|Vietnam Country Information|
Vietnam (Vietnamese: Viet Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a nation in Southeast Asia. It borders the People's Republic of China to the north, Laos to the northwest and Cambodia to the southwest. To the country's east lies the South China Sea. With a population of approximately 84 million, Vietnam is one of the most densely populated nations in Southeast Asia.
In a world that is constantly integrating and becoming homogenised, Vietnam stands out as a unique and decidedly exotic destination. Long stigmatised for its conduct during the American War, Vietnam is emerging as one of the more popular Asian spots to visit, encouraging a burgeoning hospitality industry. With a rapidly growing resort and hotel industry come the inescapable pains that accompany such growth. Furiously trying to stay ahead of infrastructure and manpower needs, the country is rapidly advancing in all areas to support the influx of visitors. Vietnam’s freshness on the international holiday scene also helps to soften any problems that come about due to the clash of this former rigidly communist nation with today’s modern western capitalistic culture.
A famous Vietnamese legend tells that the Vietnamese people of various tribes were born outside the womb following the marriage of Lac Long Quan (Dragon Chief) and Au Co (the Fairy). However, most Vietnamese historians consider the Dong Son civilization that covered much of Southeast Asia to be the beginning of Vietnam's history. In 208 BCE a Qin Dynasty general named Trieu Da established a state called Nam Viet which encompassed southern China and the Red River Delta. The historical significance of the original Nam Viet remains controversial because some historians consider it a Chinese occupation while others believe it was an independent era. For most of the period from 111 BCE to the early 10th century CE, Vietnam was under the rule of successive Chinese dynasties. During this period, Buddhism became a dominant influence in the religious and cultural life of the people. Sporadic independence movements were attempted, but were quickly suppressed by Chinese forces. In 939 CE the Vietnamese defeated Chinese forces at the Bach Dang River and gained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control. They gained complete autonomy a century later. During the rule of the Tran Dynasty, Dai Viet defeated three Mongol attempts of invasion by the Yuan Dynasty. Three times with massive troops as well as careful preparation for their attacks but three times in the row the Mongols were totally swept out of Dai Viet. Incidentally, the final battle in which Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao defeated most of Mongolian forces was held again at Bach Dang River like his ancestors nearly 300 years ago. Feudalism in Vietnam reached its zenith in the Le Dynasty of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Le Thanh Tong. Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tien (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and much of the Khmer Empire.
Vietnam's independence ended in the mid-19th century AD, when the country was colonized by the French Empire. The French administration enacted significant political and cultural changes to Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was introduced in Vietnamese society. Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights.
The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at about 350,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly because of infectious disease combined with forced re-settlement and cultural disintegration. The removal of children, that some historians and Indigenous Australians have argued could be considered to constitute genocide by today's understanding, may have made a small contribution to the decline in the indigenous population. Such interpretations of Aboriginal history are disputed by some as being exaggerated or fabricated for political or ideological reasons. This debate is known within Australia as the History Wars. Following the 1967 referendum, the Federal government gained the power to implement policies and make laws with respect to Aborigines. Traditional ownership of land — native title — was not recognised until the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius at the time of European occupation.
Vietnam extends approximately 331,688 square km (128,066 sq mii) in area. The area of the country running along its international boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi). The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the area, with smaller hills accounting for 40% and tropical forests 42%. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Pang, located in Lao Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m (10,312 ft). The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Annamite Chain peaks, extensive forests, and poor soil. Comprising 5 relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil spread over the provinces of Dak Lak (or "Dac Lac"), Gia Lai, and Kon Tom, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land. Before 1975, North Vietnam had maintained that the Central Highlands and the Giai Truong Son were strategic areas of paramount importance, essential to the domination not only of South Vietnam but also of the southern part of Indochina. Since 1975, the highlands have provided an area in which to relocate people from the densely populated lowlands.
The delta of the Red River (also known as the Song Hong), is a flat, triangular region of 3,000 square kilometers, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in by the enormous alluvial deposits of the rivers over a period of millennia, and it advances one hundred meters into the Gulf annually. The ancestral home of the ethnic Vietnamese, the delta accounted for almost 70 % of the agriculture and 80 % of the industry of North Vietnam before 1975. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 square kilometers, is a low-level plain not more than three meters above sea level at any point and criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong's various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year. An official Vietnamese source estimates the amount of sediment deposited annually to be about 1 billion cubic meters, or nearly 13 times the amount deposited by the Red River. About 10,000 square kilometers of the delta are under rice cultivation, making the area one of the major rice-growing regions of the world. Through the adoption of high yielding, modern rice varieties, Vietnam has become the world’s second largest exporter of rice . Approximately 60% of the irrigated rice growing area in the Mekong Delta is covered with modern rice varieties from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) The southern tip, known as the Ca Mau Peninsula, or Mui Bai Bung, is covered by dense jungle and mangrove swamps.
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84 % throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and the marked variety of topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the China coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture; consequently the winter season in most parts of the country is dry only by comparison with the rainy or summer season. During the southwesterly summer monsoon, occurring from May to October, the heated air of the Gobi Desert rises, far to the north, inducing moist air to flow inland from the sea and deposit heavy rainfall. Annual rainfall is substantial in all regions and torrential in some, ranging from 120 centimeters to 300 centimeters. Nearly 90 % of the precipitation occurs during the summer. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains and plateaus. Temperatures range from a low of 5°C in December and January, the coolest months, to more than 37°C in April, the hottest month. Seasonal divisions are more clearly marked in the northern half than in the southern half of the country, where, except in some of the highlands, seasonal temperatures vary only a few degrees, usually in the 21°C-28°C range.
The weather in the southern part of Vietnam is tropical. It is monsoonal in the north, bringing a hot, rainy season from mid-May to mid-September and a warm, dry season from mid-October to mid-March. Occasional typhoons from May to January bring extensive flooding to the middle regions of Vietnam.
The Vietnam War destroyed much of the economy of Vietnam. Apart from widespread destruction of urban and rural infrastructure, heavy bombings and mines had savaged agricultural activities. Millions of people were displaced by the conflict, and over two million people were killed. Upon taking power, the Government created a command economy in the nation. Collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For many decades, Vietnam's economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction and restrictions on economic activities and trade. It also suffered from the trade embargo from the United States and most of Europe after the Vietnam War. Furthermore, the trade partners of the Communist blocs began to erode. In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress introduced significant economic reforms with market economy elements as part of a broad economic reform package called "doi mdi" (Renovation). Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. In many ways, this followed the Chinese model and achieved similar results. On one hand, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2002, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, foreign investment grew three-fold and domestic savings quintupled. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy.
Urban unemployment has been rising steadily in recent years due to high numbers of migration from the countryside to the cities, and rural unemployment, estimated to be up to 35% during non-harvest periods, is already at critical levels. Layoffs in the state sector and foreign-invested enterprises, combined with the lasting effects of a previous military demobilization, further exacerbated the unemployment situation. In May 2006, Vietnam negotiated a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. that marked the completion of the bilateral negotiations with WTO members the country needed to qualify for accession to the organization. Among other steps taken in the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam in July 2006 updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS. Vietnam's chief trading partners include Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European nations. Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006.
The media of Vietnam is tightly regulated by the government, which views the media as "the voice of the party and of the masses" and sees its main function as being "to propagate the party's lines and policies". The official media is a tool for government information and propaganda. Though market competition has caused the Vietnamese media to embrace popular culture, newspapers, radio and television are still compelled to reflect on the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism and the ideals of Ho Chi Minh. The Voice of Vietnam is the official state-run radio broadcasting services that cover the nation. Vietnam Television is the sole state-run television broadcasting company. As Vietnam moved toward a free-market economy with its doi moi measures, the government has relied on the print media to keep the public informed about its policies. The measure has had the effect of almost doubling the numbers of newspapers and magazines since 1996. The first Vietnamese-language newspaper was the French-sponsored Gia dinh Bao, established in Saigon in 1869. In the years that followed, both the nationalistic and the colonial sides relied on newspapers as a propaganda tool. During the final period of French colonialism many reporters were arrested and imprisoned and several newspaper offices closed by the authorities. For Ho Chi Minh's revolutionary side, Vietnamese journalists covered the First Indochina War. After the war, presses were set up in Hanoi and the basis for the country's newspaper industry as it exists today was formed, with the main Communist Party organ, Nhan Dan (The People), established in 1951.
Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors. Domestically, all provincial exchanges are digitalized and connected to Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City by fiber optic cable or microwave radio relay networks. Main lines have been substantially increased, and the use of mobile telephones is growing rapidly. As of 2004, there were 10,124,900 main lines in use, and 4.96 million mobile phones in use. The international country code is 84. Two satellite earth stations are in use: Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region). Mobile phone numbers in Vietnam are shared by many mobile operators, including MobiFone, VinaPhone, Viettel, S-Fone, E-mobile. Since 1997 Vietnam has been connected by two gateways: one in Hanoi which connects with Hong Kong and Australia, and the other in Ho Chi Minh City, which connects with the United States by Sprint. Internet usage remains low in comparison with that of other Asian nations, yet connectivity has increased rapidly over the past few years. There are five ISPs operating: Vietnam Data Communication Company (VDC), Corporation for Finance and Promoting Technology (FPT), Netnam Company, Saigon Post and Telecommunications Services Corporation (Saigon Postel Corporation, SPT) and Viettel Company.
The culture and people of Vietnam are very hard to describe unless you have actually experienced them. As I am not Vietnamese, and although I am interested in Vietnam, have never been there, I had to keep these reports on the people and culture to the facts I found in numerous references. If you wish to get a more personal view of culture and life in Vietnam, please go to our Viewpoints section.
The people of Vietnam have a unique and fascinating culture that has been shaped by thousands of years of history. Their culture has been influenced by many other civilizations: the ancient peoples that once inhabited the land, the Chinese, the French, and most recently, the Americans and Russians. From all these outside influences, and centuries of war, oppression, and hardship, they have formed, and maintained their culture. The people of Vietnam are hard working and feel strong ties to their families. They are well versed in the arts, and have made several contributions to the world of literature. Aside from their painful history, the Vietnamese people have a culture and many customs, all their own.
Although there are as many as 60 different groups of people living in Vietnam, the majority of the population are the Viet people. Of the 78 million people living in the country, 85 percent are what we refer to as Vietnamese. They live primarily in the lowlands of Vietnam. Three-quarters of the population of Vietnam live in rural villages. A vast majority of the citizens are rice farmers, and live in the lowlands where there is fertile, easily irrigated soil. Where the ancestors of the Viet people came from is not completely known. They were probably farmers that moved gradually into the northern part of Vietnam from China, and slowly moved south, pushing other native people like the Champa out or up into the mountains as they migrated along the coast.
Vietnam has a very rich culture that has been shaped by many different civilizations throughout history. Through many long struggles, the Vietnamese have created their unique culture.
Vietnamese art shows a strong Chinese influence, but has the delicate Vietnamese twist. Ceramics are common in Vietnam as is silk weaving, and elaborately engraved furniture. A popular art form is wood block printing where a design or picture is carved into a block of wood, then painted. The paint is pressed onto a sheet of paper, and a beautiful picture appears. Mother-of-pearl inlay originated in Vietnam over 1,000 years ago. Pieces of colorful mother-of-pearl shells are inlayed in wooden bowls, boxes, furniture, or other things. Silk screen painting is also popular. Before photography, portraits and scenery would be painted onto pieces of white silk. Lacquerware, introduced by the Chinese is found all over Vietnam. Wooden objects are painted with black and a design, and coated over and over with a clear, glassy liquid. When the coats dry, there is a glossy layer over the object that protects it from the humid Vietnamese climate. Dragons, and turtles are two very important animals in the Vietnamese culture. There are many beautifully crafted sculptures of those and other important animals, people, and things all over the country. Many of these arts have been used in Vietnam for centuries.
Certain celebrations and traditions are big parts of Vietnamese life. On holidays everybody dresses up in their best clothes to enjoy the festivities. There are parades, and entire villages can be decorated for special celebrations. Each holiday holds a special place in the lives of the Vietnamese people.
The most important and most widely celebrated holiday in Vietnam is Tet, the lunar new year. Tet is celebrated during the full moon prior to the spring planting, usually in late January to mid February. Tet originally began as a festival before spring planting to pray for a good year; it eventually became much more. People all over the country and of all religions travel with gifts to their childhood home to bring in the new year. They decorate their homes and the graves of ancestors with flowering branches and red and gold paper. On midnight of the new year, they bang gongs and drums, and visit their friends. The status of a family's first visitor is believed to determine the luck of that family for the next year. The festivities can go on for nearly a week. Vietnamese people believe that the spirits of their ancestors return to earth on Tet, so they pay deceased friends and family members special respect during that time. Tet is a time for them to enjoy life, review the past, and plan for the future. Several military campaigns have been started during Tet because most soldiers return to their homes and families and defenses are low at that time.
Other Vietnamese holidays include Hai Ba Trung and Tet Trung Tha. Hai Ba Trung is a day in March when the Vietnamese celebrate and honor the Trung sisters, two warrior sisters credited for fighting the Chinese to drive them out of Vietnam nearly 2,000 years ago. Tet Trung Tha is the mid-September harvest festival, also known as the Children's festival. Children, under the full moon, dress up and parade through the streets carrying colorful, shaped paper lanterns. National holidays include a day in March to commemorate the reunification of Vietnam, Workers day (April 30), Ho Chi Minh's birthday (May 1), and National day (mid summer).
Birthdays are celebrated when a baby is one month old, and again on his or her second birthday, when the child is one year old. After that birthdays are not celebrated, and giving and receiving of gifts takes place on Tet.
Bank notes currently in circulation are in denominations of 100 / 200 / 500 / 1,000 / 2,000 / 5,000 / 10,000 / 20,000 and 50,000 Dong
Notes under 200 Dong have little value and are rarely used.
The U.S. dollar is more or less a second currency in Vietnam. Other foreign currencies are not readily accepted. A large supply of US$1, US$5 and US$10 are almost essential for tipping, for small expenses and for hotel bills. U.S. money is so common that change will frequently be given in dollars.
You may bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency as long as it is declared on the forms provided by customs officers. Foreign currency can be exchanged for dong at your hotel or at the State Bank of Vietnam.
Population: About 78 Million People
Time: +7:00, Vietnam is 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 14 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.
Tipping: Tipping is not customary in Vietnam, but it is enormously appreciated. A 5-10% tip for a meal is a very small amount of money, but to the average Vietnamese, it could easily equal a day's wages. Avoid tipping too much, as it will set a precedent for others.
Restaurants: Government-run restaurants catering to tourists add a 10% service charge to the bill.
Porters: Porters, if they are available, can be tipped with American coins.
Hotel maids: Government-run hotels catering to tourists charge an automatic 10% service fee.
Taxis: Generous tips are not necessary. A small gratuity, however, is expected by cab drivers.
Passports and visas are required for entry into Vietnam. The best place to obtain a visa for Vietnam is Bangkok. The visa will specify where you will be arriving and where you will be leaving, in addition to how long you can stay.
Formerly, tours had to be booked to obtain a visa, but this is no longer the situation. Potential visitors to Vietnam must fill out three applications for entry and exit visas, accompanied by three passport photos 4cm x 6cm. One of the applications must be sent to the most convenient diplomatic or consular mission of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The other two applications/photos are carried with you and handed in at the first point of entry.
Vietnam Embassies And Consulates Abroad
The Customs Service Headquarters
Travel within The country
Ho Chi Minh City
Hoi An Ancient Town
Vietnamese food varies from region to region. Almost 500 traditional dishes have been recorded! Rice and noodles are staple foods, served with nearly all meals. The most popular dishes are nema rán (spring rolls), bún thang (noodles with sliced pork, eggs, shredded chicken and shrimp), shellfish steamed with ginger and sea crabs fried with salt. Among common ingredients used are: shark fin, duck, pork paste, fish, spices, fruits, vegetables, crab meat, lobster and oysters.
Vietnam is not the place to go for the latest in nightspots, but a number of large hotels have nightclubs and dance halls. Bars are fairly easy to find, even in smaller hotels. Try asking the locals for the current popular spots.
Vietnam Main Cities Location and Transport
Phan Thiet is located on Vietnam's south-central coast; 200km north of Ho Chi Minh City, 247km south of Nha Trang and 1,518 south of Hanoi.
Getting there by: car or train(with some upscale train services available). Meuong Man Railway Station is 15km from the centre of Phan Thiet.
Nha Trang is located on the south-central coast; 205km north-east of Dalat, 441km north of Ho Chi Minh City, and 1,278 south of Hanoi.
Getting there by car, or domestic flights, Cam Ranh Airport is located 35km south of Nha Trang. Nha Trang Railway Station is located in the city centre; as well as economy train services, there is now an upscale trainservice from Ho Chi Minh City.
Hoi An lies 4km from the coast, 860km south of Hanoi, 947km north of Ho Chi Minh City, 108 km south of Hue and 30km south-east of Danang.
Getting there: car or tourist bus. Arrive by train or plane into Danang's railway station or International Airport (30km from Hoi An). To get to Hoi An from the airport, arrange transfers with your accommodation, or take a metered taxi.
Danang is 100km south of Hue, 763km south of Hanoi, 947km north of Ho Chi Minh City and 30km from Hoi An.
Getting there: car, train, domestic and international flights. Danang International Airport is 2.5km south-west of the centre.
Hue is located on Vietnam's north-central coast, Hue is 108km north of Danang, 654 south of Hanoi, 108km north of Hoi An and 1,071km north of Ho Chi Minh City.
Getting there: car, train or domestic flights. Phu Bai Airport is 14km south of the city centre.
Halong bay is located in north-east Vietnam, just off Halong City and 151km east of Hanoi.
Getting there:public or tourist bus from Hanoi(under few hours). Many boat/tourist operators include transfers in the price. Boats mostly depart from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf in Halong City.
Phu Quoc Island
Located in the Gulf of Thailand off the western coast of the Mekong Delta and just a few kilometres from Cambodia.
Getting there:daily flights from Ho Chi Minh (1 hour) to Phu Quoc Island. Boats and hydrofoils depart from Rach Gia(120 km away), or just outside Ha Tien.
Located 297km north-east of Ho Chi Minh City, 205km south-west of Nha Trang, 643km south of Danang and 4,406km south of Hanoi.
Getting there:by car, decent bus service from Ho Chi Minh City, or domestic flights. Lien Khuong Airport is 30km from the city centre.
Located in the north-west of Vietnam, 360km from Hanoi.
Getting there:overnight or day trains from Hanoi, terminating at Lao Cai Railway Station, near the Chinese border. From here, Sapa is a one-hour uphill journey by tourist minibuses. car or motorbike.
Located on the central coast of Vietnam. 320 km south of Danang, and 230 km north of Nha Trang.
Getting there:1 hour and 40 minutes flight from Hanoi or 1 hour and 1 minutes flight from Ho Chi Minh.