Saigon’s tourism scene is stuck on a plateau. Unlike other popular destinations like Bangkok, New York, Paris, etc., all is not revealed – secrets remain and an air of mystery still permeates even rudimentary tasks like going to a doctor and understanding traffic patterns. There’s a severe lack of official documentation and foreign language support that grants Ho Chi Minh City an air of impenetrability at times. Some times, to the point of utter frustration.
Our only hope, it seems, are the bloggers who brave the alien terrains of shouting ladies and incomprehensible signs to discover, transcribe and inform the confused community of expats and visitors.
To save us all from bashing our heads against the wall when we order sautéed beef and get an avocado smoothie instead, we present a motley group of Content Heroes who provide us with the ins and outs necessary to experience the oohs and ahhs, without as much of the ughs and pffts.
Cool stuff about Mark’s blog:
• A one-man powerhouse who produces consistent quality content on HCMC and around
• Well-structured website makes navigation easy
• Great pictures
• Observations are candid and nuanced
Rusty Compass features the lovable shiny-head Mark Bowyer, an Asia explorer since 1988. Mark has some cool guides for Vietnam and Cambodia, but his blog section is where his personality really sparkles.
You get articles carefully eyeing the good and the bad of Saigon’s idiosyncrasies, with sensitive issues like the Cu Chi tunnel’s firing range and a potentially bland future for the city brought to light and discussed in Mark’s signature erudite manner.
Mark also takes excellent photos.
Standout article: The Last President’s Driver
Andy Goes to Asia
Cool stuff about Andy:
● Articles are written for the everyday expat
● Includes travel blogs, but also what it’s like to live here and work for a living
● Focuses a lot on storytelling
● Explains details that may seem confusing to expats, like the motorbike culture
● Well written, fun, blunt and helpful
A simple Wordpress blog, Andy Goes to Asia details the AsiaLIFE writer’s observations and travels in Vietnam.
The blogs steady between practical and entertaining, are well written (Andy’s an English literature major, after all), easy to read and quite useful. “The Motorbikes of Saigon” sheds some light on Ho Chi Minh City’s chaotic motorbike culture, giving nuanced advice on where to rent, the 2007 helmet law, unpredictable obstacles and more.
Standout article: The Motorbikes of Saigon
Cool stuff about the AF duo:
● Best layout/presentation of the bunch
● Content is broken down by topics
● Cool pictures
● Content is both practical (who expats date in the city) and related to experiencing the city (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.)
The cleanest, most well-laid-out site on the list, Adventure Faktory is a sexy travel blog with quality photos and a simple writing style that’s easy to get into.
Written by world travelers Mitch and Thuymi, the blog is broken down into simple categories like “Travel,” “Sports & Adventure,” “Lifestyle” and more. Articles are practical and for the most part focused on venues and experiences (like “Fashion Boutiques in Saigon,” “Oktoberfest in Saigon” and “Ho Chi Minh City’s Coffee Culture”), and are chock full of cool Instagram-worthy shots.
Standout article: The Ultimate Saigon Cafes List
Cool stuff about Elka:
● Tends to focus on short pieces targeted at the day-to-day goings-on
● Includes nicephotos and interesting stories – even a dash of humor thrown in
● Great writing
Elka Ray is a storyteller, and thus provides a more personal account of her daily life in Vietnam. Author and illustrator, Elka moved to the country in 1996, and has since started a family.
The blog rotates around her family life at home, daily observations and insights and random musings. It’s a much different tone than others on the list, and the information leans more towards musings rather than practical advice, although there are some venue profiles.
Entries are fun, very well-written and a great read for anyone living in and experiencing the ups and downs of Vietnam.
Standout article: Scraps of history
Cool stuff about HS:
● Articles tend to focus on reviews of different attractions, hotels and venues around the city
● Site is streamlined and mobile friendly – tons of pictures and short-form content
● Does a lot of work with food discussions and where the best places to eat are
● Blogger is active and a regular poster
Hello Saigon boasts a constant stream of entries on Ho Chi Minh City’s active scene, including venues, events, food trips and travels to other cities. This is the most streamlined site of the bunch, and consists of a continuous river of bite-sized articles broken up by relevant pictures (1-2 sentences + picture, 1-2 sentences + picture, repeat).
It’s really freaking easy to read, is fun to scroll through and is quite practical, especially with the flood of photos. The writing is simple and light-hearted, and the content is very snug on mobiles.
Standout article: A Relaxing Stay at Salinda Resort
Cool stuff about City Pass:
• Self-explanatory (kidding)
• Large back catalog of blogs from a diverse team of writers and guest bloggers
• Long-form content may put off the ADD crowd, but articles are informative and delve deep into their subject matter
• Interview with experts on various destinations
• Blogs cover tourism industry, various lists, events and more
We City Pass Guide is known around town as the free guidebook distributed at fancy shmancy resorts and hotels. Their online counterpart is focused on venue listings, but there is a dedicated blog section that is quite useful if you want to dive deeper into Vietnam’s tourism market, learn about grand opening, unique events, or scroll through various lists (ex. top 5 Vietnamese love sayings, top 7 honeymoon resorts, etc.).
Articles are written by staff writers or guests from various industries, are relatively lengthy but go well with a glass of pinot noir and a bag of Poca chips.
Standout article: The Declining State of Tourism in Vietnam – And How We Can Help
Cool stuff about Zoe:
● The blog features creative sketches of Saigon’s life and locals
● Zoe’s gonzo, down-to-earth observations are fun to read
● Blogs are both informative and very well written
Like Wix-using Andy above, Zoe hardly needs anything more than a free Wordpress blog to suck in readers with surreal sketches, disarmingly honest prose and a gonzo wit about her observations.
Blogs detail living on a severely limited budget (eggs, baguettes and VND 10,000 drinks every day? No problem), unspoken rules of the road, living in a shack on Phu Quoc for a week, children helping administer heroine to their mothers (yep…) and many more gems.
Standout article: Saigon’s Darkest Secrets