sea products.