Category Archives: The South

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… Continue reading

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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’…. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Saigon, My Saigon

My Saigon is not the high-rises or attractions of downtown. My Saigon is the local neighbourhood where I live – the alleyways, the market, and the people who inhabit it. In this film I’ve tried to capture the rhythm of daily life over 24 hours on a rainy season day in the area I live in… Continue reading

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Saigon’s Budget Sushi Scene

Eating good sushi in Saigon needn’t burn a hole in your pocket. In the last couple of years, there’s been an explosion of good-quality yet reasonably-priced sushi joints. Décor is cheap and cheerful, ambience is informal and fun, and customers are young and convivial: welcome to Saigon’s budget sushi scene…. Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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The Grand Ho Tram Resort & Casino

Big, brash, bold and extravagant, The Grand Resort and Casino marks the beginning of the transformation of the quiet and unassuming coastline of Ho Tram, into what is hoped will become Vietnam’s answer to Macau and Las Vegas. I have mixed feelings about this gigantic integrated resort on the south-east coast…. Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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Motorbike on the Train: Saigon to Phan Thiet

Put your motorbike on the train and let the rails carry your wheels between Saigon and Phan Thiet/Mui Ne. It’s cheap, easy, fun, fast, efficient and relaxing. Even if you’re not taking your motorbike with you, the train is a much better option than taking one of the buses along Highway 1…. Continue reading

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Weather in Vietnam: When & Where to Go

Many people assume that Vietnam is bathed in tropical sunshine year-round. But Vietnam’s climate is complex, variable, and very local. Having travelled to all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces, I’ve put together this personal guide to where in Vietnam I would most want to be at different times of the year… Continue reading

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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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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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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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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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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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Victoria Beach Resort, Mui Ne

One of the first luxury resorts to grace the sands of Mui Ne, Victoria Resort & Spa is still one of the best places to stay on this popular beach on Vietnam’s southeast coast. With lush tropical gardens & a long stretch of beach, Victoria is far more spacious than its competitors… 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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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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Vung Ro Bay

A gorgeous, undeveloped bay on the south-central coast, 2015 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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Phu Quoc Island by Boat

Travelling by boat to Phu Quoc Island is fun, cheap, convenient & relatively hassle-free. Thanks to new routes & additional sailings, it’s now easier than ever to reach Phu Quoc by sea. This guide includes all current ferry times, fares & information… 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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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… 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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7 of the Best Beaches in Southern Vietnam

Vietnam has a coastline of over 3,000km, but the best beaches are found in the south. Blue bays, white sands, swaying palms: Vietnam has it all. Yet travellers and expats often complain that the beaches aren’t as good as those in Thailand and Malaysia. I disagree: Here are my 7 best beaches in southern Vietnam…. 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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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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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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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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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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