Beaches & Islands

  1. The beaches of Quy Nhon & Phu Yen, Vietnam

    The Beaches of Quy Nhon & Phu Yen: A Guide

    The beaches of Phu Yen Province & Quy Nhon have been laying low, but their popularity is on the rise: now is the time to visit this seductive coastal region, full of hidden bays, beaches & coves. This is an extensive guide to Vietnam’s next big beach destination….

  2. Ly Son Island, travel guide, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam

    Ly Son Island: Travel Guide

    A volcanic island surrounded by a ring of reefs, Ly Son is a striking, stark & geologically fascinating destination. Easily reached by regular fast ferries, Ly Son Island is located off the coast of central Vietnam….

  3. Hon Son Island, travel guide, Vietnam

    Hon Son Island: Travel Guide

    Hon Son Island is a gem. It’s a rugged yet green & exceptionally beautiful isle. With jungle-covered mountains rising from the ocean, peaceful fishing hamlets in picturesque bays, and palm-fringed beaches, Hon Son has got it all…

  4. Phu Quoc's Beaches, Vietnam

    Phu Quoc’s Beaches: A Guide

    A halo of sand encompasses this green & forested island in the Gulf of Thailand. But Phu Quoc is currently undergoing major development, so now is the time to visit its beaches, before it’s too late (in some cases, it already is)…

  5. Phu Quy Island, travel guide, Vietnam

    Phu Quy Island: Travel Guide

    A new & exciting destination, Phu Quy Island is but a drop of green land in the vast blue ocean, and has only very recently opened its doors to domestic & foreign travellers. A fascinating place with a real sense of isolation, this is my comprehensive guide to Phu Quy Island….

  6. Cat Ba Island, Halong Bay, Travel Guide, Vietnam

    Cat Ba Island, Halong Bay: Travel Guide

    An island of dramatic coastlines & jungle-clad limestone pillars, Cat Ba is one of Vietnam’s star natural attractions & part of world-famous Halong Bay….

  7. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam

    Video: Con Dao Islands

    From the moment you step off the plane on the Con Dao Islands, you know you’re somewhere special. The main island of Con Son has a tragic past as a penal colony, set up by the French colonial administration. But today, it is the gorgeous natural beauty of this archipelago that’s attracting attention.

  8. Pirate Islands (Dao Hai Tac), Travel Guide, Vietnam

    Pirate Islands (Đảo Hải Tặc) | Travel Guide

    Lying in the Gulf of Thailand, just off Vietnam’s southwest coast, Pirate Islands is a rugged archipelago, only recently opened to foreign visitors…

  9. Tam Hai Island, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam

    Tam Hai Island: Travel Guide

    A small & tranquil island at the mouth of a river, Tam Hai is within easy reach of Hoi An & Danang. This little island is a self-contained, peaceful world, with its own beauty, its own festivals, and its own resort….

  10. Phu Quoc Island, North & East Coasts

    Phu Quoc Island: North & East Coasts

    Newly completed roads have opened access to the beaches, bays, forests & hamlets of the north & east coasts of Phu Quoc Island. Previously difficult to get to, these parts of Phu Quoc are the least developed, most characterful & charming on the island….

  11. 23 of the Best Beaches in Vietnam

    23 of the Best Beaches in Southern & Central Vietnam

    With a coastline of over 3,200km & thousands of islands lying offshore, Vietnam is a great beach destination. Blue bays, hidden coves, white sands, swaying palms & dramatic cliffs, Vietnam has it all….

  12. The Con Dao Islands

    The Con Dao Islands: A Guide

    With its wild and beautiful beaches, rugged, jungle-covered interior, and fascinating but tragic history, the Con Dao Islands is a remarkable place. Once a brutal penal colony, established by the French colonial administration, today the Con Dao Islands is one of Vietnam’s most beguiling destinations…..

  13. Nam Du Islands, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam

    Nam Du Islands: Travel Guide

    A glistening archipelago of small tropical islands off the southwestern coast of Vietnam, Nam Du is beautiful & undeveloped. With mesmerizing beaches & bays, a jungle-clad interior, and over 20 outlying islands, Nam Du is a treat…

  14. Cam Ranh Bay, Cam Lap Promontory, Vietnam

    Cam Ranh Bay: Cam Lap Promontory

    Cam Lap Promontory is one of those rare places that’s easily accessible yet largely undeveloped and utterly beautiful. It’s the kind of place you fall in love with, and one that really does deserve the overused epithet of ‘hidden gem’….

  15. Vung Ro Bay, Phu Yen, Vietnam

    Vung Ro Bay

    A drop-dead gorgeous bay on the south-central coast, Vung Ro has been slated for development for several years now, but none has arrived. So, for the time being, this beautiful area remains virtually empty and perfect for exploration….

  16. Diep Son Island & Sandbar, Van Phong Bay

    Lying in the calm, warm waters of Van Phong Bay, just an hour north of Nha Trang, Diep Son is a mini-archipelago of small green islands. At low tide, a curving sandbar is exposed, linking three of the islets via a ‘sand bridge’….

  17. Ho Tram & Ho Coc beaches, Vietnam

    Ho Tram & Ho Coc Beaches

    Just 120km from the city, Ho Tram & Ho Coc are by far the best beaches within easy reach of Saigon. Forget Vung Tau, Long Hai & Can Gio, this is where you should head for sun, sea & sand when you don’t have time to go to Mui Ne or Phu Quoc.

  18. Bai Rang Beach, Quy Nhon, Phu Yen, Vietnam

    Bãi Rạng Beach, Quy Nhon

    A small crescent of toast-gold sand lined with coconut palms & casuarina trees, Bãi Rạng Beach is squeezed between two rocky bluffs, 15km south of Quy Nhon. It’s still a local, working beach & remains undeveloped….

  19. Hon Gom Sandbar, travel guide, Vietnam

    Hon Gom Sandbar

    Stretching 30km out to sea, like a giant causeway to a sunken castle, Hon Gom Sandbar is a beguiling peninsular on the south-central coast. A road leads along most of its length, offering access to deserted beaches, sheltered coves & isolated fishing hamlets…

  20. Dai Lanh Beach, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam

    Dai Lanh Beach

    A broad sweep of sand between two dramatic headlands, Dai Lanh Beach is a strikingly beautiful spot. Long blighted by the traffic & noise of Highway 1, Dai Lanh is on the cusp of great things, with the imminent opening of a new tunnel…

  21. Long Thuy beach village, Phu Yen Province, Vietnam

    Long Thủy Beach Village, Phu Yen

    More than just a lovely white sand beach & glistening sea; Long Thủy is also a charming network of narrow backstreets, lined with crumbling homes, small temples & cowsheds. Wandering through its tangle of alleyways is like stepping back several generations…

  22. Vung Bau Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

    Vung Bau Beach: Go Now

    Vung Bau beach is one of the last vestiges of ‘old’ Phu Quoc. Located in the northwest of the island, the largely undeveloped sands are lapped by a sapphire-coloured sea, a reminder of what Phu Quoc’s western shore was once like…

Transportation & Walking

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  1. Saigon Waterbus, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    Saigon Waterbus: Guide & Itinerary

    The Saigon Waterbus should be near the top of every visitor’s itinerary for Ho Chi Minh City. As a way of seeing the city’s skyline, of experiencing its many different neighbourhoods & for sheer value for money, the Saigon Waterbus is practically unbeatable…

  2. Hanoi→Lang Son→Dong Dang by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

    A train runs once daily in both directions between Hanoi, Lang Son & Dong Dang, on the Chinese border. Linking Vietnam’s capital with its mountainous northeastern provinces, this is a scenic rail journey & passengers can carry their motorbikes on board

  3. Climbing Fansipan mountain independently, without a guide, Vietnam

    A Guide to Climbing Mount Fansipan Independently

    Known as the ‘Roof of Indochina’, Mount Fansipan is the highest mountain in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. At 3,143m (10,312ft) it’s a ‘real’ mountain. But Fansipan can be climbed independently, without a guide or porters or any specialist climbing equipment, in one day…..

  4. Exploring Saigon's alleyways, Vietnam

    Walking Saigon’s Alleyways

    Between all the busy main roads, Saigon is riddled with narrow alleyways, which are quiet, cool, charming and great for walking. Here are some of my favourite areas in the city for alley walks….

  5. The New Can Gio-Vung Tau Car Ferry

    The Can Gio→Vung Tau Car Ferry

    A great boon to travellers, this new ferry connects two of the most popular destinations near Ho Chi Minh City: Can Gio mangrove forest and Vung Tau beach…

  6. Exploring life along Saigon's railway line, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    Exploring Saigon’s Railway Tracks: A Guide

    Lined with intriguing architecture, temples, shrines, pagodas, fruit trees, flowers, cafes, casual dining & other such urban miscellanea, exploring the lanes alongside Saigon’s railway tracks, on foot or on two wheels, is a fascinating experience….

  7. Phu Quoc Island by ferry boat, Vietnam

    Phu Quoc Island by Boat

    Taking the boat between the Mekong Delta & Phu Quoc Island is fun, cheap, convenient & relatively hassle-free. A huge increase in fast boats & car ferries operating on several routes, means it’s now easier than ever to reach Phu Quoc Island by sea….

  8. Saigon to Phan Thiet by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

    Saigon to Phan Thiet by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

    The daily, non-stop express train between Saigon & Phan Thiet/Mui Ne is a cheap, easy, fun, fast & efficient way to get from the city to the beach. Put your motorbike on the train with you & let the rails carry your wheels….

  9. Soc Trang to Con Dao Superdong ferry, Vietnam

    The Ferry from Soc Trang to Con Dao

    This new ferry route connects Tran De Port in Soc Trang Province with Con Son Island, meaning that travellers can now add the Con Dao Islands (which is, without doubt, one of the most remarkable destinations in Vietnam) onto their Mekong Delta itineraries….

  10. Thien Thanh Limousine bus, Saigon to Rach Gia, Vietnam

    Beach Bus: Saigon↔Rach Gia Limousine | Passengers & Motorbikes

    Thien Thanh Limousine runs luxury buses between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) & Rach Gia in the Mekong Delta, gateway to Vietnam’s islands in the Gulf of Thailand. This is a great service for passengers & motorbikes…

  11. Saigon to Vung Tau by Ferry Boat

    Taking the boat between Saigon & Vung Tau is one of Vietnam’s most underrated journeys. It’s a fascinating voyage from downtown Saigon, along several rivers, and across open sea to Vung Tau. New, comfortable & more reliable boats now ply this route…

  12. Fanxipan Express, sleeper train, Hanoi to Lao Cai, Vietnam

    The Fanxipan Express: Hanoi to Lao Cai by Train (Passengers & Motorbikes)

    Rattling through the night from the capital city, along the Red River Valley, and into the northwest mountains surrounding Lao Cai on the Chinese border, the Fanxipan Express is a romantic rail journey that’s cheap, comfortable & easy to organize….

  13. Hanoi to Hai Phong by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes

    The Hanoi↔Hai Phong train is a brilliant option for travellers with motorbikes looking to get from the capital city to Cat Ba Island (or vice-versa), without having to negotiate the horrible highways….

  14. How to send your motorbike on the train in Vietnam

    How to Send a Motorbike on the Train

    Putting your motorbike on the train is a very convenient option for road-trippers in Vietnam, allowing you to start or end your journey pretty much anywhere along the coast between Saigon & Hanoi. These days, it’s a fairly easy & efficient process…

History, Culture & Environment

  1. Phuong Boi hill & forest, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat, Vietnam

    Phương Bối Hill: The Buddhist Monk Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Retreat

    In the misty forests on the slopes of the B’lao mountains, the young Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, came to build a retreat in the late 1950s. Now a world-famous spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh was forced to abandon the retreat in the 1960s, but the site still exists….

  2. Ode to a Banyan Tree

    Ode to a Banyan Tree

    Temples of the forest, banyan trees are great, natural edifices rich in cultural, spiritual & folkloric symbolism. A bridge between the human, natural & spirit worlds, banyan trees are found all over Vietnam…

  3. Bell tower at the General Võ Nguyên Giáp's tomb

    The General’s Tomb | A Memory

    Sometimes referred to simply as ‘The General’, Võ Nguyên Giáp is a giant of Vietnamese history. Following his death, in 2013, millions have made the pilgrimage to his tomb in Central Vietnam, myself included…

  4. Sustainable Travel: Single-Use Plastic in Vietnam

    Sustainable Travel: Single-Use Plastic in Vietnam

    By making some simple changes to way I travel & live in Vietnam, I’m trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I consume. Here’s my experience….

  5. Plants, Flowers & Trees of Vietnam

    Plants, Flowers & Trees of Vietnam

    The colours, shapes, sizes, smells & variety of flora in Vietnam is mesmerizing. In this guide I’ve compiled an illustrated index of some of the flowers, plants & trees I regularly see in Vietnam’s countryside & cities….

  6. First Rains: An Ode to the Monsoon in Vietnam

    First Rains: An Ode to the Monsoon

    Monsoon downpours & tropical storms are the quintessential expression of the tropics, representing the exotic & the mysterious. For me, the monsoon embodies the excitement & romance of living far from home….

  7. Ode to the Ocean, A personal meditation on the sea

    Ode to the Ocean

    Throughout human history, the sea has been both dangerous and generous: a cause of destruction and death, but also a source of food, fun, wealth and beauty…

  8. Pac Bo: Ho Chi Minh's Cave

    Ho Chi Minh’s Cave: Hang Pác Bó

    In the winter of 1941, Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam for the first time in 30 years. For several weeks he lived in Pac Bo Cave. Right on Vietnam’s northeastern frontier with China, Pac Bo is an important historical site in an enchanting location…

  9. Vijaya Cham towers & citadel, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam

    The Cham Towers & Ancient Citadel of Vijaya

    Scattered across the plains of Binh Dinh Province, the ruins of the ancient kingdom of Champa are a powerful reminder of the rich history of what is now Vietnam. Visiting the remains of the Cham towers & Vijaya citadel is a rewarding day trip from Quy Nhon….

  10. Weather Guide to Vietnam: When & Where to Go

    Vietnam Weather Guide: When & Where to Go

    Weather is an important consideration when planning a trip to Vietnam. Here’s a month-by-month guide to weather conditions across the nation, including recommendations of where to go (and where to avoid) at different times of year…

  11. Slurping your noodles is good in Vietnam

    6 Reasons to Slurp Your Noodles

    Slurp and suck: this should be every traveller’s primary objective when sitting down to enjoy a bowl of one of Vietnam’s famous noodle soups. Here is my guide to why you should embrace local etiquette and leave your preconceived table manners at home….

  12. Vietnam Reading List & Book Reviews

    Vietnam Reading List & Book Reviews

    A categorized reading list including personal reviews of over 50 books about Vietnam, ranging from Vietnamese authors in translation to travel writing, journalism, history, poetry, politics & more…

  13. Don't Miss the Dawn in Vietnam

    Don’t Miss the Dawn

    Dawn is the best time of day in Vietnam. Yet most travellers and expats never experience it. Wake up before sunrise and you’ll witness exquisite skies and the ‘roots’ of Vietnamese daily life. Rising early should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Vietnam….

  14. Ho Ancient Citadel, Thành Nhà Hồ, Thanh Hóa Province, Vietnam

    Ho Citadel

    Rising from the rice paddies of north-central Vietnam, the impressive ruins of this 14th century former royal capital were designated a World Heritage site in 2011, yet few foreign travellers pay a visit to Ho Citadel.

  15. 23 Differences Travelling South to North Vietnam

    23 Differences from South to North Vietnam

    One of the most interesting aspects of travelling through Vietnam is observing & experiencing the changes that occur from one region to the next. Whether serious or superficial, significant or frivolous, I’ve jotted down some of the differences I notice when travelling south to north…

  16. Trash in Vietnam's beauty spots

    Trash Talk: Litter in Vietnam’s Beauty Spots

    Vietnam is an extraordinarily beautiful country, but thousands of scenic areas across the nation are increasingly ruined by trash. A major catalyst for litter in beauty spots are picnickers, who neglect to clean up after themselves….

  17. Hoi An lantern festival, Vietnam

    Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival | Hoi An

    During the Mid Autumn Festival, Hoi An’s old town echoes to the sound of dragon dances and the streets are lit by colourful lanterns hanging from trees and adorning shop-fronts….

  18. Pandemic Season in Vietnam, Covid-19

    Pandemic Season in Vietnam: Pre-Covid, Lock-Down, Post-Virus

    Part travelogue, part personal narrative, part analysis of Vietnam’s containment of Covid-19, this is a long-form account of the pandemic….

Near Ho Chi Minh City

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  1. Vung Tau: City by the Sea, a travelogue & guide

    Vung Tau | City by the Sea

    An illustrated travelogue-cum-guide to Vung Tau intended to inspire a trip to this rejuvenated city by the sea…

  2. Núi Dinh Mountain, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Vietnam

    Núi Dinh Mountain & Springs

    Some 90 minutes from Saigon, Núi Dinh Mountain is an unexpected swell of high ground rising above flat floodplains. The mountain offers a peaceful retreat into trees & streams on its rocky slopes, upon which perch dozens of temples & pagodas….

  3. Tan Lap Floating Forest, Long An, Vietnam

    The Floating Forest of Long An

    Only 100km west of Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Lap Floating Forest is an enchanted patch of wetland where cajeput trees rise from the black, swampy waters, creating beguiling corridors through which canoes glide and raised walkways wind….

  4. Ho Tram & Ho Coc beaches, Vietnam

    Ho Tram & Ho Coc Beaches

    Just 120km from the city, Ho Tram & Ho Coc are by far the best beaches within easy reach of Saigon. Forget Vung Tau, Long Hai & Can Gio, this is where you should head for sun, sea & sand when you don’t have time to go to Mui Ne or Phu Quoc.

  5. Saigon to Vung Tau by Ferry Boat

    Taking the boat between Saigon & Vung Tau is one of Vietnam’s most underrated journeys. It’s a fascinating voyage from downtown Saigon, along several rivers, and across open sea to Vung Tau. New, comfortable & more reliable boats now ply this route…

  6. The Con Dao Islands

    The Con Dao Islands: A Guide

    With its wild and beautiful beaches, rugged, jungle-covered interior, and fascinating but tragic history, the Con Dao Islands is a remarkable place. Once a brutal penal colony, established by the French colonial administration, today the Con Dao Islands is one of Vietnam’s most beguiling destinations…..

  7. La Nga River & Thac Ba Waterfall

    The La Nga River and Thac Ba Waterfall offer freshwater bathing, lush jungle, mountain scenery and opportunities for wild camping, all within a few hours’ drive of Saigon. It’s a great inland escape for city-dwellers with their own wheels….

  8. The New Can Gio-Vung Tau Car Ferry

    The Can Gio→Vung Tau Car Ferry

    A great boon to travellers, this new ferry connects two of the most popular destinations near Ho Chi Minh City: Can Gio mangrove forest and Vung Tau beach…

  9. Binh Chau Hot Springs Resort & Spa

    Minera Binh Chau Hot Springs Resort & Spa

    Just a couple hours’ drive from Saigon, Binh Chau Hot Springs Resort & Spa has improved it’s facilities and aesthetics in recent years: it’s now a lush, relaxing and satisfying retreat from the city….

  10. Accommodation in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

    Cat Tien National Park: Where to Stay

    Traditional longhouses, luxury safari tents, bamboo huts, camping under tall trees: accommodation in & around Cat Tien National Park is atmospheric, good value and, more often than not, environmentally & socially responsible…

Interviews & People

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  1. An Interview with Vietnam Coracle

    An Interview with Vietnam Coracle

    A written interview featuring long-form, detailed answers to questions ranging from the evolution of Vietnam Coracle to its purpose and function, and the nature of travel writing in the Internet age…

  2. Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam: All 8 Episodes Reviewed

    Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam: All 8 Episodes Reviewed

    Anthony Bourdain felt a special attachment to Vietnam. Over the course of his TV career, he filmed multiple episodes in the country. I’ve pulled together & reviewed all 8 of his Vietnam shows…

  3. Quarantine in Vietnam during COVID-19 virus

    The Quarantine of Taz in Vietnam

    My friend, Taz, was quarantined for 17 days in Vietnam as part of the government’s strategy to contain COVID-19. After her release, I interviewed Taz about her experiences at the quarantine facility, just outside Ho Chi Minh City….

  4. Vietnam Coracle on the Untold Pacific Podcast with James Bradley

    Podcast: Vietnam Coracle on Untold Pacific with James Bradley

    A discussion with New York Times best-selling author, James Bradley, about my website & present-day Vietnam…

  5. The Pandemic Sessions: Interviews from Vietnam

    The Pandemic Sessions | Interviews from Vietnam

    A series of long-form interviews with people in Vietnam focusing on their experiences & opinions of the pandemic, and how their lives have changed as a result of Covid-19

  6. Bell tower at the General Võ Nguyên Giáp's tomb

    The General’s Tomb | A Memory

    Sometimes referred to simply as ‘The General’, Võ Nguyên Giáp is a giant of Vietnamese history. Following his death, in 2013, millions have made the pilgrimage to his tomb in Central Vietnam, myself included…

  7. Phuong Boi hill & forest, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat, Vietnam

    Phương Bối Hill: The Buddhist Monk Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Retreat

    In the misty forests on the slopes of the B’lao mountains, the young Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, came to build a retreat in the late 1950s. Now a world-famous spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh was forced to abandon the retreat in the 1960s, but the site still exists….

  8. Portrait of Ms Ca, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam

    Portrait of Ms Ca

    This is Ms Ca. Born sometime in the 1930s (she can’t remember the exact year), I met her sitting in the shade of a cashew tree, sheltering from the midday sun….

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