Con Dao Island is one of the most well-known islands of tourism in Vietnam. When mentioning Con Dao, many people will immediately think of a historical destination that witnessed the criminality of the French and American invaders. On Con Dao Island, besides the famous Con Dao Prison and Hang Duong Cemetery, there is a site along the coastal line of Con Dao that will tell you about the stories of this island in the past. The location is called Ma Thien Lanh, which is an unfinished bridge.
- Location: Con Dao island, Ba Ria - Vung Tau
Opening hours: 24 hours daily
I. History of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge
Since the French colonists set foot in Vietnam in 1858, they started to apply the exploitation policies in all parts of Vietnam, and Con Dao Island was not an exception. Being an offshore island with harsh weather conditions, Con Dao was chosen to build the largest prison in Vietnam at that time, where it was the imprisoned place of many patriots.
The construction of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge was started in 1930. The bridge was about to connect the road from Nui Chua Mountain to Ong Dung Beach, and its purpose was to transfer rocks, logs and other materials to build the infrastructure on Con Dao Island. Along the road, some checking points were established to prevent the workers and prisoners from escaping.
During the construction process, the workers and prisoners had to suffer from extremely severe working conditions. Due to the rugged terrain, lack of food and water, labour accidents, exhausting works and the maltreatment of the jailers, it was estimated that 356 people had died before two abutments of the bridge were finished.
The bridge was built by the sweat, tear and blood of hundreds of prisoners. To remind the future generations about the draconian policies of the colonists, the bridge was called Ma Thien Lanh, named after a mountain full of obstacles in Korea.
After the success of the August Revolution in 1945, the French colonists left Vietnam and the construction of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge has remained unfinished until now. In 2012, the relic of Ma Thien Lanh was recognized as a national historical monument.
II. Highlights of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge
Ma Thien Lanh is about 15 kilometers from Con Dao Airport and 3 kilometers to the northwest of Con Dao Town. From the center of this island to the northwest, tourists can see a narrow path full of grass and brushes on the two sides. This is the way leading to Ma Thien Lanh Bridge.
In the period from 1930 to 1945, there were only two 8-meter-height abutments built of rocks. Nowadays, due to the destruction of the time, the only thing tourists can see on this site is the bridge foundation. The surface of the base is covered by moss and grass, which is the mark of the time left on the bridge.
Each rock of the bridge was bartered with the blood, tears and even the life of the prisoners who were forced to work hard to build the bridge. However, the difficult life did not prevent the political prisoners from imagining a brighter future. Now, when coming to Ma Thien Lanh, tourists can see an altar and a stone stele to memorize the people who lost their lives during the construction of the bridge.
Along with Con Dao Prison, Ma Thien Lanh Bridge is a witness to the hell on earth on Con Dao Island. There you will have a chance to listen to stories told by the locals about the war crime of the colonists and mysterious legends about the death of the prisoners.
In addition, since Ma Thien Lanh Bridge is located at the entrance of Con Dao National Park, tourists can also take a visit to explore nature on this island. Thanks to the unspoilt forest with a diverse range of plants and animals, Con Dao National Park is one of the must-visit destinations on this offshore island. The pristine appearance of nature there will capture the curious eyes of all tourists crossing this area.
Nearby Ma Thien Lanh, there is a beautiful beach named Ong Dung, which is about 45-minute walk from the bridge. Enclosed by the forest of Con Dao National Park, the beach still remains its plain beauty with sandy beach and crystal water. On the beach, you can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, diving to see coral reefs and many other recreation activities. On a hot summer day, going to the beach and taking part in various activities there are such exciting things you can do on Con Dao Island.
III. How to Get to Ma Thien Lanh Bridge?
To get to Con Dao Island, you can go by plane or express boat. One thing you should notice is that the plane and ship ticket to Con Dao Island need to be booked in advance, especially in the tourism season.
Ma Thien Lanh Bridge is only 3 kilometer from the center of Con Dao Town. To get to Ma Thien Lanh, you can take a taxi or hire a motorbike. However, you are advised to hire a motorbike so that your travelling is much more convenient and you can discover more on this island.
From the center of Con Dao, you follow Vo Thi Sau Road to the northwest. Keep going, cross the slope then you will reach the entrance of Con Dao National Park; that is the location of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge. It will take you about 6 minutes to get to Ma Thien Lanh by motorbike.
The best time to visit Con Dao Island in general and Ma Thien Lanh in particular is from May to October, which is the time of summer on this island. In spite of some rainy days, most of the time during this period is sunny, which is the most favorable condition for outside activities.
IV. Extra Tips
- It would be better if you choose a sunny day to go out and visit Ma Thien Lanh.
- Ma Thien Lanh is a small historical site on Con Dao Island, so beside this destination, you can visit the surrounding area of this bridge to explore the nature of Con Dao.
- You should prepare some incense to put on the altar of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge.
- This area is quite far from the residential area, so don’t expect to find some tourism services in Ma Thien Lanh.
- Since it is a solemn destination, don’t carve on the stone stele or the remain bridge base of Ma Thien Lanh. You are not allowed to take away anything from this site.
- The road to Ma Thien Lanh bridge is quite rough and dangerous, so you have to come back to the center of Con Dao before sunset.
Con Dao Island owns not only stunning natural beauty but also plenty of historical destinations. Each destination on this island is a story about the resistant war of Vietnam against the foreign invaders. Of all the activities, visiting Ma Thien Lanh is a must-do thing to understand more about the history of Con Dao Island. All the historical sites, including Ma Thien Lanh, are the evidence for the traditional undauntedness of Vietnamese, and also the lessons reminding the future generations about the value of peace.