ABOUT

 Last updated July 2016 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

CONTENTS:


ABOUT: ME

The Who: I’m Tom. I’ve lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005, and I love it here. I was lucky enough to travel abroad from an early age – my first visit to Vietnam was in 1999, age 17 – but now, whenever I have the opportunity to make a trip somewhere, I rarely look beyond Vietnam’s borders. For me, everything that I look for in a travel destination – landscape, food, people, history, culture, adventure, romance – I can find here.

Vietnam Coracle, Tom, profile pictureMe: a selfie taken at Bao Dai falls while researching my Guide to Dalat’s Waterfalls

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ABOUT: MY SITE

The When & the Why: I created Vietnam Coracle in 2012, partly as a way to share and express the experiences I’ve had in this country, and partly because I was frustrated by meeting people who had come to Vietnam – either to live or to travel – and left disappointed. This site is my way of making sure that, for those with a sense of adventure, Vietnam doesn’t pass you by.

The What & the How: Vietnam Coracle is a free online resource for independent travellers. My articles are extensive guides to food, drink, destinations, motorbike trips, and accommodation throughout the country. All my guides are 100% independent: written, researched, illustrated, and experienced by me. If it’s on Vietnam Coracle then I’ve been there and done it. My guides include detailed maps, directions, addresses, relevant web links, hotel and restaurant reviews; all the information you need to experience the places I write about for yourselves.

The coracle is an icon of Vietnam: it ferries fishermen from their boats to shore.
The ‘coracle’ is an icon of Vietnam: it ferries fishermen from their boats to shore

It’s Personal: Vietnam Coracle is a deeply personal view of Vietnam: I write about all the things that I love. I tend to prefer off-the-beaten-track destinations and activities to well-trodden or touristy ones. This is partly because the latter are well-covered by other resources, and partly because, in my experience, the further you get from popular destinations in Vietnam, the better your experience will be. If and when I write about a popular place, I usually focus on a specific aspect of it which appeals to me. An example of this is the Lantern Festival in Hoi An.

Ratings & Reviews: I include and review all standards of accommodation, dining, and travel – budget, mid-range and luxury are all covered on this site. However, I always judge a place based on my own expectations of value for money. If a $200 a night resort offers good but not excellent accommodation and service, then I will rate the $10 a night, friendly, family-run guesthouse next door, more highly. Likewise, when it comes to eating in Vietnam, a good meal is about more than just the quality of the food: a confluence of physical surroundings, ambience and food is what constitutes a good meal for me. Since street food is so good and so popular in Vietnam, the kind of place that meets the above criteria is not the indoor, quiet, sterile, ‘restaurant environment’, but the outdoor, busy, messy, noisy and delicious place on the sidewalk.

Street Food in Saigon, Vietnam
The kind of place I love: the street food scene beats the restaurants every time

Keeping it Current: Unlike printed guides, Vietnam Coracle is ‘live’, which means it can be updated easily and immediately. All travel information in my posts is accurate at the time of writing, but such is the pace of development in Vietnam, that some details are bound to have changed by the time you read them. Always check the top of the page for the date of my latest extensive update (see the top of this page, for example). I encourage readers to let me know of any new developments or changes they encounter while travelling, so I can keep my articles as current as possible. Your input is a great help to me and other travellers. Readers can either comment at the bottom of my posts or email me with information (click here for contact details).

*Note: If you want to stay informed each time I post a new article or make a thorough update to an existing one, you can subscribe to my newsletter and/or join one of my social media pages.

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ABOUT: MY GUIDES & CATEGORIES

My guides fall into 4 main categories. Click one from the list below to read more about it:

Category: Destinations

My Destinations Category covers some of my favourite places to visit throughout Vietnam: beaches, mountains, cultural and historical sites, and much more. Some destinations in Vietnam, such as Halong Bay and Hoi An, are very much on the ‘beaten track’. But, despite their popularity, these places are still relatively quiet and charming when compared to similar spots in Thailand and Malaysia. However, away from the established tourist trail, there are many emerging destinations that remain wonderfully undeveloped. These areas – such as the Con Dao Islands – should be visited as soon as possible, before those annoying people start saying, “You should have seen what this place was like five years ago!” Remote, mountainous regions, especially in the north, require a bit more effort to get to, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery: Ban Gioc Waterfall (pictured below) is one such place. See the Destinations category archive for more ideas.

Ban Gioc Waterfall, VietnamBan Gioc Waterfall is an example of a spectacular yet relatively undeveloped destination in Vietnam

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Category: Food & Drink 

Food should be a highlight of any visit to Vietnam. Yet many travellers return home underwhelmed by their culinary experience of the country. This is partly due to Vietnamese restaurants that cater to foreign tourists. These places are more likely to offer the ‘idea’ of Vietnamese food than the real thing. My food and drink guides will help you bypass these ‘phony’ places and get straight to the ‘real stuff’. Some dishes – such as bún mắm – can come as a shock to western palates, but others – such as cơm tấm– are much easier to get to grips with. It took me more than a year before I became familiar with the Vietnamese flavour spectrum. But, once I learned to trust the Vietnamese palate, a whole new and delicious world opened up to me. A good thing to remember is that it’s often the most informal and run-down looking establishments that serve the best food; follow the crowds, not the décor! And don’t forget the drinks: Vietnam is a nation of cafes and informal bars. The urban independent cafe scene is particularly exciting. See the Food & Drink category archive for more suggestions.

Vietnamese noodle soup, street food, VietnamRich in colour, texture, flavour & variety, Vietnamese food & drink is a highlight of visiting Vietnam

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Category: Motorbike Guides

Few things compare to the feeling of freedom and excitement you get when starting out early in the morning on the open road. The motorbike is the most popular mode of transport in Vietnam, and there’s no better way to see the country. Over the years, my motorbike, Stavros, has taken me to all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces. Having your own two wheels gives you unparalleled access to Vietnam’s landscapes and cities. You won’t be restricted by bus, plane or train routes: the whole country is open to adventure. My motorbike guides outline great rides throughout the country: from the Ho Chi Minh Road to the Extreme North Loop, from gentle back-road jaunts to epic south to north adventures. All my guides include detailed route maps, and information about things to see and places to stay and eat along the way. With my motorbike guides you can do it all independently. Don’t be put off by the chaotic traffic in Hanoi and Saigon: once you’re out of these cities the traffic is much lighter. Nevertheless, some roads can be dangerous, but, with common sense and careful driving, you’ll be fine. See the Motorbike Guides category archive for exciting routes all over the country.

Vietnam Coracle Motorbike Guides, VietnamSaddle up! A motorbike road trip is the ultimate way to see & experience Vietnam: you’ll never forget it

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Category: Hotel Reviews

One of the things that has always excited me about travelling, is the prospect of stumbling upon and staying in a great-value accommodation. Whether it’s a dorm bed for a couple of dollars in a city centre, an immaculately clean family-run guesthouse in an off-the-beaten-track location, a mid-range hotel in a fabulous position, or a 5 star resort with exquisite attention to detail; I love them all and I review them all on Vietnam Coracle. As with the rest of my content, my accommodation reviews are detailed, personal and 100% independent – I never write a favourable review in return for payment. From camping on the coast to luxurious French Villas in the highlands, from homestays in the mountains to tropical island resorts, my reviews cover the whole country and all price ranges. See the Hotel Reviews category archive for more ideas of places to stay.

*Note: If you’d like to support Vietnam Coracle and the work I do, please consider booking your hotels through my site via the Agoda search boxes (like the one below) or links like this one. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), which gets ploughed straight back into this website and goes a long way to keeping Vietnam Coracle up and running. Thank you!


Vietnam Coracle Hotel ReviewsMy reviews range from budget beds to luxury beach resorts, like the one above: Victoria Phan Thiet

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ABOUT: VIETNAM

Vietnam is an exciting place to be at this point in time. The country is undergoing huge transformations in almost all aspects of its society and culture: from economics to eating habits, from religion to relationships, from family to foreign policy. For the traveller, tourism is in the perfect phase of transition: infrastructure is developed enough to allow access to practically all regions of the country, but undeveloped enough to make off-the-beaten-track experiences a daily occurrence, should you seek them out. But, with the current pace of change, some things – unspoiled islands, historic buildings, local eating houses – are bound to disappear forever. Don’t wait, visit now!

Phan Thiet at dawn, VietnamNew dawn: Vietnam is experiencing huge changes in all aspects of its society & culture – exciting times!

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ABOUT: ADVERTISING

Vietnam Coracle is, and always will be, free and independent. As the site has grown, Vietnam Coracle has became a full-time occupation for me. Therefore, I must monetize it in some way. Rather than charging for access to my content, I have chosen to make personally selected, content-based advertising available on my pages. These ads are aimed at complementing my content, rather than distracting from it. I advertise products, companies and services that I think will be of use to my readers, and, preferably, ones that I have personal experience of. You’ll see my ads in the right sidebar and bottom of all my posts, under the title ‘Selected Resources for Travellers & Expats’. For more information about advertising on Vietnam Coracle and how it works, take a look at my Media Kit.

*Note: For details about other aspects of my website that may affect you, please read my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my Privacy Policy

Thanks for reading!

Vietnam Coracle Logo

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107 Responses to ABOUT

  1. Claire says:

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

    Claire

    • Hi Claire,

      Thanks for contacting me and asking.

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

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

      Thanks,

      Tom

  2. Chelsea Stanford says:

    Hi Tom

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

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

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

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

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

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks so much Tom
    Best regards, Chelsea :)

    • Hi Chelsea,

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

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

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Chelsea Stanford says:

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

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

        • Hi Chelsea,

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

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

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

  3. Shruti says:

    Hi Tom,

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

    Regards,
    Shruti.

    • Hi Shruti,

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

      Tom

  4. VERONICA CLAYTON says:

    Hi Tom,

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

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

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

    Warm Regards,
    Veronica

  5. V says:

    Hi Tom,

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

    • Hi V,

      Glad you liked the phở :-)

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

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

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  6. Rhea says:

    Hi Tom!

    Thank you for the very helpful website. :)
    I am going for traveling solo to Ho Chi Minh City on August, your guide has been a big help on my plan! Thank you once again. Anyway, how about the safety for woman during day and night time there? Specifically around Pham Ngu Lau backpackers area where I will stay.
    Your information is so much appreciated!

    Thank you again! :)

    Cheers,
    Rhea

    • Hi Rhea,

      Yes, in general Saigon and the rest of Vietnam are still very safe places in which to travel. If you are a solo female traveller you should take all the normal safety precautions that you would when visiting any other country, but it is very rare for anything bad to happen. However, sadly when things do go wrong it tends to be in the backpacker areas of popular tourist destinations, such as Saigon (Pham Ngu Lao), Mui Ne, Nha Trang etc. This is mostly because of bad or aggressive or provocative behaviour by foreigners and Vietnamese that is usually fueled by alcohol or other drugs late at night. But, again, this is still a rare occurrence :-)

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  7. Ivan says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks so much for this detailed blog, amazing pics. I’m planning a long solo bicycle trip from Saigon to Hanoi and then back to Saigon over the course of about 6 weeks or more if I decide to hang out in different locals along the way. Knowing me, I will. ;)

    Question for you.. I just went to this doctor here in the US about vaccinations before my trip. They were saying that I should get Japanese Encyephalitis vaccine which is like $300 for each shot (2 shots)! bring malaria pills, Hep B, Hep A, Tetanus, Rabies!, and blablabla list went on.. I’ve had Hep A/B already and tetnis already. I know you are not a doctor but since you live out there I thought I’d ask you what you think before I splurge on any of this. It can really add up and I think some of this is just unnecessary as I’m not really getting into any super jungle areas just staying on HCM Highway and Highway 1 for the most part.

    My biggest concern is the monsoon I’m going to go through once I get into the North. ;)

    Thanks!
    Ivan

    • Hi Ivan,

      Yes, you’re right, I’m not a doctor :-) but I would say that it’s worth having all of the inoculations that you mentioned, however I don’t know about Japanese Encyephalitis – I don’t think I’ve ever had to have that one before, but I see that it’s mosquito-borne.

      When it comes to malaria pills, it’s up to you really. Many travellers start taking them, feel awful, and then stop because the side-affects of the pills are ruining their holidays. On the other hand, malaria is, of course, deadly.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Ivan says:

        Seems the Japanese E. and Rabies are by far the most expensive. I know there are a lot of dogs there and maybe some bats but I can’t imagine getting attacked by one while biking. Stranger things have happened I suppose.

        Thanks Tom.

  8. Michelle Nawrocki says:

    Hello,
    I am taking a 3 day Saigon 5 day Bali trip in Feb 17. I am looking forward to trying as many foods as possible, BUT..I have serious food sensitivities.
    I assume most foods are prepared from whole foods and grown herbs and spices and not processed or chemical laden as in the US?
    Can you offer any insight? Also, can you tell me how to translate MSG? Monosodium glutamate? I must be sure to hold a card that says please no MSG.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Yes, it’s very difficult to travel and throw yourself into a street food culture, such as Vietnam’s, if you are sensitive to those things.

      Many young Vietnamese also find themselves allergic to MSG these days. The word is bột ngọt. Put the word không in front of it to say ‘no MSG’. Almost everyone will understand this, but you should still be aware that most dishes which come in a sauce more often than not will have MSG in it.

      Yes, get a card printed with ‘no MSG’ on it. You’ll be OK if you stick to tourist restaurants but indulging in the street food scene may be a little trickier. However, I have had other readers in the past with similar sensitivities and they’ve managed fine and enjoyed the cuisine here.

      Good luck,

      Tom

      • Michelle Nawrocki says:

        Thank you kindly!

        • Nguyen Dien says:

          Hi Michelle,

          Thank you for your interesting in our country.
          I’m a Vietnamese girl and would like to help you
          Monosodium glutamate=Bột ngọt? Instead if saying Bột ngọt, you should say “không mỳ chính” = “no monosodium glutamate” if you visit Northern provinces like Hanoi and say “không bột ngọt” in Southern provinces like Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang…

          If you have any question, pls feel free to contact me!

          Nguyen Dien

  9. Romelus Saladar says:

    Hi Tom,

    I bumped into you in the past, and a Vietnamese friend of mine brought up your name and referred to your post on the CAFE APARTMENTS on Nguyen Hue street. I laughed when I recognised who you were. We haven’t met for a while, BUT many things you mentioned about Vietnam is the same way I feel about the country. Even being from Australia originally, I get a sudden sense of PEACEFUL enthusiasm to walk around anywhere here. It’s something that people may not realize, when ONLY knowing about the country because of it’s difficult history of change and discovery to grow from those times. I feel more peaceful here than in Hip Rocking SYDNEY !!! It’s funny that many of the places you mentioned in HCMC, I’ve been to as well hahahahahaahaha, BUT I guess it’s not UNUSUAL because for those CURIOUS to discover HCMC, that a common place to find is the reason why people almost always by chance enjoy the same places. The friend of mine here that pointed out your article is the owner of MetSigns cafe in the CAFE APARTMENTS on Nguyen Hue street (now being popularly called pho di bo). That whole building 42 Nguyen Hue street, is CONSTANTLY CHANGING every MONTH. Vietnam is becoming progressively EXCITING !!! Now with FREE WIFI on the WHOLE STREET… that location will be MORE HIP than any place I know in SYDNEY !!! More INTERNET AVAILABILITY in FASCINATING HCMC !!!

    Keep up the good work mate. Maybe we’ll run into each other again. OR WE HAVE & we will AGAIN AND AGAIN!!! Hahahahahahahaha HCMC or VN is a place where people PASS BY.. and just happen to be a part of the atmosphere.. and might feel… HMmmmm… I think I know that dude???… then walk further on to just smile about the place… WHY?? because the world now feels MORE FAMILIAR !!! Hahahahahahaha…

    Viva VIETNAM !!! Hahahahahahahahaaha… BE COOL MAN !!!

    • Hi Romelus,

      I’m happy to hear you’ve enjoyed reading some of my articles, and that you have also visited some of the places before. Yes, we must have similar tastes!

      Yes, the change in Vietnam – especially in Saigon – is constant: sometimes it’s fascinating; sometimes it’s scary! But Saigon and Vietnam in general always feels like a great and exciting place to be every day :-)

      I hope you continue to enjoy life here!

      Tom

  10. Stein Flaten says:

    I am impressed and fascinated by all the work you’ve done with all the videos and all the information about destinations and traveling around Viet Nam.

    I am married to a Vietnamese woman and spend half of the year in Vietnam, Saigon.
    We live in Saigon from October – April and in Norway when it is summer there.
    Would just like to thank you again for all the great information in your website and all the fine videos on youtube, – and then show my appreciation for the work you do.
    We have our honda and have been inspired to take the motorbike along the : « Ocean Road from Saigon to Phan Thiet / Nha Trang» , and to Dalat where I could like to live, ( instead og noisy and dusty Saigon).
    Could wish to contact you one day in October or November when we return to Saigon for a little chat, if possible ??

    – regards
    Stein Flaten – http://vietnam.steingal.com/#!home stein.flaten@online.no – and Facebook
    Hellebergvg 36, 3960 Stathelle
    Telemark, NORWAY

    • Hi Stein,

      Thanks for your kind words about my site. I’m happy to hear you’ve enjoyed reading it.

      The ride along the Ocean Road from Saigon up to Nha Trang, and then the mountain road up to Dalat is great – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

      I travel around quite a lot so I never really know where I’ll be from one week to the next, but let me know when you’re here in the autumn. If we can’t meet there’s always email instead.

      Tom

  11. George Rivers says:

    Hi Tom,

    My wife and I are planning a trip to Vietnam. I’m a retired U.S. Marine serving three tours during the war. The first one was with the ARVN as a infantry battalion advisor and the last tour was with the Vietnamese Marines as a senior Brigade advisor– all with infantry units. My question is how are folks like me treated now that the war has been over for many years. Will there be some resentment? I’m thinking about 2-days in Saigon, two or three days in Nha Trang, two nights in Hoi An/Danang and two nights in Hanoi. How is the best way to use your good services/advice. I’m thinking about planning this trip in January or February next year. I’m coinciding this trip for a stay over in Cebu, the Philippines and maybe three days in Hong Kong. What do you think?.

    Cheers, George Rivers

    • Hi George,

      In the vast majority of cases you will not be subject to any resentment. Vietnam has an extremely young population and many Vietnamese view the war as simply a subject at school, and even those that don’t are very unlikely to harbour any resentment or bad feelings towards Americans. In general, most Vietnamese – whether they fought in the war or not – do not hold grudges against individual Americans: they may resent US government policies during that period, but not the soldiers that fought on the government’s behalf.

      You may be offended or disagree with some of the interpretations of the war in Vietnam – such as, propaganda in museums etc. But, you’d be very unlucky to experience a verbal confrontation related to the war in Vietnam – unless, of course, you seek it.

      January and February are great months to be in the south of Vietnam, but in the north and central provinces it will be cold and grey. However, this is also the time of the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations so there’s always a lot of buzz across the country at that time. If you will be visiting during the Lunar New Year holidays it is highly advisable to book everything in advance – transport, tours, hotels etc – because things can get extremely busy then. You can read more about weather and where and when to go in my Weather Guide.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  12. Emily Le says:

    Hi Admin the website,

    I am vietnamese who is a non native english. I was so happy to find our a great website that I can learn more english in travel field. I can’t afford to pay for travel in this moment, but I will save your website like tips for the future. I also share it to some groups on facebook, there are many foreigners who want to explore vietnam.
    Thank you.
    best regards.
    Emily,

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks :-) It’s great to hear that you are enjoying my website and sharing it with others too.

      I hope you get the chance to travel and experience some of the places that I write about soon.

      Tom

  13. Hoa Nguyen says:

    Hi Tom,

    I am Vietnamese and I also love travel. Today I am writing an email to my friend in Mexico and I found this website.

    I am very surprise and impressive about this website.

    Please let me know if I can help you for anything to contribute for your website. I am willing to do it.

    Best regards,
    Hoa

  14. Heather Carr says:

    Hi Tom
    I’ve also really enjoyed reading your information. It’s great because it’s so detailed.
    I wondered if you could recommend a travel guide for an independent traveller? I’ve been to Vietnam 2X and want to do some research on Ho Chi Minh so want to go to Pac Bo and Dien Bien Phu from Hanoi.
    Any help would be appreciated!
    Kind regards
    Heather

    • Hi Heather,

      Do you mean a tour guide? If so, I don’t have much to offer you I’m afraid. You could try contacting Buffalo Tours and explaining exactly what it is you want/need from a guide and they might be able to tailor something/someone that suits you. Buffalo Tours are good – probably the best in Vietnam.

      If you mean a guide book, then a mixture of the big guides – Lonely Planet, Rough Guide etc – and online information – Rusty Compass, Travelfish etc – plus some background reading – there are lots of biographies of Ho Chi Minh available – should do the trick.

      I assume you’ve already taken a look at my guide to Pac Bo Cave – beautiful place and massively significant.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  15. Jacinthe says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I really enjoy reading your blog. It was our first time in Asia, and first time on a motorbike. We drove from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and loved the adventure!

  16. Kevin Kim says:

    Tom, Hello!
    I live in the States and just came back from an unforgettable adventure in Vietnam. I remember looking through your website on my iPhone while I was in the south (Nha Trang) once I heard about the Ho Chi Minh Road. I could feel your passion for Vietnam’s unparalleled beauty through your site, and I’m so grateful for your guidance on which routes to take in order to maximize the beauty. Super long story put short, it changed my life. It’s an odd feeling being back in the States…it’s like I’m having withdrawal from some powerful drug. I’m wondering if something similar happened to you. I’d love to go back…I’m currently working on moving my teaching business to an online platform so I can make money while traveling. Anyway, thank you for being you.

    Go, go, go,

    Kevin

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks! Great to hear that you had such an amazing time. Yes, I do feel similar after a good trip – but I’m lucky enough to live in Vietnam and have lots of other opportunities to go on more road trips, so I don’t feel too much ‘withdrawal’ once I’m back in Saigon :-)

      I hope you get the chance to come back to Vietnam are do some more inspiring journeys.

      Tom

  17. Uyen Huynh says:

    Hi Tom,
    I just want to thank you for putting together such an amazing website! I found yours through Jodi Ettenberg’s site and I am very touched by your apparent love for Vietnam. Make me so much prouder to be a Vietnamese. I’m heading to Saigon in a week to visit family and friends. Looking forward to try some of your food & drink recommendations. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been back, so I’m sure a lot has changed. Cám ơn và chúc anh nhiều sức khỏe!
    Uyen

    • Hi Uyen,

      Thanks! It’s great to hear that you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. I hope you have a fantastic time in Saigon eating and drinking your way through the city :-)

      Cám ơn nhiều,

      Tom

  18. Patrick says:

    Hi Tom,
    I sent you some pictures through your facebook!
    Hope you enjoy it!
    Chúc anh mọi điều tốt lành,
    Pat

  19. PATRICK says:

    Hi Tom,
    Have you ever been to any spring water in DaLat or handicraft village or bamboo village? Actually , the pine road is the way heading to my hometown.
    I would like to send you some pictures and maybe you have been there.
    Have a good day!
    Pat

  20. Patrick says:

    Hi Tom,
    I could not believe that you have been living in Vietnam and Have written such wonderful stories.
    T hank you for having good thinking about VN. As you hvae been written about beutiful places of VN I would like to guide you to the north of Dalat if you find interesting .It is the road heading to the North of central high land.
    There are a lot of villages ,waterfall, coffe plantation,rice field…you can find some on my face book( shane kosa).
    I have taken some foreigner friends they all loved it..I f you are interested in..please feel free to text me on facebook.
    I hope you keep writing interesting thing about Vietnam!
    Patrick

  21. Keri says:

    Brilliant to come across your site. We are not quite at the really adventurous end of the scale travelling with 3 really small kids but loving some of your recommendations and great detail your share, we’ll be using some of your tips when we arrive in 10 days time!

    • Hi Keri,

      Great to hear you’ve found my site useful. Yes, it must be a very different experience travelling with three kids! But great fun too, I imagine :-)

      I hope you enjoy Vietnam when you get here.

      Tom

  22. Vy says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m Vietnamese, Saigonese. I needed to find some information for my foreign friends, so I found you. I just want to say thank you for your love with my country.
    Vietnam Coracle is a wonderful, inspired website. You are very kind and thoughtful when you’re replied all comments with clear, helpful details.

    Cảm ơn anh, Tom.

    V.

  23. BT says:

    Hi Tom,

    Just wondering if you can tell me the type of work you do n Vietnam? are you s English teacher at the moment? as I did read in one of your previous reports you come across to do ESL course?

    If I decided to live in Vietnam long term I would look at teaching English the hard part is knowing if I would enjoy teaching as forking out $1600US to do a month long TESOL course and then not liking teaching is a risk, but if I don’t try I would never know.
    Last time I was in Vietnam I did enjoy teaching many Vietnamese people English in parks as most would approach me and I would teach 3 people all of a sudden there’s 5 then 10 minutes later 10 in front of me but obviously this is a lot different to teaching in a school!

    Cheers

    • Hi,

      Yes, I first came to Vietnam to do a TEFL course. I liked the course and I liked teaching so I decided to stay in Vietnam teaching English. It gives you a chance to live, work and travel in Vietnam (and other countries), but of course it all depends on whether you enjoy the job or not. There’s not really any way of knowing unless you try it.

      There are lots of decent teaching positions available so there’s plenty to choose from. A TEFL course in Saigon is good fun anyway.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Paulette says:

        Hi Tom

        Like others, thanks for this site. It’s always good to read up on places as much as you can before deciding to embark on a journey there and you provide great information.
        I have looked at many TEFL courses in Vietnam and confused as to the best option? Can you tell me which organisation you did your course with?

        Thanks heaps

        • Hi Paulette,

          Thanks. My TEFL course was with TEFL International. It was superb: the instructor, the course, the teaching practices and the other students – it was a perfect combination.

          However, we simply got lucky that all those aspects aligned themselves for our particular course – it doesn’t really have that much to do with the particular organization you choose.

          One thing to consider if you’re doing a TEFL in Vietnam is that, in Vietnam, when you first find a teaching job you will most likely be teaching children – regardless of your preference or skills. For me, this was perfect because my TEFL course had focused primarily on teaching children. But, for many people – especially those who’ve done a CELTA course, which focuses of teaching adults – this can be a big problem.

          So try to think about what age/ability you’d most like to teach and then see if you can find out which TEFL courses focus on which age bracket.

          I hope this helps,

          Tom

  24. Stuart says:

    Hi Tom,

    AMAZING site. Thank you for all the effort you have put into it. The information is excellent and well written.

    I am coming to Vietnam in 2017 for an open ended trip.

    Now all I need to do is find a similar site for India! Any suggestions???

    Cheers.

    • Hi Stuart,

      Thanks. I’m afraid I don’t know of a similar site for India. However, I’m sure a little research on Google and a look through some guidebooks will yield some results. I’m sure there’s someone somewhere in India who is writing good independent travel advice :-)

      Tom

  25. Brent says:

    Hey Mate,
    Correct me if I’m wrong but I noticed you haven’t ridden down Soc Trang, Ca Mau area is there any reason for this? as I was looking at going Ho Chi Minh – Can Tho – Soc Trang – Ca Mau – Rach Gia – Phu Quoc.

    Just wanted to know if there as any issues with riding in the Soc Trang / Ca Mau area?

    Cheers

    Brent

  26. Zach says:

    Hey Tom,

    I’m planning a one month road trip with my brother in Vietnam in January and have been using your website a lot for reference, it’s incredibly helpful! I was wondering what HP or CC engine you would recommend? I’ve been mostly looking into 125CC/ 10HP, but am unsure if they’ll have enough power to take on some of the mountain passes in North and Central Vietnam. Let me know your thoughts!

    Thanks,
    Zach

    • Hi Zach,

      Yes, 125cc is absolutely fine for any of the roads I’ve written about on my site. The only reason you would need something more powerful is if you were planning to go off-road. Even with a passenger and luggage on the back a 115 or 125cc bike will be more than capable on getting up the steepest of hills in Vietnam, as long as they are paved roads. Obviously you should make sure that the bike is in good condition before you set off.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  27. Thanh says:

    Hi Tom,

    I learned your website on google and very glad that you have made a very exciting street food in Saigon. Hope to read more about your articles. I am currently working for a school of culinary arts in Saigon. And I would like to hear from you. Thank you.

  28. Tricia says:

    Hello,
    Great site and have shared it with many people that I work with. I have a question for you please. Bike rental company in Denang that will allow for drop off in Hue? The idea is to do the Hai Van Pass.

    I emailed the bike company you mentioned but they do not have a partner in Hue to drop the bike off at.

    Thank you for any thoughts and advice you can provide. Tricia

    • Hi Tricia,

      Thanks for sharing my website :-)

      Did you try Rent a Bike Vietnam and Flamingo Travel already? They should both be able to arrange drop off/pick up in Hue. You might also try contacting Hoi An Motorbike Adventures to see what they can do.

      Let me know if that works.

      Tom

  29. Duarte says:

    Hi Tom,
    Great Blog! I’m going to travel from north to south on a motorbike, 20 days in September! Found great tips here! This is going to be very helpful! I have one question for you: rent or buy? Some people say that its a better deal buy a motorbike in Hanói and then sell it in Ho Chi Minh, for example, than rent it for 20 days. What do you think? Is that too risky?
    Best Regards,
    Duarte

    • Hi Duarte,

      Yes, that’s a big question for many people. I think it’s all about time. Finding a good bike for sale and then checking it and making any additions (if needed) can takes days, and then finding a buyer at the other end can also take days. So if you have less than a month in country I do not think buying a bike is worth the time and effort.

      With 20 days I would rent a bike from a reputable company – try Rent a Bike Vietnam or Flamingo Travel (you can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me). Organize it in advance so that they will have the bike you want when you want it. Both of those companies can pick your bike up at the end of your trip.

      Other advantages of renting are that you can be more confident about the condition your bike is in, and if something goes wrong on the road – e.g mechanical or maybe you get stopped by the police – you can always call them for assistance.

      When it comes to money, again it’s all about time. If you’re only here for 20 days you won’t be saving much by buying instead of renting.

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

  30. Hieu Dovan says:

    Hi Tom,

    A friend and I are planning a month long trip from Ha Noi to HCM city the month of December. So glad I found your site. We were going to buy Honda Wave and/or Win (2 bikes) until I noticed that you have a Nouvo. You write that you’re happy with your Nouvo. If you were to buy another bike today, would it still be the Nouvo or would you recommend another bike. We plan to buy used bikes in Ha Noi, and have them reconditioned for the trip south. Though we have looked up Craigslist, due to time constraints, we most likely will buy the bikes from a dealer in Ha Noi. Any recommendations you have on bikes and where to buy them would be much appreciated. BTW, we’ll be taking the HCM Road that you have recommended. Thank you again for taking the time to put on this site. Great information.

    Best regards,

    Hieu

    • Hi Hieu,

      Yes, I’m happy with my Nouvo, and if I was to buy another bike tomorrow, I’d buy a Nouvo again. Every single road trip guide that I’ve written on my website, I have ridden it on my Nouvo. They are reliable, very easy to drive, and can be repaired almost anywhere. However, the same can definitely be said for the Honda Wave. The Win is a bigger, ‘real’ motorbike. Ultimately, it depends on how you want to do your driving and what kind of roads you will be on. If you are going off-road you will certainly need a manual bike, and preferably a ‘real’ motorbike, like the Win. If you’re staying on paved roads, then the Nouvo or Wave is all you need. Some people prefer to Wave and Win because they are manual and you get more of a feel for the bike. But if you want it simple and comfortable, the Nouvo is fine.

      Craigslist will have bikes on there, also you could look for a Hanoi Expats Facebook group – I’m based in Saigon, and the expat Facebook page often has ads from people selling good bikes. You might also contact some of the reputable bike rental companies in Hanoi: I recommend Flamingo Travel and Rent a Bike Hanoi – they may be able to guide you in the right direction for purchasing a bike.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  31. Thomas Fowler says:

    Hi! I’ve been having a look at your website and you seem to have a vested personal interest in Vietnam which makes you stand out from the usual travel guide type website. My friend and I are going to Vietnam south to north from 1st June-17th August.

    I have some questions, do you know anything about getting a multi entry 90 day visa?? And if a multi entry visa is not possible, does Vietnam have the excitement and abundance of adventure to keep my friend and I entertained for 2 and a half months (im sure it does hehe).

    I might point out that the Vietnam Embassy in London replied to our email regarding multi-entry 90 day visa’s with, ‘We don’t do 90 day multi-entry visa’s’
    We’ve heard about these ‘on arrival’ visa’s you can get but they don’t sound too reliable and many websites claiming to issue 90 day multi entry visa’s appear questionable to say the least…You got any advice for me?!

    • Hi Thomas,

      I’m not certain of the visa situation at the moment. There have been an awful lot of policy changes over the last few months – no one, including the government, seems to know what the actual situation is. However, I would advise against the visa on arrival. Lots of people do it, and it works out fine most of the time, but who needs the hassle of a long queue, paperwork, and uncertainty of not having a visa in-hand once you land. Better to prearrange your visa and slide out of the airport and straight into Vietnam, no fuss.

      Yes, there’s plenty to do in Vietnam for 90 days, especially if you have an adventurous spirit, palate, and a motorbike for at least some of that time.

      Have a great trip,

      Tom

  32. Neville foley says:

    Hi tom foley here great info I will be returning to vietnam April hcmc to hanoi.3 months tour by motorbike as you say fantastic country and people food superb iwould like to know good place to buy yamaha nuovo hcmc for my trip. Tom also your take on camping on the trip thanking you. Never Foley

    • Hi Neville,

      Well, 3 months is certainly plenty of time to enjoy riding in Vietnam!

      When looking for a Nouvo in HCMC to buy you can check the notice boards of popular budget hotels in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area. There’s always notices from people looking to sell bikes. Also, try Craigslist and other popular on-line listings. You can also contact some of the bigger motorbike rental companies in HCMC to see if they have any bikes to sell. Try Flamingo or Saigon Scooter Rental.

      Camping is fun and certainly doable, but it’s best to be as discreet as you can: try to find a place where you are not visible from the road. It also depends on the route you take. If you’re taking country back roads then they’ll be more opportunities to camp, but if you’re taking highways it’s unlikely you’ll find a suitable spot.

      Have a great trip.

      Tom

      • Neville foley says:

        Thanks Tom for info I will take coastal route and call into dalat and other central locations. Tom what’s your take on changing money in the banks in vietnam. Thanking you Nev Foley

        • Hi Neville,

          Changing money in Vietnam’s bank is absolutely fine. Just be aware that anything other than US dollars, Euros, and Vietnamese Dong will be difficult to change anywhere. Also, Vietnamese banks (and other exchange outlets) are very fussy about the condition of notes – anything that looks old is unlikely to be accepted.

          Tom

  33. Brent says:

    This is a great website! I am loving reading about your motorcycle adventures, the information you provided is exactly what I am after and from someone who enjoys the travel on motorbike so much.which means now I don’t have to read the forum posts from haters saying don’t ride a bike in Vietnam blah blah blah but with riding sensibly and cautiously as you mention you should be fine.

    I appreciate the time you have taken to write all this comprehensive information, I am planning 3-6 months in Vietnam alot of the time on motorbike with the hope of living there permanently as I loved it so much last time I visited!

    Keep up the good work mate!

    • Thanks, Brent.

      If you’ve got 3-6 months in Vietnam and a motorbike you’re guaranteed to have a great time! I hope you get a lot of exploring done and really interact with Vietnam at every turn and in every way.

      Good luck,

      Tom

  34. Alison Dunne says:

    Hi Tom. Love your blog and like everyone else am grateful for the time you spend on it and the detail you include to enhance the experience of Vietnam for all who read it. A couple of recommendations for other readers. Cong Cafe in Hanoi, opposite the Cathedral. Try the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and coconut. Hoi An. Did a tour called The Taste Of Hoi An. Well worth it. Neville and his wife Colleen are Australians who have lived in Vietnam for 5 years. Don’t let that put you off. They use locals as guides and the whole day is worth every cent you will spend. Neville will give you great recommendations on everything from where to eat, where to buy clothes and jewellery, where to buy leather etc etc. If you don’t do the tour you must go to Madam Kanh, the Banh Mi Queen. She truly is the Queen. Sit down to eat and ask her daughter to make you a coffee. You will not regret it. Dalat. A dessert place at 59 Duong 3 thang 2. We had the banana wrapped in sticky rice and banana leaf cooked over coals and served in a sago sauce. Really really good. I didn’t have a sweet tooth till I came to Vietnam! Now it’s off to Saigon to try some more of Tom’s recommendations.Cheers. Alison.

    • Thanks, Alison.
      Good to hear you’ve had a great trip in Vietnam. Thanks for the recommendations. I’m sure my readers will benefit from your tips.
      I hope you enjoy Saigon as much as the rest of the country.
      Tom

  35. Na Phạm says:

    I happened to read your post about the duck eggs. it is such a coincidence that I have just finished my 300 word writing about that kind of dish for my friend’s website. I am curious enough to dig in your blog for more and I must say your About me is too attractive even to a VNmese who live all her life in Vietnam :)
    I want to say thanks, for being such a nice ambassador for VN tourism.
    Will be a close follower of your site!
    Happy new year, btw.

  36. Terry Tate says:

    Tom, myself, daughter and son in law are coming to Vietnam in February. We are flying into Saigon renting bikes and riding to Hanoi. We have two weeks and are really looking forward to the trip.
    Your site is very interesting and I am sure it will be a big help.
    Do you know anything about Flamingo Travel where we might be renting the bikes?

    • Hi Terry,
      Sounds like a great trip in prospect.
      I’ve never had any direct contact with Flamingo, but I’ve meet plenty of people who have and they all seem to have had positive experiences. I usually rent bikes for friends and family from Rent a Bike Hanoi, they are easy to deal with and very efficient, as I’m sure Flamingo are too.
      Good luck with the trip. Probably best to stay in the south at that time of year. Try the the Nui Chua Coastal Road and the Southeast Loop – they can be easily combined for a great coastal-highlands ride.
      Tom

  37. Tin Do says:

    Hi Tom! I just stumbled upon your website and I love it. I’m a Viet Kieu and have been back many times. I still love to visit there, but like many tourists, the country and its rapid development often leave me very disappointed. However, the country is still incredibly beautiful and the food is amazing (and I’ve had lots of Vietnamese food everywhere). And once you really get to know the people, they are generous and sweet as ever. Reading your blog and seeing your perspective on VietNam have given me a new appreciation for my native land. Cam on rat nhieu!

  38. Ben says:

    Hi Tom,

    You’re so right. I’ve been here in Saigon a little over a year, and feel that Vietnam reveals more to me every month. I’m in love with this country. You have an incredible website! I can’t wait to put much more of it to use – your project is an inspiration. Thanks for all the time you must put into this. I look forward to seeing even more of this great city and country with your guides.

    Ben

  39. Prince Roy says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for all the effort you put into the site, as a recent arrival to HCMC, you given me many great ideas for dining places to check out. I guess having lived in Vietnam so many years, you must’ve learned the language quite well. How important has that facility been to your experiences in the country, and can you recommend a good school in HCMC?

    • Hi,
      Yes, I’ve been in Vietnam 8 years. I have learned a fair bit of the Vietnamese language, but I’m nowhere near fluent. If you make an effort with the language you will benefit hugely in every way. There’s a company called I Love Vietnamese Project (google it to find their website) – they offer free lessons from English students in Saigon. This might be a good place to start. I started with one-on-one lessons at a couple of universities in Saigon – Dai Hoc Su Pham and Dai Hoc Nhan Van va Xa Hoi. Classes used to be $10 an hour – no doubt it’s pricier now.
      I hope this helps. Good luck.
      Tom

  40. Lee says:

    Hey Tom,

    Great website! Weird request here…
    Spending 25 days in Vietnam over the summer hols with my pregnant wife. She says she “won’t try street food as it’s more likely to be unhygienic”. Is this true?

    Also any tips on travelling with a pregnant lady?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Lee,

      Thanks. Well, street food is certainly one of the main highlights of a visit to Vietnam and it’d be a shame to miss it. As for hygiene I rarely have any stomach problems, and whenever my friends or family from the UK come to visit me here I take them all to my favourite street food places – they dive right in, straight off the plane and off to a food vendor, and they seldom suffer any tummy trouble. In general, I’d say if you find a busy place it’ll be good food and clean and fresh. Anyway, who’s to say that restaurant food is cleaner? You can’t see what the condition of the kitchen is so you’ve no idea how clean (or not) your food is – at least with street food it’s all out in the open and there for everyone to see.

      I have no experience travelling with pregnant women, but Vietnamese adore children, and pregnant women are treated with great sensitivity, so I shouldn’t think it will be an issue.

      Tom

      • Hong says:

        Just simply great answer.

        “You can’t see what the condition of the kitchen is so you’ve no idea how clean (or not) your food is – at least with street food it’s all out in the open and there for everyone to see”.

        Your site is very interesting, even to a Vietnamese. Thanks

  41. Sylvain says:

    Hi Tom excellent Blog, what is your country of origin ?

  42. Hạ says:

    I’m Vietnamese but currently studying abroad and only get to go home for 2 months every year during summer. I always want to spend those 2 months eating as much Vietnamese food as I can so I won’t miss it (but I will anyways) when coming back to Canada. I has been looking for good places to eat this summer in HCMC for the past few weeks. That’s how I found your website. And wooow, your website is impressive! You probably have tried way more food in Vietnam than I have :) I enjoy reading your blog.
    Thank you for all your recommendations, can’t wait to try them! More than that, thank you for loving the country, especially the food! Totally agree with you that most travelers return home underwhelmed by their culinary experience of the country because of Vietnamese restaurants that cater to foreign tourists. It’s also because many foreigners are afraid to try street food in Vietnam. Thank you for introducing them the real Vietnamese food! ^_^

    • Hi Hạ,
      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I hope you get a chance to eat lots of Vietnamese food when you get back to Vietnam next time. If you have any favourite places to eat let me know – I’d love to try them out. I think you’re right that many foreigners are a bit reluctant to try street food, but that’s changing now because of blogs and street food tours in Saigon and Hanoi that are getting more and more popular.
      Tom

  43. Guy says:

    Wow, I have to tell you, this is one of the BEST blog I’ve ever seen! Lots and lots of precious gems.
    We are traveling for almost three years in Thailand and I really like to see a blog like that here :)
    Thanks.

  44. Mike says:

    Great job, I recommend this site to every traveler I’ve met here. Did the Hon Gom sandbar and doing the HCM road now. Also ate at 2 of your recs in Dalat and I never would have tried that type of food on my own. Thanks dude

  45. ryan fox says:

    hey jut wanted to say that your website is bloody great. been a real help on the coast. when looking for information on dai lanh beach and hon gom sand bar i found nothing until yours. bloody awesome lil website. keep up the good work.

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