Rusty Compass information

About Rusty Compass

Thank you for visiting Rusty Compass.

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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 2019, more than 500,000 travellers made use of our unique experience and perspective. As expected, things have gone quiet during the COVID pandemic. We expect the world of tourism to be very different when it returns post-COVID.

2022 was a year of transition and in 2023 we're bouncing back and excited by what lies ahead. Rusty Compass, Old Compass Travel and The Old Compass Cafe are all back at full steam developing our cultural travel businesses. And now we're busy in Australia too. Check out our independent travel guide to Sydney here.

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.

We visit and photograph every place we list. We only use our own original images and videos.

We are the proud antithesis of TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook. We’re responsible and accountable for what we write. And we take that responsibility seriously. And we believe in old fashioned values like disclosure and only using our own original content. We try and be honest and positive, and we try to cultivate travel that is good for humans, local communities and the planet. In 2019 the stranglehold of digital giants like Google, TripAdvisor,  Facebook, is damaging to the best values of travel - which should be a celebration of cultures, natural beauty, diversity and creativity.

Rusty Compass has two sister businesses, Old Compass Travel and the Old Compass Cafe. Old Compass Travel operates cultural and heritage tours in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam. Our Saigon cafe is a wonderful space of local flavours, wine, books and conversation. Come by and see us.

We've recently launched our trademark history walking tours in Sydney too. You can check them out here.

Everything on Rusty Compass is original and personal and free of commercial spin. We only publish our own photos and videos. That makes us a bit of an oddity in an environment of algorithm driven travel information where images and ideas are stolen and Google and Facebook can't or can't be bothered working out what's real and what's fake or stolen.

We visit every place we list and we usually pay our way. 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.

Rusty Compass is personal, so it's completely subjective. We try and get stuff right - but naturally things change and we make mistakes too. We date everything we write (most guides don't), so you'll know how up to date things are. 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.


The Old Compass Cafe

In 2016, we opened a small cafe in downtown Saigon - The Old Compass Cafe. It's the home of Rusty Compass in Vietnam and a great place to hang out during a visit to Saigon. We serve deliciously simple Vietnamese set meals as well as banh mi sandwiches and a handful of other dishes. We also hold regular talks and live music. Stop by for a coffee or a glass of wine. We have a great selection of books on hand about Vietnam too.

We're located down the lane at 63 Pasteur St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City - right next to Liberty Citypoint Hotel.

Check us out at


Old Compass Travel

We run heritage tours of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Sydney, Australia, focused on history, architecture, religion and the contemporary life of the cities. Everything we do is small-scale and unique. Our people are dedicated specialists. Check us out at

We also operate our Vietnam by the Book 16 day journey led by me (Mark Bowyer). The tours resume in September 2023. Check out Vietnam by the Book here


Six Degrees Asia

Rusty Compass is owned by Australian company, Six Degrees Asia. Six Degrees Asia is also the owner of the Old Compass Cafe and Old Compass Travel brands. Thinking Travel is a newsletter for the travel industry published by Rusty Compass. Six Degrees Asia also provides location scouting services in Vietnam and Cambodia for major international film studios. For more, check these websites -


Coming home to Australia

The COVID pandemic has forced a rethink of our businesses, and right now, we're building a base in Australia. It's been a plan for a long time - now we have no choice. It's a good problem to have and we're enjoying getting to know Australia again and feeling grateful we've been spared the worst of the pandemic.

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
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.


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.


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.