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….. Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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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…. Continue reading

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Sweet Saigon: Where to Eat Chè

A kaleidoscopic world of luminous colours, shifting shapes, unfamiliar textures, esoteric ingredients, and 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. Here a 9 great places to eat chè in Saigon… Continue reading

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Saigon’s other Lunch Lady

Everyone knows who Saigon’s Lunch Lady is, right? Well, probably not this one. Ms Nga is 43 years old. She serves a different soup each day of the week, from her cramped, ramshackle soup stall. Originally from Thai Binh (a northern province famous for producing excellent cooks), she moved to Saigon in the mid-90s… Continue reading

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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? Continue reading

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Trash Talk: Litter in Vietnam’s Beauty Spots

Vietnam is an extraordinarily beautiful country, but thousands of scenic areas across the nation are increasingly ruined by trash. A major catalyst for litter in beauty spots are picnickers, who neglect to clean up after themselves. Beaches, forests, and rivers are filling up with rubbish, and there’s no sign of things getting better… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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Ma Maison Boutique Hotel, Saigon

Hidden deep within a network of alleyways, Ma Maison is a warm, bright boutique hotel in a typical, local Saigon neighbourhood. Decorated in French Provençal fashion and located away from the city centre, Ma Maison plugs travellers straight into genuine local life… Continue reading

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Breakfast in Ha Giang

A few months back, I had breakfast at a noodle house in Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northernmost frontier. Ever since I ate there, the experience has been echoing inside me. It was one of those occasions where food, people and place come together perfectly… Continue reading

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The Hanoi Impressive Hotel

In the quiet, shaded alleyways, behind the neo-Gothic façade of St Joseph’s Cathedral, the Hanoi Impressive Hotel is my go-to place to stay when visiting the capital. At $40 a night, it’s fantastic mid-range value… Continue reading

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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’… Continue reading

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Hot Toddy: Rice Wine Pudding

Anyone who’s spent time in Vietnam’s highlands will have come across rượu nếp – rice wine. However, on a recent visit to Cao Bang, I was introduced to rượu nếp in its pure, non-liquid form: a hot toddy meets rice pudding… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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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…. Continue reading

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My Protein Diet Week

In December 2014 I spent a week on a protein diet in Saigon. I ate Vietnamese food from street vendors & informal eateries as much as possible, and I recorded it all in my Protein Diet Diary on this page… Continue reading

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Pác Bó: 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… Continue reading

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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. Considered the last frontier for adventurous travel in Vietnam, this motorbike loop offers perhaps the most thrilling road trip in the country… Continue reading

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Ho Citadel (Thành Nhà Hồ)

Designated a World Heritage site in 2011, Ho Citadel is a 14th century royal enclosure surrounded by pretty farmland. The ruins, partly obscured by foliage, are extensive & farming still continues inside this former imperial city… Continue reading

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Two Months on a Motorbike

Starting on Vietnam’s Independence Day (2nd September), I embarked on a two month road trip on my trusty motorbike, Stavros. I drove from Saigon up to the remote northern provinces around the Chinese and Lao borders, and back again. This was a journey of over 9,000km. During my time on the road, I kept a diary of my travels on this page… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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Best Street Food Streets in Saigon

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is arguably the best place to explore Vietnam’s extraordinary street food scene. Saigon boasts so many street food outlets that the city feels like one gigantic open-air restaurant. Here are my 5 favourite streets for street food in Saigon… Continue reading

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Phu Quoc’s Beaches: A Guide

In the balmy waters of the Gulf of Thailand, a white halo of sand encompasses this green, forested island, 45km off Vietnam’s southwestern-most coast. On the cusp of major development, now is the time to visit Phu Quoc’s beaches. Continue reading

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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 reasonable prices… Continue reading

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The Lunch Lady: A Diary

Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh is The Lunch Lady. Her famous ‘rotating menu’ (she serves a different dish each day) is a huge draw for locals, tourists & foodies from around the world. I ate lunch here everyday for a week to see how good it really is… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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My Motorbike, Stavros

My motorbike turned 7 years old last month. In that time it’s taken me all over Vietnam, clocking up over 100,000km in the process. Mountains, rivers, cities, beaches; my motorbike has seem them all. Affectionately known to me as ‘Stavros’, I’ve grown very attached to my motorbike over the years… Continue reading

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Vung Ro Bay

A gorgeous, undeveloped bay on the south-central coast, 2014 might be the last chance you get to visit Vung Ro before construction starts on two enormous, multi-billion dollar projects, that will change the area forever. Continue reading

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The Best Phở in Saigon

It’s surprisingly difficult to find a truly outstanding bowl of phở (beef noodle soup) in Saigon. But, after 8 years living & eating in this city, I’ve finally found a place that, in my opinion, serves the best bowl of phở in Saigon… Continue reading

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Driving to Phu Quoc Island by Motorbike

Flying to Phu Quoc Island is cheap & easy, but if you want a real adventure, driving there by motorbike from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is much more fun. This road trip takes you from Vietnam’s biggest city to some of the country’s best tropical beaches, via the waterways & highways of the Mekong Delta. Continue reading

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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! Continue reading

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Phu Quoc Island by Boat

Travelling by boat to Phu Quoc Island is easy & fun, but it’s always been difficult to find up-to-date ferry information. This is my guide to taking the boat to Phu Quoc, including all current ferry times, fares & information. Continue reading

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Ana Mandara Villas, Dalat

With 17 restored French colonial villas on a hillside just west of the city centre, Ana Mandara Resort & Spa keeps the charm & romance of Dalat alive. Luxury accommodation in the Central Highlands doesn’t get more atmospheric than this. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Juliet’s Villa Resort

Surrounded by coffee farms, tea plantations, rice paddies and fruit trees, Juliet’s Villa Resort is a quiet, secluded and peaceful place to stay in the Central Highlands. 80km southwest of Dalat, this small, family-run resort opens up a part of the highlands most travellers overlook. Continue reading

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Camping in Dalat

The best thing about Dalat is not the city itself but the natural beauty of the surrounding area – purple mountains cloaked in pine forests stretching into the misty distance – and camping is the best way to experience it. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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? Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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10 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 and clamour of the city, Saigon has some good & inexpensive public swimming pools to choose from. Here are 10 of the best pools in Saigon… Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Beyond Mũi Né: Motorbike Guide

Mũi Né, the famous resort -studded beach on the south-central coast, is lovely, but it’s firmly on the beaten track. It can get crowded, especially on weekends & national holidays. If you want to escape the crowds, rent a motorbike & head north-east up the coast for a two day road trip towards Liên Hương. Continue reading

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Hòn Gốm Sandbar: Motorbike Guide

Vietnam’s most easterly point, Hòn Gốm Sandbar stretches 30km into the South China Sea. Deserted, wild beaches line both sides, and a couple of tiny fishing villages shelter in calm coves. A new road runs along almost the entire length of the sandbar, making a great road trip from Nha Trang. Continue reading

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Dai Lanh Beach

Đại Lãnh Beach is a pretty stretch of sand squeezed between lush mountains, on the south-central coast. It should be more popular than it is, but its proximity to Highway 1 means that noise can be a problem. However, this will change once a new tunnel under the mountains is completed. Continue reading

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Núi Chúa Coastal Road

Núi Chúa is a beautiful promontory that juts into the ocean between Phan Rang City and Cam Ranh Bay, on Vietnam’s south-central coast. A new road has opened up access to spectacular beaches, forests, mountain springs and fishing villages. It’s great for a road trip! Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Homestays: Pù Luông Nature Reserve

Homestays in Vietnam offer some of the best value accommodation and food that’s available anywhere in the country. The homestays in Bản Hiêu, a village on a mountainside in the stunning landscape of Pù Luông Nature Reserve, are some of the most atmospheric and romantic you could hope to find. Continue reading

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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 of Nho Quan is one of the best soups in Vietnam. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Dragons’ Graveyard: Mui Dinh Coast Road

Mũi Dinh is a sandy, boulder-strewn promontory hiding wild, windy and isolated beaches that have hardly ever seen a foreign visitor. The landscape is striking, arid and deserted, and the fishing villages are dusty, poor and salty: this is Vietnam’s Wild West. Located on the south-central coast, a stunning new road now connects Mũi Dinh with Phan Rang to the north, and Ca Na to the south. Continue reading

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The Ocean Road: Part 1

A quiet road runs 150km along the southeastern coast of Vietnam, linking the two beach towns of Vũng Tàu and Mũi Né. Skirting the deserted coastline for much of its length, occasionally ducking inland through fruit plantations and dusty villages where ox-drawn carts full of hay linger in the heat; I call it the Ocean Road. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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The Limestone Loop: Motorbike Guide

Thanh Hóa is a province of limestone pinnacles, rivers and rice paddies. Quiet roads meander through steep valleys cloaked in bamboo forests, and mountain passes twist skyward towards remote Lao border crossings. New highways and upgraded roads have cut travel time between Thanh Hóa Province and Hanoi to within 2 or 3 hours. Continue reading

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Snails & Shellfish

Snail eating is incredibly popular in Vietnam. A night of shells and beer is a very local experience. On weekends, young and old feast into the early hours. The snails come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re delicious! Continue reading

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Con Dao Islands

Once a brutal penal colony, set up by the French colonial administration, today the superb beaches and rugged terrain of the Con Dao Islands is starting to attract attention. The prisons are preserved as a national memorial, but they are in stark contrast to the beauty of this archipelago. Continue reading

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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! Continue reading

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