About Rusty Compass

Thank you for visiting Rusty Compass.

I started Rusty Compass as a travel blog about Vietnam and Cambodia with a selection of videos and slideshows back in 2009. The idea was to bring decades of experience travelling in these incredible places into a website of original travel ideas and personal recommendations. Independence, curation and a personal perspective, were at the heart of the concept.

Since those early days, Rusty Compass has grown. In 2016, more than 340,000 travellers made use of our unique experience and perspective.

In 2015, we received some very nice coverage in the New York Times that you can read here.

Our listings and recommendations are created with you, the traveller in mind. We don’t accept payments for listings. We only list the things we think are worth knowing about.



Everything on Rusty Compass is original and personal and free of commercial spin. We talk all our own photos. We visit every place we list. We're pushing back against the algorithm based remote control travel guides that are increasingly pervasive on the internet. We’re interested in people, history, culture and beautiful landscapes. We’re fascinated by cities too - especially the rapidly changing ones in our part of the world.

We take a simple, old world view of the rewards of travel. We’re less swept up in the hyperbole of the luxury travel industry. But we love great design and a stunning beach too.

For me, the real joy of travel is in exploring the new and celebrating the wonders of different people and their stories. It’s nice to come away a little wiser at the end of a holiday.

Everything on Rusty Compass is personal, so it's completely subjective. We try and get stuff right - but naturally things change and we make mistakes too. If you spot an error, let us know. The integrity of the site is important to us.

All of the listings on Rusty Compass - recommended things to see and do, hotels, resorts, restaurants - are handpicked. If they’re here, it means they’re recommended. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect - but it means that in their context, we think they’re worth considering.

Send your comments and suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


About me

I was raised in Australia in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn and I’ve been travelling in Asia since 1988.

In 1990 I was aboard the first post-Vietnam War Qantas flight from Australia to Ho Chi Minh City (formerlySaigon). Vietnam was at a turning point, emerging from decades of centrally planned privation. It was a turning point for me too - I was immediately captivated by the the people and their evolving story.

In 1993 I co-founded Australian small group travel company Travel Indochina (now Insider Journeys) with school friend Paul Hole, and moved to Ho Chi Minh City. It was the start of a romance with Asia that has continued to this day.

I left Travel Indochina in 2006.

Rusty Compass is providing me with a chance to indulge my love of travel and my fascination with the amazing change that is taking place across Asia.

Rusty Compass is about trying to process these things too - all the while with a great affection for the people who live here.

There’s plenty of “crowd sourced” travel information on the internet. Think of Rusty Compass as something rather more personal and rather more homespun.

I hope you find my recommendations useful and Rusty Compass a resource that brings some deeper context and understanding of the places you plan to visit.

Mark Bowyer
Founder
Rusty Compass


Rusty Compass FAQs


How do I make Rusty Compass selections?

Anything that appears on Rusty Compass, is by definition recommended. I only include the stuff I like. It’s personal and subjective. There are no paid listings and no commercial arrangements. Everything listed here is listed because it’s good - or it’s the best around.

No money changes hands for a Rusty Compass listing.

Ratings try to provide a total picture of hotels, restaurants and bars - taking account of price, quality and overall experience. Naturally, an expensive restaurant or hotel should meet higher standards than budget service providers and our ratings will try to incorporate these variables.


Hotels?

I’m interested in the best hotels across all budgets and categories. I’m especially fond of boutique, atmospheric, well designed hotels and those with local character - in any price category. Owner operated places are also favourites.

I’m less excited by huge soulless corporate hotels. Don’t be surprised if some of the 5 star standards that are mandatorily listed on other websites don’t get a mention on Rusty Compass.


Restaurants?

Food’s a big part of the travel experience so including plenty of good local eateries is a priority. Rusty Compass also includes a limited selection of international recommendations. If you’re only in a place for a short time, it makes sense to try and experience the local cuisine.


What’s a Featured Listing?

Rusty Compass listings are always independent. We list the places we think are worth knowing about. Our Featured Listings allow a small selection of businesses already recommended by us, to pay a fee for a place at the top of our list. That’s it. Featured Listings have no impact on reviews, or on the curation and independence of our lists.

Make a donation

If you’ve found Rusty Compass useful, help us out with a donation. Independent travel info costs money to produce.

$5 is fine, more is finer!

Click on the link below and make a contribution via your credit card or paypal.










If you’d like your hotel or restaurant listed, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. describing in a few sentences what you do. Listings are free and are made at the discretion of Rusty Compass.