Old Compass Travel

"Travel with an old compass"

Welcome to Old Compass Travel

We run walks and day tours of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam and Sydney, Australia, focused on history, architecture, religion and the contemporary life of the cities. Yes - we know that's a strange combination of cities. These are the places we know best. Everything we do is small-scale and unique. Our people are dedicated specialists. We tell serious stories - and we see beautiful things. A sense of humour keeps the wheels turning. Join us!

We also operate customised private tours, specialised tours for schools and universities, expert talks, and unique corporate events mixing education and fun activities in Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney. Our Vietnam by the Book tour is a deep look at Vietnam through the eyes of three authors.

Travel well!!

Saigon - Tales of the City


Saigon - Tales of the City, is a half day heritage walking tour that tells the incredible story of Saigon through its bustling streets, and its most evocative historical sights. It's a unique Saigon experience of history, architecture, food and contemporary life. We've created an experience for travellers wanting to dig deeper than a standard city tour. Groups are small and personalised. Duong and Nhi are insightful guides for your walk.

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Cu Chi Tunnels - the alternative tour

Our tour of the Vietnam War era Cu Chi tunnels 70kms from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) focuses on the history and solemnity of the site.  Most tours treat the tunnels complex like a theme park. We’ve created a tour that looks at the events that occurred and the remarkable achievement of determination that the tunnels represent. For that experience, we start early. We leave Saigon at 6.30AM! Please note that we do not visit the firing range.

COST: 2.7 mill VND pp or 115USD pp (min. 2 travellers).

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Sydney - Tales of the City


Sydney - Tales of the City is a unique small group (max 8) walk through the complicated stories of Australia's oldest and largest city - Daily 2pm - 5pm - min. 2 travellers $95pp incl. GST, harbourside drink, expert local guide. With the intimacy and low-impact of a small group (maximum 8), we experience history, architecture and the visual splendour of the city.  Sydney is where the British colonial invasion of Australia began in 1788.

Join us on a walk that explores Sydney's improbable journey, from violent penal colony, into one of the world's most vibrant and diverse modern cities.

COST: $95per person incl. 10% GST expert guide and harbour-side drink. Tour commences at

Send us a booking or call us in Sydney on 0426638642

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The Rocks Sydney - an alternative walking tour

An alternative walking tour of Sydney’s historic Rocks - Tallawoladah district - (Daily 9.30am - 12PM with breaks - $65 incl. GST and coffee / soft drink, small groups). With the intimacy and access of a small group (8 or less), we'll see where the harsh convict settlement of New South Wales was established in 1788. Known to First Nations people as Tallawoladah, The Rocks is where Australia's long history of dispossession began. Some of the best preserved remnants of colonial Sydney are found here, right by the legendary harbour and in the shadow of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Our walks share big stories, beautiful scenes - with a sense of humour.

Cost $65 per person incl. 10% GST and a coffee (or soft drink) in a atmospheric Rocks space. Tours operate with a minimum 2 people and commence at 9.30AM daily finishing around 12PM including stops.

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Author's walk with Ian Hoskins - From Bennelong Point to Barangaroo

Led by acclaimed author and historian, Dr Ian Hoskins, this special small group walk (max 8 people) operates by appointment and takes you from some of Sydney’s oldest places to its newest. Ian’s book Sydney Harbour: a history, was republished in 2022 with an updated chapter on Barangaroo. Our walk starts at Bennelong Point, site of the world-renowned Sydney Opera House. We then cross Circular Quay, through the Rocks / Tallawoladah and Millers Point ending at Barangaroo - named after the formidable Cammeraygal woman who remained wary of the colonists.

Ian walks by appointment on Sunday afternoons (maximum 8 people) between 2PM and 5PM. Cost is $130pp min. 4 and $120pp - between 5 - 8.

Check out our daily heritage walks in Sydney on this website or email us at

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Private customised cultural and historical tours in Sydney, Australia

We’d love to tailor a cultural travel experience of Sydney around your interests. We can put together private tailored walks to city highlights, beaches, harbour parks, galleries, museums, historic houses, historical sites and Sydney’s coolest neighbourhoods. Spend a half day, a full day or a couple of days with us digging deep into the places of Sydney. There are loads of possibilities - including walks led by historians, authors or journalists.

Bicycle rides with a historical or cultural focus can be arranged.

Contact us at sydney@oldcompasstravel.com and we’ll work out an amazing experience for you with our trademark knowledge and depth. In addition to creating an extraordinary Sydney experience, we’ll share our knowledge of the best of Sydney with you.

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Vietnam by the Book - Old Compass Travel Book Club

Join Mark Bowyer in 2023 on an unforgettable journey through the history, culture, cuisine and unique beauty of Vietnam. Our tour only operates a couple of times each year. We use the works of  three distinguished authors to help us along our way. Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Duong Van Mai Elliott’s Sacred Willow and Nguyen Qui Duc’s Where the Ashes Are, tell different tales of Vietnam’s modern history. Our reading will bring meaning and shared insights to the places we visit. We’ll travel and read beyond these books.

We've created a uniquely engaging itinerary reflecting our decades of experience.

In 2023 we're also offering an extension to the temples of Angkor in Siem Reap.

To sign up for this tour, please send us an email at info@oldcompasstravel.com. We'll get right back to you with a full tour dossier.

Tour dates:
Saturday 7 October 2023 - Sunday 22 October 2023

$4490USD per person twin share
$1390USD s
ingle traveller supplement  - we warmly welcome our single travellers

Group size:
Maximum 14

To receive our regular updates or join a meetup to hear more about our Vietnam by the Book small group tours, sign up for our newsletter.

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About Us

We have some old ideas about what makes great travel experiences. We’re interested in history, architecture, art, food – the real stories. We’re also interested in the contemporary life of the places where we operate. We’d much rather be walking the streets than sitting in a coach. A sense of humour always keeps the wheels turning.

We’re a boutique company in every sense – offering in-depth walking tours of Saigon and Sydney, longer special interest tours and customised travel advice.

Duong, leads our Saigon – Tales of the City tour and  was born in the central province of Nghe An. Nghe An is one of Vietnam’s poorest provinces – but it’s also the proud home of Ho Chi Minh. Duong moved to Saigon as a child. She loves art, design and her country’s incredible history. She has worked in furniture design and production, architecture and in art galleries. Duong loves to share her stories, and the stories of her city. She co-owns Old Compass Travel and The Old Compass Cafe.

Our tours are designed by our founder, Mark Bowyer. Mark first set foot in Vietnam in 1990 when the country was opening its doors to the world. He’s been hooked ever since. Mark leads our Vietnam by the book Old Compass Travel Book Club tours which run a few times each year. These are unique itineraries enhanced by Mark’s unique experience and interest in Vietnam, Cambodia, and now, back in Australia.

Since 2020 Mark has been curating experiences in Sydney and now we have two special walks in Australia’s biggest and best-known city.

Mark publishes the travel website www.rustycompass.com. He’s been photographing, filming and writing about travel in Vietnam for decades. Rusty Compass is now covering Australia too.  Mark’s long been fascinated by Vietnam’s incredible history, culture, language, architecture and the country’s economic development. Mark’s love of Vietnam imbues the tours he designs. And now he is bringing his approach to travel home to Sydney.

ll the photos on this website and on Rusty Compass were shot by Mark. Sydney is a photogenic feast too – and you can check out Mark’s evolving impressions of Sydney at Rusty Compass here.

Read more about Mark in this New York Times profile.



Send us an email: info@oldcompasstravel.com
or come and visit us in Saigon at
The Old Compass Cafe
3rd Floor, 63/11 Pasteur St., Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In Sydney email us at sydney@oldcompasstravel.com or call 0426638642