I’m excited to introduce the new contributing writers on Vietnam Coracle. Since I started the site, in 2012, I’ve been the sole author. Now, there will be a team of writers creating great content from across Vietnam. These are people I know, respect and admire: they’re travellers, writers and photographers with years of experience living, working and exploring Vietnam. They share my love of the country and passion for communicating it via words, photos and film. Specializing in different regions and aspects of Vietnam, together we’ll contribute to this free online resource so that others can experience (and love) the country as we all do.
The new writers will diversify the content, broaden the subject matter and extend the reach of Vietnam Coracle. They’ll be able to write about places I haven’t been to, aspects of Vietnam I’m unfamiliar with, things I’m ignorant of, scared of or just too shy to try myself. And yet, I’ve chosen the writers specifically because they have similar values to me and are willing to put in the necessary time, work and effort for its own reward; and because they already know, use and respect this site for its content and ethos. They’re my friends and I’m looking forward to the creative dynamic of working together. I’m proud, excited and honoured that they’ve agreed to do this. I can’t wait to read their work and start this new adventure.
Who They Are & How This Works
Each writer has introduced themselves in their own words with a brief bio and photos. As a form of compensation for their time and effort, each writer can link out to their other work, projects and social media from their bio. In addition, they can choose a Vietnam-based charity or NGO to promote in their articles. Every month, writers pitch their ideas to me: we discuss them and choose one to work on. Each writer does their own research, writing and photography, and at their own expense. When they submit their content, I edit, structure and publish it on the site. Every writer has their own archive page where all their content is displayed, as well as in the general archives. The ethos of Vietnam Coracle remains the same: 100% independent, free to read, and no sponsored content whatsoever. I hope this is the start of a long-term collaboration, but, over time, the writers may change: people have other jobs, commitments and priorities. Click an image or name below to read more about the writers:
Meet the Writers
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Thank you, Tom
- Chosen charity: CSAGA
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Luke’s archive
“My name’s Luke and I’m from Andover in the United Kingdom. I can passionately recall the first time I felt love for Vietnam: a two-month road trip on a 125cc Honda Bonus in 2013; the landscapes on the northern border, endless beach roads and weaving through the estuaries of the Mekong. Based on experiences such as this, my close friend and I began work on a motorbike travel website, but shortly discovered Vietnam Coracle. We quickly abandoned the idea on observing Tom’s unparalleled workrate and the quality of his content.
I have been living in Vietnam since 2011, primarily working as an English language instructor. I graduated from Brighton University (UK) in 2010 and was eager to follow my interests in Russian literature by teaching in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Cold winters weren’t so appealing to cut my teeth on for my first years of full-time employment, so I played location bingo with a short list of countries and ended up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, young and very naive.
In successive years, I took my learning of Vietnam more seriously. At the end of 2017, I began the Hue Grit Tour, which was initially an ‘anti-tour’ and quickly transformed into a vehicle for me to engage with Vietnam on a deeper level. A few years ago, Hue Grit Tour advertised on Vietnam Coracle. Over time, I met Tom and we became friends. When I was asked to contribute to Vietnam Coracle, I couldn’t think of an online publication I would prefer to write for. I admire the transparency and ethos of the website and share similar passions on Vietnam with Tom. I hope that my contributions for the site are useful for readers and further extend the resources on the website.
The Covid pandemic suspended the Hue Grit Tour and provided a reprieve for me to reassess my goals. It’s safe to say I want to stay in Vietnam, but I want the circumstances that would allow me to travel in the country more freely. A lot of what I have learnt to enjoy about Vietnam is often rooted in sociology, anthropology and urban planning. The idea of Festivals of Vietnam was conceived. A project which aims to document various cultural ceremonies around the country. At the time of writing, Festivals of Vietnam is still at its beginning.
While living in Huế, I also organised some events and small concerts. Over the Covid period, I co-produced the first two seasons of sex and gender podcast Chuyện Thanh Trà and engineered the audio for one season of a Vietnam podcast by Seven Million Bikes. I also started taking photography more seriously (something I never thought I would do). As the world moves forward from the pandemic, I hope that there are more chances to realise opportunities for collaboration involving Vietnam.
I have chosen CSAGA (Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender–Family–Women and Adolescent) as my charity to promote in my articles on Vietnam Coracle. CSAGA works to improve gender equality, women’s rights and children’s rights through policy litigation, social advocacy, supporting services and legal enforcement in Vietnam. During my time in Vietnam, I have heard numerous accounts from female friends who were victims of sexual assault as either children or adults. While I do not believe these issues to be exclusive to Vietnam, these are areas which can be improved upon. I learnt of CSAGA through my friend Ben who introduced me to the NGO’s helpline when confiding with him about a friend’s case of domestic assault.”
IMAGES OF LUKE:
Contributing Writer & Technology Manager
- Professional & social: benknight.me
- Chosen charity: Blue Dragon
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Ben’s archive
“I’m Benjamin Knight. I grew up in the US State of Maine, then spent about half a decade living in the Bay Area and honing my coding skills, when in 2017 I set out to be a digital nomad. Though, to be honest, I didn’t stay nomadic very long: just a year later, I found myself sufficiently fascinated with Vietnam to decide not to leave, basing myself in Saigon.
Naturally, my preferred method of experiencing the country is via independent travel, specifically on a motorbike, and so it was inevitable that Vietnam Coracle would become an indispensable resource for me. About a year after moving to Vietnam I did my first solo motorbike trip following one of Vietnam Coracle’s guides, and shortly after that, I had the good fortune of befriending its creator, Tom. Over time our friendship grew into a working partnership that keeps Vietnam Coracle thriving today. As well as being a contributing writer for the site, I also manage all technology for Vietnam Coracle, including a complete redesign which we launched in 2021.
When trying to explain why I chose to stay in Vietnam, I think Tom says it best: Vietnam is such an exciting place to be at this particular moment in time, and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live. As the country sprints into the future, it somehow also retains a certain sense of charm, optimism, curiosity, heart, and innocence while the rest of the world becomes increasingly individualistic, disconnected, disillusioned, and homogenized. For minds with an insatiable appetite for novelty and challenges, the mere act of trying to ‘understand Vietnam’ itself presents endless learning opportunities, whether through its exotic language, varied climate and geography, unique customs, complex history, or even just the Olympic levels of patience that are sometimes required to get through certain situations.
My chosen charity is Blue Dragon, a children’s foundation providing care and protection for Vietnamese kids and families in crisis.”
IMAGES OF BEN:
- Chosen charity: Operation Smile
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Biên’s archive
“Born and raised in Hanoi, I work full-time as a Service Learning Officer at the United Nations International School (UNIS) in Hanoi. In addition, I’m a co-owner at Bancông Cafe in Hanoi. Outside the office, I consider myself an environmental activist, a runner, a traveller, and an amateur photographer.
I was introduced to Tom in person for the first time in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, although I had been a big fan of Vietnam Coracle for a long time. We met a couple of times again on Phu Quoc Island, where Tom spent much of 2021 during the pandemic exploring every corner of the island.
I enjoy reading Vietnam Coracle and appreciate Tom’s helpful information and tips in his articles. As a traveller who often looks for hidden gems and unique and new perspectives on destinations, I find the website a precious guide for anyone who likes to travel in Vietnam independently. I usually go through the site for recommendations when planning my vacation. I’m excited to have a chance to contribute to Vietnam Coracle and, hopefully, my articles will be helpful for readers planning to travel in Vietnam.
My chosen charity is Operation Smile. I’ve been volunteering for them in Vietnam for more than 10 years. I appreciate all the hard work that doctors, nurses, non-medical volunteers and donors have done to change the lives of Vietnamese children forever.”
IMAGES OF BIÊN:
Contributing Writer & Translator
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Thảo’s archive
“My name is Thảo Phan (TP for short). I am originally from Bien Hoa city, in Dong Nai province, but I have spent the last 17 years in Saigon.
I got to know Tom and Vietnam Coracle through mutual friends who introduced us because we both have similar interests in travel and Vietnamese culture. We’ve been friends since 2012, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and work with Tom on his website as a translator and a local expert (mostly when it comes to writing some Vietnamese words or phrases for him). Other than that, I think Tom is more of a local expert than I am.
Though I graduated from university with a business background, I spent most of my youth working in community development in both volunteer positions and as an educator. While freelancing, I have also worked as a translator/interpreter for ten years.
The pandemic had a major impact on my career, as it did for many people. I rediscovered my childhood passion for gardening. I got involved as a business partner for Gagaco, doing garden installations around the city. I also educated children and adults on the different approaches to composting. I believe in kindness and fairness in business, and I finally found something that could earn me a living while also positively impacting the community and environment. Since then, I have branched out on my own and created TP Garden, a green space in Saigon’s District 2 where I maintain an edible garden and provide services to clients for sustainable living practices, including helping to set up and maintain edible gardens around the city and beyond.
I love cooking healthy food for friends and family, and that’s one of the reasons why gardening is indispensable to me. I also enjoy hopping on my motorbike for a road trip or joining trekking/hiking groups in my free time to immerse myself in nature.
I used to work for a French NGO called IECD, which established a French bakery training school (La Boulangerie Francaise) offering free training opportunities for underprivileged teenagers. Many students have benefited from their programs and been able to earn their living as bakers/chefs and support their families. Recently the project manager reached out to me and asked if I could help the students be more aware of their environmental impact by turning food waste into compost within the college campus. I support sustainable and environmentally conscious projects, so I don’t hesitate to promote this NGO on Vietnam Coracle.”
IMAGES OF THẢO:
- Chosen charity: Asia Connection Inc.
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Patrick’s archive
“I’m Patrick Scott. I’m a travel writer and former New York Times editor now living in Vietnam, where I currently teach business communications at the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City. My travel stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, ESPN and Outdoor Swimmer.
I was based for two years each in New York, London and Cairo before I and my wife, Susan, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2018 and she landed a job teaching at an international school in Ho Chi Minh City.
I discovered Vietnam Coracle soon after we arrived and used Tom’s guides to explore places like Cat Ba Island and Phu Quy Island. Vietnam Coracle is without a doubt the best travel guide for Vietnam. I contacted Tom to meet up for coffee in Saigon and we cemented our friendship while “stranded” at Mango Bay eco resort on Phu Quoc Island during the 2021 lockdown as Covid-19 ravaged the country.
I’m originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, but spent 20 years in the Carolinas, where I was a reporter and later Business Editor at The Charlotte Observer. I was a lead editor on The Observer’s 2007 housing investigation that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the 2008 Public Service Gold Medal. I later was hired by The New York Times as a business editor. Before Vietnam, I mostly wrote freelance pieces about my travel adventures in Africa, the Middle East and India.
IMAGES OF PATRICK:
- Chosen charity: Hue Help
- Articles on Vietnam Coracle: Josh’s archive
“My name is Josh and I’m a British-born writer covering travel, architecture, culture and innovation. When I’m not travelling for work (or leisure), I split my time between Hanoi, Hue, London and Glasgow. I’ve covered travel for Lonely Planet, CNN Create, Fodor’s Travel, AFAR, Ink Global and vietnam.travel, Vietnam’s official tourism website. I’ve also covered architecture and design for Wallpaper, Interior Design Magazine, Icon, Frame and Vietcetera. In addition, I’ve contributed to The Economist, BBC News, The Independent, The Diplomat, Hidden Compass, DestinAsian and Travelfish.
I met Tom under strange circumstances: in the Mekong Delta and on the cusp of what would become Vietnam’s fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was researching the Mekong Delta for Fodor’s Essential Vietnam; he was escaping the outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City (an excellent decision in hindsight). We were the only guests at the Victoria Can Tho, a large colonial-style hotel on the banks of the river. We hit it off straight away, swapping stories about travel writing in Vietnam and comparing life in Hanoi with life in Ho Chi Minh City. It was great to finally put a face to Vietnam Coracle, a website I’d been using for years and Vietnam’s best online travel resource. It was an honor when Tom invited me to contribute.
I value travel writing that prioritizes depth over breadth, which is why I write almost exclusively about Vietnam, though my work occasionally visits other destinations in Asia if I feel that I can report on the subject meaningfully. I write under a handful of verticals, but the bulk of my work focuses on travel with a heavy lean towards adventure, heritage and sustainability. I consider myself a specialist in Hanoi, Hue and Phong Nha, and I will soon have an MSc in Sustainable Tourism from the University of Glasgow.
My first trip to Vietnam in 2008 landed me in Hue, where I worked for local charity Hue Help. The organization is still going strong, supporting a center for underprivileged children in the city and teaching survival swimming in the countryside. Few people are aware that drowning remains the leading cause of death for children in Vietnam: it kills more than malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, dengue and malnutrition combined. I’ve always admired how Hue Help can do so much with so little: any contribution can go a long way.”
IMAGES OF JOSH:
*Disclosure: All content on Vietnam Coracle is free to read & independently produced. There is no sponsored content. We write about Vietnam because we want to: we want readers to know more about the country & be able to experience Vietnam & love it as we do. For more details, see the Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and About Page