|Official name:||Socialist Republic of Vietnam|
|Area:||331,210 sq km|
|Population:||91,51 million (July 2012 est.)|
|Local time:||GMT + 7 hours|
Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Taoism.
The Official National language is Vietnamese. Others are English, French, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) and Russian.
84% ethnic Vietnamese, 2% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethno linguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, ‘highlanders’ in French).
Spreading along the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam covers a land area of 330,900 sq.km of fascinating contrasts, from basaltic, fertile plateaus in the central part to the misty beauty of Halong Bay, and from the flat, watery land of the Mekong Delta in the south to the rugged Fansipan mountain range (3,143 m) in the north.
The country boasts a marvelous coastline of 3,260km dotted with white sandy beaches, tranquil bays and colourful coral reefs, providing an easily accessible and favourite destination for cruise liners sailing from Hong Kong or China to Singapore or Thailand. Vietnam also shares land borders of 3,700km with Laos, Cambodia and China, along which visitors can find an increasing number of crossings for their trans-Indochinese exploration.
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate that varies significantly from place to place. Each region has its best time for visiting: Hanoi from September to May with a pleasant winter, Hue from March to August with a sunny summer and Ho Chi Minh City with warm weather the whole year round.
The current population of Vietnam is 83.5 million with the vast majority being the Viet ethnic group. There are 54 minority ethnic groups which make up 14% of the population, with their ancestral origins coming from southern China, Tibet, Malaysia and the Polynesian Islands.
During the late Neolithic Age, the ancient civilizations of Dong Son (northern Vietnam), Sa Huynh (central Vietnam) and Dong Nai (southern Vietnam) were predominant in Vietnam.
Early history shows the first Vietnamese settled in the Red River Delta and developed a feudal society during the Bronze Age. In the 2nd century BC, Chinese invaders from the north conquered the Vietnamese kingdom, then called Au Lac, beginning 1,000 years of Chinese domination.
In 938, with the victory on the Bach Dang River, Ngo Quyen turned a new page in Vietnamese history, establishing independent feudal dynasties for nearly 10 centuries. The defeat of the Mongolian invasions in the 13th century is a great landmark of this period.
In 1858, French troops attacked Danang, opening a colonial period for nearly 100 years. After World War II, President Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence on September 2nd, 1945.
In 1954, the Dien Bien Phu victory ended French colonialism in Indochina and was ensued by the Geneva Agreement, under which the country was temporarily divided pending a general election that never came about.
From 1956, American involvement in South Vietnam’s politics became deeper and deeper, exacerbating the conflict between the North and the South and gradually leading to the Vietnam War. In 1973, the Paris Agreement ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam was signed, and US troops were withdrawn. The country was reunified on April 30th, 1975.
Since then, Vietnam has enjoyed independence and peace and entered a new era of reconstruction, development and global economic integration.
A multi-cultural country with a long and proud history of 4,000 years, Vietnam is a fascinating blend of the Orient and the Occident, the old and the new.
Despite the modernization process taking place day and night, villages with traditional customs, festivals, farming methods, folk arts and ancient monuments still play an important role in Vietnam’s present-day society. Visitors can discover the idyllic charm of varied scenes of everyday life, from simple peasants in conical hats tilling their paddy fields with rudimentary tools to innocent children riding and tending water buffaloes at sunset or sunrise.
For visitors seeking hill tribe cultures, the presence of different minority groups, e.g. the H’mong, the Thai, the Dao, the Tay, the Nung… in the northern highlands or the K’ho, the Edeh, the M’nong, the J’rai, the Bahnar… in the central highlands will bring amazement at their simple life style, from primitive villages clinging to mountain sides to traditional customs being kept intact. In addition, the Cham ethnic group in the coastal plains has made its complex of countless brick towers in My Son a World Heritage.
For the gourmet, Vietnamese culinary art, acknowledged a superb cuisine worldwide, is a wonderful balance of yin and yang featured in the harmonious formula of green vegetables and fresh meat seasoned with mild spices.
Apart from their rich culture, the warm friendliness of the gentle Vietnamese people also makes travels to Vietnam a well of joy beyond compare.
The country is granted a tropical monsoon climate with diversified characteristics varied significantly from North to South, from frosty winters to the year-round subequatorial warmth. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27°C in the south, falling to about 21°C in the far north. In South Vietnam, the rainy season lasts from May to November, but the showers are usually limited to brief bursts in the late afternoons. Along Vietnam’s central coast, the driest season runs from June to October. Visitors to North Vietnam are often surprised by the sregion’s distinct seasons; summers are hot and humid while winters are invigoratingly cool. As a result, each region has its best time for visiting: Hanoi from September to May with a pleasant winter, Hue from March to August with a sunny summer and Ho Chi Minh City with warm weather the whole year round.
In the north (Hanoi & its vicinities), winter is from November to April and is characterized by cool damp weather (15 – 20oC), and summer lasts from May to October and is hot with periods of heavy rain (25 – 28oC).
Southern Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City & its vicinities) has a more tropical climate all year round (25 – 30oC) with a dry hot season from December to April and a rainy season from May to November.
Northern central Vietnam (from Thanh Hoa to Danang) may have heavy rain from September to February and occasional typhoons along the coast from September to October.
Southern central Vietnam (from Quy Nhon to Phan Thiet) is endowed with a long dry season from December to September and a short rainy season from October to November.
The highlands have a temperate climate but it is cooler and temperatures can be freezing in winter from December to February. Temperatures may range anywhere from 15-18°C in the central highlands to 7-10°C in the northern highlands with heavy rain from May to November.
All official congress prices are indicated in USD ($). The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnam dong (vnd). All major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Exchange rate: (May 2015)
1USD = 21,500 VND
1EUR = 24,500 VND
The following items are preferred by foreign travelers:
Carved wooden furniture, rattan furniture, fine lacquer-ware and fine ceramics. They can be shipped home on request.
Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk dresses (ao dai), kimonos and suits. They can be made to measure in 1 day or half a day.
Embroideries, embroidered pictures, etc.
Simulated antiques, old watches, Zippo lighters, etc.
Copies of famous paintings.
Local markets, supermarkets and department stores are plentiful in major cities, where visitors can find almost anything from simple gifts and souvenirs to sophisticated electronic products. Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is not only a famous historical attraction built by the French in their colonial time but also the biggest market in the city where all products and goods, especially souvenirs for international tourists, can be found.
No vaccinations are presently required for visitors to enter Vietnam. However, it is advisable that precautionary measures be taken against cholera, malaria, hepatitis A & B, typhoid and tuberculosis. Although international medical centers are available in Ho Chi Minh City, they can be expensive for emergency and/or intensive care. Therefore, health and emergency medical insurance prior to visiting Vietnam is highly recommended. Clinics with qualified Vietnamese and foreign doctors to treat foreign patients:
Ho Chi Minh City:
Columbia Saigon – 24 Hours Clinic
08 Alexandre de Rhodes St., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: (84-8) 38238888
6 Nguyen Luong Bang St., Tan Phu Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: (84-8) 54113333
Ho Chi Minh City Family Medical Practice
34 Le Duan St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Tel: (84-8) 38227848
Westcost International Dental Clinic
71-79 Dong Khoi St., District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: (84-8) 38256777
Tourists are advised not to bring along valuables while going shopping or sightseeing. It is dispensable to give alms to beggars or to buy souvenirs from street vendors. Foreign currencies should be exchanged at banks or authorized exchange bureaus. Do not exchange money in the street.
When taking a pedicab (cyclo) or “honda-om” (motorbike-taxi), you should make a fare agreement with the driver first.
In big cities, nightlife is very bustling. Until 9 p.m., streets in the centers are still crowded with many shops and restaurant opened, so it is safe to have a leisure walk to enjoy the dynamic evening in Vietnam