About

Last updated May 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Welcome to my About Page. On this page I introduce myself and my website in detail: who I am, what I do, why I do it, what Vietnam Coracle is and how this website works. Please read this page to better understand the motivation and ethos behind Vietnam Coracle and how to get the most out of using it:

CONTENTS:


Vietnam Coracle, About Page

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ABOUT: ME

I’m Tom. I’ve lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005 and I love it here. Born in London, 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 I want from a travel destination – landscape, food, people, history, culture, adventure, romance – I can find here.

I left London when I was 22 years old and moved to Vietnam to live, work and travel. In 2012, I started Vietnam Coracle as a way to express my experiences in Vietnam and communicate my feelings about the country through words, images and film. I’m the sole author and content creator for Vietnam Coracle: everything you read on this website has been researched and written by me, and every photo, film or illustration (with a few exceptions) has been taken and edited by me.

Over the years, I’ve travelled to every province in Vietnam and covered over 200,000km on my motorbike, Stavros. However, I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’ on Vietnam or to know more about its food, history, roads, landscape, accommodation and culture than anyone else. But I do have a genuine passion for all of the above: I pursue them all with purpose and I’m highly motivated to present them to the best of my ability on this website. This has been my primary occupation for almost a decade, and I intend to continue.

Relatively camera-shy, I prefer to point my lens at Vietnam rather than at myself. For this reason, there aren’t many photos of me on Vietnam Coracle, and even those there are, I usually have my back to the camera or am hidden by a hat or sunglasses, as below. Although Vietnam Coracle is deeply personal – my opinions, character and personality run through all the content – the main focus of this website is Vietnam, not me.

*If you’d like to learn more about me & my website, please read this interview or listen to this podcast

Tom, Vietnam Coracle


Introducing Ben: I met Ben in 2019 and he’s been doing excellent work on Vietnam Coracle ever since. Ben initially contacted me through the site and we met for coffee. Ben is a web developer; I, on the other hand, am not particularly tech-savvy. As Vietnam Coracle has grown, I’ve become increasingly aware of how my lack of ability in this field limits what I’m able to do and, in some cases, has a detrimental impact on the site and readers’ experience of it. Moreover, there have always been things I wanted to do with the site, but couldn’t due to my lack of computer skills. Thankfully, Ben has a distinguished career in tech and knows all the mysteries and alchemy involved in web developing: everything that’s incomprehensible to me is terra firma for Ben.

We began working together on various tech issues on the site. Gradually, the projects became bigger, more challenging and complex. Much of Ben’s significant input may go unnoticed by readers of this site, because it’s in the background. But, Ben’s biggest project to date is very visible indeed. Almost a year in the making, Ben has completely redesigned the layout of Vietnam Coracle. From July, 2021, the way this website looks, feels and is organized is largely down to Ben’s tech wizardry. For my part, I’m hugely grateful for all the work, time and effort Ben has put into Vietnam Coracle. But, more than that, I’m happy to have Ben as a friend: he’s good company and we’ve been on several memorable trips together. Here’s Ben in his own words:

“I’m a web developer and designer from the great state of Maine in the USA. After a few years of honing my IT talent working in the Bay Area tech industry, I decided to finally chase my dream of living abroad, so I left most of my belongings in my aunt’s attic and then hopped on a one-way flight to Seoul in January of 2017. A year later, I found myself in Saigon where everything just clicked. Being a digital nomad gives me the superpower to choose where I live, and I chose Vietnam. I love it here! Independent travel has always been my favorite way to discover new places, so it was inevitable that I would find Vietnam Coracle. The first guide I ever followed was the Tet Classic, and I have been addicted to seeing this country on two wheels ever since.”

Ben Knight, Vietnam Coracle

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ABOUT: VIETNAM CORACLE

Since I have a lot to say about my website, please click an item below to read more about it:

Vietnam Coracle: Independent Travel Guides to Vietnam

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What is a Coracle? The coracle is an icon of Vietnam. These little woven ‘basket boats’ are seen all along the nation’s coastline, used by fishermen to transport their catch from the boats to the beaches. As an object, coracles are symmetrical and serene, beautiful and recognizable. Coracles float and move wherever they like: they have no bow or stern. I like to think of the coracle as a metaphor for freedom of movement and independent travel. In addition to these attributes, I like the sound of the word – coracle – it’s graceful, fluid, and a play on ‘oracle’: a dispenser of advice. However, like many aspects of traditional Vietnamese culture, woven coracles are an increasingly rare sight in Vietnam today; most fishing communities now preferring the much more durable, watertight, easier and cheaper to produce plastic coracles.

Vietnam Coracle: What is a Coracle?

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What is Vietnam Coracle? Vietnam Coracle is a free, independent, online travel resource for Vietnam. Frustrated by meeting people who had come to Vietnam – either to travel or to live – and left disappointed, I created Vietnam Coracle in 2012 as a way to communicate and share the experiences I’ve had in this country and what I love about it. This website is my way of making sure that, for anyone with a sense of adventure and an open mind, Vietnam doesn’t pass you by.

Vietnam Coracle is aimed specifically at independent travellers: people who want to explore Vietnam for themselves and avoid package tours. This website features extensive guides to destinations, food and drink, transportation, motorbike routes, and accommodation throughout the country, as well as long-form articles, descriptive writing pieces and interviews about cultural, historical and environmental topics, and short films. My guides include annotated maps, directions, contact details, travel information, hotel reviews, dining recommendations – everything you need to experience the places I write about for yourselves, without having to join a tour.

All the content on this website is 100% independent: written, researched, illustrated, and experienced by me. If it’s on Vietnam Coracle then, by definition, I’ve been there and done it. Every guide and article is personally researched and based on over a decade of travelling, exploring, living, working and studying in Vietnam. Over the years, I’ve covered over 200,000km on my motorbike and visited all 63 provinces in Vietnam. The Vietnam Coracle archives currently hold over 250 free-to-access guides, articles, reviews and more. I hope this resource will help visitors explore Vietnam and enjoy the country as much as I do.

Vietnam Coracle: Independent Travel Guides to Vietnam

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This is Personal: Vietnam Coracle is a deeply personal view of Vietnam: I write about the things that I love and the topics that interest me. I don’t let Google rankings or social media shares dictate what I choose to cover in my guides and articles. Rather, I choose to write about whatever fascinates me, excites me, inspires me, or concerns me; whatever parts of the country I think deserve more attention from visitors; whatever dining experiences I think people should try: whatever I consider worthy of my time and effort to research and write, and worthy of travellers’ time and effort to pursue. In general, I tend to prefer off-the-beaten-path 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 and more memorable 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.

Vietnam Coracle is personal

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I am Independent: Vietnam Coracle is free-to-read and totally independent. I am the founder and sole content creator for this website: everything that you see and read on Vietnam Coracle has been produced and financed by me. There’s absolutely no sponsored content, no paid reviews, no paywalls, no algorithm-based advertising, and I’ve never paid to promote this site. Vietnam Coracle has occupied the majority of my time for nearly a decade. I produce all content for Vietnam Coracle to the best of my ability and as far as my time and finances allow. No one tells me what to write about or how to write about it. This is something that’s increasingly rare in the world of online travel content, and that’s why it’s precious. I want to keep it that way: 100% independent and free.

Vietnam Coracle is independent

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I’m not an Influencer: These days, so many travel blogs, vlogs, online travel guides and review sites are poorly researched and algorithm-based, or just regurgitated content aimed solely at generating traffic, ranking high in Google search results, and accumulating advertising revenue. So-called online travel advice is littered with influencers whose content often amounts to nothing more than paid posts and online marketing. I consider Vietnam Coracle the antithesis of this and I define myself and my website in opposition to this: I am not an influencer. I never receive payment for anything I write. All my guides and reviews are independently researched and financed. I never receive freebies of any sort in exchange for positive reviews or listings. I only write about places I’ve personally visited. There’s no sponsored content. No paid marketing. No random Google Ads. I’ve never paid to promote my website – any momentum, popularity, or readership it’s gained has been entirely through word of mouth, whether in person or online. Again, no one tells me what to write about or how to write about it.

Vietnam Coracle: I'm not an influencer

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Readers can Support Vietnam Coracle: If you enjoy this website and the work I do, please support Vietnam Coracle. There are 7 ways to do this:

Please Support Vietnam Coracle

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Ratings & Reviews:  As you read and use this website, you’ll begin to get a sense of what my general tastes and standards are for accommodation, dining, and destinations. I have no fixed criteria for ratings and reviews: my assessments are entirely subjective. I review all standards of accommodation, dining, and transportation on this website – budget, mid-range and luxury are all covered. In many cases, I enjoy staying at cheap, local guesthouses as much as I do fancy, 5-star resorts; and I enjoy one-dollar rice lunches on the streetside as much as I do expensive cocktails at a rooftop bar. However, I always judge a place based on my own expectations of value for money. If, for example, 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 dining 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 ubiquitous in Vietnam, the kind of place that’s most likely to meet the above criteria is not an indoor, quiet, sterile, restaurant environment, but an outdoor, busy, messy, noisy and delicious place on the sidewalk. 

Street food in Vietnam

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Accuracy & Updates: I do my best to make sure that all the information in my guides and reviews is accurate at the time of writing and publication. But, such is the pace of change in Vietnam, some details are bound to be out of date by the time you read them. Always check the date of publication/latest update at the top of the guide you’re reading to gauge the accuracy of the information, and adjust your expectations accordingly. In addition, check the comments section at the bottom of the page to find any updates that readers have contributed.

Please bear in mind that my travel guides cover hundreds of destinations, and my motorbike routes cover tens of thousands of kilometres of road, across the entire nation. The more content I produce, the more difficult it is to keep information up to date. I encourage readers to let me know of any new developments or changes they encounter while travelling, so I can keep my content as current as possible. Readers can either comment at the bottom of my posts or email me with information. Your input is a great help to me and other travellers who use this website. However, before commenting or emailing, please read my Updates & Accuracy Page.

Finally, this website is a very personal view of Vietnam. I, like everyone else, am a work in progress; in a constant state of becoming. I change. My values, ideas and opinions change. Thus, some views I’ve expressed in past articles, guides or reviews may not necessarily be representative of my opinions in the present.

Vietnam

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ABOUT: MY CATEGORIES

All content on Vietnam Coracle is organized into 4 main categories, each of which has multiple sub-categories. Below I’ve written a brief overview of the 4 main categories:

Vietnam Coracle: About My Categories

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Category: Destinations

My Destinations Category features extensive, long-form travel guides to some of my favourite places to visit throughout Vietnam: beaches, mountains, islands, cities, cultural and historical sites, and much more. My guides cover the entire nation: north, south, east, and west. As mentioned earlier on this page, I tend to prefer new, emerging or neglected destinations rather than highly popular (and crowded) ones. This is reflected in the destinations I choose to write about, many of which are relatively off-the-beaten-path. However, I do also cover some destinations that are very much on the established tourist trail. Also included in my Destinations Category are in-depth guides to transportation: train routes, ferry routes, useful bus services and urban transport, as well as hiking routes and do-it-yourself walking tours.

In addition to these, my Destinations Category features articles on aspects of Vietnamese life and culture, reading lists, interviews, descriptive writing pieces, nature and the environment, travellers’ resources, short films and more. The scope and variety of content in my Destinations Category is broadening all the time: I have a wide range of interests and many more ideas for new content than I can possibly keep up with. In order to get the most out of my Destinations Category, browse the content using the subcategories or explore using my Destinations Map. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, type the key words into the search box in the top right corner of any Vietnam Coracle page.

Destinations Category

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Category: Motorbike Guides 

I believe that a motorbike road trip through Vietnam is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you can have anywhere in the world. 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 transportation 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, covering over 200,000km. 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 Category outlines great rides and exciting routes throughout the country: from mountainous northern routes to coastal southern routes, from short back-road jaunts to epic south-to-north adventures. All my Motorbike Guides include detailed route maps, information about things to see, places to stay and eat along the way. With my Motorbike Guides you can do it all independently, without joining a tour: a real adventure.

Don’t be put off by the chaotic traffic in Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City): once you’re out of these cities the traffic is much lighter. In general, my motorbike routes try to stay on smaller, quieter, paved roads as much as possible. Nevertheless, sometimes busy highways or muddy tracks can’t be avoided. These roads can be dangerous, but, with common sense and careful driving, you’ll be fine. My Motorbike Guides Category also includes multiple resources for riders, such as expenses, riding equipment, and how to transport your motorbike on trains, buses and boats within Vietnam. To find the route you’re looking for use the subcategories or browse using my Motorbike Guides Map

Motorbike Guides Category

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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, great-value accommodation. Whether it’s a dorm bed for a couple of dollars in a cool hostel 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. All my accommodation reviews are detailed, long-form, independently researched and financed – I never receive freebies or payment of any sort in exchange for positive reviews or listings. My Hotel Reviews Category features dozens of illustrated reviews of places to stay, so you can find the perfect hotel, resort, homestay, guesthouse or campsite to suit your tastes, needs and budget. From wild camping in the Central Highlands to luxurious, modern, minimalist-chic beach resorts on the south-central coast, from homestays on lakes, rivers and in the mountains to boutique hotels above the rice paddies, my Hotel Reviews Category covers the whole country and all price ranges. Use the subcategories to explore my Hotel Reviews archive or browse using my Hotel Reviews Map.

Hotel Reviews Category

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Category: Food & Drink

Food and drink 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 catering to foreign tourists – these places are more likely to offer the idea of Vietnamese food than the real thing. But it’s also partly due to a lack of adventurousness on the part of travellers. Come to Vietnam with an open mind and an open palate, avoid tourist restaurants and English-language menus, and you’re sure to fall for Vietnam’s marvellous cuisine and culinary culture. My Food & Drink Category features guides that will help to give you the confidence to go out and eat like a local. Vietnamese cuisine is complex and eclectic. Some dishes can be a shock to foreign palates, but others are much easier to get to grips with. It took me a long time to become familiar and comfortable with the Vietnamese flavour spectrum. But, once I learned to trust the local palate, a whole new and delicious world opened up to me.

In the big cities, the food and drink scene is changing and evolving all the time: there are smarter, more sophisticated restaurants and bars, many offering Asian-Western fusion cuisine. But I prefer old-school, local, family-run, informal, street-level dining experiences. In Vietnam, it’s often the most casual, run-down looking establishments that serve the best food: follow the crowds, not the décor. Vietnam is a nation of cafes and bars. The coffee culture and bar scene is burgeoning and exciting, as a new, young, creative generation turns its attention to nights out and having fun. Explore my culinary guides using the subcategories or my Food & Drink Map.

Food & Drink Category

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ABOUT: VIETNAM

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, before those annoying people start saying, “You should have seen what this place was like five years ago.”

Vietnam is moving, changing, shifting – you get a real sense of this as you travel around the nation. The population is young, dynamic, creative, optimistic and excited by the prospects of the future. It feels like this is Vietnam’s time. Vietnamese people are often intensely proud of their culture, history and achievements, while also being extremely curious, open-minded and willing to learn about the rest of the world. Vietnam’s economy is booming, consumerism is surging, foreign travel is increasingly common, and Vietnam is becoming a bigger, more influential power in the region and the world. But, with some of these changes come new and difficult problems: pollution and air-quality, especially in the big cities, is becoming a serious health risk to citizens; the natural environment has taken a pounding with the liftoff of the economy and the advent of tourism and development; and Vietnam’s relationship with China is more complex and fragile than ever. Taken all together, Vietnam is a fascinating place to be right now: explore, enjoy, eat, ride, learn and love it.

Vietnam Coracle

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ABOUT: ADVERTISING

Vietnam Coracle is, and always will be, free and independent. As the website has grown, Vietnam Coracle has become a full-time occupation for me: I spend the majority of my time and money researching and producing new content, and maintaining the site. Therefore, it’s necessary for me to make some revenue from Vietnam Coracle. Rather than charging for access to my content, putting up paywalls for certain posts, writing sponsored content, or using Google Ads, I have chosen to make personally selected advertising available on my pages. This advertising is aimed at complementing my content, rather than distracting from it. The advertising banners you see on Vietnam Coracle are not random, algorithm-based ads served-up by Google. I only advertise products, companies and services that are relevant to my content and that I think will be useful to my readers, and, preferably, ones that I have personal experience of. I personally select and oversee the advertising that’s allowed on my website. If you’re interested in advertising your business, services, or products on Vietnam Coracle, please take a look at my Media Kit or email me: [email protected]

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!

Thank you, Vietnam Coracle

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177 Responses to About

  1. Yanay says:

    Hi Tom
    First of all thank you so much for all the details
    You have an amazing website

    I wanna do one of the loops from Sapa
    But I can’t find any bike rental shops there
    Do you have any recommendations ?

  2. Carmine Tarantino says:

    Hi Tom,

    Great detailed guide. It’s a huge help!
    My girlfriend and I are visiting Vietnam in a week for three weeks and we’re thinking about flying from HCM to Tuy Hoa shortly after arrival to relax for a few days on the some of the stunning beaches in the area between Tuy Hoa and Quy Nhon (Bai Xep, Bãi biển Gành Đá Đĩa, Bãi biển Ôm, Ky Co beach); our main wonder is: how easy will it be to get from one beach to the other without driving a motorcycle? My girlfriend has never driven one and we’ve read that Vietnamese roads can be quite dangerous especially for inexperienced drivers, and driving without an internationally recognised license is illegal. Would you recommend hiring a taxi whenever needed (are they expensive)? Or is it also possible to hire a motorcycle with driver included in Tuy Hoa that would give us a lift whenever and wherever needed? Also is the weather summer like during this period of the year (end of February) in that area?
    Thanks!
    Carmine

    • Hi Carmine,

      The weather should be OK by the time you arrive – often conditions north of Nha Trang between November and February can be disturbed, but as you’ll be going in late Feb, it will probably be fine.

      It’s not that easy to get from beach to beach in that area if you don’t have your own wheels. You could hire a car and driver – your accommodation in Tuy Hoa should be able to arrange that for you – but it will probably cost $90 a day.

      Taxis are OK for some of the beaches, but that would also be expensive.

      Perhaps it’s best to base yourself at one of the beaches – maybe Bai Xep or Vinh Hoa Beach on Xuan Thinh Peninsular (Ocean Beach Hostel or Timothee Bungalow, for example) and then take day trips out to visit the other beaches. This way your accommodation can arrange the transportation for you. (For more details about those beaches see the relevant sections of this guide.)

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  3. Jim says:

    Tom, I definitely agree with what previous posters have said about the helpfulness of your website. It has been a great resource as I attempt to put together my itinerary for Northern Vietnam.
    What roads are best and quickest between Ba Be park and Meo Vac? Do you recommend traveling via Da Vi and Bao Lam, bypassing Bao Lac? Or better to go via Tinh Tuc and Bao Lac? I’ll be in a hired car with a local driver and guide, if that makes a difference. (I’d love to cycle but no longer trust my skills and my wife won’t ride on the back anyway).
    Can you also let me know how many hours I should expect between Ba Be and Meo Vac?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Jim,

      For the quickest, easiest route between Ba Be Lake and Meo Vac I would go up to Tinh Tuc then across to Bao Lac and up to Meo Vac on QL4C. It’s probably a 4-5 hour drive, not including stops. It’s very scenic, too.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  4. Katie says:

    Hi Tom –

    First off, thank you for your detailed information and tips on Vietnam, it’s very helpful and appreciated! 🙂

    I’m a solo female traveler and looking to rent a bike and ride from Saigon to Hanoi starting in late November and will have about 4 – 5 weeks to take my time on the ride. I know the weather can be a bit unpredictable but do you think the roads in the North and middle of Vietnam will be okay during this time of year? Also, do you recommend I start from Hanoi or Saigon during this time of year?

    Thanks again!

    Katie

    • Hi Katie,

      The weather in central Vietnam – anywhere between Nha Trang and Hanoi – can be pretty bad at that time of year, but of course you never really know.If there happened to by a tropical storm, then some of the more mountainous roads could get flooded or suffer from landslides. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast for heavy rain or storms – try Windy app, it’s very good.

      Because the weather will get progressively colder in the north from November onwards, I think it makes more sense to start in the north and end in the south – that way, you’ll save the warmer weather for last 🙂

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  5. Josefine says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you for a wonderful website with a lot of valuable “inside” information. I write to you in some sort of confusion, there is so much information about Vietnam everywhere but at the same time, I’m cannot seem to find out what is the best option for us.
    Me and my mother are planning a trip to Vietnam over Christmas and New Years. She has traveled throughout her life but like me, never visited Vietnam, despite talking about it for several years. We are going to spend a few days in HCMC (where we are definitely going to use your swimming pool guide, my mom is a former elite swimmer) and then I was thinking for us to head for Phu Couq to swim and relax. Our first option was Danang but my friend tells me it’s not the right period in terms of weather, we are from Sweden so we want to catch all the sun we can. As I read about the beaches of Phu Qouq, there are a lot of rubbish in some places and the water is not clear. I’m afraid we will choose a resort where we are stuck in a place which is not that clean and where we won’t enjoy the swim.
    I hope it’s not too much to ask, but perhaps you have a suggestion on where on the island we should look for a resort or which places to avoid? My mother has just been diagnosed alzheimer’s, and hiring a moped is unfortunately not an option. We want to avoid those big resorts and touristic places. I want to give her the best memorable travel experience she can get, now while she can, and while Vietnam is hopefully relatively unexploited.
    Thank you very much.

    • Hi Josefine,

      Yes, you’re right about the weather: Danang can be wet at that time of year, but Phu Quoc should be clear and dry and the water very calm.

      Phu Quoc Island is increasingly developed but there are beaches that are still quiet and clean. Take a look at my Guide to Phu Quoc’s Beaches to get an idea of where the different beaches are and their different characters – the guide also includes accommodation options. As an example, Ganh Dau, Ong Lanh, and Cua Can are all quieter, clean beaches with good resorts.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  6. Le Tan Vuong says:

    Hello Tom,
    It’s such a great job of you for sharing your all experience about many trips in my country on this awesome site. I have just watch a bit at your site at Allezboo Resort that you showed me at the restaurant. I am completely impressed by what you are doing. I do love travelling. I hope you can share more your experience. Thank you!
    Hope to see you at Allezboo!
    Vuong

  7. Monica says:

    Hi Tom.
    Great work on this site – I’m in awe of your content and am beyond excited to visit Vietnam!

    I had some questions on what you’d recommend for my family. We’re headed to Vietnam for the last two weeks in November. We are two adults and a 10 year old boy. We were hoping to do a motorbike trip from Saigon to Hanoi, but are starting to realize it might be a bit too much for our time frame. We are looking to take a slow pace and keep the stress to a minimum. We’ve also decided it may be best to skip the central part of the country due to the likelihood of a lot of soggy weather there.

    That said, we’re looking at your northeast motorbike loop or exploring the National Highway QL32/Provincial Road DT128/National Highway 4D area in the northwest. After one of these journeys, we’re considering flying or taking a train south to Ho Chi Minh. Once down there, we will likely rent bikes again and do another loop ENE of the city – beaches/central highlandsDalat.

    My questions are many, but I will try to keep them to a minimum here. Is this feasible within our timeline of 14 days? My husband and I are at odds on the decision whether to take a train to Ho Chi Minh or fly – would you recommend one over the other? Lastly, any issues you see with taking our young son on the motorbikes? He would ride on his Dad’s bike.

    Thanks so much for sharing this wealth of information!
    Monica

    • Hi Monica,

      Yes, it’s wise to miss the central provinces which are at their wettest at that time of year. But the northern mountains can also be surprisingly chilly (and wet) at that time, too. The best weather in November should be anywhere south of Nha Trang – but you never really know, of course.

      I’m not sure about taking your 10-year-old on the back in Vietnam. Once you’re out of the city the roads are generally quiet, but the driving is still very dangerous, and road conditions can throw up unexpected challenges. Ultimately it’s up to how you feel – if you’re experienced riders then I’m sure you’ll feel more confident about it.

      If you decide to do it, then a couple of shorter trips would be better than one big one. For example, if you rent bikes in Sapa and then take Road QL4D down the Tram Ton (O Quy Ho) pass and join Road QL32 to Mu Cang Chai and back to Sapa again, that’s a good ride for 2-3 days. Then in the south you could rent bikes in Mui Ne (Phan Thiet) or Dalat and do a loop or two there – there are lots to choose from, but for example, the Binh Thuan Back-Roads Loop.

      I hope this helps to get you started,

      Tom

    • Oh, and yes I think you should fly between Hanoi and Saigon, given your time frame.

      Tom

  8. Igor V Stevens says:

    Hi Tom.
    I am looking for the deep swimming pool in HCHM.
    I know that somewhere in District 1 there is a pool with 5 meters depth.
    May be you know this one?
    I would appreciate any information about deep swimming pools in Saigon.
    Thanks in advance.
    Igor.

    • Hi Igor,

      Check out my list of public pools in Saigon here. Most of the Olympic-sized pools in that list have depths of up to 2-4 metres. But if you’re look for really deep pools for high diving, I’m not sure about that – perhaps Phu Tho pool.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  9. Anne Voorn says:

    Dear Tom,
    Nice information about the waterfalls nearby Dalat.
    We want to hire a scooter for 1 day. Which waterfalls do you advise to go to? We stay in a hotel in Dalat. Which waterfalls are not far to walk too?

    Thank you for answering ☺

    • Hi Anne,

      The only waterfall that’s walking distance is Cam Ly, but it’s not really worth going there. The next nearest waterfall is Datanla, which is OK.

      With a scooter I would recommend visiting Elephant waterfall and then you can do a loop to visit Pren Waterfall and Datanla on the way back to Dalat.

      The most impressive waterfall is Bao Dai falls, but you probably won’t have time to do that in one day.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  10. Adin says:

    Hey Tom, I’m going to Vietnam for the first time, planning on buying a motorbike in Saigon (I intend to live in Vietnam for 6-8 months) and driving to Hanoi, on a combination of your routes for Uncle Ho’s Road and the Beach Bum routes. Wondering if you have a more comprehensive guide to the Beach Bum route, like the one for Uncle Ho’s road? Thanks for all of the information, this site is fantastic!

    • Hi Adin,

      Click the yellow motorbike icons on the Beach Bum map: this will open a dialogue box with a photo and a link – if you click the link it will take you to my guide for that specific part of the Beach Bum route. Also, take a look at my Coast Road guide, and click on the green motorbike icons on that map to go to my guides to those specific parts of the route.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Henriette says:

        Hi Tom
        Great info and referrals. We are two “older” females 56/63 who have traveled quite extensively over a period of time. Our greatest achievements, and best holidays were when we could avoid other tourists, touristy spots, large hotels, bus tours and resorts. Selfishly, we want to be the only “tourists” – get to know the people, their way of living, eating etc. We want to visit Vietnam for approx 20 days in March/April 2019. We don’t feel like scaring other people with our motorbike riding skills – and we will not take your advise on those routes.

        It is also impossible to see the whole country in 20 days so, I need your advise based on the following:
        1. We like water (lakes, beaches) and rural areas
        2. Accommodation – just off the coffee quarter/market/busy local area – walking distance
        3. Would like to stay at least 5 days in one spot (beach).
        4. Overnight train always great

        Should we do South/Central Vietnam OR Central/ North Vietnam as first time travelers? Bookings for April 2019 not open yet – and we will use Agoda for accommodation as suggested. In the meantime we can research and get excited.
        Regards.
        Henriette

        • Hi Henriette,

          March/April is usually best in the south/central region. For quiet, beautiful and untouristed beaches I suggest taking a look at Cam Lap Promontory for a few nights (you can take an overnight train there from Saigon to Cam Ranh or Nha Trang).

          In my opinion, Con Dao Islands offers some of the best seascapes in Vietnam: it’s a fabulous place to be for many reason, yet for hardly anybody goes there.

          Cat Tien has some interesting accommodation and it’s growing all the time. You could take a look at staying in Kon Tum as an alternative destination in the central highlands.

          Ma Maison is a good accommodation for not being in the middle of all the normal Saigon tourist sites.

          Bear in mind that, in general, it’s much harder to get off the beaten track without a motorbike. So it might be a good idea to rent a bike once you are at your destination – for example, on the Con Dao Islands and Cam Lap Promontory where there’s very little traffic.

          I hope this helps get you started,

          Tom

  11. MHN says:

    Hi Tom,

    Your site is great but I’ve been looking for some pratical informations that you don’t mention anywhere, such as what kind of driving license do we, as foreigners, need to be able to drive a bike in Vietnam ?
    Furthermore, can you please advise on insurance we should apply before driving there ? I’m not quite sure that insurance we contribute to in Europe is covering you in case of accidents or worse.

    • Hi,

      I would recommend contacting the motorbike rental companies recommended in the right sidebar and bottom of all the pages on my site in order to ask their advice and opinions about both driving licenses and insurance coverage in Vietnam. It’s not always clear cut and the rules, regulations and practices seem to change regularly. I have a local driving license, but I live here, have work permit, local insurance, business visa etc, so it will be different for you. Try contacting Tigit Motorbikes, Flamingo Travel, Rent a Bike Vietnam, and Dragon Bikes – I’m sure they can give you good advice. You can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Stephen & Lilly says:

    Hi Tom
    Congratulations on such an inspirational and informative website.
    Myself and my wife are in our early to mid 40s, are children are raised and we have decided to give up our jobs and our life here in Ireland to travel for an unknown amount of time.
    We leave Ireland at the end of January 2018 and are going to work in a Ski Resort in France until the end of April.
    Like I said your website has been such an inspiration we really want to travel in Vietnam extensively using the bikes, camping and accommodation recommended here.
    We are very flexible regarding the length of our stay (I was thinking about 2-3 months) and can travel any stage between the end of April to the end of November.
    I had always thought of travelling south to north however with our dates i am wondering if north to south may be better ?
    Thanks again,
    Stephen & Lilly

    • Hi Stephen & Lilly,

      Great to hear that you are planning to spend a long time in Vietnam on a road trip – with that much time and with a motorbike you’re bound to have a great time.

      Because of your flexible dates it doesn’t really matter if you go south-north or north-south: the worse weather in the north (and central) regions is usually between November and March, so as long as you avoid that you should be fine. Personally my favourite times for a south-north road trip are April/May and September/October. For more about weather in Vietnam take a look at this guide.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Stephen & Lilly says:

        Hi Tom
        Thank you very much for taking the time to respond 🙂
        I had read the guide and your comments confirm that the best time for us to go would be September – October (We may add a week each side of them dates).
        In the meantime we will continue to read love and be inspired by your writings
        Thank you very much Stephen and Lilly

  13. Isaac says:

    THANKS

    We’re planning to visit Vietnam in a couple of weeks. Hanoi, Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Min. I came across your guide and I’m blown away by how comprehensive it is. Its easily the best resource I’ve come across on the tinterweb. So I thought I’d just say thanks.
    So thanks!

    Regards

    Isaac

  14. Kalle Rokkonen says:

    Hi Tom.
    Your web site is awesome. Make my trip much easier. I’m driving Hanoi to Ho chi mihn in this December.

  15. Andre Su says:

    Hi Tom,

    May I use the photo of The Cafe Apartment ? The photo will be credited to you.
    Thanks for your help.

    Best wishes,
    Andre

  16. Claire says:

    hi Tom, thanks your sharing for knowing this beautiful country, actually I am a news reporter from ETtoday in Taiwan, and I’d like to write an article about “The Cafe Apartment”, and could I have the authorization to use three photos from the artcle? waiting for your reply! thank you so much! 🙂

    Claire

    • Hi Claire,

      Thanks for contacting me and asking.

      Yes, you can use some of my photos as long as you credit Vietnam Coracle for each of my images that you use.

      If you agree to this then please let me know which of my photos you want to use, and then I will send you the image files.

      Thanks,

      Tom

  17. Chelsea Stanford says:

    Hi Tom

    I absolutely love your travel blog. I’ve already spent countless hours over the months thoroughly reading through everything, and still go back for more. Thank you!! You are a huge inspiration and play a big part in preparation of our upcoming trip next month (February 2017).

    We are buying our motorbikes in HCMC (via Tigit Motorbikes) who come highly recommended, and we will be travelling Saigon to Hanoi over 4 or so weeks. I am especially interested in your routes “Classic” and “The Big One”, both of which sound amazing and cover everywhere we’d like to go, and some.

    Our areas of interest are:
    Lagi – Mui Ne – Phan Rang – Cam Ranh – Dalat – Nha Trang – Quy Nhon – Kontum – Hoi An – Hue – Khe Sanh (via A Luoi) – Phong Nha – Hanoi, where we return our bikes.

    We then hope to visit Halong Bay for 1 night/2 days.

    Please may I ask your advice and see which route you believe would work best for us, in terms of time and perhaps what areas you feel are worth staying overnight, or for longer.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks so much Tom
    Best regards, Chelsea 🙂

    • Hi Chelsea,

      Thanks, it’s great to hear you’ve found my site helpful.

      Although 4 weeks is a good amount of time, it’s not really enough to get the most out of the Big One and add Halong Bay to it, unless of course you are an experienced rider with good road stamina. Therefore, I would suggest basing your route around the Classic route but maybe making some detours in the direction of the Big One. For example, you could take a more meandering route around the south, as suggested in the Big One. This is a particularly good idea because February is best for weather in the south (south of Nha Trang) – the further north you go the colder and rainier it will get. But just try to be as flexible as possible while always remember that the Western Ho Chi Minh Road from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha is one of the most spectacular rides in Southeast Asia. All the places you mentioned are very much worth exploring 🙂

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Chelsea Stanford says:

        Thank you for this advice. This is really helpful 🙂
        Is the Hai Van Pass (Golden Loop) between Hoi An and Hue?

        We hope to visit Halong Bay on a 1 or 2 night cruise/tour. Can you recommend any companies to go through?

        • Hi Chelsea,

          Yes, that’s right, the Hai Van Pass links Hoi An and Hue.

          There are a great many cruise/tour operators for Halong Bay so it’s difficult to recommend one above another. However, I would advise paying a little extra money for a much better experience: many of the dirt-cheap tours get very bad reviews from travellers, so it’s worth paying a bit more to make sure you get a good tour.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

  18. Shruti says:

    Hi Tom,

    Long due Thank You note. I made a successful road trip from Saigon to Dalat and back to Saigon last year. You were the inspiration behind this trip. Visited all the places mentioned in your articles like Windmill cafe in Dalat, the small hidden coffee place with view of Ke ga light house and many more. Thanks a ton for your efforts and adventure stories. Its always fun to read your articles and the minute direction specifications are superb. Keep up the good work. Keep Inspiring! !Looking forward to my North Vietnam trip in some time.
    Can’t Thank you enough. Your blog was like a Holy grail to me for my trip. 🙂

    Regards,
    Shruti.

    • Hi Shruti,

      Thanks so much, it’s wonderful to hear that you had such a good road trip and that my guides helped you find some special places along the way. I hope the memory of your trip will keep you going until you get the chance to come back to Vietnam and do it all again – there are lots of great landscapes, foods, and places to explore and people to meet in the north of Vietnam too!

      Tom

  19. VERONICA CLAYTON says:

    Hi Tom,

    I have just found your website through the latest edition (Aug 2016) of the Lonely Planet. You are at the top of their list of ‘useful websites’, even above their own, which I found interesting.

    I would like to congratulate you on a great website. I opened it at around 6pm and now it’s after 12am, so I suppose that tells you how much I am enjoying exploring it.

    I am coming to Vietnam at the end of November on my way to visit my daughter in London for Christmas. I’ll email you again once I have decided on the places I would like to visit and hopefully get your advice on whether it’s doable.

    Warm Regards,
    Veronica

  20. V says:

    Hi Tom,

    Great site! I just went to your best Pho in Saigon recommendation and it was excellent! I lived in Hanoi for half a year in 2006 and just arrived back yesterday. I’m in shock, the city (at least what I saw yesterday riding around Hoan Kiem Lake, out to the Lotte Center, and near where I lived off Pham Ngoc Thach ) has changed so much. It’s mind blowing. I’m hoping to move here (to Vietnam, most likely Saigon) next year at some point. Just a question, any recommendations for Vietnamese learning materials you’ve found particularly useful over time? I’d like to have a basic grasp for when I move here. Thanks and thank you for all the excellent info on the site!

    • Hi V,

      Glad you liked the phở 🙂

      Yes, the city has changed a lot since 2006! I can imagine how strange it must be to visit again after so many years.

      It’s a great idea to learn some Vietnamese for your next stint at living here. Have you ever heard of Learn Vietnamese with Annie? I haven’t used it personally, but many of my friends have and they give it the thumbs up. Another one to try is the I Love Vietnamese Project. These should be good places to start.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

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