Bunking With the Locals on the Con Dao Ferry in Vietnam
Don’t bother asking anyone in Ho Chi Minh City about the ferry to Con Dao. If you can find one of the rare few who have even heard of it, you’ll be told "No. No. Locals and military only." Instead, head to Vung Tau and ask a local to take you to the ferry office. There you’ll line up with 260 others to board a ship that looks as though its safe maximum capacity could be no more than 60. On board, with the sun setting, the tempting aroma of local cooking mingles with the salty sea air as the locals sit down to eat at tables and chairs that appear to have been taken from a nearby kindergarten. Later, you head down to sleep in a bunkroom shared with 40 curious Vietnamese and a few pungent durian fruits. At 5 am you are torn from your dreams by a piercing fire alarm. Rushing onto deck in a panic, you’re greeted by the most beautiful vista you’ve ever seen. After realising the alarm was simply an overzealous wakeup call, you can relax with the warm sea breeze caressing your face, and enjoy a striking sunrise lighting up the misty mountains of Con Dao.