Mild Rover: Go your own way

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Vietnam by the Book – a unique tour for keen readers

I reckon I know Vietnam pretty well. I have written two non-fiction books about the “American War” and I’ve set a major part of two crime fiction novels there. I have also travelled there at least a dozen times – including thrice this year alone, in multi-day stop-overs on trips returning from Europe.

But I don’t know the country and its people anything like as well as my friend Mark Bowyer does; he has been travelling there since 1990, is fluent in Vietnamese and has started a couple of businesses in the country, including a travel company.

Vietnam by the Book

Tour dates:
Saturday 16 March 2024 – Sunday 31 March 2024
Saturday 19 Oct. 2024 – Sunday 3 Nov. 2024.

US$4490 per person twin share
US$1390 single traveller supplement
– single travellers welcome

Group size: Maximum 14


Website: Click HERE.

He’s also spent a lot of time photographing, talking to and writing about the country and its people.

And that’s why I am drawn to his “Vietnam By The Book” tour. This tour is different. Having spent almost quarter of a century travelling to and living in Vietnam, including setting up the iconic Old Compass cafe and Old Compass Travel agency, Mark has pulled together a very different kind of adventure from the wham-bam, tick-the-tourist-boxes kind of trip that is often organised, especially from Australia.

In his own words, this is an “unforgettable 16-day journey through the history, culture, cuisine and unique beauty of Vietnam, using the works of three authors to help us along our way.”

The book in focus are Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Duong Van Mai Elliott’s Sacred Willow and Nguyen Qui Duc’s Where the Ashes Are, tell three different stories of Vietnam’s modern history.

“The insights of the authors will guide this unique travel experience. Our shared reading will enrich our travels. We’ll travel and read beyond these books too.

Graham Greene

The trip takes you to Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Dien Bien Phu, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, DMZ, Hue, My Son, Hoi An and Saigon. But it will be so much more than.

Mark is fluent in Vietnamese and loves nothing more than interacting with local people wherever he goes, so this will be a pretty immersive experience.

To find out more, go to the Old Compass Travel website. Old Compass also offers a fascinating walking tour of Saigon and an alternative, more respectful and thoughtful tour of the Cu Chi tunnels.

To express and interest or sign up for this tour, email Mark at and mention MildRover. They’ll get right back to you with a full tour dossier.

And to receive updates or join a meetup to hear more about the Vietnam by the Book small group tours, sign up for the Rusty Compass newsletter focused on By the Book tours.


Australia-born and educated, Mark, this tour’s designer and tour leader, has explored Vietnam like few outsiders.

He first visited in 1990 when the country was opening up to the world after decades of war and hard-line communism. He loved the place so much he co-founded a successful travel company based in Saigon in 1993. He’s been exploring, photographing and writing about Vietnam ever since.

Mark is frequently quoted in international media and has been a speaker for Lindblad National Geographic Expeditions, Smithsonian, Tauck Tours and others. He is the owner of Rusty Compass and co-owns Old Compass Travel and the Old Compass Cafe and event space in Ho Chi Minh City.

To find out more about Mark, check or his YouTube channel here.

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