Rusty Compass travel blog

Blog tales from the road

The other remarkable thing about Pu Luong Vietnam? No piles of plastic
07 May 2019

The other remarkable thing about Pu Luong Vietnam? No piles of plastic

Pu Luong, around four hours south of Hanoi, looks set to become the “next’ destination in Vietnam’s breathtaking mountainous north. And one of the...

TAGS: Vietnam, Pu Luong, plastic, environment

One of Vietnam's most historic churches faces demolition
01 May 2019

One of Vietnam's most historic churches faces demolition

Vietnam’s three decades of rapid economic growth have not been so good for the country’s built heritage. The distinctive Bui Chu Cathedral in Nam...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Bui Chu, Nam Dinh, history, church

Vietnam in the 1990s - Qantas returns to Saigon
15 Apr 2019

Vietnam in the 1990s - Qantas returns to Saigon

In December 1990, I was aboard the first post-war Qantas flight to operate between Australia and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It was a time...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Qantas, 1990, flights

Vietnam's first international tourism campaign - from 1991?
19 Feb 2019

Vietnam's first international tourism campaign - from 1991?

I’m gonna hazard a guess that this was the first post-war Vietnam tourism promotion in a Western country. It was 1991 and Vietnam was just opening...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hue, tourism, marketing,

The drone - a symbol of heavy-handed self-centred tourism
21 Nov 2018

The drone - a symbol of heavy-handed self-centred tourism

The drone has arrived. These high-impact flying machines are coming to a beautiful place near you. The drone has transitioned from professional...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hoi An, drones, tourism, overtourism

A new heritage landmark in Hanoi?
22 Oct 2018

A new heritage landmark in Hanoi?

A grand heritage building is being renovated in Hanoi’s picturesque Ba Dinh District. This is the nicest part of the capital - though few visitors...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, heritage, architecture,

Tips for taking photos in Vietnam - people and ideas of beauty
08 Oct 2018

Tips for taking photos in Vietnam - people and ideas of beauty

Taking photos of the local people you encounter as a traveller is complicated anywhere. In Vietnam, the locals have been remarkably amenable to...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, photography, culture,

A peek inside one of Hanoi's grand colonial villas
14 Sep 2018

A peek inside one of Hanoi's grand colonial villas

A French colonial villa on Hanoi’s Chan Cam St has become one of the most photographed colonial ruins in the city. These days it’s occupied by...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, architecture, colonial era, ceramics,

Angkor has been protected from the worst tourism excesses - someone should be thanked
17 Aug 2018

Angkor has been protected from the worst tourism excesses - someone should be thanked

I spend more time than I would like lamenting the degradation of the places I visit while covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for Rusty Compass....

TAGS: Cambodia, Siem Reap, tourism, UNESCO,

Saigon's pavements - yes, they're still getting worse
06 Aug 2018

Saigon's pavements - yes, they're still getting worse

Saigon’s failed campaign to improve its sidewalks has left them more dangerous than ever. It’s a disaster for locals and visitors and the reputation...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, pavements, walking, travel, cities

Tet in Saigon - a time to think about arrivals and departures
27 Feb 2018

Tet in Saigon - a time to think about arrivals and departures

Saigon has been a city of immigrants from its founding in the 17th century. At Tet, as much of the city headed home to villages and towns across the...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, pollution, liveability,

Introducing a special new tour by Rusty Compass - Vietnam by the Book
07 Feb 2018

Introducing a special new tour by Rusty Compass - Vietnam by the Book

It's more than 25 years since I ran my first tour through Vietnam. After a long break from leading tours, I now head back out on the road each year...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Old Compass Travel, Old Compass Travel Book Club

Travel tech update - From the Apple iPhone to the Oppo F5
27 Jan 2018

Travel tech update - From the Apple iPhone to the Oppo F5

I’ve switched from one of the most expensive phones on the market - the Apple iPhone - to one of the cheapest -an OPPO F5. And so far, I’m very...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, oppo F5, telephone

Meeting the man who played Nguyen Van Troi - Robert McNamara’s would be assassin
03 Jan 2018

Meeting the man who played Nguyen Van Troi - Robert McNamara’s would be assassin

On a recent visit to Hanoi, I randomly met the delightful Mr Binh on the street. Now 82 year old, he found fame on the stage in the 60s and 70s...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Mr Binh, Nguyen Van Troi, Robert McNamara,

2017 - our year of travel in video
15 Dec 2017

2017 - our year of travel in video

Another year exploring Vietnam passes. Here are some video favourites from my travels. Plenty of magical moments have been had. But worries about...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, video, Youtube

Postcard from Hue - in search of Tet 1968
04 Dec 2017

Postcard from Hue - in search of Tet 1968

We travel to Hue in central Vietnam, 50 years after the Tet Offensive, searching for traces of the Battle of Hue - one of the longest and bloodiest...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hue, Tet Offensive, Battle of Hue, history, Vietnam War

Visiting Saigon's historic rooftop - symbol of the end of the Vietnam War
19 Nov 2017

Visiting Saigon's historic rooftop - symbol of the end of the Vietnam War

It may be the most iconic image of the end of the Vietnam War. It was taken on 29 April 1975 by photojournalist Hugh van Es, as US choppers...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Pittman Apartments, Larry Berman,

Remembering Kim Sinh in Hanoi
08 Nov 2017

Remembering Kim Sinh in Hanoi

One of the first Rusty Compass YouTube videos I shot way back in 2008, featured Vietnamese virtuoso guitar player Kim Sinh, collaborating with...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Music, kim sinh, guitar,

Vale Vann Molyvann - giant of Cambodian architecture and symbol of an age of optimism
02 Oct 2017

Vale Vann Molyvann - giant of Cambodian architecture and symbol of an age of optimism

One of the most rewarding things of decades getting to know Cambodia, has been learning of the work of modernist architect Vann Molyvann. Considered...

TAGS: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, architecture, Vann Molyvann,

Farewell Jungle Beach - one of Vietnam's original
12 Sep 2017

Farewell Jungle Beach - one of Vietnam's original "back to nature" resorts closes

Jungle Beach Resort north of Nha Trang on Vietnam’s central coast will soon close its flimsy bamboo doors for the last time. We hope this doesn’t...

TAGS: Vietnam, Nha Trang, Ninh Hoa, resort, development

Two Hanoi Banh Mi stalls - a tale of travel in the age of Tripadvisor
05 Sep 2017

Two Hanoi Banh Mi stalls - a tale of travel in the age of Tripadvisor

Two banh mi stalls in Hanoi’s Old Quarter tell an interesting story of travel in the age of Tripadvisor.

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, banh mi, sandwich, Old Quarter, Banh Mi 25, Banh Mi Hang Ca

The train from Phan Thiet to Saigon
18 Jul 2017

The train from Phan Thiet to Saigon

We travelled by train from Phan Thiet on Vietnam’s southern coast back to Saigon. Was a great ride - highly recommended.

TAGS: Vietnam, Mui Ne, trains, local life, Phan Thiet

Saigon travel update 2017 - 3 cool new hotels
28 Jun 2017

Saigon travel update 2017 - 3 cool new hotels

These three new Saigon hotels deserve a look. They all opened over the past year and they’re all doing things a little differently.

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, boutique, design, hotels

A most unlikely place - Vietnam's cutest village?
20 Jun 2017

A most unlikely place - Vietnam's cutest village?

It’s an unlikely place to be described as Vietnam’s cutest village, but Quy Hoa, outside of Quy Nhon, is a charmer. It’s home to an amazing...

TAGS: Vietnam, Quy Nhon, quy hoa, leper colony, history, architecture

Vietnam’s first international resort was simple and low impact. What happened after that?
12 Jun 2017

Vietnam’s first international resort was simple and low impact. What happened after that?

We revisit Coco Beach Resort in Mui Ne - Vietnam’s first international beach resort - and ask what’s happened to resort development since it opened...

TAGS: Vietnam, Mui Ne, resorts, tourism development, Phuket, environment

Talking plastic with Vincent Mourou from Marou chocolate
01 Jun 2017

Talking plastic with Vincent Mourou from Marou chocolate

Last week we began a little initiative to reduce the amount of plastic waste in Vietnam’s hospitality industry - and to help raise public awareness...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Marou Chocolate, Maison Marou, Plastic waste, Vincent Mourou

 The battle for Saigon’s pavements is over - the motorbikes won
29 May 2017

The battle for Saigon’s pavements is over - the motorbikes won

If Saigon's recent pavement clearing campaign was designed to make the city safe for walking, it's failed. Meanwhile, Hanoi's embracing walking with...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, walking, city planning, traffic

Environment: Doing something about Vietnam's plastic problem
22 May 2017

Environment: Doing something about Vietnam's plastic problem

Cities and countries around the world are getting serious about reducing the amount of plastic waste they produce. In Vietnam, the tourism industry...

TAGS: Vietnam, Phu Quoc Island, plastic, pollution, environment

Meet this adorable Hanoi couple
17 May 2017

Meet this adorable Hanoi couple

Check out this beautiful old Hanoi couple. They’ll warm your heart.

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, people, Hanoi, adorable couple

Beautiful ruins: The abandoned Franciscan Mission in Dalat Vietnam
22 Apr 2017

Beautiful ruins: The abandoned Franciscan Mission in Dalat Vietnam

We love a good ruin. This crumbling complex of church buildings, an abandoned Franciscan Mission outside of Dalat, maybe the most stunning we’ve...

TAGS: Vietnam, Dalat, ruins, Franciscan Mission, architecture

The rise, fall, and rise and fall, of the Dalat Palace Hotel
11 Apr 2017

The rise, fall, and rise and fall, of the Dalat Palace Hotel

In Vietnam, historic hotels mostly don’t get much love. The Metropole in Hanoi and the La Residence in Hue are exceptions. In the past, you’d have...

TAGS: Vietnam, Dalat, Dalat Palace Hotel, heritage, renovation

An unexploded shell on An Bang Beach, Hoi An
04 Apr 2017

An unexploded shell on An Bang Beach, Hoi An

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) still kills in Vietnam. Victims tend to be poor farmers and their family members. I’ve never heard of a tourist being...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hoi An, An Bang Beach, shell, ordnance, UXO,

Saigon's pavements still a disaster for tourists and walkers
23 Mar 2017

Saigon's pavements still a disaster for tourists and walkers

Saigon’s campaign to clear sidewalks sounded like a great idea for tourism. Now we’re not so sure.

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, tourism, pavements, motorbikes, walking

Kong saved Skull Island - can Vogt-Roberts save Vietnam’s besieged natural treasures?
20 Mar 2017

Kong saved Skull Island - can Vogt-Roberts save Vietnam’s besieged natural treasures?

Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of the recently released, “Kong: Skull Island” has been made a tourism ambassador for Vietnam. We hope he uses his new...

TAGS: Vietnam, Halong Bay, Quang Binh, Kong Skull Island,

Hanoi or Saigon - which of Vietnam's big cities is best for travellers?
12 Mar 2017

Hanoi or Saigon - which of Vietnam's big cities is best for travellers?

A traveller’s guide to making decisions between Vietnam’s two main cities - Hanoi and Saigon aka. Ho Chi Minh City.

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, travel, things to do,

A walk along the railway tracks in Hanoi
27 Feb 2017

A walk along the railway tracks in Hanoi

You wouldn’t normally recommend walking along railway tracks  - but we had a surprisingly interesting wander along the northern line in the centre...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, trains, local life

This beautiful Vietnam heritage resort may never see the light of day
23 Feb 2017

This beautiful Vietnam heritage resort may never see the light of day

Vietnam has built thousands of hotels and resorts over the past twenty years. Few have made an effort to capture the essence of traditional...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ninh Binh, heritage, architecture, Tam Coc

Exploring the amazing Catholic churches of Ninh Binh and Nam Dinh
17 Jan 2017

Exploring the amazing Catholic churches of Ninh Binh and Nam Dinh

While visitors flock to Ninh Binh in Vietnam’s north to see the remains of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, and the spectacular caves and karst...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ninh Binh, churches, Nam Dinh. Bui Chu, Hai Ly, Phat Diem

Video: Future Saigon - change at Pasteur and Le Loi downtown
28 Dec 2016

Video: Future Saigon - change at Pasteur and Le Loi downtown

The corner of Pasteur and Le Loi streets in the heart of Saigon, reveal a lot about the future shape of the city - good and bad. There are also some...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, architecture, downtown, Saigon Centre,

2016 - our favourite travel videos
21 Dec 2016

2016 - our favourite travel videos

A little collection of favourite videos from our travels in 2016 - Saigon, Hanoi, Laos and more. Enjoy!

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, videos,

The sad tale of Sapa's old market
06 Dec 2016

The sad tale of Sapa's old market

Sapa now has a cable car to Vietnam’s highest mountain, but it's lost its old market. 

TAGS: Vietnam, Sapa, market, old market, Hmong, Dzao

Village walks around Sapa, Vietnam
29 Nov 2016

Village walks around Sapa, Vietnam

The countryside around Sapa in Vietnam’s northwest, is glorious. This video captures an afternoon walk we took in Sin Chai village not far from Sapa...

TAGS: Vietnam, Sapa, Sin Chai, trekking, walking, walks,

Vietnam's best museum? The Ho Chi Minh Museum, Hanoi
26 Nov 2016

Vietnam's best museum? The Ho Chi Minh Museum, Hanoi

The Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square is unique in a country with no shortage of museums. It brings together the incredible life of Ho...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, museums, Ho Chi Minh,

Heritage tourism: Is Vietnam finally getting serious about its incredible history?
22 Nov 2016

Heritage tourism: Is Vietnam finally getting serious about its incredible history?

After decades of neglect, there are signs Vietnam may be about to finally get serious about heritage and historical tourism.

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, heritage, tourism, history

Scaling Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak - by cable car
01 Nov 2016

Scaling Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak - by cable car

A cable car to Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan, opened in early 2016. It’s transforming tourism to Sapa, the once sleepy hillstation set...

TAGS: Vietnam, Sapa, fansipan, cable car,

Walking the colonial era gems of Hanoi's French Quarter
20 Oct 2016

Walking the colonial era gems of Hanoi's French Quarter

Hanoi's French Quarter is a great place for exploring the city's French colonial architectural heritage. The walking is easy and there's a great...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, French Quarter, architecture, Ernest Hebrard,

Airbnb in Saigon - a colonial era ruin springs to life
03 Oct 2016

Airbnb in Saigon - a colonial era ruin springs to life

Airbnb is taking the travel world by storm. I recently visited a couple of Airbnb apartments in one of Saigon's most interesting colonial era...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Van Hao, architecture, history, Airbnb, hotels

Ernest Hebrard’s Indochina - a tour of the buildings of the Indochine architect
25 Sep 2016

Ernest Hebrard’s Indochina - a tour of the buildings of the Indochine architect

Indochine architect Ernest Hebrard's work is impossible to miss if you're travelling in Hanoi. He left his mark on Saigon, Phnom Penh and Dalat as...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Ernest Hebrard, architecture, colonialism, Saigon, Phnom Penh

The streets of Saigon, then and now - the 90's and 2016
08 Sep 2016

The streets of Saigon, then and now - the 90's and 2016

I recently uncovered some more video of Saigon, shot from the back of my Honda Cub 50 in the early 90’s. Back then, Saigon was a city of bicycles...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, architecture, then and now, 1990's, Dong Khoi St, development, history

Visting a leper colony - Quy Hoa in Quy Nhon, Vietnam
30 Aug 2016

Visting a leper colony - Quy Hoa in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

It’s hard to imagine anywhere less enticing, or less appropriate for tourism, than a leper colony. But Quy Hoa leper colony on Vietnam’s central...

TAGS: Vietnam, Quy Nhon, Quy Hoa, leper colony, Han Mac Tu

Cold War relic - the hydrofoil from Saigon to Vung Tau
08 Aug 2016

Cold War relic - the hydrofoil from Saigon to Vung Tau

The old Russian hydrofoils plying the Saigon river to the coastal city of Vung Tau, give an interesting experience of the river, and a fantastic...

TAGS: Vietnam, Vung Tau, Vung Tau, hydrofoil, Saigon River,

Avoiding dodgy tourist taxis in Saigon and Hanoi
04 Aug 2016

Avoiding dodgy tourist taxis in Saigon and Hanoi

A little reminder that tourists are targeted by dodgy taxis in Saigon and Hanoi - and the country’s most popular tourist sights seem to be lending...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, taxis, scams,

Returning to Long Tan and Nui Dat - 50th anniversary
01 Aug 2016

Returning to Long Tan and Nui Dat - 50th anniversary

We return to Nui Dat and Long Tan, 50 years after the establishment of Australia’s Vietnam War base there - and weeks before the 50th anniversary of...

TAGS: Vietnam, Vung Tau, Nui Dat, Long Tan, Vietnam War, Australia, 1st ATF,

Two old architectural gems in Hanoi
20 Jul 2016

Two old architectural gems in Hanoi

I managed to get up close with two old French colonial gems in Hanoi at the weekend. They're favourite creations from French architect, Ernest...

TAGS: Vietnam, Hanoi, Ernest Hebrard, architecture, Indochine architecture,

Saigon in 2001 - making Graham Greene's
04 Jul 2016

Saigon in 2001 - making Graham Greene's "The Quiet American"

There was plenty of excitement in Saigon in 2001 when Hollywood descended for the film remake of Graham Greene’s classic novel, The Quiet...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, The Quiet American, film, 2001, Phillip Noyce, Graham Greene

Neil Finn plays Saigon, Australia Day 1998
28 Jun 2016

Neil Finn plays Saigon, Australia Day 1998

In 1998, legendary Kiwi singer songwriter Neil Finn, headed up to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam with Mark Seymour from Australian rock band Hunters and...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Neil Finn, Australia Day

Lunch in Cabramatta with Kim and Carl Robinson - Weekly walk 6
19 Jun 2016

Lunch in Cabramatta with Kim and Carl Robinson - Weekly walk 6

We meet old friends Kim and Carl again - this time in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta. Cabramatta is another Vietnamese enclave in the city with...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Cabramatta, Sydney, refugees

Weekly Walk 5 - lunch in Bankstown with Kim and Carl Robinson
10 Jun 2016

Weekly Walk 5 - lunch in Bankstown with Kim and Carl Robinson

In this weekly walk, I head to Bankstown in Sydney’s west for a Vietnamese meal with old friends Kim and Carl Robinson.

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Carl Robinson, Bankstown, eating, Go Cong

Bob Kerrey, the War Remnants Museum and Fulbright University
06 Jun 2016

Bob Kerrey, the War Remnants Museum and Fulbright University

Fulbright University, a new private institution in Ho Chi Minh City affiliated with Harvard's Kennedy School, has appointed former US Senator and...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Thanh Phong, War Remnants Museum, War Crimes,

Farewell Cargo Saigon - you'll be missed
02 Jun 2016

Farewell Cargo Saigon - you'll be missed

Last week Saigon bade farewell to Cargo, a live music and event space in a converted shipping warehouse that's played an outsized role in enriching...

TAGS: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, cargo, nightlife, city planning,

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