Vietnam Country Information
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General 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.

There’s no question that Vietnam’s beaches are its major draw, and form the foundation of its tourism industry. The white, pristine sands of Vietnam’s southern beaches are among the best in the world. Resorts are springing up all over the region to serve the growing throngs flocking there. Visitors will find the typical accruements one would expect in beach cities, as the streets come alive at night with restaurants, nightclubs and bars providing food, drink and lively entertainment.

Don’t forget the other gems Vietnam offers. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi offer a fascinating big city vibe, with lots of outdoor markets, shopping locales, and cultural sights to enjoy. Due to its proximity to China and the other southeast Asian cultures, Vietnam boasts many influences in its food, architecture and religious cultivations. When travelling to Vietnam, you can expect the northern regions to be a bit cooler than the tropical south. The Mekong Delta, fabled for so many settings of the war, is now a bucolic, yet dynamic ecosystem that affords visitors a chance to admire the tremendous beauty of the water ways, yet also an opportunity to observe the river culture of its inhabitants, who live their lives much as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

Make no mistake about it. Vietnam is one of the few remaining enigmas of the modern world, the more so as it seeks to shed its stodgy totalitarian past and emerge as a full blown modern state. Be sure to visit while the changing dynamics are still there to be observed and fascinated by.

view view National Library of Vietnam

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History

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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,[3] 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,[4] 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.[5] 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.

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Geography and climate

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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.

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Economy

hotel hotel view

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.

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Media
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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.

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People and Culture

boatmen cyclo workshop trip

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.

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Celebrations

viewCertain 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.

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Currency
The Dong (D) is the official currency in Vietnam.
Exchange rate is approximatley 1 USD = 15,000 Dong (Sep 01)

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.

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Things to Know

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Population: About 78 Million People
Capital: Hanoi
Flag: The flag of Vietman is red with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center.
Shop Hours: Shops run from 7 or 8am to 11 or 11:30pm. Some are open from 1 or 2pm to 4 or 5pm.
Bank Hours: Most banks are opened from 7am or 8am to 11am or 11:30am Some are open from 1pm or 2pm to 4pm or 5pm

Ethnic Groups:
The country is predominantly 85-90% Vietnamese, 3% Chinese, ethnic minorities include Muong, Thai, Meo, Khmer, Man, Cham, and other mountain tribes.

Languages:
Vietnamese is the official language; French, Chinese, English, Khmer and tribal dialects (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian) are also spoken.

Religion:
Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs, Islamic and Protestant.

Holidays
January 1 Solar New Year's Day
January/February Tet (Tet Nguyen Dan). The most important Vietnamese annual festival. This marks the new lunar year and the advent of spring. This is a three-day holiday, usually at the end of January or the beginning of February (according to the solar calendar)
February 3 Anniversary of the Foundation of the Communist Party of Vietnam
April 30 Liberation Day, the day on which Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) fell to Hanoi in 1975. This holiday is commemorated nationwide.
May 1 Labour Day
May 19 Birthday of President Ho Chi Minh
September 2 National Day of Vietnam

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.

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Visas and Passport

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

Country

Address

Website

Australia

6 Timbarra Cresent, O'Malley, Canberra

www.au.vnembassy.org

Canada

226 Maclaren Street, Ottawa, Ontario, KP2OL6

 

France

62-66 rue Boileau, 75016 Paris

vnparis@imaginet.tr

United Kingdom

12-14 Victoria Road, London W8 5 RD

www.vietnamembassy.org.uk

United States

1233 20th Street, NW Suite 400. Washington, DC 20036

www.vietnamembassy-usa.org

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Customs regulations

Duty-Free Items
Visitors may import 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 1 liter of wine, 1 liter of liquor and an unlimited amount of film. Commercial goods and items of high value being taken out of Vietnam require export permits from the Customs Service. Antiques may be confiscated permanently. No local currency may be taken out of the country.

The Customs Service Headquarters
21 Ton Duc Thang St.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel 90095

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Travel to The Countrytravel

Airports
Noi Bai International Airport
Hanoi
Tan Son Nhat Airport
Ho Chi Minh City
Fares are significantly lower for those flying to Ho Chi Minh City. Although flights are available from the capitals of most Southeast Asian countries as well as from Sydney and Melbourne, the best place is from Bangkok as visas are easiest to obtain there.

Airlines
Vietnam Airlines (International)
116-118 Nguyen Hue Blvd.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 292118
Vietnam Airlines (Domestic)
27b Nguyen Dinh Chieu St.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 299980
Air France
Dong Khoi and Le Loi St. (Caravelle Hotel)
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 241278
Aeroflot
4H Le Loi St.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 93489
Thai Airways
116 Nguyen Hue Blvd.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 292118
Vietnam Airlines
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 292200
MAS
116 Nguyen Hue Blvd.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel (08) 30695

Trains
There are currently no train lines running between Vietnam and its neighboring countries.

Buses
Traveling by road from Cambodia is a slow and expensive alternative to flying. It is highly advisable that travelers fly in instead.

Ships and Ferries
There are no official passenger services. Travelers may be able to ride on a cargo ship to Ho Chi Minh City, Danang or Haiphong from Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and France. Check with the local shipping and travel agencies for rates and availability. A ferry service runs from Cambodia to Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta.

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Travel within The countrytravel

Cars
Car rentals are currently not in existence. Cabs, which are unmarked cars without meters, can typically be rented for the day for US$30 to US$40.
Trains

The Vietnamese railway system runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi along the coast and links with Haiphong and the regions further north. Odd-numbered trains travel South, and even-numbered trains travel north. The fastest trains take at least 36 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Reservations should be made a day or more in advance. The major setback to the railways is that tourists are charged many times more than Vietnamese people in the form of an outrageously high surcharge. For long distance traveling, it is best to fly.
Buses
The bus system runs almost everywhere within the country, with stations built around the country dividing the territory into regions. Buses tend to be slow and unreliable.

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Sightseeing

tank temple view tomb

Ho Chi Minh City
This is the largest city in Vietnam. It is the industrial, commercial and cultural center of the country. The central city area is still called Saigon.

WAR CRIME MUSEUM
This museum exhibit crimes committed by the Americans during the war. Photographs of the famous My Lai massacre, human embryos, genetically deformed babies and innocent civilians being tortured can be seen on display. An array of US armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are displayed in the courtyard. You can also see a guillotine used by the French to de itate troublemakers in the riots of the 1920s and a model of the famous tiger cages used by the South Vietnamese to house VC prisoners on Con Son island. The War Crime Museum basically reveals a different side of the stories about wars - the innocent victims of modern warfare.

HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Built in 1929 by the Societe des Etudes Indochinioses, it was formerly named Blanchard dels Brosse. A big statute of President HoChiMinh stands in the main lounge of the museum. The museum has an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the primitive age, bronze age, the Tran dynasty and the Le Dynasty. Take a look at the array of musical instrument especially the special monocord of the one string musical instruments. There are many valuable relics taken from Cambodia's Angkor Wat.

REUNIFICATION PALACE
In 1868, the Norodom Palace (original name) was built for the French Governor-General of Indochina. A striking modern architecture was built when the original buildings were damaged by bombs. Rebuilt in 1962, it comprises of a ground floor, 3 main floors, two mezzanines and a terrace for helicopter landing. The palace includes many tastefully decorated rooms such as the reception room, the cabinet reference room, the study rooms, the credentials presentation room and the banquet room. It also has a basement with a network of tunnels connecting to the telecom centre and war room and one of the longest tunnels which stretch all the way to the Revolutionary Museum. The grounds outside contain one of the first tanks to burst through the gates of the palace to signify the end of the Vietnam War as well as the fighter plane which dropped further bombs towards the end of the war. Independence Palace was renamed the Unification Palace to denote the spirit and strong will for national independence and reunification.

Ben Thanh Market
The Ben Thanh Market, formerly the main railway terminal, is the largest of the markets scattered throughout the city. A wide variety of goods are available, from imported electronics to imported perfumes.

Notre Dame Cathedral
This Catholic church was constructed in 1883 and is located near the Tu Do (Dong Khoi) Street, the former red-light district.

Presidential Palace
This building is now called the Reunification Hall. The center was built as a modern administration center and is where the war and the American involvement in Vietnam ended in April 1975, with tanks invading the compound. Guided tours will take visitors through the various rooms within the complex.

Cholon
Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown. Sights include the Binh Tay Market, the An Quang Pagoda (District 5) and the scenic Thien Hau Temple.
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
A modern Japanese-style Buddhist temple, easily one of the largest and most impressive in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tay Ninh view

Cu Chi Tunnels
An extensive network of nearly 200 miles (322mi) of Viet Cong tunnels used in the French Indochina war and American war. The tunnels have complete facilities, from kitchens to printing presses and even street signs, all of which were used to aid the NLF (National Liberation Front) military. Tours involve a description of the tunnels, after which tourists are allowed to crawl about the maze. Located in Tay Ninh (suburb of Ho Chi Minh City), 24 miles (39km) northwest of central Ho Chi Minh City.

CAO DAI TEMPLE
Cao Daism seeks to create the ultimate religion by fusing Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist and Catholic beliefs into a synthesis of its own. Witness the solemn ceremony of the unique religion - Caodaism at Caodai Holly See at its noon tide prayer service with followers dressed in red, blue, yellow and white robes. There is the divine eye above the altar, the religion's official symbol. The temple has nine levels which signify the nine steps to heaven, each level marked by a pair of multicoloured dragons.

MEKONG DELTA
One of the world's largest delta, the Delta Region is formed by the various tributaries of the mighty Mekong River which begins its journey to the sea in Tibet and winds its way for 4500 km through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Southern Vietnam. The vietnamese name for the Mekong is Cuu Long which means "nine dragons" and this is represented by the nine exit points of the Mekong River as it flows into the sea. The land of the Mekong Delta is renowned for its richness. Known as Vietnam's breadbasket, it produces enough rice to feed the entire country with a sizeable surplus leftover. Take a sampan ride that meanders through small villages and experience the simple lives of the Mekong people

Vung Tau Beach
Located at the mouth of the Saigon River is the popular Vung Tau beach resort. Pineapple Beach is probably the most pleasant, with its villas and generally tranquil atmosphere. The temples are a definite must-see. The Niet Ban Tinh Xa is the largest temple in Vietnam. Tourist accommodations are available at the Hoa Binh Hotel, as well as the Thang Loi, Thang Thai and Tho Nguyet.

Nha Trang
The central region near Nha Trang features some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia. The ocean waters are transparent, and the sands immaculate, attracting more and more visitors in recent times. Tours cover the Cham Ponagar complex, the north tower of which was built in 817 A.D. Ruins of the long-deceased Champa still stand as a testament to this once prominent kingdom.

Dalat
The mountain resort among the Central Highlands has scenic surroundings as well as remnants of the French colonial era. The Ethnic Minority Museum is certainly worth visiting for those interested in the costumes, gongs, ornaments and other artifacts collected by locals from the Lam Dong province. As another point of interest, there is even an old abandoned nuclear power plant.

Danang City
Known as Tourane under the French, Danang is a seaport of endless stretches of unspoiled sandy beach midway between Ha Noi to the north and Ho Chi Minh City to the South. The city was also the center of civilization of the Champa Kingdom, a kingdom which flourished In the area as early as the 2nd century A.D. Appealing stone sculptures (from the 4th-14th centuries) of Vishnu , Shiva and other Gods of this Kingdom can still be found in the Cham museum located in the center of the city Towards the coast south of Danang are five large hills known as the Marble Mountain. Mysterious caves within the mountains shelter altars delicated to Buddha, Bodhisattvas and The different genies arising from the popular beliefs of the area's inhabitants. With its own international and domestic airport, Danang provides an ideal stopover based for excursions to the ancient town of Hoi An, the imperial city of Hue and My Son-site of the Ruins from the Cham civilization.

Cham Ruins
For those interested in seeing all that these fifteen towers have to offer, plan on spending a minimum of one day. These towers are located at My Son in the Duy Xuyen district.
Cham Museum
The Cham Museum built in 1915, expanded in 1935 , completed in 1936, is in a lovely setting And has large, open well lighted rooms with around 296 statues and artifacts of the Cham People dated back to the 7th century.
Marble Mountains
Consisting of five limestone peaks, about five (8km) miles south of town. They can be explored by following the paths leading to the peaks.
Non Nuoc Beach
China Beach, one the most wonderful beaches of Vietnam , was once an in country rest and Recreation centre for the US military during the Vietnam War.

Hoi An Ancient Town
Forty-five minutes by land south-east of Da Nang is the ancient town of Hoi An, which was one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia for merchants from China, Japan and afar for a couple of centuries ago. Originally a seaport in the Champa Kingdom, by the 15th century It had become a coastal town under the Tran dynasty. Also served as the hub of East-West c ultural exchange, Hoi An's ancient past is superbly preserved in its fascinating temples, pagoda, shop houses and home which make up the town's old quarter. Walking in the streets of this ancient town, one can observe the influence of the architecture, Sculpture and decorative styles of China and Japan and the skill of former Vietnamese architects Who have absorbed their influences and created something similar yet somehow uniquely different.

HUEtravel
Hue, the imperial city, the citadel-city of Phu Xuan was originally built up during the end of 17th Century and became a political capital as well as the Imperial City of Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 till 2nd September 1945 when the Communist Party, leaded by President Ho Chi Minh had declared the Independent of the Nation and took over the power from the defeated Japanese Governor. Nowadays, this small & poetical city of 280.000 habitants becomes one of the main tourism site of Vietnam destination by its splendid tombs of the Nguyen emperors, several notable pagodas especially the Thien Mu Pagoda, the remains of Citadel as well as the romantic Perfume River where a cruise tour with Hue music performance in the moonlight was always provided since long time ago. Normally, visiting Hue within a day is a bit rush but still enough time to cover the main attractive sites such as The Citadel, The museum of antique, the tombs of Khai Dinh and Tu Duc emperors and a 02 hours cruise with stop over at Thien Mu pagoda.

Citadel & Forbidden City
This forbidden city of 10km. perimeter has 4 main entrance gates and well defended by kilometers of rampart was built in 1804 by the first emperor Nguyen Anh on a site chosen by geomancers and look likes a Chinese forbidden city in Beijin. Some parts of this forbidden city were totally destroyed during the war where now are under reconstruction providing UNESCO & Japanese non-government associations' fund. Lucky thing is most of the main area such as the citadel (the Imperial Enclosure), Flag Tower were remain intact where received hundred of visitors daily.

The Museum of Antique (Imperial museum)
This beautiful hall which house the Imperial Museum was built in 1845. The most precious artefacts were lost during the war (1954-1973) and the liberation day (1975) but ceramics, furniture and royal relics are remain until the present time.

Khai Dinh Emperor's Tomb
This is the final monument of the Nguyen Dynasty. The complex features ceiling murals, frescoes and a dragon staircase. Located on the slopes of the Chau E Mountain, six miles (10km) south of town. It takes almost 10 years (1920-1931) to finish this grandiose concrete tomb which is completely unlike the others tombs where there was a mixture of typical Vietnamese & French colonial architecture. After climbing 36 steps passing by rows of elephants, horses, civil & military mandarin you will be reached the main building where a full original artefacts are displayed to the public.

Tu Duc Emperor's Tomb
The most impressive of the tombs and pagodas at Hue. Located at the tributaries of the Perfume River, seven miles (11km) south of Hue, this complex has beautiful architecture, intricate decor and military statues. This majestic and serene tomb with lake view, grove of pines, temples, living house area is the most expensive tomb which was completely terminated after 5 years by thousands of labor-worker (1863-1868) for this intellectual-poet emperor.

Minh Mang Emperor's Tomb
The most impressive of the tombs and pagodas at Hue. Located at the tributaries of the Perfume River, seven miles (11km) south of Hue, this complex has beautiful architecture, intricate decor and military statues.

Thien Mu Pagoda & Perfume River Cruise
Unlike the typical boat used to provide in the past the present Hue cruise is providing a motorized boat which carry a 2 hours cruise along Perfume River including a 30 min stop over Thien Mu pagoda. This pagoda located on the hillock overlooking the Perfume River, built in 1844 by Thieu Tri emperor, 21m-high octagonal tower with seven-storey is one of the most famous structures in all over the country and become an unofficial symbol of Hue until now.

Hanoiview

One Pillar Pagoda
Built in the 11th century, this pagoda sits on a stone pillar in the middle of a pond. This is one of the more unusual structures in Vietnam.
Lenin Park (Thong Nhat Park)
Built over a former marsh, this park surrounds a large lake containing a statue of Lenin, often the object of jokes among the locals. The park itself is quite beautiful.
Tran Nhan Tong Street.
National Preserve of Cuc Phuong
This national park is one of the last tropical primeval forest reserves on Earth. There are 64 species of fauna and thousands of species of flora, many of which are extinct everywhere else in the world. Bizarre and fascinating species of animals from flying lizards to monkeys dwell within the park's 61,000 acres. Caves and grottoes, where various artifacts have been discovered, are located in the mountains within.
Ha Nam Ninh Province. It is located approximately 62 miles (100 Km.) southwest of Hanoi.
Thu Le Park
Located northwest of Hanoi in the Thu Le village.

Haiphong

Cat Ba
This island is the largest in the Cat Ba archipelago. It is potentially one of the major beach destinations in Southeast Asia. This region has beautiful beaches and pristine waters. Within the mountains are caves and grottos. Located 36 miles (58km) east of Haiphong.

Halong Bay
One of Vietnam's most beautiful areas, Halong Bay has fascinating limestone formations, coves for nighttime excursions, sheer cliffs, grottoes, arches and scores of small islets.

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Ding and Drinking

food food food

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.

Imported beer is available in Vietnam, although a number of domestic beers are brewed. Rice wine is very popular, and there are many brands available. There is a variety of fruit wines such as apricot, orange or lemon. Soft drinks are processed from the many varieties of tropical fruits available. Water from the tap should be avoided, even though it has already been filtered and sterilized at 10oC. If you must drink it, boil the water first.

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Entertainment

sports sports sports sports

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.

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Emergency Numbers
Police: 03
Ho Chi Minh City Police Station
161 Nguyen Du, Quan 1
Tel 99398 or 97107
Open from 8am-11am and 1pm-4pm
Hanoi Police Office for the Registration of Foreign Visitors
63 Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi
All visitors must register with the police within 48 hours of arrival. If you are on a tour, this should have been taken care of (but check anyway).
Fire Department: 08
First Aid: 05
International Dialing Access: Available at major tourist hotels and post offices
Country Code: 84
City Codes: Hanoi: 04 / Ho Chi Minh: 08
When calling from within the same city, delete the city code from the number. When calling to another city from within Vietnam, use the entire city code. When calling from outside Vietnam, delete the first digit (0) from the city code.

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Useful Phrases

  • Greetings - Chao ong (ba)
  • How are you? - Ong (ba) co khoe khong?
  • Fine, thanks - Cam on rat tot
  • My name is ... - Ten tioi là ...
  • I don't understand - Toi khong hieu
  • Restaruant - nha hang
  • Telephone - dien thoai
  • Hotel - khach san

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Vietnam Transfers & Map

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Phan Thiet

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Dalat

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.

Sapa

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.

Quy Nhon

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.

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