Last updated July 2016 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
The Who: I’m Tom. I’ve lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005, and I love it here. I was lucky enough to travel abroad from an early age – my first visit to Vietnam was in 1999, age 17 – but now, whenever I have the opportunity to make a trip somewhere, I rarely look beyond Vietnam’s borders. For me, everything that I look for in a travel destination – landscape, food, people, history, culture, adventure, romance – I can find here.
Me: a selfie taken at Bao Dai falls while researching my Guide to Dalat’s Waterfalls
ABOUT: MY SITE
The When & the Why: I created Vietnam Coracle in 2012, partly as a way to share and express the experiences I’ve had in this country, and partly because I was frustrated by meeting people who had come to Vietnam – either to live or to travel – and left disappointed. This site is my way of making sure that, for those with a sense of adventure, Vietnam doesn’t pass you by.
The What & the How: Vietnam Coracle is a free online resource for independent travellers. My articles are extensive guides to food, drink, destinations, motorbike trips, and accommodation throughout the country. All my guides are 100% independent: written, researched, illustrated, and experienced by me. If it’s on Vietnam Coracle then I’ve been there and done it. My guides include detailed maps, directions, addresses, relevant web links, hotel and restaurant reviews; all the information you need to experience the places I write about for yourselves.
It’s Personal: Vietnam Coracle is a deeply personal view of Vietnam: I write about all the things that I love. I tend to prefer off-the-beaten-track destinations and activities to well-trodden or touristy ones. This is partly because the latter are well-covered by other resources, and partly because, in my experience, the further you get from popular destinations in Vietnam, the better your experience will be. If and when I write about a popular place, I usually focus on a specific aspect of it which appeals to me. An example of this is the Lantern Festival in Hoi An.
Ratings & Reviews: I include and review all standards of accommodation, dining, and travel – budget, mid-range and luxury are all covered on this site. However, I always judge a place based on my own expectations of value for money. If a $200 a night resort offers good but not excellent accommodation and service, then I will rate the $10 a night, friendly, family-run guesthouse next door, more highly. Likewise, when it comes to eating in Vietnam, a good meal is about more than just the quality of the food: a confluence of physical surroundings, ambience and food is what constitutes a good meal for me. Since street food is so good and so popular in Vietnam, the kind of place that meets the above criteria is not the indoor, quiet, sterile, ‘restaurant environment’, but the outdoor, busy, messy, noisy and delicious place on the sidewalk.
Keeping it Current: Unlike printed guides, Vietnam Coracle is ‘live’, which means it can be updated easily and immediately. All travel information in my posts is accurate at the time of writing, but such is the pace of development in Vietnam, that some details are bound to have changed by the time you read them. Always check the top of the page for the date of my latest extensive update (see the top of this page, for example). I encourage readers to let me know of any new developments or changes they encounter while travelling, so I can keep my articles as current as possible. Your input is a great help to me and other travellers. Readers can either comment at the bottom of my posts or email me with information (click here for contact details).
ABOUT: MY GUIDES & CATEGORIES
My guides fall into 4 main categories. Click one from the list below to read more about it:
My Destinations Category covers some of my favourite places to visit throughout Vietnam: beaches, mountains, cultural and historical sites, and much more. Some destinations in Vietnam, such as Halong Bay and Hoi An, are very much on the ‘beaten track’. But, despite their popularity, these places are still relatively quiet and charming when compared to similar spots in Thailand and Malaysia. However, away from the established tourist trail, there are many emerging destinations that remain wonderfully undeveloped. These areas – such as the Con Dao Islands – should be visited as soon as possible, before those annoying people start saying, “You should have seen what this place was like five years ago!” Remote, mountainous regions, especially in the north, require a bit more effort to get to, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery: Ban Gioc Waterfall (pictured below) is one such place. See the Destinations category archive for more ideas.
Category: Food & Drink
Food should be a highlight of any visit to Vietnam. Yet many travellers return home underwhelmed by their culinary experience of the country. This is partly due to Vietnamese restaurants that cater to foreign tourists. These places are more likely to offer the ‘idea’ of Vietnamese food than the real thing. My food and drink guides will help you bypass these ‘phony’ places and get straight to the ‘real stuff’. Some dishes – such as bún mắm – can come as a shock to western palates, but others – such as cơm tấm– are much easier to get to grips with. It took me more than a year before I became familiar with the Vietnamese flavour spectrum. But, once I learned to trust the Vietnamese palate, a whole new and delicious world opened up to me. A good thing to remember is that it’s often the most informal and run-down looking establishments that serve the best food; follow the crowds, not the décor! And don’t forget the drinks: Vietnam is a nation of cafes and informal bars. The urban independent cafe scene is particularly exciting. See the Food & Drink category archive for more suggestions.
Category: Motorbike Guides
Few things compare to the feeling of freedom and excitement you get when starting out early in the morning on the open road. The motorbike is the most popular mode of transport in Vietnam, and there’s no better way to see the country. Over the years, my motorbike, Stavros, has taken me to all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces. Having your own two wheels gives you unparalleled access to Vietnam’s landscapes and cities. You won’t be restricted by bus, plane or train routes: the whole country is open to adventure. My motorbike guides outline great rides throughout the country: from the Ho Chi Minh Road to the Extreme North Loop, from gentle back-road jaunts to epic south to north adventures. All my guides include detailed route maps, and information about things to see and places to stay and eat along the way. With my motorbike guides you can do it all independently. Don’t be put off by the chaotic traffic in Hanoi and Saigon: once you’re out of these cities the traffic is much lighter. Nevertheless, some roads can be dangerous, but, with common sense and careful driving, you’ll be fine. See the Motorbike Guides category archive for exciting routes all over the country.
Category: Hotel Reviews
One of the things that has always excited me about travelling, is the prospect of stumbling upon and staying in a great-value accommodation. Whether it’s a dorm bed for a couple of dollars in a city centre, an immaculately clean family-run guesthouse in an off-the-beaten-track location, a mid-range hotel in a fabulous position, or a 5 star resort with exquisite attention to detail; I love them all and I review them all on Vietnam Coracle. As with the rest of my content, my accommodation reviews are detailed, personal and 100% independent – I never write a favourable review in return for payment. From camping on the coast to luxurious French Villas in the highlands, from homestays in the mountains to tropical island resorts, my reviews cover the whole country and all price ranges. See the Hotel Reviews category archive for more ideas of places to stay.
*Note: If you’d like to support Vietnam Coracle and the work I do, please consider booking your hotels through my site via the Agoda search boxes (like the one below) or links like this one. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), which gets ploughed straight back into this website and goes a long way to keeping Vietnam Coracle up and running. Thank you!
My reviews range from budget beds to luxury beach resorts, like the one above: Victoria Phan Thiet
Vietnam is an exciting place to be at this point in time. The country is undergoing huge transformations in almost all aspects of its society and culture: from economics to eating habits, from religion to relationships, from family to foreign policy. For the traveller, tourism is in the perfect phase of transition: infrastructure is developed enough to allow access to practically all regions of the country, but undeveloped enough to make off-the-beaten-track experiences a daily occurrence, should you seek them out. But, with the current pace of change, some things – unspoiled islands, historic buildings, local eating houses – are bound to disappear forever. Don’t wait, visit now!
Vietnam Coracle is, and always will be, free and independent. As the site has grown, Vietnam Coracle has became a full-time occupation for me. Therefore, I must monetize it in some way. Rather than charging for access to my content, I have chosen to make personally selected, content-based advertising available on my pages. These ads are aimed at complementing my content, rather than distracting from it. I advertise products, companies and services that I think will be of use to my readers, and, preferably, ones that I have personal experience of. You’ll see my ads in the right sidebar and bottom of all my posts, under the title ‘Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats’. For more information about advertising on Vietnam Coracle and how it works, take a look at my Media Kit.
Thanks for reading!