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.

Vietnam Coracle, Tom, profile pictureMe: a selfie taken at Bao Dai falls while researching my Guide to Dalat’s Waterfalls

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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.

The coracle is an icon of Vietnam: it ferries fishermen from their boats to shore.
The ‘coracle’ is an icon of Vietnam: it ferries fishermen from their boats to shore

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.

Street Food in Saigon, Vietnam
The kind of place I love: the street food scene beats the restaurants every time

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).

*Note: If you want to stay informed each time I post a new article or make a thorough update to an existing one, you can subscribe to my newsletter and/or join one of my social media pages.

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My guides fall into 4 main categories. Click one from the list below to read more about it:

Category: Destinations

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.

Ban Gioc Waterfall, VietnamBan Gioc Waterfall is an example of a spectacular yet relatively undeveloped destination in Vietnam

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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.

Vietnamese noodle soup, street food, VietnamRich in colour, texture, flavour & variety, Vietnamese food & drink is a highlight of visiting Vietnam

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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.

Vietnam Coracle Motorbike Guides, VietnamSaddle up! A motorbike road trip is the ultimate way to see & experience Vietnam: you’ll never forget it

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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!


Vietnam Coracle Hotel ReviewsMy reviews range from budget beds to luxury beach resorts, like the one above: Victoria Phan Thiet

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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!

Phan Thiet at dawn, VietnamNew dawn: Vietnam is experiencing huge changes in all aspects of its society & culture – exciting times!

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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.

*Note: For details about other aspects of my website that may affect you, please read my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my Privacy Policy

Thanks for reading!

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165 Responses to About

  1. maiphan says:

    I really say to thank you for what you wrote about my country! Thanks a lot!

  2. neal says:

    Great content.. plan on using it in the future.

    That you on the motorcycle on front page?


  3. Thuy says:

    Hi Tom,

    Enjoy reading about your adventures in Vietnam. I like the way how you organize your blog. I am starting my blog and hope that you can share with me how you can arrange posts under each page in your blog?
    Did some research about WordPress but still couldn’t find a guideline on this matter.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Tom says:

      Hi Thuy,

      Thanks for your message.

      There is loads of information online about how to set up a blog and organize posts. You could try starting with WPbeginner.com – they have hundreds of easy to read tutorials.

      I hope this helps,


  4. jacky says:

    Hi Tom
    I just want to say thank you for your blogs and recommendations. I’ll def book through your links in support of you.
    I’m Vietnamese and haven’t been back for a while. I’m taking my 3 yo son and partner back to introduce them to the exotic Vietnamese flavours!!

  5. larry says:

    Hey Tom,

    Great blog — love all the tips and I feel inspired to go back to Nam and explore a bit more and sample the tasty tucker.

    BTW, are you by any chance the Tom that I met (Larry from South Africa) in Borneo at Uncle Tans and then by chance ran into again in Vietnam, maybe Hanoi? This was way back in the naughties.

    Either way, thanks for all the info 🙂


  6. Elle says:

    Hi Tom,

    Just wanted to leave a note and let you know how glad I am to have found your site. I was born in Sài Gòn but left for the States when I was 13. I’m now back for the summer for an internship. I’m familiar with the city and the country since I’ve visited frequently, yet I’m a complete stranger to this place in so many ways. The Coracle is helping me (re)discover my hometown and share the experience with others.
    I came across your piece on ốc (snail & shellfish), and can you believe it – it made me emotional! Anyway, your writing has helped me convince a group of friends, none of them Vietnamese besides myself, to go out for some mollusks in these coming days. I look forward to seeing a bunch of foreigners on tiny plastic stools making a mess of themselves among some mollusks.

    Thank you,
    A stranger in her hometown.

    • Hi Elle,

      Thank you for your message. It’s wonderful to hear some of my guides are opening up other parts of the city to you. I do hope you and your friends get to one of the quán ốc and enjoy a night of shells and beer. Ốc Châu and Ốc Đào are still two of my favourites for food and atmosphere.


  7. Roy says:


    I need your expertise in my planned route.. maybe stupidly, I already booked placed to stay, planning to do this route:

    Hanoi – Ninh Binh – sapa – Ha giang – ba be- Ban gioc – ba be – Hanoi..

    I am not an experienced driver by any means. I was just depending on Google maps. Having seen some videos about the north routes, I got a little concerned that I’m in over my head..

    Could you please advise me on that matter?

    Thanks a lot,


  8. Kael says:

    Hi Tom, I came across your site researching info about Con Dao as I leave for Con Son tomorrow… just wanted to say that you have great content! Shared some links and wait to read a lot more as soon as possible. Thanks for helping out your fellow travellers from around the globe.

  9. Christopher Marcus says:

    Hello Tom

    Thank you for your detailed and very helpful information above.

    Could you recommend a good motorcycle tour company which do excursions on a motorcycle around Saigon and its surrounding areas for a 2 – 3 days all inclusive.

    unfortunately I have booked a flight in haste to Saigon then found out about the Ha Jan Loop in Hanoi.
    its looking like to much hassle to change flights to Hanoi so im trying to find the same tour arround Saigon.

    many thanks

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