Vietnam Coracle: Independent Travel Guides to Vietnam

Posts tagged guide

Ha Giang, Vietnam: A Picture Book

Ha Giang Province | Picture Book

One of the most visually arresting regions in the nation, Ha Giang is Vietnam’s northern-most province. This gallery features 50 images showcasing the beauty of Ha Giang in order to inspire wanderlust…

Motocamping in south-central Vietnam in the dry season

Motocamping South-Central Vietnam in the Dry Season

One of the most rewarding & deeply satisfying travel experiences I’ve had in over a decade of travelling in Vietnam, motocamping (‘motorbike-camping’) is thrilling, challenging, fulfilling & still a fairly niche activity…

New Year's Camping in the Pine Forests, Dalat, Vietnam

New Year’s Camping in the Pine Forests

To mark the end of 2020 (the ‘Lost Year’), my friends & I went on a wild camping trip in the pine forests of the Central Highlands: an activity that’s possible in Vietnam, even as many countries continue to endure lock-downs & social-distancing

9 Great Northern Motorbike Routes in Vietnam

Riding the Great North: 9 Motorbike Routes

Northern Vietnam offers some of the best motorbiking opportunities anywhere in the world. In the north, the mountains are higher, the passes are loftier, and the scenery is more majestic than anywhere else in the country….

Motorbike Chronicles: Diary, Map & Film of a Vietnam Road Trip

Motorbike Chronicles: Film, Map, Diary

To provide an opportunity for vicarious travel during this time of self-isolation & travel bans, I’ve republished my film, route map & diary of a two-month road trip across Vietnam…

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…

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

The Northeast Loop

The Northeast by Motorbike: 5 Routes & Loops

A bucolic corner of Vietnam, the Northeast is a garden of rice fields, forests, lakes & rivers ambling through limestone corridors. This guide focuses on 5 motorbike loops on meandering back-roads & freshly-sealed highways through three provinces: Cao Bang, Lang Son & Bac Kan…

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….

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….

Hoi An-Danang-Hue by Motorbike

Hoi An→Danang→Hue by Motorbike: 3 Routes & Loops

There are now four different routes between these three cities in Central Vietnam. Each route has something different to offer: choose between The Coast, The River, The Mountains, or The Tunnel…..

Where to Stay in Phong Nha: A Guide

Backpacker dorms, family homestays, boutique farmstays & luxurious lakeside bungalows: here’s my independent guide to accommodation in & around Phong Nha….

Son Tra Peninsular, Danang, Vietnam

Son Tra Peninsula, Danang | Motorbike Guide

A rugged headland at the northern tip of Danang’s municipal beach, Son Tra offers mountains & forests, cliffs & coves, wildlife & centuries-old banyan trees, lofty mountain passes with majestic views & sandy beaches untainted by concrete high-rises….

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…

Auberge de Meo Vac Mountain Lodge, Chung Pua, Ha Giang

Auberge de Meo Vac Mountain Lodge, Ha Giang

A timber, tile & rammed-earth structure encircling a stone courtyard surrounded by a stone wall with haunting limestone peaks looming all around, the Auberge de Meo Vac is a remarkably atmospheric place to stay in Vietnam’s northernmost province, Ha Giang….

The Vietnam Coracle Map

The Vietnam Coracle Map

An interactive map of Vietnam with all my guides, posts, articles, reviews, and videos marked on it, including direct links from the map to all my content. The Vietnam Coracle Map will help readers navigate the content on my website, in order to get to the information they are looking for….

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…..

The Extreme Northwest Motorbike Loop, Lai Chau & Dien Bien, Vietnam

The Extreme Northwest Loop: Motorbike Guide

Straddling the Chinese & Lao borders, the extreme northwest of Vietnam is one of the least travelled & most remote regions of the entire country. Mountain roads carve a circuitous course between Lao Cai, Sapa, and Dien Bien Phu, running perilously close to the infamous Golden Triangle….

Ba Be Lake homestays, Bac Kan Province, Vietnam

Ba Be Lake Homestays

At Ba Be Lake, limestone cliffs meet the placid water at right angles, creating a spectacular backdrop to Vietnam’s largest natural lake. On its southern shores, where the terrain is slightly less vertical, several dozen homestays offer cheap, atmospheric accommodation & excellent home-cooked food….

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….

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….

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…

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….

25 of the Greatest Riding Roads in Vietnam

25 of the Greatest Riding Roads in Vietnam

Vietnam has some incredible riding roads: possibly some of the most scenic in the world. Based on my experience of riding around Vietnam for the last decade, I have compiled a list of what I consider some of the greatest riding roads in Vietnam…

Cafe Culture on Con Son Island

Vietnam has a rich & thriving cafe culture – probably among the most active, dynamic, and independent cafe scenes in the world. And now, the cult of coffee has reached the remote, utterly beautiful island of Con Son, in the Con Dao Archipelago….

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….

Eating bánh khọt in Vung Tau, Vietnam

Eating Bánh Khọt in Vũng Tàu | 7 Places

Bánh Khọt are delicious gems: crispy discs of rice flour batter & coconut milk, fried until they’re crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside, then wrapped in herbs & dipped in a sweet-spicy sauce. Here are 7 places to eat bánh khọt in Vũng Tàu…

The Coast Road: Saigon to Hoi An & Dong Hoi

The Coast Road: Saigon to Hoi An & Beyond

Thanks to new coastal roads, it’s now possible to ride from Saigon to Hoi An, and beyond to Dong Hoi, following the coast all the way & avoiding the busy main artery of Highway 1 for the vast majority of the route. This is a salty, sunny, sandy & scenic road trip….

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….

Tomb Rider: Hue to Dong Hoi on Back-Roads by motorbike, Vietnam

Tomb Rider: Hue to Dong Hoi on Back-Roads

Covering nearly 200km of completely empty beach, coastal back-roads lead from the old imperial capital of Hue to the beach city of Dong Hoi. Scattered with thousands of traditional-style tombs, this coastal region is rarely explored by foreign visitors…

Sapa-Y Ty Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Sapa-Y Ty Scenic Motorbike Loop

Sapa’s dramatic mountainous landscape continues north of town, via Y Ty Village, all the way to the Chinese border. Several small roads penetrate deep into steep, terraced valleys & climb high above ferocious rivers creating a scenic loop….

Saigon to Hanoi: A Food Diary

Saigon to Hanoi: A Food Diary

On a recent road trip between Saigon & Hanoi I made a record of some of the meals I ate along the way, to try and illustrate the variety of food available, and what a delight it is to eat your way from one end of the country to the other…

Liberty Central Hotel, Nha Trang

Liberty Central Hotel, Nha Trang

Liberty Central Nha Trang is a contemporary, stylish, high-rise hotel just a block from the beach. Featuring elegant, minimalist decor, extraordinary sea views, rooftop bar & its own section of beach, Liberty Central is a solid place to stay in Nha Trang….

Ha Tien: Jewel of the Mekong Delta

The most attractive place to be in Vietnam’s Mekong region, Ha Tien’s irresistible combination of bustling markets, languid backstreets, crumbling shophouses, forested hills, delicious food & local temples, makes it the ‘Jewel of the Delta’….

The Ocean Road: Saigon to Mui Ne, Vietnam

The Ocean Road: Saigon to Mui Ne

The scenic route between Saigon and Mui Ne, the Ocean Road is an easy, feel-good road trip, with a great balance of off-the-beaten-track experiences & creature comforts. Ride it in a day or linger for a week soaking up all it has to offer…

The Twin Passes: Cổ Mã & Cả

Historically, four great passes have divided what is now Vietnam. These occur at the four points along the coast where spurs from the Truong Son Mountain Range spread eastwards to the sea. Of these, my favourites are the ‘twin passes’….

Hieu Map BBQ shop, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

Meat Feast: Hieu Map BBQ Shop

A very local, long-running establishment offering a variety of cheap, simple and tasty barbecued meats to take away, Hieu Map BBQ Shop is a decent option for a meat feast to share with friends….

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….

The Boat Cafe (La Ngon), Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

The Boat Cafe, Saigon

Two wooden junks floating on the milk tea-coloured waters of the Kenh Te Canal in District 7, The Boat Cafe is one of those special places in Saigon that offer respite from the noise & chaos of the city without actually leaving it…

Quán Ốc Cẩm snail restaurant, Saigon, Vietnam

Quán Ốc Cẩm: Shell Feast

Dining out on snails, shellfish & beer is a national pastime in Vietnam. Everyone has their favourite quán ốc (snail restaurant) for a night of shells, booze, banter & fun: Quán Ốc Cẩm, in Saigon’s District 10, is one of mine…

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…

The Myst Dong Khoi Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam

The Myst Dong Khoi, Saigon

The Myst is a new, quirky, stylish & elegant boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Saigon. From its enigmatic exterior to its eccentric interiors, The Myst is a bold & unique addition to the high-end hotel scene in Ho Chi Minh City…

Mì Quảng 85 Noodle House, Saigon

Defined by its thick yellow noodles, crunchy rice crackers, quail eggs, fresh mint & salty-sweet sauce, mì quảng is a much-loved dish from Central Vietnam. The version at Mì Quảng 85 in Saigon is full of texture & colour, if a bit too sweet….

Bò kho (beef stew), Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Two Saigon Soup Houses

There are thousands of soup houses in Saigon: these are just two of them, but they are good ones, and they both offer three different kinds of soups. One of them is a longtime favourite of mine; the other was a recent ‘random encounter’…

Leman Cap Resort, Vung Tau, Vietnam

Leman Cap Resort, Vung Tau

Sitting on the rocks above Vung Tau’s attractive seafront promenade, Leman Cap Resort is an excellent option for expats or mid-range travellers looking to escape Saigon for a couple of nights by the sea…

The Banyan Tree Cafe, Route 28, Central Highlands, Vietnam

The Cafe by the Banyan Tree

Named after a grand old tree by the roadside, this cafe is located on the scenic road between Phan Thiet & Di Linh, in the Central Highlands. With good views & strong local coffee, it makes a pleasant pit-stop on a motorbike road trip…

The Road East of the Long Mountains (Đường Trường Sơn Đông), Vietnam

The Road East of the Long Mountains (Đường Trường Sơn Đông)

A romp through the Central Highlands, the Truong Son Dong Road is a ride to be savoured. With mystical overtones & military undercurrents, the name in Vietnamese translates as ‘The Road East of the Long Mountains’. It’s one of the best riding roads in Vietnam…

Saigon to Dalat, back roads, Vietnam

Saigon to Dalat: the ‘Back Ways’

There are many ways to ride from Saigon to Dalat, but if you want a relatively direct route that avoids highways, there are several great options. These ‘back ways’ to Dalat utilize new, quiet & scenic roads to make the journey as fun as possible…

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…

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’….

Silk Path Hotel, Hanoi

Silk Path Hotel, Hanoi

Walking distance from Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake, the Silk Path Hotel offers clean, crisp, modern and comfortable rooms in the capital. Stylish yet restrained, Silk Path is a good, solid mid-range hotel for couples or families visiting Hanoi…

Photo & Bike Cafe, Bao Loc, Central Highlands, Vietnam

Coffee with a View: Photo & Bike Cafe

The Central Highlands is famous for its coffee and its mountains. Photo & Bike Cafe marries these two elements nicely, making it the perfect pit-stop on any road trip that passes through Bao Loc, on the way between Saigon and Dalat…

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.

Dim Sum in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Dim Sum in Saigon

Dim sum is increasingly popular in Saigon. But my favourite dumpling joint is an old-timer in Chinatown. Boasting a 10 page bible of dim sum dishes, this unassuming place offers great variety, quality and value for money…

Ocean Dunes Resort, Phan Thiet, Vietnam

Ocean Dunes Resort, Phan Thiet

On the beach in Phan Thiet City, the Ocean Dunes Resort is excellent value for money. Offering high-end amenities at mid-range prices, the Ocean Dunes is a great option for budget travellers looking for a slice of luxury and, because of its wide greens spaces, for families…

Mountains in the Mekong, motorbike road trip, Vietnam

Mountains in the Mekong: Motorbike Loop

Most of the Mekong Delta is as flat as a sheet of rice paper. But my favourite corner of the region, the western edge along the Cambodian border, is blessed with some high ground, in the form of a mini mountain range, which rises from the plains of An Giang Province. These mountains are connected by beautiful back-roads, perfect for a road trip…

Goat noodle soup in Saigon, Vietnam

Goat Noodle Soup in Chinatown

Deep in Saigon’s Chinatown, there’s a bowl of goat noodles that’s meaty, rich, silky and smooth. This soup is full of farmyard flavours: it’s a barn in a bowl. Make no mistake, this is a heavy breakfast, but it’ll keep you going till the evening…

Saigon Midnight Motorbike Loop, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Saigon Midnight Motorbike Loop

At night, Saigon is at its best: temperatures are cool, humidity is low, and traffic is light – it’s the perfect time to see the city. The Midnight Loop is an urban motorbike route designed specifically for riding after dark: a night out on two wheels…

The Cafe Apartment on Nguyen Hue Street, Saigon

The Cafe Apartment on Saigon’s Walking Street

Boasting over 30 independent coffee shops & fashion boutiques, the old apartment block at No.42 Nguyen Hue is the coolest address on Saigon’s Walking Street. I call it the Cafe Apartment: this is my complete floor-by-floor guide…

Saigon's Street Food Ghettos, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Saigon’s Street Food ‘Ghettos’

Throughout Saigon, there are clusters of crumbling old apartment complexes, all of which are on the verge of either collapse or demolition. Living conditions appear cramped and grim but, outside on the sidewalks, the street life and street food is among the best and most vibrant in the city…

Binh Thuan Back-Roads: Inland Loop

Binh Thuan Province is known for its beaches, but inland there’s a rich and varied landscape waiting to be explored. A network of rarely used, rural back-roads takes you on an inland loop – over arid plains, through forests, and across rivers….

River Road: The Cai Valley, Vietnam

River Road: The Cai Valley

A silver seam of glistening water, the Cai River meanders through a beautiful valley between Dalat & Phan Rang. A new road follows the course of the river, from its source in the high, forested hills to its mouth on the eastern seaboard….

The Pine Tree Road, North of Dalat by Motorbike, Vietnam

The Pine Tree Road | Motorbike Guide

North of Dalat, an enticing road plunges deep into the pine forests of the Central Highlands before dead-ending in the beautiful Krông Nô River Valley…

The Tet Classic: Lunar New Year Motorbike Loop

The Tết Classic: Lunar New Year Motorbike Loop

Tết (Lunar New Year) is the biggest festival of them all in Vietnam, but travel can be very difficult at this time of year. That’s why, every year, I take a meandering road trip that bypasses popular tourist spots & makes the most of the dry season weather…

The Northern Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam

The Northern Hotel, Saigon

In the shadow of downtown Saigon’s high-rises, the Northern Hotel sits on a quiet street in the affluent yet quirky enclave known as the Japanese district. A five minute walk from such major landmarks as the Opera House and the Saigon River, the Northern Hotel offers very comfortable, mid-range accommodation…

Budget Sushi in Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon’s Budget Sushi Scene

The last few years has seen an explosion of good-quality yet reasonably-priced sushi joints in Saigon. Décor is cheerful, ambience is informal, and customers are young & convivial: welcome to Saigon’s budget sushi scene….

The Saigon River, Vietnam

The Saigon River: A Guide

Many cities are closely associated with a major waterway that runs through them: Saigon has the Saigon River. Currently, the city is in the process rediscovering and redeveloping its river. This is my personal reflection & guide to the Saigon River…

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….

Grilled chicken corner, Binh Thanh District, Saigon

Grilled Chicken Corner, Saigon

At night, a scented fog hangs over a busy intersection in Saigon. The aromatic haze is the ‘Chicken Mist’ resulting from a dozen roadside barbecues hissing, smoking and grilling hundreds of fresh chicken carcasses. This is Chicken Corner, and this is where you come to get your poultry fix of crispy, tasty, delicious, grilled chicken in Saigon…

The Food Triangle, Saigon

Everyone knows Saigon is full of great food. But there’s one corner in District 1, where you can eat three excellent meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in three excellent establishments, all within a few metres of each other: I call it the Food Triangle….

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….

The Ninh Thuan Loop, Vietnam

Desert, Sea, Sky: The Ninh Thuan Loop

Located between the two most popular beach towns in Vietnam – Mui Ne and Nha Trang – Ninh Thuan Province boasts coastal scenery to rival its famous neighbours. One of the most sparsely populated, least developed, and driest regions in southern Vietnam, ambitious new roads have opened up access to Ninh Thuan’s captivating scenery…

Camping the Ocean Road: Saigon to Nha Trang

Camping the Ocean Road: Saigon to Nha Trang

Pitch your tent under a coconut palm just metres from the surf & enjoy Vietnam’s south coast sleeping in the open air: This is my guide to camping on the beaches along the Ocean Road from Saigon to Nha Trang….

Edenstar Hotel, Saigon

Edenstar Hotel: Saigon Mid-Range

Centrally located with a rooftop pool and sleek modern rooms, Edenstar is a solid Saigon mid-range hotel. Catering to all types of visitors, Edenstar is on a narrow street, lined with tall trees, and within walking distance of most of Saigon’s major attractions…..

The Deep South: Riding the Dragon's Tail

The Deep South: Riding the Dragon’s Tail

After 9 years travelling in Vietnam, the last four provinces that I have yet to visit are all in the Mekong Delta. These are the southernmost provinces in the country: the Deep South or, as I like to call it, the Dragon’s Tail. I thought it was about time I made it to all Vietnam’s 63 provinces, so I finally set out to travel as far south as roads go…

Com tam, Saigon

Cơm Tấm, Saigon: 7 of my Favourites

I love cơm tấm. Some of my happiest moments in Saigon have been sitting down with a good plate of barbecued pork & broken rice, watching the city go by. Saigon and cơm tấm are inseparable, and this city does it better than anywhere else. Cơm tấm is the quintessential Saigon experience. Here’s where to eat it….

Where to Eat Chè in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

Sweet Saigon: Where to Eat Chè

A kaleidoscopic world of luminous colours, shifting shapes, unfamiliar textures, esoteric ingredients & rich flavours, chè is a fascinating sub-category of Vietnamese cuisine. Commonly translated as ‘dessert’, in reality chè is so filling & nutritious that it’s a meal in itself….

Con Dao or Phu Quoc?

Southern Islands: Con Dao or Phu Quoc?

Con Dao and Phu Quoc islands are the two most alluring beach destinations in Vietnam. But these two southern islands are very different in character, and therefore appeal to different types of travellers. As most visitors or expats only have time to go to one, which island should you choose?

Route Map: 2 Months on a Motorbike

ROUTE MAP: Two Month Motorbike Road Trip

During the autumn of 2014, I spent two months travelling over 9,000km by motorbike across Vietnam. This annotated and illustrated map of my road trip is designed as a resource for other riders. On it I’ve included links to relevant motorbike guides for specific regions; all of my overnight stops; and my exact route…

Breakfast in Ha Giang

When I had breakfast at a noodle house in Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northernmost frontier, it was one of those occasions when food, people and place come together perfectly…

The Burnt Road, Ninh Thuan Province

The Burnt Road: Vietnam’s Desert

A short, easy ride through a big, hot landscape of barren hills and abandoned farmhouses, Highway 27B is the Burnt Road. This road trip takes you inland, through the vast open spaces of Vietnam’s driest province…

The Cafe Quarter, Phu Nhuan District, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

The Café Quarter, Saigon

In Phú Nhuận District – Saigon’s unofficial ‘café capital’ – a small grid of leafy streets plays host to a collection of trendy coffee shops. Bounded by the Thị Nghè Channel and Phan Xích Long Boulevard, I call this the ‘Café Quarter’…

Rice wine pudding

Hot Toddy | Rice Wine Pudding in Cao Bang

Fermented glutinous rice mixed together with an egg & steamed to create a mildly alcoholic rice pudding…..for breakfast

Saigon's Parks & Open Spaces

Saigon’s Parks & Open Spaces

Saigon might be known as a burgeoning city full of motorbikes and exhaust fumes, but it still has a great many green spaces in which to escape the heat, noise and pollution. From lush gardens dating from French colonial times to sleek, modern, waterfront promenades, here are Saigon’s best parks and open spaces…

Bac Ha Sunday Market, Vietnam

Bac Ha Sunday Market

In the rugged mountains of northwestern Vietnam, the town of Bắc Hà holds a big, bright and busy market every Sunday. Attracting colourfully dressed ethnic minorities from across the region, the market has become a major magnet for tourists…

Grilling on hot rocks at Chu Quán

Grilling on Hot Rocks: Chu Quán, Dalat

One of Dalat’s new & exciting places to eat, Chu Quán is run by a young Vietnamese couple with a passion for good food & inventive decor. A smoky, open-sided BBQ-grill restaurant, this place has been buzzing since it opened…

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….

Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang Province, Vietnam

Ban Gioc Waterfall: A Guide

Ban Gioc Waterfall is one of Vietnam’s most impressive natural sights, yet very few foreign travellers make it here. Located right on the Chinese border in a beautiful pastoral landscape, Ban Gioc is the widest & most scenic waterfall in the country…

Sapa to Ha Giang by motorbike on borders & back-roads, Vietnam

Borders & Back-Roads: Sapa to Ha Giang by Motorbike

Connecting two of the most mountainous provinces in Vietnam, this motorbike route straddles the Chinese border, passing through some of the remotest parts of the country…

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…

Ha Giang Extreme North Motorbike Loop, northern Vietnam

Ha Giang Extreme North Motorbike Loop

Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northern-most province, is home to a mythical landscape of conical limestone peaks & craterous valleys. Over the years, it has gained an almost legendary status among travellers. This motorbike loop is perhaps the most thrilling road trip in the country…

Rice harvest, Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam

The Harvest Route: Mù Cang Chải

Every year, between September & October, the terraced rice fields of Mù Cang Chải, a rural district in northern Vietnam, put on a luminous show of picturesque harvest colours. I spectacular road runs through this region: I call it ‘The Harvest Route’….

Rice harvest, Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam

Theatre of Rice: Mù Cang Chải

Every year, from summer to autumn, the terraced rice fields of Mù Cang Chải, a rural district in northern Vietnam’s Yen Bai Province, put on a luminous show of picturesque harvest colours. I call this spectacular sight ‘The Theatre of Rice’….

Sapa to Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

Sapa and Sin Ho are two towns high up on the slopes of the Tonkinese Alps. They are connected by lofty mountain passes, offering grand scenery on a scale not seen anywhere else in Vietnam. This is an ideal scenic loop by motorbike…

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….

Cleansed: Saigon bathes in dawn light

Two Months on a Motorbike

In 2014, I embarked on a 9,000km, two-month motorbike road trip through Vietnam. During my time on the road, I kept a full and illustrated diary of my travels, an annotated map of my route, and made a short film of the journey…

Phở Gia Hân, Saigon

Phở Gia Hân, Saigon

I was first drawn to Phở Gia Hân by the enticing aroma that wafted over the narrow street on humid evenings. A family-run soup house in a local neighbourhood, this is one of my favourite places for phở in Saigon…

Guest houses: nhà nghỉ

Local Guest Houses: Nhà Nghỉ

Essential knowledge for the adventurous or budget traveller in Vietnam, ‘nhà nghỉ’ means ‘guest house’ in Vietnamese. However, this form of cheap accommodation often goes unnoticed by foreign travellers & suffers from a bad reputation among local people…

The Best Street Food Streets in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

7 Great Streets for Street Food in Saigon

Saigon is arguably the best place to explore Vietnam’s extraordinary street food scene. The city boasts so many street food outlets that it feels like a gigantic open-air restaurant. This is my guide to 7 of the best streets for street food in Saigon…

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)…

Hotel Du Parc, Dalat

Hotel Du Parc, Dalat

The Hotel Du Parc offers excellent value mid-range accommodation in the Central Highlands’ city of Dalat. Housed in a French building from the 1930s, this hotel has colonial ambience with modern amenities at very reasonable prices…

The Lunch Lady's Menu

The Lunch Lady’s Menu: An Illustrated Guide

The Lunch Lady in Saigon is famous for serving a different soup every day of the week. Here’s her weekly menu, illustrated with tantalizing images of each of the dishes…

Prenn Waterfall
Datanla Waterfall
Lien Khuong Waterfall
Dambri Waterfall
Pongour Waterfall
Elephant Waterfall
Tiger Waterfall
Bao Dai Waterfall

Bao Dai Waterfall

Bao Dai Waterfall is one of the most spectacular but least-visited of all the cascades within reach of Dalat…

Dalat's Waterfalls

Dalat’s Waterfalls: A Guide

Dalat is located in Lâm Đồng Province, a mountainous region that boasts lots of waterfalls. I visited them all, in order to compile this list & guide to the waterfalls of Dalat & the surrounding area. Many of the falls are truly spectacular, while some are ruined by tourist development…

Bo Bla Waterfall

Bo Bla Waterfall

80km southwest of Dalat, Bo Bla is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the area. Once a popular tourist attraction, it’s now in an attractive & spooky state of decay: it’s like entering the abandoned theme park in ‘Spirited Away’.

Bún thịt nướng: an elegant classic

Bún Thịt Nướng: An Elegant Classic

This cold noodle salad is a classic of southern Vietnam. Simple, cool & refreshing, bún thịt nướng is the perfect antidote to the heat & humidity of the south.

The People's Food: Common Rice Eateries

The People’s Food: Local Rice Eateries

There’s at least one quán cơm bình dân (common rice eatery) on every urban street in Vietnam. Offering dozens of typical, home-cooked dishes at affordable prices, these eateries feed the nation. It doesn’t get more local than this…

Gougah Waterfall
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….

Riding red dirt roads, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Saigon to Phu Quoc Island Motorbike Loop

Flying to Phu Quoc is easy, but if you want a real adventure, riding there by motorbike is much more fun. This road trip takes you from Vietnam’s biggest city to some its best beaches, via the waterways & back-roads of the Mekong Delta…

Horse Meat in Vietnam

Horse Meat

After the horse meat scandal in 2013, many people in Europe discovered they’d eaten horse without knowing it, but in Saigon some restaurants specialize in horse meat, and it really is delicious!

Maps for a motorbike road trip in Vietnam

Which Map to Use for a Motorbike Road Trip?

A good map is essential for an independent motorbike road trip in Vietnam, but no map is 100% reliable. However, by cross-referencing certain printed maps, online maps, local knowledge & online advice, you’re sure to find the best roads & routes.

Con Dao Islands on a Budget

Con Dao Islands on a Budget

Despite several high-profile luxury developments, travel to the Con Dao Islands needn’t be too expensive. Budget travellers & backpackers can still enjoy this beautiful archipelago by taking certain steps. This is my guide to how to keep the cost of visiting one of Vietnam’s most enchanting destinations to a minimum.

Saigon's markets

My Top 5 Markets in Saigon

Saigon’s markets seem to exist in another dimension to the rest of the city. In downtown District 1 you’d be forgiven for thinking that the traditional Vietnamese market no longer exists; replaced by generic high-end shopping malls. But local markets outside the city centre continue to thrive: here are my favourite wet markets in Saigon…

Wild camping in Dalat, Vietnam

Camping in Dalat: A Guide

One of the best travel experiences in Vietnam’s Central Highlands is wild camping under a canopy pine trees in the misty mountains north of Dalat….

Dalat: Where to Eat & Drink

Where to Eat & Drink in Dalat

My guide to where to eat & drink in the former French colonial hill station of Dalat, high up in the Annamite Mountains.

The hidden 'indie' cafes of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

Saigon’s Hidden Cafes

Saigon has thousands of independent coffee shops. Hidden down narrow alleyways, tucked away in forgotten colonial villas, or concealed in enigmatic old apartment buildings, there’s a whole sub-culture of ‘indie’ cafes in this city. These are my favourites.

Make the effort; it's worth it!

Fetal Duck Egg

If you like eggs, you’ll love fetal duck eggs! They are, quite simply, ‘eggier’ than regular chicken eggs. Don’t be put off by the name or what they look like; this is a great, tasty, nutritious and cheap road-side snack anywhere in Vietnam.

Cat meat

Cat Meat

Although less widely eaten than dog, cat meat is still on the menu in many Vietnamese restaurants, especially in the north. So what does it taste like?

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….

Saigon Escape Loop: motorbike guide

Southeast Loop: Motorbike Guide

If you’re looking for a road trip within reach of Saigon that takes you to beaches & mountains, but stays off busy main roads; this is it. Saigon, Mui Ne, & Dalat are all connected by quiet, scenic back-roads: this motorbike guide shows you how to do it.

Rat meat

Rat Meat

Each morning for the last couple months I’ve opened my front gate in Saigon to greet the new day, only to find a fresh mound of rat droppings on my door step. By way of ‘revenge’ I decided to pay a visit to one of Saigon’s rat meat restaurants…

The Ho Chi Minh Road, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh Road: Motorbike Guide

Stretching almost 2,000km along the mountainous spine of Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh Road is fast becoming famous as one of the finest motorbike rides in Asia. Now fully paved from Saigon all the way to Hanoi, this is my updated and extended guide to the entire Ho Chi Minh Road….

Top 5 Swimming Pools, Saigon

13 Public Swimming Pools in Saigon

If you’re not lucky enough to be staying at one of the smarter hotels with a pool, or if you’re an expat looking to escape the heat & clamour of the city, Saigon has plenty of good & inexpensive public swimming pools to choose from…

Street eating in Saigon

Street Food Week

Can you live only on street food in Vietnam? Is it any good and is it really that cheap? To find out I spent a whole week eating exclusively street food in Saigon. Find out what I ate, where I ate, & how much I spent in this Street Food Week diary.

Cooking over the bếp than (charcoal grill)

Bếp Than Eatery: Vietnamese Tapas

Bếp Than Eatery is a small, cool, and ‘cutesy’ place to relax with some lite Vietnamese snacks & mojitos by the Thi Nghe Channel in Saigon: a great place to ‘snack & chat’ with friends.

Time to hit the road!

Saigon to Hanoi: The Scenic Route

Vietnam Coracle will be away from August 1-23 on a motorbike trip from Saigon to Hanoi with a best friend. Click this post for an introduction, route map & photos of the road trip. Follow our journey on my Twitter, Facebook & Google+ pages!

The Sand Dune Highway: Mui Ne to Ca Na Coast Road

Sand Dune Highway: Mui Ne to Ca Na Coast Road

A short, scenic, easily navigable & rewarding road trip through desert-like landscape on excellent coast roads between Mũi Né & Cà Ná…

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…

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…

Bun mam soup

Bún Mắm: the Mekong in a Bowl

Bún Mắm is a robust Vietnamese soup from the Mekong Delta. It’s packed with contrasting flavours, textures and colours. You’ll find bún mắm all over southern Vietnam, but one place in Saigon is especially good.

Nui Chua Coast Road

Nui Chua Coast Road | Phan Rang to Cam Ranh

Probably the most scenic coastal route in Vietnam, this is a meandering ocean road skirting the edges of a green & rugged peninsula…

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.

Homestays in Pu Luong Nature Reserve, northern Vietnam

Homestays in Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Set among sublime landscape just a few hours southwest of Hanoi, the homestays in Pu Luong Nature Reserve are some of the most atmospheric & romantic places to stay anywhere in Vietnam….

Bún Riêu is full of colour & flavour

One of the Best Soups in Vietnam

Nho Quan is a small, industrial town in Ninh Bình Province, 90km south of Hanoi. The bare concrete buildings and dusty streets are a far cry from the natural beauty of the surrounding area. However, hidden amongst the unappealing sprawl is one of the best soups in Vietnam…

Bò kho (beef stew)

Beef Stew (Bò Kho)

Bò kho (beef stew) is a hearty, spicy and aromatic broth with diced beef, carrot and lemongrass. Eaten on its own with a warm baguette for dunking or served over noodles, this is one of my favourite dishes in Vietnam.

Rooftop Cocktails

TOP 5: Rooftop Cocktails in Saigon

Saigon is at the heart of Vietnam’s economic boom: new high-rises and five-star hotels go up every year. On the upper storeys there are stylish bars with views over the city, catering to the country’s nouveau-riche and wealthy foreign visitors. But, with the price of drinks still relatively low, rooftop cocktails are affordable for travellers on all budgets, especially if you make the most of Happy Hours.

Cà Phê Bệt, Saigon

Cà Phê Bệt: Saigon’s Street Coffee Scene

At 5 o’clock in the afternoons in Saigon, high schools and universities disgorge their students into the busy streets. Dusk is one of the coolest times of day, and many of these students head for one of the city’s parks, where they buy food and drink from street vendors and sit on the grass talking into the evening hours – this is Cà Phê Bệt.

The Limestone Loop, Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam

The Limestone Loop: Motorbike Guide

Thanh Hoa is a province of limestone pinnacles, rivers & rice paddies. Quiet roads meander through steep valleys cloaked in bamboo forests, & mountain passes twist skyward toward remote Lao border crossings. This motorbike loop is easily accessible from Hanoi, but travels through remote & beautiful landscapes….

Snails, Saigon

Snails & Shellfish: A Guide

Snail eating is incredibly popular in Vietnam. A night of shells & beer is a very local experience. Young & old feast late into the night. The snails come in all shapes and sizes and they’re delicious. ‘Shell tapas’ is a fun night out that everyone should try

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…..

Cơm Tấm - Vietnamese 'Fry-up'

Broken Rice & Pork Stew, Saigon

Wherever you are in Vietnam, you can always rely on broken rice or pork stew to fill you up. Breakfast, lunch or dinner; these two pork dishes are always available. Forget phở – the famous beef noodle soup – the real national dish of Vietnam is pork and rice!

The Hai Van Pass: Motorbike Guide

One of the most famous roads in Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass weaves around a mountainous stretch of coastline in Central Vietnam, linking Danang & Hue

Ha Giang, Vietnam: A Picture Book

One of the most visually arresting regions in the nation, Ha Giang is Vietnam’s northern-most province. This gallery features 50 images showcasing the beauty of Ha Giang in order to inspire wanderlust…

Motocamping in south-central Vietnam in the dry season

One of the most rewarding & deeply satisfying travel experiences I’ve had in over a decade of travelling in Vietnam, motocamping (‘motorbike-camping’) is thrilling, challenging, fulfilling & still a fairly niche activity…

New Year's Camping in the Pine Forests, Dalat, Vietnam

To mark the end of 2020 (the ‘Lost Year’), my friends & I went on a wild camping trip in the pine forests of the Central Highlands: an activity that’s possible in Vietnam, even as many countries continue to endure lock-downs & social-distancing

9 Great Northern Motorbike Routes in Vietnam

Northern Vietnam offers some of the best motorbiking opportunities anywhere in the world. In the north, the mountains are higher, the passes are loftier, and the scenery is more majestic than anywhere else in the country….

Motorbike Chronicles: Diary, Map & Film of a Vietnam Road Trip

To provide an opportunity for vicarious travel during this time of self-isolation & travel bans, I’ve republished my film, route map & diary of a two-month road trip across Vietnam…

Saigon Waterbus, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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…

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

The Northeast Loop

A bucolic corner of Vietnam, the Northeast is a garden of rice fields, forests, lakes & rivers ambling through limestone corridors. This guide focuses on 5 motorbike loops on meandering back-roads & freshly-sealed highways through three provinces: Cao Bang, Lang Son & Bac Kan…

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….

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….

Hoi An-Danang-Hue by Motorbike

There are now four different routes between these three cities in Central Vietnam. Each route has something different to offer: choose between The Coast, The River, The Mountains, or The Tunnel…..

Backpacker dorms, family homestays, boutique farmstays & luxurious lakeside bungalows: here’s my independent guide to accommodation in & around Phong Nha….

Son Tra Peninsular, Danang, Vietnam

A rugged headland at the northern tip of Danang’s municipal beach, Son Tra offers mountains & forests, cliffs & coves, wildlife & centuries-old banyan trees, lofty mountain passes with majestic views & sandy beaches untainted by concrete high-rises….

Nam Du Islands, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam

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…

Auberge de Meo Vac Mountain Lodge, Chung Pua, Ha Giang

A timber, tile & rammed-earth structure encircling a stone courtyard surrounded by a stone wall with haunting limestone peaks looming all around, the Auberge de Meo Vac is a remarkably atmospheric place to stay in Vietnam’s northernmost province, Ha Giang….

The Vietnam Coracle Map

An interactive map of Vietnam with all my guides, posts, articles, reviews, and videos marked on it, including direct links from the map to all my content. The Vietnam Coracle Map will help readers navigate the content on my website, in order to get to the information they are looking for….

Climbing Fansipan mountain independently, without a guide, Vietnam

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…..

The Extreme Northwest Motorbike Loop, Lai Chau & Dien Bien, Vietnam

Straddling the Chinese & Lao borders, the extreme northwest of Vietnam is one of the least travelled & most remote regions of the entire country. Mountain roads carve a circuitous course between Lao Cai, Sapa, and Dien Bien Phu, running perilously close to the infamous Golden Triangle….

Ba Be Lake homestays, Bac Kan Province, Vietnam

At Ba Be Lake, limestone cliffs meet the placid water at right angles, creating a spectacular backdrop to Vietnam’s largest natural lake. On its southern shores, where the terrain is slightly less vertical, several dozen homestays offer cheap, atmospheric accommodation & excellent home-cooked food….

The beaches of Quy Nhon & Phu Yen, Vietnam

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….

Vijaya Cham towers & citadel, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam

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….

Long Thuy beach village, Phu Yen Province, Vietnam

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…

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

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….

25 of the Greatest Riding Roads in Vietnam

Vietnam has some incredible riding roads: possibly some of the most scenic in the world. Based on my experience of riding around Vietnam for the last decade, I have compiled a list of what I consider some of the greatest riding roads in Vietnam…

Vietnam has a rich & thriving cafe culture – probably among the most active, dynamic, and independent cafe scenes in the world. And now, the cult of coffee has reached the remote, utterly beautiful island of Con Son, in the Con Dao Archipelago….

Núi Dinh Mountain, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Vietnam

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….

Eating bánh khọt in Vung Tau, Vietnam

Bánh Khọt are delicious gems: crispy discs of rice flour batter & coconut milk, fried until they’re crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside, then wrapped in herbs & dipped in a sweet-spicy sauce. Here are 7 places to eat bánh khọt in Vũng Tàu…

The Coast Road: Saigon to Hoi An & Dong Hoi

Thanks to new coastal roads, it’s now possible to ride from Saigon to Hoi An, and beyond to Dong Hoi, following the coast all the way & avoiding the busy main artery of Highway 1 for the vast majority of the route. This is a salty, sunny, sandy & scenic road trip….

Bai Rang Beach, Quy Nhon, Phu Yen, Vietnam

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….

Tomb Rider: Hue to Dong Hoi on Back-Roads by motorbike, Vietnam

Covering nearly 200km of completely empty beach, coastal back-roads lead from the old imperial capital of Hue to the beach city of Dong Hoi. Scattered with thousands of traditional-style tombs, this coastal region is rarely explored by foreign visitors…

Sapa-Y Ty Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Sapa’s dramatic mountainous landscape continues north of town, via Y Ty Village, all the way to the Chinese border. Several small roads penetrate deep into steep, terraced valleys & climb high above ferocious rivers creating a scenic loop….

Saigon to Hanoi: A Food Diary

On a recent road trip between Saigon & Hanoi I made a record of some of the meals I ate along the way, to try and illustrate the variety of food available, and what a delight it is to eat your way from one end of the country to the other…

Liberty Central Hotel, Nha Trang

Liberty Central Nha Trang is a contemporary, stylish, high-rise hotel just a block from the beach. Featuring elegant, minimalist decor, extraordinary sea views, rooftop bar & its own section of beach, Liberty Central is a solid place to stay in Nha Trang….

The most attractive place to be in Vietnam’s Mekong region, Ha Tien’s irresistible combination of bustling markets, languid backstreets, crumbling shophouses, forested hills, delicious food & local temples, makes it the ‘Jewel of the Delta’….

The Ocean Road: Saigon to Mui Ne, Vietnam

The scenic route between Saigon and Mui Ne, the Ocean Road is an easy, feel-good road trip, with a great balance of off-the-beaten-track experiences & creature comforts. Ride it in a day or linger for a week soaking up all it has to offer…

Historically, four great passes have divided what is now Vietnam. These occur at the four points along the coast where spurs from the Truong Son Mountain Range spread eastwards to the sea. Of these, my favourites are the ‘twin passes’….

Hieu Map BBQ shop, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

A very local, long-running establishment offering a variety of cheap, simple and tasty barbecued meats to take away, Hieu Map BBQ Shop is a decent option for a meat feast to share with friends….

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….

The Boat Cafe (La Ngon), Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

Two wooden junks floating on the milk tea-coloured waters of the Kenh Te Canal in District 7, The Boat Cafe is one of those special places in Saigon that offer respite from the noise & chaos of the city without actually leaving it…

Quán Ốc Cẩm snail restaurant, Saigon, Vietnam

Dining out on snails, shellfish & beer is a national pastime in Vietnam. Everyone has their favourite quán ốc (snail restaurant) for a night of shells, booze, banter & fun: Quán Ốc Cẩm, in Saigon’s District 10, is one of mine…

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…

The Myst Dong Khoi Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam

The Myst is a new, quirky, stylish & elegant boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Saigon. From its enigmatic exterior to its eccentric interiors, The Myst is a bold & unique addition to the high-end hotel scene in Ho Chi Minh City…

Defined by its thick yellow noodles, crunchy rice crackers, quail eggs, fresh mint & salty-sweet sauce, mì quảng is a much-loved dish from Central Vietnam. The version at Mì Quảng 85 in Saigon is full of texture & colour, if a bit too sweet….

Bò kho (beef stew), Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

There are thousands of soup houses in Saigon: these are just two of them, but they are good ones, and they both offer three different kinds of soups. One of them is a longtime favourite of mine; the other was a recent ‘random encounter’…

Leman Cap Resort, Vung Tau, Vietnam

Sitting on the rocks above Vung Tau’s attractive seafront promenade, Leman Cap Resort is an excellent option for expats or mid-range travellers looking to escape Saigon for a couple of nights by the sea…

The Banyan Tree Cafe, Route 28, Central Highlands, Vietnam

Named after a grand old tree by the roadside, this cafe is located on the scenic road between Phan Thiet & Di Linh, in the Central Highlands. With good views & strong local coffee, it makes a pleasant pit-stop on a motorbike road trip…

The Road East of the Long Mountains (Đường Trường Sơn Đông), Vietnam

A romp through the Central Highlands, the Truong Son Dong Road is a ride to be savoured. With mystical overtones & military undercurrents, the name in Vietnamese translates as ‘The Road East of the Long Mountains’. It’s one of the best riding roads in Vietnam…

Saigon to Dalat, back roads, Vietnam

There are many ways to ride from Saigon to Dalat, but if you want a relatively direct route that avoids highways, there are several great options. These ‘back ways’ to Dalat utilize new, quiet & scenic roads to make the journey as fun as possible…

Vung Bau Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

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…

Cam Ranh Bay, Cam Lap Promontory, Vietnam

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’….

Silk Path Hotel, Hanoi

Walking distance from Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake, the Silk Path Hotel offers clean, crisp, modern and comfortable rooms in the capital. Stylish yet restrained, Silk Path is a good, solid mid-range hotel for couples or families visiting Hanoi…

Photo & Bike Cafe, Bao Loc, Central Highlands, Vietnam

The Central Highlands is famous for its coffee and its mountains. Photo & Bike Cafe marries these two elements nicely, making it the perfect pit-stop on any road trip that passes through Bao Loc, on the way between Saigon and Dalat…

Ho Tram & Ho Coc beaches, Vietnam

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.

Dim Sum in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Dim sum is increasingly popular in Saigon. But my favourite dumpling joint is an old-timer in Chinatown. Boasting a 10 page bible of dim sum dishes, this unassuming place offers great variety, quality and value for money…

Ocean Dunes Resort, Phan Thiet, Vietnam

On the beach in Phan Thiet City, the Ocean Dunes Resort is excellent value for money. Offering high-end amenities at mid-range prices, the Ocean Dunes is a great option for budget travellers looking for a slice of luxury and, because of its wide greens spaces, for families…

Mountains in the Mekong, motorbike road trip, Vietnam

Most of the Mekong Delta is as flat as a sheet of rice paper. But my favourite corner of the region, the western edge along the Cambodian border, is blessed with some high ground, in the form of a mini mountain range, which rises from the plains of An Giang Province. These mountains are connected by beautiful back-roads, perfect for a road trip…

Goat noodle soup in Saigon, Vietnam

Deep in Saigon’s Chinatown, there’s a bowl of goat noodles that’s meaty, rich, silky and smooth. This soup is full of farmyard flavours: it’s a barn in a bowl. Make no mistake, this is a heavy breakfast, but it’ll keep you going till the evening…

Saigon Midnight Motorbike Loop, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

At night, Saigon is at its best: temperatures are cool, humidity is low, and traffic is light – it’s the perfect time to see the city. The Midnight Loop is an urban motorbike route designed specifically for riding after dark: a night out on two wheels…

The Cafe Apartment on Nguyen Hue Street, Saigon

Boasting over 30 independent coffee shops & fashion boutiques, the old apartment block at No.42 Nguyen Hue is the coolest address on Saigon’s Walking Street. I call it the Cafe Apartment: this is my complete floor-by-floor guide…

Saigon's Street Food Ghettos, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Throughout Saigon, there are clusters of crumbling old apartment complexes, all of which are on the verge of either collapse or demolition. Living conditions appear cramped and grim but, outside on the sidewalks, the street life and street food is among the best and most vibrant in the city…

Binh Thuan Province is known for its beaches, but inland there’s a rich and varied landscape waiting to be explored. A network of rarely used, rural back-roads takes you on an inland loop – over arid plains, through forests, and across rivers….

River Road: The Cai Valley, Vietnam

A silver seam of glistening water, the Cai River meanders through a beautiful valley between Dalat & Phan Rang. A new road follows the course of the river, from its source in the high, forested hills to its mouth on the eastern seaboard….

The Pine Tree Road, North of Dalat by Motorbike, Vietnam

North of Dalat, an enticing road plunges deep into the pine forests of the Central Highlands before dead-ending in the beautiful Krông Nô River Valley…

The Tet Classic: Lunar New Year Motorbike Loop

Tết (Lunar New Year) is the biggest festival of them all in Vietnam, but travel can be very difficult at this time of year. That’s why, every year, I take a meandering road trip that bypasses popular tourist spots & makes the most of the dry season weather…

The Northern Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam

In the shadow of downtown Saigon’s high-rises, the Northern Hotel sits on a quiet street in the affluent yet quirky enclave known as the Japanese district. A five minute walk from such major landmarks as the Opera House and the Saigon River, the Northern Hotel offers very comfortable, mid-range accommodation…

Budget Sushi in Saigon, Vietnam

The last few years has seen an explosion of good-quality yet reasonably-priced sushi joints in Saigon. Décor is cheerful, ambience is informal, and customers are young & convivial: welcome to Saigon’s budget sushi scene….

The Saigon River, Vietnam

Many cities are closely associated with a major waterway that runs through them: Saigon has the Saigon River. Currently, the city is in the process rediscovering and redeveloping its river. This is my personal reflection & guide to the Saigon River…

Slurping your noodles is good in Vietnam

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….

Grilled chicken corner, Binh Thanh District, Saigon

At night, a scented fog hangs over a busy intersection in Saigon. The aromatic haze is the ‘Chicken Mist’ resulting from a dozen roadside barbecues hissing, smoking and grilling hundreds of fresh chicken carcasses. This is Chicken Corner, and this is where you come to get your poultry fix of crispy, tasty, delicious, grilled chicken in Saigon…

Everyone knows Saigon is full of great food. But there’s one corner in District 1, where you can eat three excellent meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in three excellent establishments, all within a few metres of each other: I call it the Food Triangle….

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….

The Ninh Thuan Loop, Vietnam

Located between the two most popular beach towns in Vietnam – Mui Ne and Nha Trang – Ninh Thuan Province boasts coastal scenery to rival its famous neighbours. One of the most sparsely populated, least developed, and driest regions in southern Vietnam, ambitious new roads have opened up access to Ninh Thuan’s captivating scenery…

Camping the Ocean Road: Saigon to Nha Trang

Pitch your tent under a coconut palm just metres from the surf & enjoy Vietnam’s south coast sleeping in the open air: This is my guide to camping on the beaches along the Ocean Road from Saigon to Nha Trang….

Edenstar Hotel, Saigon

Centrally located with a rooftop pool and sleek modern rooms, Edenstar is a solid Saigon mid-range hotel. Catering to all types of visitors, Edenstar is on a narrow street, lined with tall trees, and within walking distance of most of Saigon’s major attractions…..

The Deep South: Riding the Dragon's Tail

After 9 years travelling in Vietnam, the last four provinces that I have yet to visit are all in the Mekong Delta. These are the southernmost provinces in the country: the Deep South or, as I like to call it, the Dragon’s Tail. I thought it was about time I made it to all Vietnam’s 63 provinces, so I finally set out to travel as far south as roads go…

Com tam, Saigon

I love cơm tấm. Some of my happiest moments in Saigon have been sitting down with a good plate of barbecued pork & broken rice, watching the city go by. Saigon and cơm tấm are inseparable, and this city does it better than anywhere else. Cơm tấm is the quintessential Saigon experience. Here’s where to eat it….

Where to Eat Chè in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

A kaleidoscopic world of luminous colours, shifting shapes, unfamiliar textures, esoteric ingredients & rich flavours, chè is a fascinating sub-category of Vietnamese cuisine. Commonly translated as ‘dessert’, in reality chè is so filling & nutritious that it’s a meal in itself….

Con Dao or Phu Quoc?

Con Dao and Phu Quoc islands are the two most alluring beach destinations in Vietnam. But these two southern islands are very different in character, and therefore appeal to different types of travellers. As most visitors or expats only have time to go to one, which island should you choose?

Route Map: 2 Months on a Motorbike

During the autumn of 2014, I spent two months travelling over 9,000km by motorbike across Vietnam. This annotated and illustrated map of my road trip is designed as a resource for other riders. On it I’ve included links to relevant motorbike guides for specific regions; all of my overnight stops; and my exact route…

When I had breakfast at a noodle house in Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northernmost frontier, it was one of those occasions when food, people and place come together perfectly…

The Burnt Road, Ninh Thuan Province

A short, easy ride through a big, hot landscape of barren hills and abandoned farmhouses, Highway 27B is the Burnt Road. This road trip takes you inland, through the vast open spaces of Vietnam’s driest province…

The Cafe Quarter, Phu Nhuan District, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

In Phú Nhuận District – Saigon’s unofficial ‘café capital’ – a small grid of leafy streets plays host to a collection of trendy coffee shops. Bounded by the Thị Nghè Channel and Phan Xích Long Boulevard, I call this the ‘Café Quarter’…

Rice wine pudding

Fermented glutinous rice mixed together with an egg & steamed to create a mildly alcoholic rice pudding…..for breakfast

Saigon's Parks & Open Spaces

Saigon might be known as a burgeoning city full of motorbikes and exhaust fumes, but it still has a great many green spaces in which to escape the heat, noise and pollution. From lush gardens dating from French colonial times to sleek, modern, waterfront promenades, here are Saigon’s best parks and open spaces…

Bac Ha Sunday Market, Vietnam

In the rugged mountains of northwestern Vietnam, the town of Bắc Hà holds a big, bright and busy market every Sunday. Attracting colourfully dressed ethnic minorities from across the region, the market has become a major magnet for tourists…

Grilling on hot rocks at Chu Quán

One of Dalat’s new & exciting places to eat, Chu Quán is run by a young Vietnamese couple with a passion for good food & inventive decor. A smoky, open-sided BBQ-grill restaurant, this place has been buzzing since it opened…

Don't Miss the Dawn in Vietnam

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….

Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang Province, Vietnam

Ban Gioc Waterfall is one of Vietnam’s most impressive natural sights, yet very few foreign travellers make it here. Located right on the Chinese border in a beautiful pastoral landscape, Ban Gioc is the widest & most scenic waterfall in the country…

Sapa to Ha Giang by motorbike on borders & back-roads, Vietnam

Connecting two of the most mountainous provinces in Vietnam, this motorbike route straddles the Chinese border, passing through some of the remotest parts of the country…

Pac Bo: Ho Chi Minh's Cave

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…

Ha Giang Extreme North Motorbike Loop, northern Vietnam

Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northern-most province, is home to a mythical landscape of conical limestone peaks & craterous valleys. Over the years, it has gained an almost legendary status among travellers. This motorbike loop is perhaps the most thrilling road trip in the country…

Rice harvest, Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam

Every year, between September & October, the terraced rice fields of Mù Cang Chải, a rural district in northern Vietnam, put on a luminous show of picturesque harvest colours. I spectacular road runs through this region: I call it ‘The Harvest Route’….

Rice harvest, Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam

Every year, from summer to autumn, the terraced rice fields of Mù Cang Chải, a rural district in northern Vietnam’s Yen Bai Province, put on a luminous show of picturesque harvest colours. I call this spectacular sight ‘The Theatre of Rice’….

Sapa to Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Sapa and Sin Ho are two towns high up on the slopes of the Tonkinese Alps. They are connected by lofty mountain passes, offering grand scenery on a scale not seen anywhere else in Vietnam. This is an ideal scenic loop by motorbike…

Hoi An lantern festival, Vietnam

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….

Cleansed: Saigon bathes in dawn light

In 2014, I embarked on a 9,000km, two-month motorbike road trip through Vietnam. During my time on the road, I kept a full and illustrated diary of my travels, an annotated map of my route, and made a short film of the journey…

Phở Gia Hân, Saigon

I was first drawn to Phở Gia Hân by the enticing aroma that wafted over the narrow street on humid evenings. A family-run soup house in a local neighbourhood, this is one of my favourite places for phở in Saigon…

Guest houses: nhà nghỉ

Essential knowledge for the adventurous or budget traveller in Vietnam, ‘nhà nghỉ’ means ‘guest house’ in Vietnamese. However, this form of cheap accommodation often goes unnoticed by foreign travellers & suffers from a bad reputation among local people…

The Best Street Food Streets in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

Saigon is arguably the best place to explore Vietnam’s extraordinary street food scene. The city boasts so many street food outlets that it feels like a gigantic open-air restaurant. This is my guide to 7 of the best streets for street food in Saigon…

Phu Quoc's Beaches, Vietnam

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)…

Hotel Du Parc, Dalat

The Hotel Du Parc offers excellent value mid-range accommodation in the Central Highlands’ city of Dalat. Housed in a French building from the 1930s, this hotel has colonial ambience with modern amenities at very reasonable prices…

The Lunch Lady's Menu

The Lunch Lady in Saigon is famous for serving a different soup every day of the week. Here’s her weekly menu, illustrated with tantalizing images of each of the dishes…

Prenn Waterfall

Prenn Waterfall | Ankroet Waterfall | Cam Ly Waterfall First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle I’ve put these three small waterfalls – the least attractive in my list – together, because they are all within … Continue reading

Datanla Waterfall

Description | Image Slideshow | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Datanla waterfall is only 6km from Dalat city centre. It’s no surprise then, that this is the most touristy and developed of all … Continue reading

Lien Khuong Waterfall

Description | Image Slideshow | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Liên Khương is a dusty, busy, and unattractive town, 20km south of Dalat. From the horrible highway that passes through town, you’d never … Continue reading

Dambri Waterfall

Description | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Dambri waterfall is 130km from Dalat, but it still makes this list because the falls lie within Lâm Đồng Province. This impressive waterfall is, by some … Continue reading

Pongour Waterfall

Description | Image Slideshow | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Pongour is one of the most famous waterfalls in the province. It’s much loved and much visited by Vietnamese of all ages. As … Continue reading

Elephant Waterfall

Description | Image Slideshow | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Elephant waterfall is in a heavily farmed valley at the bottom of a mountain pass, 30km southwest of Dalat. It’s a popular excursion … Continue reading

Tiger Waterfall

Description | Image Slideshow | Map First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle Tiger waterfall is situated deep in the pine forests surrounding Dalat. Only 15km east of the city, these falls are easily reached but … Continue reading

Bao Dai Waterfall

Bao Dai Waterfall is one of the most spectacular but least-visited of all the cascades within reach of Dalat…

Dalat's Waterfalls

Dalat is located in Lâm Đồng Province, a mountainous region that boasts lots of waterfalls. I visited them all, in order to compile this list & guide to the waterfalls of Dalat & the surrounding area. Many of the falls are truly spectacular, while some are ruined by tourist development…