(CNN) — When I fled Vietnam as a child, I never imagined that the islands from which we attempted our escapes would one day become luxurious beach resorts.

But more than 30 years later, that’s exactly what’s happening around Nha Trang, a seaside town where I grew up about 200 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City (once known as Saigon). Nha Trang has become a small hub for island getaways in Vietnam.

If you love finding a piece of tropical paradise as much as I do, Vietnam has some beautiful and intriguing offerings in Nha Trang and beyond, including islands that were once used to lock up prisoners.

Vietnam beach holidays