The Mindful Writer - A 2020 Resource Page

 I had the loveliest group today on what was a grand experiment - my first Mindful Writer workshop delivered via Zoom, generously hosted by Mosman Library.

It was lots of fun, though a very novel and occasionally weird experiment. I would so love to hear from you if you did the workshop, and don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. 

As promised, here is a page of resources to help  you explore further some of the things I mentioned:

An interesting, extensive and quite academic analysis of mindfulness in Buddhism 

The Way of Mindfulness: The Satipatthana [mindfulness of breathing] Sutta and Its Commentary

Tristine Rainer and her remarkable book The New Diary

Natalie Goldberg and her groundbreaking book Writing Down the Bones

Gary Lachman's terrific book Lost Knowledge of the Imagination is what got me so interested in Coleridge. I find both Gary and Coleridge tremendously inspiring 




The fabulousness of Anais Nin

Mae West ruled fashion in 1933, and every other year

British photographer Charlie Waite on being a born observer 

Dr. Bernie Siegel believes we should open ourselves to more stories

Indra's Net provides an exquisite parable for our interconnectedness. It comes from the teachings of the  

Avatamsaka Sutra, championed by the Hua Yen school of Buddhism

Ernest Holmes was a fascinating man and a leader of the New Thought movement. Though a very different tradition, he often discusses themes of contemplation and oneness. I used a quote from him in  the presentation 

Ann Kroeker on the power of memorising poems 

What is a Beginner's Mind?  






Why authors should still blog

I regularly teach creative writing classes and am regularly asked questions about how to succeed as an author, or how to promote a book once it's written and published.And though there are constant changes in platforms and technology I am still giving the same answer after all these years.

Number one in importance is: Blogging!

I do get pushback (a lot of pushback!). Blogging is dead, people say. We have moved on to other platforms: Instagram, TikTok.

And while I agree that it is very important to use whatever social platforms you can manage, the good old-fashioned blog is still of immense importance. It's like your own little patch of earth that will always be there, regardless of the changes that happen in social media. Anyone remember Google+ ?

I understand that many established authors are not interested in blogging, or don't have the time. But for any new writer (particularly one who is not yet published!) blogging is still absolutely essential. If you haven't yet published it is an opportunity to collect a substantial body of work that publishers, agents and magazine editors can refer to and so discover for themselves what a literary genius you are. If you have been lucky enough to be published, it provides a way for you to build on what you have written, provide extra content for your readers and keep yourself in the public mind.

No matter where you are in the writing process, you really should start blogging NOW - and keep at it regularly (once a week as a minimum). I am perplexed when I see some people advising not to start your blog until you are published. In my own experience, my profile as a blogger was one of the main reasons a publishing house decided to take me on.

There's nothing like a blog for turning you into a legend in your own lunch time, and it's amazing how impressive it can seem to those who are less technically savvy (and yes, that includes many editors, publishers and other industry people). And a blog gives you the perfect opportunity to cross-promote on Facebook and Twitter, making it seem as though you are incredibly prolific, busy and important. And that is exactly what any publishing house is looking for in an author.

Some people express a fear that the things they blog will be plagiarised. Yes, it's a risk, but you should be so lucky. Your major struggle will almost certainly not be being copied, but being noticed in the first place.

In her wonderful book The Frugal Book Promoter, author Carolyn Howard-Johnson also explains the importance of getting a good URL early on. Yes, it's most important to get started NOW, so sign up with Blogger or one of the others - it's easy to route the blog you've started to your own URL later. But really, one of the first things you should be doing is buying the domain names for your own name (if still possible) and your next book's title (once you know for sure). This is inexpensive and easy.

Some people say they don't know what to blog about - they are afraid of losing privacy or, worse, appearing egotistical. If those are genuine concerns, then may I respectfully suggest that you are in the wrong game. The age of the shy and retiring writer has long gone - J. D. Salinger would never make it in the 21st century, for better or worse. Yes, you will lose some privacy, but only as much as you choose to sacrifice. And yes, some people will accuse you of being egotistical. Such critics are normally distinguished by their complete lack of success in the world. Bless them and move on.

More and more publishers are expecting their authors to blog and to maintain a presence on social media. And the fact is that surprisingly few do it. If you get started now, and do it well, you place yourself in a privileged - and even cherished - minority.

Author Sharon Snir on Finding Life's Deeper Significance

I first became aware of author Sharon Snir when I was sent a copy of her book Looking for Lionel to review. This book, a memoir of the way her mother's dementia affected her family's life, was so tender and insightful that I have since bought several copies to give to people living in the same situation. I finally met Sharon at a publishing event, and I became a huge fan of her third book, The Little Book of Everyday Miracles. I had so many questions to ask Sharon, and I thought it would be wonderful to share her wise and inspiring answers with all of you.
As well as being an author, Sharon is a counsellor, psychotherapist and healer, and you can read more about her and her work at 

Here is what Sharon had to share:

Q1. What is the miracle that has had the greatest impact on your life?

I had moved to Israel after the painful break up of my first marriage. I was living in a windowless storeroom under a block of fancy apartments. I made that 6’x 6’ space my little castle, despite the fact that there was no shower in my room.  It was not far from the beach so I would go daily for a swim and then shower and dress in the public change rooms. I remember going swimming once on the holiest day of the week, just before the Sabbath. After coming out of the water and into the change rooms, I realised my watch was gone. I fell into a pitiful heap.  I sobbed so loudly that people came to see what the matter was. I spoke no Hebrew and blubbered in English, I’ve lost my watch.  Understandably, most people told me that wasn’t so bad, which only caused me to sob more passionately.

I imagined all the dreadful things that would now befall me. Irrationally, I believed I would not know when to eat or sleep. I would not be able to leave my room because I would no longer know the bus timetable.  And then the worst thought came to my mind. Being Friday all the shops were about to close, and would not open again until 10 AM on Sunday morning so I couldn’t buy a new one. I know it sounds crazy now, but at the time something cracked open inside me and a tidal wave of fear followed by unstoppable tears overtook me. Clearly, I was having a minor break down.

I had been given the watch as a farewell gift from my mother and although I thought at the time I would never return to Australia, it connected me to home. On walking into my tiny room, I fell onto my bed and hit my forehead on something hard. It was my watch.  I began to speak to myself in a loud firm voice. “Pull yourself together girl. This is ridiculous. Get up, get out and get a life!”
I booked an eight day tour around Israel the next day, had a delicious affair with the bus driver, moved into the most beautiful Kibbutz and over the next year a new world opened up for me. 
A miracle is in the eye of the beholder. What is a miracle to one person may not be a miracle for another however, for me, losing my watch allowed me to release all my fears and pent up misery.

Q2. You talk about how your publisher missed your first ever appointment. Can you explain more about the significance of waiting?

I worked as a counsellor for six year at the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) in the early 90’s. There I worked with many incredible people who were waiting to die. After the initial shock of contracting HIV, some people began planning their death, even preparing their own funerals and, incredibly, they were given a new lease on life. As I spoke to my clients, I heard how the significance of waiting gave them renewed passion for life. They described the experience as waking up and seeing life more clearly. They didn’t have time to waste and many were doing things they had always wanted but had never taken the leap to do.

Then came the arrival of antivirals and for some it was a shock to be given back their life. “What do we do now? We have given up our job, given away our possessions and given up on living a long life. How do we just start living again?

Paradoxically, the arrival of antivirals was not always seen as a miracle for people living with HIV but surprisingly I heard over and over again that contracting HIV itself created a miracle in their life. Why? Because it turned lives upside down and inside out, and many went from being unaware to becoming conscious and present. Time after time, I heard stories of the miracles that had happened while waiting to die.

I believe that all is perfect in time and space and therefore nothing is wrong. So when someone doesn’t turn up for an appointment, or when I fall and twist my ankle, or when a diagnosis of some kind is handed over, I know there is a purpose, a lesson and a gift in that experience waiting to be discovered.

In other words, rather than focusing on the appearance of the situation, I prefer to understand the significance. The significance of waiting connects us to Universal time. Most of us live our lives as if time is our Master. We even talk about time as if it was a physical object. “Where has all the time gone? I don’t have time. We have run out of time. Do you have any time today?” Substitute the word ‘sugar’ for the word ‘time’ and you’ll get what I mean. Linear time, or the time we humans make up, ignores the greater cycles of time.

The Universe, generous beyond imagination, gave us night and day, summer, autumn, winter, spring, annual and perennial crops and plants, animals that hibernate and birds that migrate to teach us something about cycles. Timeliness is not only up to us. Things happen because it is time for things to happen. In the words of the beautiful, gracious and very present Byron Katie:
"Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do."

Q3. You always write so beautifully about the experience of ageing. Is there any advice you can give to people dealing with the reality of ageing parents?

Accept them as they are right now, in this moment. Try not to yearn for the person they used to be.  Over the past 19 years, my mother has had Alzheimer’s disease and I have learned that when I meet her in her world,  when I sing with her, smile with her, move my body closer when she leans closer, she melts into the grace of being accepted exactly as she is. She becomes a warm, loving person and joy to be with.

Five years ago, when caring for my mother became too much for my 90 year old father, she went to live in a residential home for people living with dementia. She stopped doing many things she had once done, including going to the hairdressers every day! Her hair began to slowly change to grey and I decided I would go grey with my mother. Today I embrace the elder I am becoming. I have a mop of grey hair and often have to laugh when people ask me where I got my hair streaked. I tell them at a place called ‘Old Age’.

We- the older generation, 55 years and over- have a wealth of experience and wisdom to share. Living a long time turns the aged into living historians.

Although I believe we need to eat well and exercise our bodies in moderation, our addiction to youth diminishes our belief in ourselves that we are of great value and benefit to our communities and to society as a whole. We are living longer now and so we need to make some important choices. Do we embrace our elders as beings of great wisdom who have the power to contribute to every level of society or do we continue to try to look, sound and act younger than we really are?

My father is about to turn 95 and every child in our family relishes the opportunity to sit quietly and talk to him. Knowing how to listen, ask good questions and share diverse thoughts is the precious legacy my father will leave behind when it is his time to move on.

Q4. You talk about your own experiences with other worlds as a child. How do we keep ourselves open to receiving miracles?

There are three qualities that open the door to receiving miracles. Gratitude, Forgiveness and Wonder.
Gratitude connects us to our hearts and turns even the most ordinary and mundane experience into a sacred moment. Even the most profound and life changing miracle will lose its brilliance and fade unless it is accompanied by gratitude. I was an unpopular child. I didn’t like running or skipping or playing hide and seek. I loved to read and was considered weird.  Life at home was also often difficult. My mother was both overprotective and at times neglectful. She could be sweet and tender one minute and cruel and dismissive the next. I was severely disciplined, mainly for making up overly creative stories that were seen as lies. So in the face of this I made up games.

 I was about seven years old and I told myself that if I laughed three times in one day I could call it a good day. I would lie in my bed every night and look back through my day and try to find three times where I laughed. It created a very strong relationship between me and gratitude. So the practice of looking back through your day just before you fall asleep and recalling the events in your day for which you are grateful creates within you a magnet that calls more and more moments of grace or everyday miracles into your life. The more we focus our thoughts on something, the more we call it into our life. For example if you focus on rude people, you will probably encounter many rude people in your life. If you focus on your ailments, you will almost certainly experience lots of aches and pains. On the other hand, if you focus on compassion, loving kindness and generosity, the likelihood of you experiencing these in your life is also very high.

Forgiveness is another door to opening miracles. When I met Sandy Macgregor and heard his story I knew then that nothing was unforgivable.

Eighteen years ago, Sandy lost his three teenage daughters and their friend when they were shot dead in their Sydney home. Few people would ever get their life back together again after such an event, but Sandy went much further than that and found a way to forgive. In his book Peace of Mind he describes the technique he used to do this. He also makes it clear that forgiveness is not about condoning an action. Forgiveness is only for yourself.  What the does perpetrator with your forgiveness is up to them. Whatever they do is not your responsibility. You are primarily responsible for yourself only. The miracle that comes out of forgiveness is freedom.

Wonder clears our lenses and allows us to see and hear and touch and taste for the first time, everyday.  Connected to wonder is innocence. That childhood sense of playfulness and purity that heightens everything we do.  As we experience wonder, life simply becomes more wonder-full.

Q5. Can you give 5 brief pieces of advice to someone who wants to take the leap and explore their own creativity?

1.    Be in your element

To be in your element means doing something that you have an aptitude for. According to Sir Ken Robinson, we all have an aptitude for something. Cooking, cleaning, playing guitar, doing mathematics or writing may be things you love and have an aptitude for. But you don’t have to be good at something to be in your element. All you have to do is enjoy and love it and then naturally you will be in your element.

2.    Re-establish a relationship with your imagination

When was the last time you thought it might be a good idea to plan a dress-up party? My daughter just went to a sequin party and I was only sorry I didn’t know the person having it. Do you remember when you were a child, when you were not distracted by technology and would use bits and pieces of nature to create a cubby, or a tea party, or a battle field? Exploring our creativity requires us to regularly turn off the computer, iphone, ipad and go out into nature. Look around you and see the faces in the bark of the trees or the animals in the rocks, or the dragons and angels in the clouds. Exercise your imagination. It is a muscle and like all muscles you have to use it or you might lose it.

3.    Practice Spontaneous Stupidity

Spontaneity is letting go of control. Releasing our rigidity and need to create structure, strategies and order in our life. Stupidity is a lack of knowing, allowing ourselves to not know and to explore freely.  Many of us are absolutely terrified of looking stupid but that is because we have misunderstood the true meaning of the word.  Not knowing something is the only way to learn. I coined the term Spontaneous Stupidity many years ago when I found the only way to cope with five children under seven was to be both at the same time! I love being silly and laughing at the ridiculous. Most of us lose that ability to be silly and are overly concerned with how we appear to others.

In the Middle Ages, the most spontaneously stupid person was the court jester who was also the closest ear to the king. He was able to offer guidance and wisdom by being creatively silly. He would speak in rhyme and riddle but his wisdom lay between his words. In a Danny Kaye movie called ‘The Court Jester’ he speaks these words of warning to the King: “The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison and the chalice in the palace has the brew that is true.”

4.    Play Games

Invite some friends over and instead of an elaborate three course meal, host a game. It could be a writing game, a drawing game or murder mystery game. My kids, all adults, now love games and “What would you rather?” is one of their favourites. So what would you rather do, kiss old aunty Daisy on the lips or clean all the toilets at central station with a tooth brush? It gets worse. The laughter becomes louder and louder and the creative ideas more and more disgusting but laughter lights us up. It literally bring us to enlightenment,  switching on all our creative senses.

5.    Eat, Move and Rest

Confession: I am guilty of not always doing this. I can be sitting at my computer six or even eight hours until I am seconds away from being totally brain dead, without eating or moving all day. We need to eat to keep our minds working. I can literally feel my energy seep away if I leave too long between a snack. Writers' block is a very common phenomenon and the only way I know to shift the energy is to get up and go for a walk. I clear the brain by breathing deeply and reconnect to the spirit within. And finally, not only do I recommend going to bed at a reasonable hour but taking a few minutes to meditate on retiring and rising allows the mind to stop thinking.  After ten or fifteen minutes of breathing and allowing thoughts to rise and dissolve something quite lovely happens and we enter into a place of true communion with our self. This is the source of all creativity.  A sacred space where everything and nothing exists in harmony together. A place where we can align our own spirit to the infinite flow of universal creativity.

Lady Ottoline Morrell

Lover of literary legends, Lady Ottoline Morrell is, perhaps, the foremost in my pantheon of obscure heroines. She was the very prototype of the cougar, and she was also the original fag hag. Rich, eccentric and lucky enough to have a very indulgent husband, Ottoline Morrell existed on the fringes of the lives of almost every significant literary figure of the Bloomsbury era. Her extravagance and her peculiarity of dress meant that she became an object of fun, and her single-minded pursuit of the talented saw some unkindly accuse her of pretension, but she remains one of the really great characters of the Edwardian era and beyond.

Born in 1873 to an old aristocratic family, she married into money as well, and her parents-in-law were themselves famous for lionising literary figures, hosting people like Oscar Wilde at their extravagant parties at Headington Hill Hall in Oxford, a property Ottoline was to inherit. In his history of the Bloomsbury group, Leon Edel says that Ottoline was never properly a Bloomsburyite. Instead, he maintains, she created her own satellite group which fed on Bloomsbury and occasionaly offered refuge from it. Starving poets, writers and artists could rely upon her opulent hospitality, though they often rewarded her by gossiping about and lampooning their hostess.

Some viewed her as the saviour of bohemianism, championing the new arts amongst the solidly upper class, encouraging them to invest in books, art, and even painted furniture that represented the new face of Post-Impressionism. Her colourful style and keen endorsement of even the most outlandish creations of the new guard meant she was seen as a great "character," an eccentric of a distinctly English type. Describing her in his book on Bloomsbury, Quentin Bell calls her a "fantastic, baroque flamingo."

For Virginia Nicholson, writing in her superb history Among the Bohemians, Lady Ottoline serves as an exemplar of a sexual type, indeed, the inspiration for the lusty aristocratic lady in Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. It is said that this story is based on Ottoline's real-life affair with her young gardener, conducted under the nose of her unsuspecting husband. Most think that Lady Ottoline had an affair with Lawrence himself while he was still a young and unknown writer, and he described her as a kind of nymphomaniac, a woman incapable of real sexual pleasure but who sought it feverishly.

She does seem to have possessed a fearless capacity for pursuing men who were much younger and vastly socially removed from her. She bedded the priapic Augustus John and famously fell head over heels for the young Bertrand Russell. She was a far from beautiful woman, and in her biography of Virginia Woolf Hermione Lee describes Lady Ottoline rather ungenerously as speaking "in a weird, nasal, cooing, sing-song drawl."

Ottoline's final country house, Garsington, became legendary as a kind of drop-in centre for high Bohemianism, and she managed to create a singular literary salon were, according to Michael Barber, she mixed gruff homeless poets with callow young noblemen and expected all of them to amuse her with culture, gossip and perhaps the occasional roll in the hay. Her long-suffering husband Philip Morrell survived her and spent his final years being fussed over by an equally elderly maid. He seems to have been amused by his wife's flamboyance and constant hospitality.

A pile of books for the New Year!

A little squiz at what I plan on reading first thing this year.

From the top:

Michelle de Kretser on Shirley Hazzard - Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Michelle de Kretser, and I can't believe I have waited so long to read this one. I  think in part because I have only ever read one book by Shirley Hazzard, and that was an obscure one about Graham Greene, so I don't feel I know her at all as a writer.  I  trust Michelle's judgement completely, however, and I am pretty certain that once I finish this one I will be reading all of Hazzard's books.

The Memory Pool by Therese Spruhan - I have followed Therese's exquisite portraits of suburban swimming pools on Instagram for a long time, and loved the sound of this book as soon as I heard about it.

The Ecstatic Journey by Sophy Burnham - Back in the days when I worked in a New Age bookshop, Sophy Burnham's angel book was one of our megasellers, and continued to sell strongly for years. This seems like a fascinating and inspiring book, and I look forward to doing a little spiritual work.

God On Your Own by Joseph Dispenza - Following on from the previous theme. I must admit I have had this book for years but now seems exactly the time for me to read it as I unpacked it from a long neglected box of books (we moved house two years ago and I am still  going) and it seemed to call to me. His book  The Way of the Traveler is one I read almost every year and has a permanent place on my bedside table.

Mae West: It Ain't No Sin by Simon Louvish - At the end of this month I am giving a two-hour lecture on Miss West so I am reading this one cover to cover. I have read several books both by Miss West and about her.

Gertrude Lawrence by Sheridan Morley - More research. I have for years given lectures about Noel Coward, and Miss Lawrence is an essential part of his story. I have found that people often come up to me with questions or stories about her, and so I finally decided I would put together a talk about her. It premieres at WEA Sydney on February 21, 2020, and tickets are still available.

9 Favourite Towns in Vietnam

If you've read my book Destination Saigon you would know that I have travelled all over Vietnam in the past 26 years - including to some pretty obscure places. People often ask me what are my favourite places to visit there, and I am hesitant to tell them because I know that if you are on a quick holiday a lot of the best places are probably not worth the time it takes to get there, and when you do get there they are often quite laid-back, noteworthy more for the vibe than for things to do. But for what it's worth, here are my 9 favourite towns in Vietnam (for obvious reasons I have left off Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as everyone who visits Vietnam will eventually end up in both of these):

  1. Tay Ninh - A day-trip from Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh is the home of Cao Dai, Vietnam's fascinating indigenous religion. I've spent quite a lot of time in Tay Ninh, and it really is a fascinating place. As well as being the Holy City of Cao Dai, it is right near Nui Ba Den, a mystical holy mountain that locals believe is home to a Goddess. Nui Ba Den has become a kind of fun fair that is very popular with local tourists,. I love catching the cable car up the mountain and spending  time on the cool top, especially sitting inside the shrine to the Ba Den herself, which is cool and dark and carved into the rock. In colonial days (according to Milton Osborne in  his superb book on The Mekong) the French connected Saigon to Laos with a road through Tay Ninh called Colonial Route 13. I have no idea whether or not this route is still in operation - but it would make a terrific trip if it was. 

2. Quy Nhon - Purely by chance I made many friends in Quy Nhon when I was a young man, and now I visit it every time I go to Vietnam. It is a beautiful coastal city in South-Central Vietnam, quiet, clean and cool, and in many ways it is the powerhouse of Vietnamese Buddhism. It is home to many ancient Buddhist temples, and also was the site of the even more ancient Kingdom of Champa, the rulers of which were Hindu. Hence the presence of many antique Hindu temples in the surrounding hills.
3. Vinh Long - The great Southern Vietnamese religious leader Minh Dang Quang established his Buddhist sect in Vinh Long, and it is still home to many great Buddhist temples important to his sect, including the original temple he established. It is also just a beautiful little Mekong Delta town which possesses its own Temple of Literature.

4. Dong Ha - The capital of Quang Tri province, the poorest in all Vietnam, I was expecting Dong Ha to be a horrible place but it turns out to be an enchanting little city in Central Vietnam about two or three hours from Hue. It is peppered with groovy little cafes and the people are extraordinarily beautiful, though they speak an incomprehensible dialect which even most Vietnamese find difficult to understand. Take a boat from the centre of town down the river (can someone tell me what it's called?) and visit one of the many picturesque villages that dot the river's banks. It is also close to the old DMZ and the holy Catholic Shrine of La Vang, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

5. Mui Ne - The real success story of Vietnamese tourism, Mui Ne is the beachside destination of choice for the wealthy elites of Ho Chi Minh City. Until just a few years ago a sleepy fishing village, Mui Ne now has a decidedly international feel, and the beachside hotels, resorts and guesthouses are a cut above the usual Vietnamese offerings. In Destination Saigon I write about my riotous nights there in the company of a gang of fishermen, and Mui Ne really is becoming a kind of "fun central" for Vietnam, with great bars and restaurants. Of course, some don't like it precisely because of its "international" vibe, but I figure what the hell, mix things up a little. Close to Phan Thiet and the Big Buddha Mountain.

(Photo @Find the Light on Flickr)
6. Ben Tre - This is the hometown of my beloved partner, and in many ways it is the quintessence of the Mekong Delta. Famous for bananas and coconuts, it is remarkable how many of the people you meet in Saigon actually hail from Ben Tre. It was the home of the famous Coconut Monk, who attempted to unify Buddhism with Christianity. It was hard hit during the Vietnam War, being the place that the American army famously declared they had to destroy in order to save.

7. Can Tho - Being the third-largest city in Vietnam, Can Tho is one of those places that comes as a surprise to tourists. Way down in the Delta (and the boat trip from Saigon to Can Tho is one of the things I recommend EVERYONE should do), it is steamy and beautifully situated along the river. Wealthy and open-hearted, it has the reputation of being something of a sin city - it has a thriving gay community, and the women of Can Tho are notorious for their forwardness. Can Tho is known as the city that saved the ao dai, the beautiful, elegant and surprisingly provocative national costume of Vietnam. It has a big university and a big bridge, for those who are into such things. There is also a large community of Khmer people, and there is an old Khmer temple in the heart of town.

8. Nha Trang - Until Mui Ne eclipsed it, Nha Trang was the great hope of Vietnamese tourism. It probably suffered by being championed in a more rigidly controlled age, when the central government was trying to keep a tight rein on tourism and the army was responsible for constructing hotels and restaurants. This gives Nha Trang still a very 1980s Communist feel, especially along the beach front. That said, it is a wonderful city, with great food, great nightlife and a very nice beach. I've always enjoyed myself whenever I've visited Nha Trang - it is considerably cleaner and better kept than most Vietnamese cities.

9. Tra Vinh - When I was studying Vietnamese at the Ho Chi Minh Social Sciences University back in the late 90s I really became interested in the Khmer culture and people that make up a big minority in southern Vietnam. I would visit the Khmer Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City almost daily, and I met and made friends with many of the monks there. A number of them hailed from Tra Vinh, a place I'd never even heard of before. Eventually they took me there and I discovered one of the most fascinating parts of Vietnam. In Tra Vinh the Khmer population is quite dominant, and you hear Khmer spoken on the streets and broadcast on the radio and TV. Theravadin Buddhist temples are the norm, and the rich and ancient Khmer culture is said to be lived there more authentically than in Cambodia itself, for obvious historical reasons.

So there you have it - my nine favourite towns in Vietnam!
If you have any more you'd like listed, please comment and tell us about it!

You should also follow me on Twitter @walterm
Incidentally, there is another excellent post I recommend you check out over at Your RV Lifestyle called Best Things to Do in Vietnam and it is filled with lots of great info!
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